40-Somethings - Fashion Help Needed!

View Full Version : Fashion Help Needed!

01-17-2009, 10:54 PM
I admit it - I'm a fashion nightmare. :?:

Growing up, we were desperately poor and I was happy to have any hand-me-downs provided. So "clean and least-worn" became the height of fashion. And living in a small, rural midwest town, it wasn't an issue.

Then came the years of being a stay-at-home mom, and "clean" was still high priority. Not too many nights on the town. And trust me - it wasn't Desperate Housewives!

So here I am in my 40s, kinda overweight, and dressing like my grandmother (I'm wearing her sweater as I type). Most of the fashions seem suited for teens & 20-somethings. How do I find fashionable, age-appropriate clothes?

How do I even learn the right style for me? I love the show "What Not To Wear", but frankly that's not me. I work in a business-casual environment and am NOT a city girl. Non-fussy, no dry clean, natural fibers. I guess I'm more the classic/natural style, but it looks really frumpy on an overweight gal.

Recommendations? Thanks for your help!

01-17-2009, 11:05 PM
The first thing I thought of was Ann Taylor. Their stuff isn't too far out there and I know women my age (26) up to women in their 60's and beyond that shop there. They have such a clean, colorful collection that spans comfort wear to dressier stuff. It can be pricey, but they also have great sales and can be found at outlet malls, too.


A good place to start in finding what you like is to start with colors. I've learned that I really enjoy wearing oranges and earth tones and that has really shaped my wardrobe. It's sort of like when I'm redecorating a room, too- I find one piece I'm in love with and build around it (a vase, a sofa, a picture...)

01-17-2009, 11:56 PM
I am 37--and I am not a fan of dressing too young for my age either...but I also don't like looking like my mother all the time either. I am also a fan of more natural fibers...I have three little boys.

Anyway, for everyday stuff, I like to wear Eddie Bauer clothes. When you are overweight, I think it is important to try and look a little tailored. If you go too flowy, it can make you look bigger than you are. So, I like square necklines and V-necklines...avoiding boat necks. Vests -- right now they have some really sharp black and red sweater vests on sale -- with long sleeved T-shirts are good for everyday...or they have some really nice wrinkle free button down shirts -- long sleeve in winter and they carry short sleeve in the summer, and, my favorite, 3/4 sleeve all year round. It is really important to understand your coloring when choosing clothes because even the nicest outfit, if it doesn't look good with your complexion/hair, can look really frumpy.

I also shop a lot, like Junebug suggested, at Anne Taylor...especially Anne Taylor Loft because the prices are good. I also really like to shop at Coldwater Creek. It can be a little expensive, but they have a lot of clothes that have a sort of outdoorsy/southwest feel, and a lot of stuff mixes and matches well there. I also like J. Jill, hmmm, that is all the places I can think of off the top of my head.

01-18-2009, 02:30 AM
Blazers are my best friends at 40 to hide my belly and a bit of weight. For business casual they are great, I wear them with dressier jeans or trousers and a white tee shirt (to make them more casual). As we get older colors matter more, so you can check out from your library the classic book about analyzing your colors. While you are at the library you'll find a section on fashion. I've bought a lot of books on the subject as I like fashion, there's some good ones on dressing after 40 and just general fashion books with ideas, and how to flatter your figure type. What do you like best about your figure? For me it's my long legs that I like to emphasize, and distract from my belly and wider shoulders. For your natural/classic style, you can stick with a classic palette of colors, like black, grey, tan. Buy some no iron shirts that fit just right with 3/4 or longer sleeves. And pants in year-round fabric. I find that as I get older I'd rather buy fewer high quality items, like cashmere sweaters and great fitting pants/jeans then lots of clothes as I did when I was younger. I don't like patterns as much, I like simple elegance with out a lot of fuss too. Go to the discount stores like Ross and others where you can get some discounted name brands. Or you can go to Dillards, Nordstroms, etc and try on clothes, figure out what size you wear in various brands then hit ebay. Ebay is great for used designer clothes at a discount. For example I liked a pair of $69 Calvin Kleins at Dillards, went to ebay, bought them slightly used for about $15. If you read some books, they'll help you go through your closet, throw out what you don't wear, really analyze your style and what works for you. Then when you shop you'll find with time that you'll only really like a very small percentage of clothes- but they'll be right for you. You can go through magazines, clip out pictures, do an album- I keep one for ideas, or a style file. Fashion doesn't come naturally to me, so I go and steal ideas from magazines, by flipping through my binder choosing looks. I once went to the extent of taking pictures of various outfits in my closet, then i could just flip through pictures for an idea. You get more respect if you dress nice and appreciate fashion as you get a bit older, it was easy in the 20s, even gunny sacks looked ok. Now it's trickier but still fun.

01-18-2009, 11:27 AM
I am in the same boat as you, I wear t shirts and jeans:(

01-18-2009, 01:00 PM
I agree with Schumeany. I like Coldwater Creek, J. Jill and Ann Taylor Loft. I also like the sale racks at Sears, Macy's, and Kohls.

