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How to Shop for Clothes When Stores Cater to Younger Women?

By Andrea Pflaumer February 09, 2022 Makeup and Fashion

The most common lament I hear from every older woman is that the new styles are just not suited to us. They are designed for a younger demographic. Unfortunately, this has always been the case. It’s simply driven by the fact that most of the dollars spent on clothing come from women in their mid-30s to their mid-40s.

But lately, it seems that retailers are targeting an even younger demographic. The trends toward tight-knit sweaters, dresses with strategic skin-revealing cutouts, tight fitting cropped sweaters, knit bandeau bra tops, and generally low-cut necklines are prime examples.

What Not to Wear… and Why

A trendier fashion forward outfit on a younger woman can instantly say “fashion victim” on us. Now, of course that’s not universally the case. There are some prominent older fashionistas who have fully embraced some of the very high spirited fashion looks you might see on younger women.

Those outfits might include multiple layers of patterned or multi-textured textiles pieces, frayed or slightly ripped jeans, thick-soled sneakers, playful or unusual eyewear and even statement tees. When it works, it works. That’s because it actually suits the person’s personality and reflects who they’ve always been throughout their life.

Knit Dress and Thick Snickers Trend

But let’s take, for example, one of the more modern trends that we’re seeing on a lot of younger women these days. I’m referring to the wearing of thick or wavy soled sneakers with midi length knit dresses. It’s a look that says, “I’m sexy, I’m tough, and I’m practical… and I can outrun you.”

Now of course many of us still want to look sexy, tough, and practical. But this particular look seems to telegraph a certain message. It’s worn to attract the kind of partner who might find them attractive but won’t be threatened by their self-sufficiency or “edge.”

So when you see an older woman wearing this combination there’s something about it that doesn’t quite feel genuine. It smacks of desperation. It reads more like a costume rather than a personal expression of style or taste. Younger women can get away with edgier trends. We just expect them to be experimental until they find their own fashion voice.

Oversized Clothes Trend

Another trend that we’ve been watching for more than a year is oversized coats and suits. In general, it only works as part of an overall laid back edgy look. If that just doesn’t describe you, it will simply make you look like you borrowed your partner’s clothes or bought it when you were three sizes larger.

Unless what you wear underneath an oversized long jacket or coat is tailored and simple, it can also make you look heavier and visually weigh you down, particularly if you are petite.

Fashions That Older Women Can Wear Now

So what does that leave us? Well, there’s no reason we can’t adapt some of these trends if we keep in mind the adage: Fads tend to have a very short shelf life, but trends seem to move the entire narrative forward. Let’s look at a couple of trends that might help us update our wardrobes in a good and not ridiculous way.

Leather and Faux Leather

One of the more adoptable ones is leather and faux leather. A leather or faux leather dress can actually look rather chic. If the cut is simple, it can appear classic even though the textile is more dramatic. The same goes for a leather skirt or pants, unless they are very tight fitting.

Leather or faux leather leggings or pants, especially those that have some shine to them, takes the whole look a little more in the dramatic direction. Now, unless you are extremely dramatic in style, wearing something that edgy requires balancing it with something softer and feminine, such as a silk blouse or cashmere sweater. Except in a lighter color, we walk a fine line if we wear a head-to-toe leather outfit.

Slouchy Slacks

The slouchy slacks look can work for many of us, but in particular for someone who has a very laid-back natural style. We’ll see some of these worn with slightly oversized blazers. One way to keep it fashionable and a little more elegant is to wear it as a mono color outfit.

That means the jacket, slacks and the sweater or blouse that you wear are all of the same color, or maybe a slightly different shade of the same color. If we break up an over-sized outfit with too many colors, we start to look clownish. Also, to create a softer look, you can add one of those newer ribbed knit polo-type sweaters tucked into pants.

Color Trend

And speaking of color, this spring and summer you’ll be seeing a lot of it: purples, bright yellows, metallic greens, fuchsia, lipstick red, peacocks, and teals. Wearing the right shade is the key, of course.

But if you absolutely love one of these vibrant colors, and it isn’t quite flattering to your skin tone, just wear it away from your face in slacks or a skirt, and then add a more complimentary color closer to your face. Or use it as an accessory. A bright pop of color in your shoes or bag can change your mood and take you fashion forward in a very fun way.

Denim

By now I think we’ve all learned that no age demographic owns the market on denim. It can work for everyone and anyone. Yes, it is more relaxed in style simply by the nature of the textile. But there are some very chic ways to wear denim.

It used to be the unofficial rule that you never wear denim top to bottom. But that’s pretty much been thrown out lately. There are actually some denim suits being shown for this spring. Also, wearing straight leg or boot cut jeans, mid to high waist, with a tucked-in denim blouse worn with rolled up sleeves is both tough and sexy looking. I can see many older women wearing this and looking pretty cool.

Classic and Romantic Looks

But for those who want to stick with more elegance and femininity there are still some nice options. You just won’t find them on the pages of fashion magazines or on Instagram. Most of those sites consider micro-mini skirts, super sheer tops, or skin baring outfits feminine. (Does that really say “feminine” to you?)

Longer Skirt

One way to go softer is with a longer skirt. Anything made from bamboo or tencel fibers has a lovely drape. These longer skirts skim the body, including all the bits you want covered, but still reveal your shape.

Wear them with something soft on top, such as a printed chiffon blouse, a soft cotton or linen blouse, or fine knit sweater. If the skirt is in a stiffer fabric like cotton or denim, you can add a crisper cotton blouse.

Generally, dresses and skirts are more feminine expressions than are slacks. Also, anything belted, even a larger coat or jacket can instantly transform a harder look to a more feminine one. And added details on a blouse – ruffles, shirring, ruching, covered buttons, etc. – worn with denim, leather or gabardine pants will also move the entire look in a softer direction.

As for color, you might just have to wait until the warmer months to find some of those brighter colors and sheerer styles that are still fashionable and playful without being too exposed.

And yes, you can try the cut-out look if it’s strategic and interesting.

But if you want to go full-on trendy with an oversized jacket and pants combination, you can always just wear one of those trendy slouchy or oversized outfit in a more feminine color like spun sugar pink or soft grey-green!

Are there any trends you are trying this year? How daring is your personal style? What’s your favorite new piece and why?

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The Author

Andrea Pflaumer, author of the Amazon best-selling book Shopping for the Real You, writes and blogs from her home in Northern California. Her first online course in the Fashion Perfection series is entitled: Discovering Your Inner Style: An Adventure in Dressing Authentically.

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