Walking the Walk (Part 1 - The Usual Suspects) - une femme d'un certain âge

Walking the Walk (Part 1 – The Usual Suspects)

Thursday, March 18 will be the Three Year Blogaversary of Une femme d’un certain age. I launched this blog right after turning 50, hoping to start an online conversation about style for les femmes d’un certain age, a demographic that at the time seemed to have almost nonexistent representation among fashion and style blogs and websites. I’m pleased to say that there are many, many more of us out there now, adding our viewpoints and voices to the mix of style and fashion bloggers. What I hadn’t counted on, and what has been the very best part of blogging has been making the acquaintance of so many wonderful people I now consider friends, many of whom I’ve had the delightful experience of meeting in person.

I’d also hoped to use the blog to explore and hone my own style and take my wardrobe to the next level. This has and hasn’t happened. In my head, my wardrobe goal is clear: a foundation of of well-edited, well-fitted, timeless pieces of best-I-can-afford quality to anchor my wardrobe, and be the basis for fun high/low styling to express my “with a twist” side. Despite these intentions, I continue to restock the same types of items (basic tees, cardigans, jeans, the occasional jacket) from the same mass retailers (Banana Republic, Talbot’s, Ann Taylor, J.Crew) as previously. I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with these retailers’ lines or that they don’t contribute some very workable items to my wardrobe, but…

Some wonderful and thought-provoking blog posts in recent weeks and months by Make Do Style, Imogen, Duchesse, LPC and others have been percolating in my brain, culminating in a moment last week where I stood in my closet unable to move, overwhelmed by how oppressively drab all of my garments seemed. I’m not talking about color necessarily, still love my neutrals; I’m talking about style, quality, details, fit. There’s not a single piece of clothing in my closet that I would describe as “fabulous,” and that, mes amis, is a sobering realization. (I’m referring to actual garments here–tops, pants, jackets, etc.–not accessories. I do have some great accessories, but tend to rely on them too heavily to carry and elevate the whole ensemble.)

When it comes to clothing I’ve been settling for less, and in a big way. Settling is the enemy of satisfaction, and lack of satisfaction probably contributes in no small way to my urge to buy the same damn cotton cardigan in three different colors. Despite all of my talk about wanting to create a Goldilocks wardrobe, and embracing the French ideal of fewer items that are all Just Right, I’ve continued to repeat my pattern of settling for “it’ll do,” and overbuying. If you’re still reading and will forgive a bit more narcissistic navel-gazing, the following are some of the reasons/rationalizations that cloud my thinking and keep me in this rut.

1. Availability and Familiarity. I don’t have a lot of time to shop or try on clothes, so tend to shop online and “buy what I know.” I wouldn’t know where to begin to shop brick-and-mortar other than mall and department stores.

2. Sizing. Habitually limiting my shopping to the Petites section, which in turn limits which retailers I’m visiting. While it’s true that *some* items fit better in the Petite (short) cut, this is by no means true for everything.

3. Lifestyle. When I do run across something amazing (like the MaxMara coat I tried on a few months ago) I tell myself that a) it’s too nice (read: expensive) for my lifestyle, b) I don’t have anywhere to wear it or c) I’ll stand out too much.

4. Weight. And this is a biggie (no pun intended). I’m still at a higher weight than I’d like by a few pounds (but a few are all it takes on my 5’1″ frame) and have convinced myself that a) better quality isn’t available in my size or b) that it wouldn’t look good on me anyway. And some of my better wardrobe building blocks (black wool trousers, pencil skirt, decent cashmere tops) are just fitting too tightly these days to be utilized.

5. Fear-based buying. I’ll never find the perfect ________ and this is as close as I’ll get or I’ll never find another _________ that fits me. (Ridiculous, I know, especially when applied to items like tee shirts and sweaters!)

Unexamined, these thoughts have been powerful drivers, but laid out in black and white seem rather silly, n’estce pas? Conventional wisdom says that we have to recognize where we are to figure out how to get where we want to go. Coming up in Part 2: unpacking these beliefs and steps to move away from settling and toward sartorial satisfaction.

Do you have beliefs that keep you settling for less when it comes to style, or any other part of your life? Has recognizing them helped you to change your patterns and move ahead?
~

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70 Comments

  1. March 15, 2010 / 12:13 pm

    I really loved this post. I understand so well what you are trying to say. I go through the same things. Weight is my biggie. The pounds just won’t budge and I have many items that would be great if I lost 10 pounds.

    You are still doing a great job, just keep on searching and blogging and maybe one day, voila, you will inspire yourself and many others like myself to get it right.

    I love your blog!

  2. March 15, 2010 / 12:55 pm

    I’ve been there too. In my case I was choosing clothes that fit a ‘career’ image of myself. I had lots of black and brown with a few hits of colour but, by and large a pretty safe wardrobe. The real challenge in shopping is to find the clothes that suit you (or me) in any given fashion cycle. For example, how long have pencil skirts of one length or another been in? Only now is the a-line coming back (because they need to give grown-up women a reason to shop again) and an a-line is one of the most flattering, forgiving and comfortable cuts for women, especially those of us over 30! Things changed for me when I started going to thrift and vintage stores. Vintage today is all about the ’70s. The ’70s had some great clothes for women. At thrift stores I found clothes that actually fit me the way I like things to fit, I found great brands, great fabrics, and they were often barely worn, if at all. The problem here is time. You have to go often and be open minded. I found it made shopping fun again. And I try to go with a friend because what one set of eyes misses the other captures. As for the weight issue, I always marvel at how attractive French and Italian women look because they don’t seem to worry if there is a little flesh here and there. It’s that European confidence thing that we need to absorb. Great post!