Try on lots of different things, and see what seems to fit you best. When I was heavier, I wore a lot of jackets and skirts/pants. Separates are easier to find a good fit.

Look for jackets/shirts that are structured (WNTW mantra) - they have some built-in shape. Look for pants that have some flair to the leg to balance out your hips - a medium to high rise is usually most flattering.

To modernize "frumpy" pieces, add some fun accessories - a cool scarf, trendy necklace, bracelets, earrings, etc.

Don't be afraid of layers - just pick lighter weight pieces so that the bulk of the garments don't make you look heavier than you are.

A nice pair of jeans that fit you well can go a LONG WAY - I like outlet stores like Marshalls or TJ Maxx for finding good quality, well-fitting and reasonably priced ones.

Take a friend with you when you go shopping - ideally someone who's fashion sense you admire. Let them help you - and don't be afraid to try some things you think you might not like. You WILL be surprised!

Thighs Be Gone
01-18-2009, 01:21 PM
I agree with a taking a friend that has nice style with you to shop. On the day you shop, do your hair and make-up nicely, wear some nice undergarments that fit you well and go have fun! I like Macy's, Kohl's and Banana Republic. I also look in the Jr. sections sometimes because the clothes tend to be a bit trendier. You don't have to do the whole low-rise bit (they just aren't comfortable on me) but you can maybe try some trendly looking tops and more youthful colors.

Nothing is worse than the frumpy look--the sweaters with the band around the bottom and "mom" jeans with loafers or frumpy shoes is among the worst. Add to that frumpy, washed out color in hair and old make-up and any woman (with any body) can be a fashion disaster. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I think any woman (with any body) can be put together well and look stylish and fresh--without having the "I am trying too hard" or "I am dressed inappropriately" look.

01-18-2009, 01:37 PM
I am right there with you hun, I have clothes that I wear that are years and years old. I have recently learned that the bigger the clothes the frumpier I look. I apparently wear large and extra large and have been hanging on to wearing my 1X up to 3X clothes that I thought was hiding my fluff instead it was accenting it. I shop for sales at lane bryant and try to add a new outfit at least once a month. If I find a good sale then I can get 2. I also figured out if I get them to fit really good they last a while during my weight loss program. This is not my first time to lose weight so I can go shopping in my own closet. There is also a Roamans online that is for the slightly flufflier person and it has some neat clothes that are age appropriate and size appropiate. Good luck!

01-18-2009, 05:38 PM
Oh, you lovely, lovely ladies. Thank you! I'm going to print this page and commit it to memory - LOL!

I do like the styles from J.Jill and others mentioned. The classic lines are really appealing, yet they still have a feminine feel. I just wish the models weren't so darned skinny! That chic, natural look sometimes gets lost in translation from them to me. :) Hopefully some day I'll pull it off, too.

01-19-2009, 02:12 PM
Pinkie, at 169 and 5'7" you'll pull it off just fine right now. None of us are supermodels. Just make sure what you buy is "fitted" -- trying to hide your already slimmer lines is not a good way to look slimmer at all. No bulky cardigans or fat wool sweater that band low on the hips. Oh, and I will absolutely reiterate what others have said about low rise jeans...stay far away from them...at least until you reach goal...muffin top is not good...even on a 15-year-old it is a bad look -- on those of us in our 30s and 40s it is just WRONG. Even at goal, I don't wear them because of the joy of plummer's crack. I like mid-rise...just under the belly button...even waist height is good for some outfits. But bootcut will make you look "up-to-date" and make your legs look longer and better balanced...also boots, ankle high is good under pants, with some heel...not crazy, uncomfortably high, but some heel will also accentuate your height and look really sharp with bootcut pants. Coldwater Creek carries some really nice jeans that have a hidden panel in front for belly control -- they have a great dark denim color that dresses up or down.

I also forgot to mention Kohl's. I have found some real finds there for CHEAP! Their Sonoma line makes some nice jeans, khakis and cordoroys that are bootcut (avoid the metro or urban cut ones as they do not give much leeway for curves...)...and they are often less than $20.00. Their Apartment 9 line also has some really nice button down shirts that look really sharp -- very feminine lines with darts to accentuate your figure and skim you without showing any bulges or other things that are still bothering you -- they have some stretch built in and they come in full length and 3/4 length sleeves.

One last thing...buy a nice coat. Kohl's has some great ones. A stylish fitted coat is WELL worth the money. You will look polished as soon as you step out the door.

01-19-2009, 02:30 PM
I can't do Coldwater Creek. I think their stuff is very cute, but the pants are all too short for me and I don't like skirts all that much.

I like Ann Taylor (but our store is closing...boohoo) but I've usually had a hard time finding things that fit me right.

I like Talbots, but it can be a bit more older generation and sometimes too business-ey for what I want.

Chico's is great! I often find really cute things there.

Also, stick your head in a local store rather than a chain. You will get a little more personalized service and if they're clearing out inventory, you can land some great deals.

