Too Old for "Baby Doll," Too Young To Die

A rant of sorts

In an earlier post I lamented the demise of Forth & Towne. While they certainly had their share of clunkers, they also were one of the few stores I’ve ever found that regularly had chic, stylish and affordable clothes for nous femmes over 40. While they rarely had pants in short lengths, they did carry boatloads of cute jackets in the current cropped, 3/4 sleeve styles and I’m glad I bought a few when I could. Because now that F&T is gone (well, they’re still open for another two weeks but the store near me is down to the chaff) it’s back to wandering the retail wasteland.

Most of the current fashion available in my price range* is targeted toward younger women, and either designed for women who can still get away with no bra…

(bananarepublic.com)

Or is better suited for a toddler than a grown woman…

(shopbop.com)

Or if it’s targeted toward women my age, it’s either…

Too preppy…

(Talbots.com)

Too “earth mother goddess-y”……

(eileenfisher.com)

Or just too damn Orange County Republican.

(Nordstrom.com)

Too Fat For Fashion has a great post from a few days back called The Age Old Question, and asks why, if there are so many fashion-savvy women of the baby boomer generation with money to spend, are designers seemingly fleeing from designs suitable for anyone over 25, or larger than a size 6.

The industry’s continued obsession with youth can be alienating for anyone who
doesn’t want to spend their days wearing baby doll dresses, smock shirts or
any of the other trends that seem to be ripped straight out a preteen’s
closet.

She also links to this great NYT article that explores the same conundrum.

Juvenility has mobbed us. Even if a woman has a clear idea about what looks
right on her body and for her age and personality, it’s hard to avoid the window
displays of baby-doll and trapeze dresses; the T-shirt bars of ruffled cotton,
airbrushed cotton and shrunken cotton; the girlish necklaces and charms; and all
the companion editorial in magazines, with the frosted pinks and the long, long
hair with little curls.

Sure, there are women my age who try to keep up with every current trend and wear whatever Mary Kate and Ashley are wearing that week. Go to Saks in Beverly Hills on a weekday afternoon and you’ll see the 50-ish celebutanute wannabees. Usually they’re also emaciated, botoxed, tanned, collagen-lipped and somewhat freakish looking. I don’t want to dress like my Grandma did at my age (lots of navy blue and polka dots), but dammit, can’t we have some fashion with a little dignity? Some decent tailoring? No wonder so many women my age have given up and live in velour track suits.

So yoo hoo, retailers out there, you’re missing the boat! Just because we’re sprouting some gray hairs and a few more pounds doesn’t mean we want to try to recapture our teenage years (or looks). We don’t want to dress like our younger selves, we want clothing that brings out the best in who we are today. We work, we may still have kids at home, we have active lives, we have a sense of style and disposable income. Why are we being left in the fashion dust???

*I don’t often spend over $100 for any single piece of clothing.

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17 Comments

  1. citizen spot
    June 5, 2007 / 6:40 am

    Wow, your alter ego is scaring me!

    ; P

    I have absolutely no sense of fashion (as you well know) and I am proud of it. Cargo shorts (junonia.com) and men’s camp shirts (rei.com) for me. But anyways, I can’t wear nice clothes to work, because they would end up full of holes from the chemicals left spilled all over the benches by sloppy grad students. That’s my excuse, and I am sticking to it!
    Nice picture with the lovely french garden BTW.

  2. June 5, 2007 / 1:08 pm

    Having kid and dogs and work where I sometimes have to root through dusty tape libraries is why I don’t make a huge financial investment in any one article of clothing. Handbags are another story. 🙂

  3. June 5, 2007 / 6:03 pm

    I don’t think they want us to dress to suit who we are because I don’t think they want us to be who we are. Women are supposed to be decorative and powerless, striving to be young.

  4. June 5, 2007 / 6:23 pm

    True, yet you’d think the potential to make money by providing a product that appeals to a big chunk of the adult population would outweigh that. Or maybe most women my age are either so engaged in the struggle to look younger or so disengaged from fashion/style altogether (not necessarily a bag thing) that there’s not the market I think there is?

  5. June 5, 2007 / 6:27 pm

    “bad” thing, not “bag” thing.

    Damn, but I’ve become dependent on spell checker!

  6. June 11, 2007 / 3:51 pm

    I am so happy to find others mourning the loss of Forth and Towne. I made a desperate run to the closing store last week to grab last minute items but the store was pretty much cleaned out.
    I agree with you that there is money to be made on our demographic. Why isn’t some corporation smart enough to cash in?
    That pretty much leaves fashionable 50 year olds shopping for bags and shoes.

  7. June 11, 2007 / 6:01 pm

    Yeah, for the last several years I’ve just bought very simple, basic items of clothing and relied on accessories to dial up the “fashion” a little. Unless someone picks up the F&T mantle, I’ll need to return to that philosophy once the F&T stuff wears out.

  8. Anonymous
    October 9, 2007 / 7:28 pm

    Oh, heavens. There are plenty of clothes for women 40 and 50 to wear that don’t fall into the Chico’s and Coldwater Creek categories. At 43 I find it perfectly acceptable to dress like a hip 33 year old instead of earth goddess, granola grandma, or Orange County Republican (that was a good one, ha-ha).