  3. March 15, 2010 / 1:10 pm

    You have neatly dissected the attitude and beliefs that get us those results- thank you!
    *Can’t wait* for Part Two.

    Just bought a pair of pants that I wouldn’t have sprung for 2 yrs ago- a dramatic difference. Perhaps a return to MaxMara is in your future? They do have good sales.

    Your blog is terrific and thank you once again for your generosity!

  4. March 15, 2010 / 1:36 pm

    What you said…

    This accounts for my bounteous wardrobe of jeans, black pants, black turtlenecks, black and navy pantsuits, polar fleece, tweed, black loafers and a few cashmere twinsets that I’m afraid to wear because they lack the body-armor style and fit of my work clothes (God forbid someone notices that I’m female). And the drawers of good accessories that I either forget to wear or am afraid to wear (because something ‘too nice’ will make me stand out and be seen, while ‘eh’ fitting black clothes and tweed will allow me to blend into the brickwork and go unnoticed).

  5. March 15, 2010 / 2:15 pm

    Pseu, thank you for your three years of blogging. You’ve given us so many great posts on fashion, travel, music and just life. How you write a professional quality blog, and do what you do in real life, is beyond me. I admire your energy and tenacity.
    Ah the perfect wardrobe, so elusive. Will any one of us ever have one, probably not. But the process of the search is always interesting.

  6. Anonymous
    March 15, 2010 / 5:06 pm

    I can relate to all of your points. Thanks for this post.

  7. March 15, 2010 / 6:29 pm

    I relate to everything you’re saying. For me, the things I picture myself wearing, my perfect wardrobe if you will, either doesn’t fit my figure or lifestyle. I also feel I end up buying the same things. Weight has been an issue for me as well at 47. I know I need to be more disciplined about exercise and eating less. That’s what I’ve been working on lately. Hopefully the rest will come from that.

    Great post.

  8. March 15, 2010 / 6:29 pm

    Your post is spot on! I can relate to all the points you wrote about. Now, I can’t wait to see your next post!!

  9. Katriona
    March 15, 2010 / 7:37 pm

    I completely understand what you are getting at… all of those issues I suffer from at one time or another. The weight/fitness issues particularly; although I do have clothing I love, and that I can wear, I still have a sense memory of how they felt when I could comfortably hold my stomach in, so even if they still look nice they don feel as nice. Fitness and being toned is the ultimate foundation garment.
    One other thing is what I perceive as “good clothes”–my younger sister has better build for contemporary fashion fashion (longer legs, broader shoulders)and makes a lot of money. She’s a lawyer and wears a lot of expensive designer suits, and looks smashing in them. I have somehow imbibed the notion that to look really good you must wear structured hip designer suits, and when I came into a little money, I set about buying some. Now, I’m an actress, and don’t need more than a couple of good suits in my closet. But somehow, I have acquired nice clothes, even flattering clothes, but clothes that have little to do with my life style. I like them very much, don’t want to part with them, but find myself wanting to wear a waaay more casual, simple wardrobe, without losing elegance and function. But I spent all my money on the suits and blouses, etc! So my casual stuff is sort of second tier clothing and I end up in outfits that make me look like a high priced entertainment lawyer, OR a Marks Work Warehouse soccer mom… not that there’s anything wrong with that. But it ain’t me ,babe. It’s that dissonance between what I am and what I’m in that bugs me.

  10. March 15, 2010 / 8:04 pm

    I love your blog although I have been remiss about commenting often.

    This post is fabulous and you really get right to the heart of the issue, one that plagues me as well. I still have weight to go but I am trying to let go of those rationalizations and not settle. Sometimes, yes, compromise is necessary, but life is also to short. I still tend to settle sometimes, and overbuy. I think that is fear motivated.

    I am looking forward to part 2.

  11. Sal
    March 15, 2010 / 1:19 pm

    I am all too familiar with these rationalizations for settling. And while I’m glad to hear you’re examining them more closely and (I assume) reconsidering your methods, I hope you aren’t beating yourself up for settling. All of these reasons to shop as you have been are normal, reasonable, and have probably provided you with a REALLY good foundation of basics. They may not be perfect, but they’ll make a great launchpad, right?

  12. March 15, 2010 / 8:33 pm

    Totally empathise with your views here. I stuffed my wardrobe with ‘it’ll do’ for a while but have been inspired recently by several shopping bans (particularly MakeDoStyle).I am now only buying ‘wow I really like this’.
    Am looking forward to part2 for more brain fodder. Maureen

  13. March 15, 2010 / 8:34 pm

    Congrats on 3 years of high-quality posts!

    I’ve been exploring many of the same issues (or discussing all of them with friends) the past several years and all I can say is just commit to the hunt. [And hunt for more easily-altered items as a way of mitigating the weight-related barrier.]

    Accept that it WILL take time and effort, and either money or better-spent money. Accept that you will be frustrated and raging and quite possibly self-hating at times. So what? You’ll endure.