01-19-2009, 05:52 PM
Best jeans for those of us with bellies - Gap, Levis, Banana Republic, and my new favorite jeans CK (with the long inseam). As you get older, don't buy all of the funny washes, just a med to dark wash that's classier. If you try to dress too young, you'll look silly. I love the trouser jeans for a casual work environment - try the Banana Republic darker wash trousers, they fit like a dream! Gap jeans and trousers have lots of stretch which is helpful. The Gap black slacks are great for a casual work environment, with a white dressier tee and a jean jacket. Don't forget black ballet flats, they are comfortable and are great for business travel too as they fit easily in suitcases.

Most models don't even look as good as they do in magazines, they are air brushed! I think it's a shame that so many magazines only feature the super thin models. However there's others like Bazaar and Town and Country that features clothes for different ages. Go to your library and check out some of the magazines with like Bazaar for various ages and make copies of the clothes you like. Check out any fashion books from your library and do the same. Also look through other magazines, and you'll develop your "look." What you are naturally attracted to, what colors etc. A popular new book is How To Not Look old, might as well do a speed read of it at your local bookstore. There are some things that really make us OLD and we don't want to do that.

You dont' have to become some major fashionista, but if you get your look and closet in order you'll find out how much better you feel about yourself. I always feel better with my makeup, hair and clothes all in order. I know it's shallow, but if our outsides are in order - our insides/self confidence/etc follows. I'm no girly girl but I like to feel classy and somewhat attractive. I miss my youth when I could throw on anything and look good, it takes more "work" as you get older, to figure out your colors, what fits right, etc but it's well worth it in the long run.

Hope you find the "new you."

01-29-2009, 05:30 PM
Hiya :)

I hope you don't mind my input. I am more of a girly city girl than down to earth, I usually have to get dressed up like I am going out for my job (work evenings in a small restaurant), but still faced some challenges when I was more chubby than now. I found that I had to dress differently for my body type - the styles and cuts that I wore when skinny no longer suited me when chubby. And wearing the correct colours is essential to looking good, especially while aging. I spent ages looking for the perfect pair of pants and, once I found them, wore them to death (I have even altered them so I can continue wearing them even though I am about 35lbs lighter)...looser thighs, hang straight from the hips, in fine knit polyester...go with everything. Actually, I wound up with a lot of polyester knit clothes, as the fabric drapes well. A good foundation garment - a reinforced camisole with an underwire bra built in - really helped to make my shirts look good. Knickers that came down mid thigh for when I wore tight skirts helped smooth my bottom out. And yes, I am a huge fan of Trinny and Susannah's book - What You Wear Can Change Your Life - good foundation garments rule! I found a lot of tops that criss crossed or wrapped across my middle were good, created a waist and hid my belly. Straight, to the knee, fitted skirts are good as they show of shape and go well with a looser top. Tops fitted under the bust with a slight flare to them. Mid length sleeves, or short sleeves with some soft ruffles or gathers across the top so they don't hug right onto the upper arm and disguise a bit of the hello-good-bye-wobble. Nothing baggy, nothing too loose. Oh, and a larger cut belt more so than anything skinny. Skinny belts just looked as if I was trying to cut a sausage in half **grins**

One other thing I did was go have my make up assessed by a friend who does make up for a living. She only charged me $20, looked at all the make up that I owned, I showed her how I wear it, she made a few alternate suggestions, suggested a couple of new pieces to get, and I was on my way. The 20CAD was so well worth spending to get my stuff sorted out.

And one final thing I do is to peruse the Internet for fashion advice. There are loads of sites out there done up by folks who just enjoy clothes. Not the high fashion sites, but blogs...some folks just enjoy clothing, talking about it, playing with it, and take pics of their clothes and talk about their latest acquisitions. I find it is a fun way to see what other folks are doing.

That's about it! I hope you have fun on your clothing venture! Good luck, and enjoy the journey! I better get offline, and go stick some clothes on for working tonight...

One final thing... Unless I feel beautiful in something, I don't keep it. I used that adage when clearing out my closet a few years ago, and I still stick with it. Everything I wear...I have to feel beautiful. If I don't, then out it goes. I find that if I don't feel beautiful in it, then what is the point of wearing it when my goal is to feel and look as attractive as possible. Only wear the things you love. And if you love it heaps, buy two!


Sarah C0nn0r
02-01-2009, 10:18 PM
At this stage of my weight loss journey, I'm a big fan of fitted blouses. I think they tend to be a bit more slimming and camouflage the muffin top a bit for me.

My Husband (Mister Earth Tone Himself) often comments that most of my wardrobe is wine coloured or different shades of it, and he's mostly right about that because those are the shirts I spent more money on and they are better quality fabric. But I always make sure I have some main staples to my wardrobe - a Black pair of dress pants, a tan or brown pair of dress pants, and either royal blue or sage green. I've learned to do this because I buy a lot more shirts than I do pants, and whatever colour I gravitate to when buying a shirt, I know I have pants to match. I REALLY love purples and pinks and anything in between.

Of course, once I reach goal my clothing style will likely change - although I already have some timeless favourites that I cannot wait to wear again.

02-01-2009, 11:11 PM
I love Chico's clothing. The fabric I love most is Linen.. Once you find a brand you really like, try buying on Ebay... much cheaper than buying new. Good luck hun.