    I love Chadwicks, LaRedoute (Laura Clement’s updated, classics are awesome!)and Victoria’s Secret for pants, shoes and undies. You can dress like a hip 35-year old for a long time if you keep yourself up. And that’s excluding botox. My other advice for older ladies is not to worry about looking young. You’re not young, and no matter what you do you won’t look it. Worry about looking ageless and up-to-date, and don’t be over dressed. It looks stiff.

    I’m of the wear whatever you feel like as long as it doesn’t advertise your flaws or make you look like a hooker. I have even seen babydoll shirts perfectly suitable for an “older” woman to wear.

    P.S. Looking older than 20 is not a flaw. The more women stop adhering to crazy “age-appropriate” rules and dress for personality and body type, the less it will “look odd” when a older woman looks great from behind and turns to face you to reveal she’s a mature woman and not a girl. All this reflects is society’s aversion to ageing women and their sexuality. Think about that.

  9. October 16, 2007 / 3:47 pm

    The other day I heard someone commenting on an outfit that made the wearer look overly young that it “youthanized” her. It took a minute before everyone realized why I was laughing. lol

  10. Duchesse
    January 8, 2008 / 5:35 pm

    Never got to shop at F&T b/c I live in Canada.So if we are all searching for decent clothes WHY did they go bust? IMO Victoria’s Secreat is not great quailty and Eileen Fisher puts women in rectangles. Talbot’s pants can be OK but jackets boring.

  11. Fred The Mole
    March 29, 2008 / 9:24 am

    Hi from Paris where the sun shines !!

    I found the “Goddess look” rather ok …
    But I don’ know nothing about Fashion stuff !

    Nice day 🙂

    Fred the Mole

  12. May 2, 2008 / 7:40 pm

    Hey, found you through belle de ville and I had to comment.
    As a 20-something yr old, I have to say that the brown flowy shirt thing and that hideous white dress would look horrible on anyone. Even those of us who don’t need to wear bra’s.
    Some of us young’uns would rather dress like we’re forty than wear that nonsense made popular by those hill’s chicks.
    It’s not all that much easier to be young and forced to go through rack after rack of things that look like potato sacks.
    AND! I totally disagree with Maya’s granny’s assertion that women are “supposed” to be decorative and powerless. Ummm, no? Decorative and pretty do not preclude powerlessness. She is making the assumption that women dress nicely and make themselves look pretty because men want them too. I dress nicely and make myself a walking, talking decoration because it makes me feel powerful. Looking composed helps people feel composed, or at least pretend it.
    It’s almost more offensive to have a woman assume some sort of non-existent patriarchal motive behind dressing well than to have a man assume it. Having pride in yourself and how you look does not put you under a man’s thumb, but it may, just maybe, put a man under your thumb.

  13. May 3, 2008 / 1:38 am

    stephanie,

    Welcome and thanks for reading. Like you, in my 20’s I never really had much desire to wear what was supposedly designed for women my age. A lot of what is “fashionable” has always seemed a tad ridiculous to me.

    Just to clarify, I know maya’s granny quite well, and she’s a pretty sharp dresser herself. The point she was making, and that I agree with, is that often what is considered most fashionable is that which a) somehow incapacitates the wearer (think 5″ heels and corset-tight dresses) and b) emphasizes the youth of the wearer. Out culture still fears women who are powerful in the traditional sense, and that may be why women feel more comfortable at times trying to dress in such a way as to appear more vulnerable and non-threatening. The power that comes from youth and beauty is fleeting, and can be withdrawn at any time. But dressing in what makes you feel your best at any given time is a kind of power that you give yourself and no one can take away.

  14. Anonymous
    January 10, 2009 / 10:57 pm

    “…what is considered most fashionable is that which

    a) somehow incapacitates the wearer (think 5″ heels and corset-tight dresses) and

    b) emphasizes the youth of the wearer.

    Our culture still fears women who are powerful in the traditional sense, and that may be why women feel more comfortable at times trying to dress in such a way as to appear more vulnerable and non-threatening.

    The power that comes from youth and beauty is fleeting, and can be withdrawn at any time. But dressing in what makes you feel your best at any given time is a kind of power that you give yourself and no one can take away.”

    Wise words.

  15. Wanda
    May 13, 2010 / 9:47 pm

    I am 53 in 10 days I will be 54, crumbs, where did the time go! I wear what I darn well please, using a little common sense of course.:)
    I must admit to being a little immature for my age, I always have been and I am now glad of it. I never want to ‘act’ old.
    My fav’s, my many pairs of white jeans & pants, boot cut. ( I do Pilates most days, you must make sure your Bum looks good in those pants. Jacket’s, a great jacket makes anything look good.
    I think women stay away from sleeveless tops because they don’t like the way their arms look, you HAVE to work on those areas to keep them looking their best, believe me, it makes shopping much easier.
    I use a clarisonic, on my face and body,it is fantastic, and always moisturize. Don’t bake in the sun, dark tans don’t look good on older women, they make you look older.
    Most of all. please yourself. If you don’t do it now, when will you?

  16. May 30, 2010 / 8:38 pm

    “Too Orange County Republican”! I love it!

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