    I had to go off the grid to find things that excited me. [One can only get so excited about a pair of “classic” tropical weight wool pants or a merino V neck.] You can choose to do that as well by having things tailor-made and/or customized for you locally. Start with bridal shops–alteration central–if you can’t find seamstresses or designers another way.

    Or you can browse Etsy and collaborate with sellers.

    Or–if labels are important to you–then commit to only shopping certain lines but force yourself not to restock with the same things you have.

    Since working on *getting* a personal style (ok, a style period) I’ve found I sometimes add to the visual diversity around me. [We don’t have much here, ha.] Sometimes real life strangers comment on what I wear; since I am often looking at what others wear, this feels odd but strangely companionable!

    From reading your blog I doubt you will ever stand out in a “whoa, what was she thinking?” way (something to which some aspire, I know). If you find something that meets your definition of fabulous, it may just make someone else’s day as well as your own.

  14. Anonymous
    March 15, 2010 / 9:13 pm

    Congrats on three years. As someone relatively new to your blog, I have been going through your previous posts with relish.

    I am so looking forward to your continuing posts on this subject.

    I have many of the same issues and like you are struggling to break free of my wardrobe rut as well as my mindset. Perfection is not my goal, but I would settle (there’s that word again) for using 50% of my wardrobe. I spend a reasonable amount on it and never feel satisfied. I think for me part of it is the dissonance Katriona mentioned.

  15. metscan
    March 15, 2010 / 2:19 pm

    Wow, you have spoken. Honestly and bravely. I respect you ( amongst other things ) for that! Waiting anxiously to read part 2.

  16. Frugal Scholar
    March 15, 2010 / 2:20 pm

    I think you look great–you have a good haircut, good grooming. I think your closet incident comes from being post-50. I’m lucky that I have a personal stylist–my daughter. She’s nice enough to take a moment now and then from her age-appropriate narcissism and help me put things together. But still I get morose sometimes!

    With your above-mentioned good haircut and make-up, you could wear jeans and a tee. With your new Chanel flats and a nice bag–perhaps with a scarf, you would look great anywhere.

    If I were you, I would head over to Nordstroms and seek the advice of their in-house personal shoppers. Often the problem is that you need to try a new cut jacket–one that you would never think of. I mention Nordstroms because of their great guarantee–if, after a bit, you think the shopper “did you wrong” you can bring the item back.

    Because of my addicted thrfting, I have seen many–and bought quite a few–items by desgners I would never spring for in “real life’–and that includes MaxMara. They are well-made and of beautiful fabrication–but they did not transform me. In fact, a moth made a few holes in one of the MM’s–you can bet I was glad I didn’t pay full price for it!

    I have really gotten a lot from your writing. Thanks again.

  17. Arabella
    March 15, 2010 / 2:45 pm

    I identify with #5- Fear-based buying but I don’t think we’re the problem.
    I haven’t been able to buy a T shirt that has fitted properly for about three years: if stylish,they are all too long and narrow. My ancient size 6 J.Crew trousers fit perfectly but no size 6 item in that store fits ANY of my proportions any more. The lines in the cutting/shopping world have been re-drawn.
    As far as I’m aware I wasn’t stuffed into a medieval torture device one night to awake with a squashed torso and wider legs.
    If I could have seen this coming I would have hired a truck and panic-bought all the JCrew/Club Monaco staples that had fit my body for years.
    If you find something that fits it’s a fluke. The fear is real and it’s not our fault!

    The up-side to all this is that I no longer buy anything and have more time to read. And to thank you for writing your blog.

  18. March 15, 2010 / 10:23 pm

    Excellent post… Like Miss Pseu, Miss J gets into a fashion rut of buying what she knows instead of holding out for the truly fabulous. She really became aware of this when she met with a professional stylist. It doesn’t help that Miss J has a bit of the compulsive shopper in her… so lots of little purchases that add up to a closet full of blah.

    Miss J recommends taking the plunge and buying that “one good thing”. She predicts Miss Pseu WILL find it immensely gratifying fashion-wise, and on many levels. Miss J has noticed that since she started “holding out” a bit for that one special thing, she’s less apt to splurge on “the same old things”. It may help Miss Pseu to turn that corner.

  19. Lisa
    March 15, 2010 / 3:25 pm

    DP, Congratulations on your blogaversary. You have skillfully and with much candor examined issues both big and small.

    This post is one many of us can relate to, for sure. Looking forward to the next installment.

  20. March 15, 2010 / 10:28 pm

    Fabulous post Pseu – personal style is discovered in baby steps.

    My own blind spot until as recently as 2 years ago was that I could never pay full price, only on sale. It took me to sit and think about why I felt I wasn’t deserving of the full price garment, and realising that it stemmed from my mother always telling me that because I was ‘growing too fast’ then buying me any new clothes or shoes, was a ‘waste of money’. Ergo, I felt that I had no value and so could only by bargain.

    I now realise, and know my style so well, that when I see a fabulous item that screams ME ME ME LOVE LOVE LOVE (a long way from it’ll do) that I snap it right up, because I know I’ll get the cost-per-wear that my still basically frugal heart needs.

    I can’t wait for your next post!

  21. March 15, 2010 / 11:12 pm

    Congratulations! And thank you so much for your blogging and your great voice.

  22. March 16, 2010 / 1:20 am

    Congratulations and thanks for three years of fabulous blogging! Today’s post is just one more example of the ways you get to the heart of what so many of us struggle with — looking forward to Part 2.

