Redefining the Middle-Aged Fashionista

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By Marie Case

My lifelong clothes-shopping nightmare has suddenly become worse.

The basic shape of my body hasn’t changed much since adolescence. It’s just become slightly bigger. I’m carrying a little more weight now. I’m a little thicker. What used to be firm and lean is now a tad bit softer. It just happens for women of a certain age.

With a shift in priorities and weight distribution, we baby boomers have become eclipsed in the pages of fashion magazines and in retail establishments by goods that are aimed at a younger, thinner generation. Most classic boomers are firmly focused on college funding for their offspring, retirement plans and second homes. We of the iconoclastic, sans children variety are concerned with looking good, being effective in the workplace, traveling some, enjoying good books, stage and screen entertainment, fabulous food and the perfect wine with the perfect man and the perfectly matching outfit.

So, what about trendy clothes for we aging boomers?

Isn’t that important to retail purveyors anymore?

Tech-savvy marketers and designers responsible for molding the current pop culture are targeting that younger, thinner generation, dressing them and defining them with expose-all fashion. Research shows that they may shop more frequently, but research wouldn’t argue that boomers have more money to spend during those less-frequent visits to the mall.

For decades young people have defined popular culture – the music, the technology and the fashion. My fellow boomers defined everything from political issues, sexual freedom and women’s rights to hairstyles, music and the clothes everyone wore in our day. I still consider myself young in spirit, but now I feel a little like a member of the “forgotten” generation, at least when it comes to fashion.

Why doesn’t some talented designer step forward to define hip, trendy fashion for the fashion-challenged, middle-aged woman? Is trendy yet age-appropriate fashion an oxymoron in today’s world? What if I don’t want to be age-appropriate, but just body-appropriate? What is age-appropriate when you’re not extremely overweight, involved with the arts and have a more hip sensibility than some others in the same demographic category?

For those droves of women over 40 into their 50s hiding in business suits by day and sweat suits – elastic waistbands required – at night, the bigger, baggier and stretchier the better. But Tthat doesn’t mean that women like myself want to buy those big bulky, drapy, flowy, tent-like styles.

I certainly don’t want to cover up every inch of my body every day – at least not most days. The Y&H (young and hip) styles seem to be designed for those women who have bodies like runway models.

Those of us afflicted with this middle-aged dilemma could eat a little less and lose, oh maybe as much as 10 pounds and attempt to show off a few of our assets. But, no matter what you eat, how much you work out, women’s bodies just change in middle age. And besides that, what if you don’t want to starve yourself for the sake of fashion, but still want to look Y&H?

I still squeeze myself into a two-piece bathing suit like puffy sausage in yesterday’s casing. I love the beach, I live at the beach and I won’t give that up. Armed with SPF50, I indulge myself on occasion while trying to minimize the torture to my skin.  Any residual damage is a small price to pay for some peace at the end of those stressful weeks of working and shopping for clothes that hardly ever fit.

With this extra “meat” on my body, shopping for clothes that fit well without requiring excessive alterations is, let’s say, challenging in this show-it-all-even-if-you-don’t-have-it era. I have entertained the idea of having my clothes custom made, but if I can’t quite find the time to shop during any given month, how will I ever find the time for fittings. Hmmm.

I can’t possible be alone here. Age appropriate or not, boomers continue to redefine themselves and middle age. We just haven’t caught up with all the guidelines yet – at least not for fashion.


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  1. Great article Marie. Everything is made for the younger generations – movies, television and yes clothes. I bet a television show like All in the Family or Mash would never be made now. But, you are right we may shop less but we buy nicer (well made things) things that last longer which is not part of today’s disposable lifestyle.

  2. Hit the nail on the head! I am so careful with the few things that fit, because I know how impossible it will be to replace them. In the meantime, the “fashion” for the past few years seems to be barely a tweak on maternity tops. I can’t go that route again. Retailers have got to be missing a huge (slight pun there) slice of the demographic community of 50 – 70s who have taken inches off height and added them to width!

  3. Maria, the fashionista! I like it. Yes, I love clothes like you but shopping is less exciting at this age! I sometimes get caught up in the latest trend and once it’s home, I realize i have made a huge mistake. You have captured the dilemma perfectly