Middle-Aged Sartorial Situation

I am officially middle-aged.  I declared it so because my firstborn son graduated high school and is about to turn 19.  With this next phase of life, it’s time to establish a style that’s in tune with my chronological age and middle-aged form.  I don’t want to play the numbers game, but suffice to say I’m closer to 50 than 40 and my body has gained a significant amount of weight to nudge me into a different body type.  It’s all good though, not complaining.  The last two seasons were spent coming to terms with what nature has dealt me. Add to that the need to wear eyeglasses full-time and an element of maturity has set the tone for my overall appearance.

It’s been a few years since I went serious clothes shopping, but my son’s graduation festivities and a planned trip abroad this summer required purchasing new wardrobe essentials.  I embarked on this sartorial adventure on my own, without the aid of store consultants, personal shoppers, or gal pal group shopping sprees. (Carrie Bradshaw and Samantha Jones are NOT my muses.) It was a deliberate decision to make smart and permanent choices regarding my new body, frame of mind, and how I was going to stick to a certain budget. Also at this age, I should no longer buy toss-away clothes.

I stuck to the tried and true retail options to see what was trendy, to conjure inspiration, but no I didn’t make major purchases there, didn’t go for the “must have” seasonal item.  Trends are the fashion industry’s way of strong arming me into spending money on items that don’t suit my soccer mom life.

What I learned about shopping for middle-aged me:

  • First step before embarking on shopping required a serious gleaning of the wardrobe. Good-bye clothes that won’t fit even if I diet and exercise.  Farewell to lacy, frilly, girlish items purchased from the Junior Department. Sayonara short skirts three inches above the knee. So long shoes that are too small because my feet have grown–yes they do widen and flatten due to the falling of arches. Hello Goodwill donations.
  • No online shopping for me because a good fit is essential.  Sizes vary greatly among different designers.  The more expensive brands are, let’s say, generous about their lower numbered sizes. All size 6s are not created equally. I did read some online store size charts to get a rough idea of my new dimensions and used them as reference points. Wear slip-on shoes and easy to pull off clothing to ease the trying on of clothes.
  • Sales ladies in snootier boutiques are friendlier and more enthusiastic if I’m dressed “for business,” that is, if I’m in a dress versus T-shirt and jeans.   Boo on that and good-bye to those businesses. Names have been omitted to protect the guilty.
  • Crinkled cottons in peasant designs and easy-to-care-for rayon and cotton jersey are a traveler’s best friend.
  • Easy-wear summer dresses means less clothing to don and less laundry and ironing.  And dresses makes me feel instantly pretty.
  • Empire waist, empire waist, empire waist. Enough said for those of us shaped more like Edina Monsoon than Patsy Stone.
  • Plan well for multiple trips to the dressing room if I have more than six items at a time.  Pair tops with bottoms and grab proper undergarments for sheer clothing.  Don’t forget to check the return rack if my size is missing for an item.  Be friendly to the gatekeeper who will tire of seeing me marching in and out of the fitting rooms on such multiple trips.
  • Target’s fitting rooms are a shopper’s best friend with the dressing room mirrors at the front and back.  They’re angled to give me a front and rear view of my ensemble.

How about you, do you have tried and true shopping tips to offer this middle-aged gal?  How have you made changes when you’ve made transitions in life?

2 replies on “Middle-Aged Sartorial Situation”

One idea I’ve found useful is to ask people whose style you like for tips, or at least observe and borrow their fashion ideas to apply them to you. I have a friend with a really nice sense of proportion, so I try to notice what she wears with what. I have some friends with similar body types to mine who always seem like their fit is just right, so I ask where they get their pants. That is probably an obvious tip, but I thought it merited mentioning!

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