  23. Kalee
    March 15, 2010 / 8:12 pm

    I loved this post. I too have ached for a French style wardrobe of less clothing, but more beautiful pieces that I am absolutely love. And too often I talk myself out of fabulous clothes for the exact reasons you listed (well, not petite). Enough!

    Cannot wait for part 2!

  24. March 16, 2010 / 4:31 am

    Ok this is one of if not the best post of yours EVER.

    Listen to me carefully:

    No more drab for you.

    More dresses. More colour.

    You look terrific and can pull this off.

    You’ve been told.

  25. March 16, 2010 / 6:09 am

    Gosh, I want to help you with this: Lifestyle. When I do run across something amazing (like the MaxMara coat I tried on a few months ago) I tell myself that a) it’s too nice (read: expensive) for my lifestyle, b) I don’t have anywhere to wear it or c) I’ll stand out too much.

    Stand out! Wear it to the supermarket! What’s the harm?

  26. Marsi
    March 16, 2010 / 12:15 am

    Happy blogoversary!

    When I’ve felt dissatisfied with my wardrobe, it’s not the clothes. It’s the size of what I’m putting into them. I’m petite, just as you are, and five pounds makes a difference in how I look and feel. Instead of spending time browsing stores or the Internet for what I THINK I want (or “need”), I use that time instead to make the REAL, TRUE difference in my wardrobe: going to the gym and lifting weights for 30 minutes. Every other day, without fail. Period. I’ve quit lying to myself that exercise doesn’t make a difference and those five pounds don’t make a difference. It does, and they do.

  27. tiffany
    March 16, 2010 / 12:15 am

    You’ve really struck a chord with this post, haven’t you?! Your sentiments mirror mine almost exactly, but I have the added thing of always feeling guilty when I spend any money on clothes, even if it’s $20 for a t-shirt. I like the idea of saving and buying a few really special things, but my fear of shopping stops me even finding those things!
    And thank you for your wonderful blog – it is one of my favourites.

  28. March 16, 2010 / 7:24 am

    I like the idea of a French wardrobe and am just about to embark on a mammoth sorting out session myself but I also think if you like a certain style there’s no harm in buying it in three different colourways. Maybe that’s why I can’t get into my wardrobe? I also think that if you fall in love with something like the MaxMara coat you should buy it. No questions asked.

  29. March 16, 2010 / 10:17 am

    Such a great post and amazing you have been delivering such wonderfulness for 3 years! I think that our style is always evolving… maybe all it will take is a couple of really good ‘perfect’ items and the whole lot will come together… you WILL find them. Can’t wait for Part II. X

  30. Anonymous
    March 16, 2010 / 1:09 pm

    Oh, it makes me sad to think of you thinking that you are less than fab/having less than fab clothes because you are SO fabulous!

    Look at what you’ve done, you’ve created a place for women that are typically forgotten in our stage of life and helped make us whole again! Fashion is part of our identity and it doesn’t make sense for it to go away as we age. I wish I lived nearby so I could take you shopping for fabulous things!

    I can relate to some of the things you’ve said, of course, I think all women can. I’m in a losing weight phase and buying clothes for my new body at this age (43) is very different than when I was in my 20s/30s. I’m always afraid of looking like mutton trying to be lamb so anything that covers me I snatch up, resulting in less than fabulous things in my closet/on my body…

    –SpecialD

  31. March 16, 2010 / 1:33 pm

    I do want to respond to everyone’s comments individually and will later today, but I just wanted to say how overwhelmed I am at the response to this post, and say THANK YOU for your honest, thoughtful and supportive comments!

  32. March 16, 2010 / 4:36 pm

    this is my first post on your blog – just discovered it yesterday. What a post!
    I understand exactly what you are saying. I am also 5’1″ and 48 years old. I’ve been home sick for over a week now and have spent the entire time shopping for clothes on line.

    Oh, I’m also overweight. A bad combination. As the massive amount of boxes has arrived I’ve realized most is going back. It looks better online with great lighting and models with stunning bodies including those long lean legs.

    I too have a closet full of “average” clothes. Nothing super cheap but nothing nice but for a leather coat I boat in Florence. It’s crammed in there with all the other stuff.

    Why do I keep buying this stuff? You gave all the reasons. Now let’s come up with a solution to this issue! I’m tired of spending so much money and energy on clothes and my UPS delivery man has a really bad backache!!!!

  33. March 16, 2010 / 5:47 pm

    Look at what you’ve done, you’ve created a place for women that are typically forgotten in our stage of life and helped make us whole again!

    Not just them! I’m 32, and I love your blog.

  34. Anonymous
    March 16, 2010 / 6:35 pm

    Congratulations on the anniversary of your wonderful blog! Your posts are extremely inspiring. Thank you!

    Golla

  35. LaurieAnn
    March 16, 2010 / 7:43 pm

    Boy do I understand that “It’ll Do” syndrome. Being short and not slim myself I find it so much easier to settle than to wait for an outstanding piece. Here’s my solution: buy one, maybe two, outstanding pieces per year which will make your everyday basics feel special. Last November I purchased a Max Mara coat even though I live in Central California. This isn’t one of their very heavy coats, it came from their “resort” line so it works for cool, not cold weather. When I wear my coat I instantly stand taller, eat better and smile more. It turns an outfit of black slacks and a ho-hum cashmere sweater into something style blog worthy. The year before I purchased a pair of slacks from Akris, on a rare sale, which fit and feel wonderful. Give it a try Pseu, you deserve a few really nice things.

  36. March 16, 2010 / 9:22 pm

    Congratulations on keeping us enchanted and thinking of both depths and (important) “surface” matters. It is a big help in paring down and choosing.

    You know full well that we are too hard on ourselves and that you look fine.

    Although exercise and healthy eating are a good idea for every human being on earth, I disagree with some of the posters who talk about “whining” and advocate harsh exercise regimes and pleasure-denying dieting. Yecch. Life is too short. Most of us are far less inclined to eat crap or binge-drink to dawn than when we were 20, and personally I eat smaller portions of real food too, but that menopausal weight gain is physiological.

    One of the main points of the much-vaunted “French dressing” is that elegance is refusal. You don’t need more colour – a wardrobe centred on dark neutrals is not drab, if it has beautiful touches, whether scarves or jewellery.

    I’ll never achieve summits of elegance for the simple reason that I haven’t the money, but these style blogs are a huge help in the work of choosing, refusing and making things work.

  37. Vintage~Diva
    March 16, 2010 / 3:32 pm

    Always enjoy your posts and congrats on 3 years of blog writing. I understand your concern about clothing and your style . I am turning 60 this year. I am looking at my current style and colors that I am wearing. I work long hours and fear that I have turned frumpy and lost my edge so I can understand your thinking. Thanks for sharing with us. That may wake up others it is time to review their style. Keep blogging!

  38. March 16, 2010 / 11:19 pm

    First, congrats on three years. I hope to be like you when I grow up (even though I am older, hee!) A page ranking of 8/10 is just brilliant…you’ll soon be joining the ranks of Perez.

    So, it strikes me that you are actually happy with where you are fashionwise and know yourself. The urge to strike out with something more bold could easily be achieved with the accessories and I am sure is working better than you think.

    My rut is neutrals. I just love grey and cream hues. I punch them up by wearing different shades and textures…something that works really well for smaller people as well as tall. (I’m almost 6′ in my 3″ heels…)

    There is nothing wrong with loving and wearing neutrals in my opinion, just as long as they are not boring shapes and textures.

    The latest shade of neutral in NA is a blushing beige. The Ann Taylor coat that I featured two “Friday’s Five”s ago is this specific shade and it is just gorgeous. You could wear it open with something very textured underneath (the coat itself is a very light silk blend), collar turned up, with long boots and a skirt or trousers, and a really eye-catching necklace. You’d look fabulous.

    I actually love my “rut” because I feel it defines me and I can work within it using shape and texture as my accessories. Again congrats on three years. R.x

  39. March 17, 2010 / 12:09 am

    I have found it increasingly difficult to address my own issues of “style.” I have always liked classic, mix-and-match pieces and dresses that I can accessorize up. I have also liked a palette of black, cocoa, cobalt, scarlet, white, pinks, and purples. That said, once I passed 45 I found it hard to find clothes that suited a 25+ short woman carrying a little extra weight–clothes that had style and flair, but didn’t make me look like every other woman shopping in the mall shops–not that I don’t like pieces from Chico’s or Talbot’s, but I find myself allergic to looking exactly like every other woman my age. Where do I find unique clothes for good value that suit my non-dowdy, non-crowd image?

  40. March 17, 2010 / 1:18 am

    I’m back! I was re-reading notes I made when reading Kendall Farr’s “Style Evolution: How to Create Ageless Personal Style in Your 40s and Beyond” and given the comments, I think the book could be a great resource for many. [Farr is a stylist.]

    I read it last year and it really helped me see where I was stuck and how I could start to evolve (vs “transform”).

    Though I have a ton of notes, the below might be enough to help folks gauge their interest level in her writing/advice.

    Farr encourages one to seek an “ageless style” that is modern, current, 
plugged in, effortless-looking, expressive, and eccentric by paying 
attention to silhouette, line, balance, and good quality fabrics that 
drape well on the body.

    She acknowledges:
    — doing all of the above takes work

    — our culture is sexist when it comes to women’s appearance, esp midlife women’s appearance (mutton dressed as lamb but not “beef jerky 
dressed as calf,” which made me hoot)

    — shopping options for Women of a Certain Age (WoaCA) are limited, no 
matter how much $$$ they have; those for plus, petite, or petite plus 
are even more so

    — fashion archetypes (she calls them designer inspirations) cycle through over and over: the ingenue, the schoolboy/girl, the sexy secretary, the deb, the dissipated socialite

    — there are 10 classic fashion trends that cycle through again and again: 
the little tweed jacket; floral prints; animal prints; knits; menswear; military; metallics; global inspirations; lace;
    embellishment

    Re trends: Don’t wear a trend the way you may have done the first time 
around…stay with silhouette that works for you but pay attention to 
new fabrics/colors. Pay attention to a season’s
    overarching themes, 
focus on what looks sophisticated, figure out how to adapt “new” to 
suit your needs.

    It’s not about The Look, it’s about Your Look.

    /Kendall Farr synopsis!

  41. March 17, 2010 / 1:20 am

    Julianne – thanks so much. Yes, it’s that 10 pounds! Frustrating! I’m going to keep trying until I get this style thing down. You are so kind.

    L’age moyen – strangely, pencil skirts look better on me these days than A-lines. Perhaps because they create a more vertical silhouette? Having been young and broke in the 70’s, I missed out on the fashion. I really do need to start prowling some vintage stores. I agree about confidence, really does make all the difference in the world!

    Duchesse – thanks! Am working on Part II, should be up soon. I think I need to “cultivate” a MaxMara sales associate who will call me when the good stuff comes in…or goes on sale.

  42. March 17, 2010 / 1:27 am

    Sal – thanks and fear not. My days of self-flagellation are long gone. Life’s too short. Now I’m striving for clear-eyed honesty. 😉 I do have a good foundation of basics, just want to add a few pieces that are a cut above. Not flashy but that make me feel like a million bucks.

    Artful Lawyer – do you feel as though your work culture requires you to downplay your femininity? Or maybe your style is more androgynous and that’s what best expresses you? That feeling of not wanting to stand out…where does that come from? Why do we feel the need to hide our light under a bushel?

    Belle – thank YOU for being one of my early readers/commenters! Yes, the process of the hunt is fun too.

  43. March 17, 2010 / 1:33 am

    metscan – thanks so much! This was a hard post to start but once I did everything just came pouring out. Think I very much needed to write it.

    Frugal Scholar – thank you; you are too kind. I think that simple look is what I’m going for, just still searching for the right pieces. I do plan to work with a shopper in the future, and that’s a great suggestion for others as well. I’m going to address that in part 2.

    Arabella – don’t you HATE it when that happens?? BR has really cut back on their offerings in the Jackson trousers and it has me very nervous. I’m always falling in love with the lipstick color that gets discontinued after a couple of months. And thank you for reading and commenting!

  44. March 17, 2010 / 1:38 am

    Lisa – thank you! I really needed to write this post but was hesitant. Glad to know it resonated.

    Anonymous@ 10:06 – thank you so much.

    Lulu – I’m glad I’m not the only one struggling with this! I’ve come closer to reconciling my ideal wardrobe with my lifestyle, but still trying to find those items that I have in my head.

  45. March 17, 2010 / 1:44 am

    Kira – thanks so much! Part 2 is in progress, hope to have posted soon.

    Katriona – it’s good when we can feel comfortable in our clothing. Very interesting how your idea of “good” clothing was developed. Yes, we want to find those “good” items that really fit who we are and how we live.

    Mardel – thanks and I always enjoy your comments! That line between compromise and settling is often a blurry one. Let’s conquer that fear-based buying!

  46. Jen
    March 17, 2010 / 1:47 am

    I’ll just add to the chorus of praise. I love your blog, and I’m a bit younger than your target audience.

    As I’ve tried to dress better, and wiser, and fabulous-er, I realize, as other commenters have said, that it’s work. Shopping is, increasingly, a very targeted activity. I don’t shop for fun, I shop for a reason. In fact, it’s when I’m shopping for fun that I make all kinds of mistakes. I’m trying very hard to stick to things that I’ve already identified as a “need” (need-ish –maybe “want persistently season after season” is most accurate), rather than buying things that happen to grab my eye, or that my shopping companion thinks are good on me. If I feel the need for an impulse purchase, I try to confine it to a cupcake, or a book, not a piece of clothing. I am less disciplined about shoes, I’ll confess.

    I will say that I think you look amazing amazing in color. You posted a photo of yourself in a green sweater, tan trousers, and I think a leopard scarf last year (I think just after Imogen came to California and did a workshop), and you looked drop-dead gorgeous.

    I am so very eager to read the next post!

  47. March 17, 2010 / 1:51 am

    Kalee – thank you! Sometimes we have to forego things we really love because they’re out of our budget or really don’t fit with our life. But sometimes that old “I don’t deserve” monster takes over and really ruins what could’ve been a good thing.

    tippchic – thanks. Yes, I love Make Do Style’s “no frittering” concept and will elaborate more on that in part 2.

    Vix – thank you! Yes, I’m realizing that to get the results I want, I’m going to have to make a greater investment of time and research. And I’m working on losing my Fear of Being Fabulous!

  48. March 17, 2010 / 1:57 am

    Anonymous @ 2:13p – welcome and thanks so much for reading! I agree that perfection isn’t the goal. I’d love to have just a few items that I regard as “fabulous,” which seems to be an attainable goal.

    Miss Janey – thanks so much! I think you’re right and plan to incorporate that strategy.

    Imogen – thanks and yes, baby steps. I have that full-price phobia too, though it doesn’t always stop me. It’s good that you’ve recognized and been able to change it. (The flip side of that rusty coin is buying something just because it’s on mega-sale, even if you don’t love it. I think a lot of us do that.)

  49. March 17, 2010 / 2:04 am

    LPC – thank you so much! I’ve been quite inspired by many of your posts.

    Marsi – thank you! For me, the weight is part of it, yes, but it’s also about the quality and design (or lack of it) of so much of my clothing. There’s classic and then there’s downright *plain.*

    tiffany – thanks, and why do we feel so guilty? Let’s work on this together. I’m guessing that we’d actually spend less buying fewer great pieces we really love!

    materfamilias – thanks so much and thanks for being one of my first blogger friends! I’m hoping we can get back to Vancouver again soon to see you.

  50. March 17, 2010 / 2:16 am

    gardeners cottage – thank you! I can’t believe it’s been three years! For me, the weight is part of the issue, but not all of it. More than anything, I’m striving for satisfaction and balance. I’m glad you found a solution that worked for you.

    Faux Fuschia – you are too sweet! And you *have* inspired me to go try on some dresses (despite my spider veins). Thanks so much for your kind words of support!

    WendyB – thank you. there is no harm, that’s the thing! Why do we fear the fabulosity?? (Well, *you* certainly don’t.)

  51. March 17, 2010 / 2:25 am

    That’s Not My Age – I think if buying multiples really adds to the quality and versatility of one’s wardrobe…go for it! I think I’ve fallen into this habit when it really adds nothing except for…volume. I do wish I’d bought the coat. It’s long gone now.

    Semi-Expat – thank you, and yes, I know those Fabulous items are out there, just waiting for me. I shall not stop until I find them!

    SpecialD – wow, thank you so much for those kind and lovely words! I’m blushing. Style really is a part of our identity, and I think it’s sometimes hard to re-adjust as we go through life and our attitudes and circumstances change. It takes a conscious effort to realign. (Or not, some people find their style early on and successfully work it through the decades.)

  52. March 17, 2010 / 2:34 am

    Vintage-Diva – thank you. So glad you enjoy the blog. It’s really easy to fall into a rut, isn’t it? Let’s see what we can do to help with that.

    Laura – welcome and thanks for your comment! Yes, we’ll work on a plan to keep your UPS man off the pain meds!

    Blume – thanks so much and welcome!

  53. March 17, 2010 / 2:51 am

    Golla – thanks so much! I’m glad you enjoy.

    LaurieAnn – yes, that’s exactly what I’m talking about…pieces that really transform. You’ve got the right idea!

    lagatta – thank you, and I try not to be too hard on myself. Been there, done that, and it’s just not productive. Though I am trying to drop a few pounds, I’m all about balance and not undertaking anything radical that I can’t maintain on an ongoing basis. I know I’ll never weigh what I did in my 20’s-30’s but think I can reduce a *little* bit without going to extremes. I’m not abandoning my neutrals (and like you, still always on the hunt for that lead pipe color!) and yes, want to find those simple, neutral pieces with just a little something extra. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts.

  54. March 17, 2010 / 3:08 am

    Rosina at Middle Ageless – thank you! (Not sure exactly what the page ranking means, but it certainly sounds good!) I totally agree with you about neutrals in interesting shades and textures. I’m really hoping that camel moves from the runway to the rack this fall; it’s one of my faves. I’ve been eyeing that AT coat ever since you posted about it and may have to have a look IRL. I’m a sucker for asymmetry. If you love what you’re doing, it isn’t a rut, it’s *your* style! Rock it!

    Pearl – it sounds like we’re struggling with a lot of the same style issues. I’m hoping to get some new inspirations and resources and will share them as I find.

    Vix – I had Farr’s first book, which was helpful to a point, and will definitely have a look at this one. LOL @ “beef jerky dressed as calf!” I think just about all of those trends you’ve listed are “on” right now. I have some thoughts about wearing trends at this point of our lives, but will share in the follow up post. Thanks so much for taking the time to summarize those points here.

    Jen – thank you very much! I think you’re right that shopping is work, yet we expect it to be fun (having an aha! moment here…). Thanks for your comment about color. I’m still working out the balance between my love of neutrals and colors that probably are more flattering.

  55. Golla
    March 16, 2010 / 8:14 pm

    Congratulations on your wonderful blog! Always inspiring!

  56. Anonymous
    March 17, 2010 / 3:17 am

    I’m not 5’1″ and I don’t actually remember writing these words, but they are all about me….

    Thanks for a wake up call!

  57. March 17, 2010 / 3:43 am

    Pseu, I have Farr’s first book as well and while I more or less enjoyed it, I didn’t think it was incredibly distinctive, you know?

    “Style Evolution” is much less generic, IMO. One aspect I liked–and others may not–is how she lumps women into 8 or so Style Profiles (based on her observations of women over 40 in the US, UK, Europe and even S and Latin America).

    She encourages one to identify one’s “comfort zone” (or mix thereof) and then gives advice on how to move forward (evolve). She’s not saying a classic dresser should turn into an “off the runway” type, but she gives ideas for how she could break out of her “Mid-Century Matron” or “That 90s Uniform” rut.

    I’ll look forward to your Part 2 and to seeing how your take on trends for the more mature (age-wise, anyway!) woman compares to hers.

  58. Sable
    March 17, 2010 / 4:35 am

    You must be inside my head. I fully identify with your sentiments and experience. I anxiously await deuxieme partie.

  59. March 17, 2010 / 6:11 am

    THREE YEARS! CONGRATULATIONS!
    I too am 5’1…carrying extra weight and enjoy my safe wardrobe basics in color and intuitively gravitate to simple designs…you have spoken, I have listened.You are so savvy.
    I need to interject here, bear with me, I might have been reading between the lines or maybe misreading…in my close circle of friends we have just said goodbye to several lovely and amazing women….movers and shakers, not perfect women in body but LARGE in spirit…in their own way…please honour your loveliness…make changes as neccessary, go gently, you are divine…alive and vital.
    Just be….

  60. March 17, 2010 / 9:00 am

    I’m just adding my congratulations on a great post. My main obstacle is my weight: I’m convinced nothing I buy just now would look good enough to justify a large expenditure. Also, I know from experience that I can weigh anywhere from 105-135, depending upon how obsessively I exercise and how carefully I eat.

    My next obstacle is lack of confidence. I do still occasionally make errors in judgement and would far rather those be for cheap rather than expensive clothes. I’m afraid of making an expensive mistake.

    After that, it’s pretty much my lifestyle – I’m retired and we don’t have an elegant social life. I’m at home or at a sewing group or a bookbinding class. My big social event of the week is a visit to a local pub after a run, but it’s not a great area of town and there is no one there I need to impress…

    Right, that’s me thoroughly depressed now…

  61. March 17, 2010 / 9:07 am

    And Can I just say how I love it that you have personally addressed everyone’s comment because I know how much time that takes. And Can you please go to Pho Fuchsia the restauraunt in Seattle and steal and menu for me and post it here? Thanks x

  62. March 17, 2010 / 12:50 pm

    pseu, I have lost weight and am trying to lose some more and especially get in better shape, not only for self-image but also to fight arthritis (and it works). Fortunately the winter has been mild so I’ve been able to cycle much later (into December) and earlier (very beginning of March) than usual.

    I think health is very important, as I’ve said, but so many of us, myself included, are far too hard on ourselves.

    I have a friend who is less than 5 feet tall and about a size 26. Morbid obesity since two difficult pregnancies. I keep fearing she will drop dead – it is very hard for her to get the exercise she’d need to get back into shape. She doesn’t eat any more than a normal or slightly-plump person.

    Even someone as splendidly fit as Michelle Obama – with her womanly behind – would look a bit “dumpy” by our fashion-model-centric ideal if she were no taller than we are.

    And thanks again for your thoughtful blog.

  63. Charlotte Germane "Daffodil Planter"
    March 17, 2010 / 6:04 am

    Happy blogaversary! Some days your blog is pure whipped cream fun, and on others you articulate issues the rest of us haven’t considered deeply. That’s how you made an “Une Femme” addict out of me.

  64. March 17, 2010 / 3:17 pm

    Pseu, love your blog! As usual, some good points in this post.

    I’m fighting the last 5-10 lbs. myself–it’s not so much that I can’t do it, but I’m not willing to give up even more time out of my day on a chore (exercise), and I don’t want to have to obsess over everything I put in my mouth. I’m hoping that the switch to daylight savings will perhaps help a little bit. Having light in the evenings is a help, albeit a small one.

  65. Jen
    March 17, 2010 / 4:42 pm

    Given the number of comments, I feel a little bad about commenting twice — no need to respond again.

    I think I found that “lead pipe” color you’re talking about. Lands End Canvas (their higher end line) seems to have a lot of t-shirts in steel gray. While the models are quite lithe, I’ve found Lands End cuts to be very generous, so probably appropriate for the range of amazing women who read the blog. And returns are very easy with Lands End (shipping’s a bit high, though).

    On your aha moment about shopping and fun, had another (anti fun!) thought that I”m going to try out. Before I buy an item, I’m going to ask, “What problem does this solve?” Sometimes the answer might be: “The problem of not being able to leave the store without it” or “The problem of needing much better fallback clothes to wear when I don’t want to get dressed at all.” But I can’t imagine that another black skirt (I have 7) will ever yield a good answer, nor will another blazer (love to imagine myself wearing them, never actually wear them).

  66. March 18, 2010 / 3:19 am

    Anonymous @ 817p – it’s not hopeless, I promise! 🙂

    Vix – will definitely check it out, thanks!

    Sable – glad to know I’m not alone! Look for Part 2 tomorrow.

    Charlotte – thanks so much! You are too kind.

  67. March 18, 2010 / 3:30 am

    hostess of the humble bungalow – thank you so much for those lovely thoughts. I can promise you my number one goal is to enjoy life and the people dearest to me.

    Shelley – don’t be depressed…there’s room in everyone’s life for a little glamour!

    Faux Fuschia – I’m quite a ways from Seattle, but let me see what I can do… 😉

    lagatta – thanks, and yes health and being able to live an active life is always the most important goal.

    Nancy – it’s true, finding that balance isn’t always easy.

    Jen – thanks again for another thoughtful comment! I’ll check out those Lands End tees.

  68. Tara
    March 29, 2010 / 11:11 pm

    Congrats on your three years! That’s quite an achievement.

    I know I’m a bit late to the party here, but this was such a wonderful post, and all the comments make me think, “Thank God there are other people going through what I’m going through.”

    Honestly, I don’t mean to be a grouch or a downer, but some days I’m just so sick of all the “isn’t middle age just fabulous!” crap. I mean, I know it is, or can be, or should be, but some days I’d just like to be young and stupid again, and not have to worry about gray roots, and sensible shoes, and feeling like some ancient visitor from the grave whenever I so much as glance into Forever 21. (Keep walking! Avert eyes! Don’t scare the children!)

    Anyway, thanks for writing about stuff like this far more eloquently than I ever could. It makes me feel I’m not so alone.

  69. ekingout
    February 2, 2011 / 1:28 pm

    How about multiples of the same “just right” item in many different colors? I love the idea of less, but I find myself wanting the rainbow in my closet.

  70. Anonymous
    May 24, 2011 / 7:28 pm

    You really captured something universal in this post. If I were as articulate as you, I could have written it myself, aside from our specifically individual body shapes.

    I know you have better things to do on your trip than read email, but I want you to know how much I am enjoying your blog and how pleased I am have all your archives to go through.

    All best wishes,

    Marie

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