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6 Ways to Be Successful at Clothes Shopping

Last week I received an email from a young college student very frustrated with the fashion industry. She took her grandmother clothes shopping only to return mad and confused. She believes the fashion industry designs for the young, trendy woman, and no one else. Now, this precious granddaughter has started a crusade to open the eyes of the fashion world to the over 50 woman and she is seeking support. However, she believes the problem is with the designs and the clothing.

6 Ways

I certainly applaud her for taking action and caring, but think there is a different way to go about this.  Of course, the majority of those in fashion cater to the young, thin woman.  But, I think the clothes for the age 50 and beyond woman exist.  The clothes are there, the problem is that many women cannot envision how they want to look later in life.  They go shopping without a plan which often results in dissatisfaction.

Now, many of the top companies in fashion and beauty have begun to see they need to include the Baby Boomers in their advertising.  We currently find all types of companies adding women such as Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Joni Mitchell, Helen Mirren, and older models to their marketing plans.  The companies that realize where the discretionary income primarily lies will profit from it.  But what women really need is guidance…not more clothes on the racks designated for a particular age group.

Here are a few tips I recommend before shopping when you are in your 50s on up to 100s.  Spend time on these areas for guidance before you leave the house:

1. What part of your lifestyle has sent you to the mall? Are you shopping for work, retirement, vacation, work at home, volunteer work, lunches, dates, etc.?

2. What messages do you want to send with your clothing? Do you want to be creative, sexy, classic, strong, comfortable, confident, joyful, and healthy?  Write down at least five adjectives you want to portray with your clothing selections.

3. Know your body type:

Diamond Shape: Your shoulders and/or bust are larger than your hips
Hourglass Shape: Your shoulders and hips are about the same size and you have a very defined waist
Pear Shape: Your hips are wider than your shoulders
Rectangle Shape: Your shoulders, bust, and hips are similar in size and your waistline is undefined.  A variation of this shape is the OVAL, where the waist is slightly larger than the other measurements.*

With just a little research, you can find ways to accent your positives and dress to look amazing no matter your size.  There are excellent offerings in all sizes now available.

4. Inventory what is currently in your closet and think of ways to build on that wardrobe. No matter your budget, you can find clothing which fits your needs…and your body…it just takes pre-planning.

5. Find pictures on Pinterest or in magazines which represent the style you would like to own. Take those with you for shopping inspiration.  Also, know the retailers which carry the styles you are looking for and in the budget range needed.

6. I say this often…TRY EVERYTHING ON! Take time to spend time in the dressing rooms.

I really do think with proper planning, open minds, and research, anyone can find clothing to fit where they are in life right now…no matter the size, age, or budget.   The clothes are there.  Perhaps a day of shopping should begin with breakfast to discuss exactly what the shopper is looking for and a plan including the above suggestions.  Without that discussion, disappointment is inevitable.

Any thoughts? When shopping fails…is it the clothes offered or the mindset of the shopper?

Please join in today’s conversation in The Joy Boutique!  I cannot wait to see those of you attending BAM this weekend in Nashville…looks like it will still be cold, ladies.  Plan accordingly!  And make sure you introduce yourself …I want to give everyone a hug!

Have a warm, wonderful week!


  • Body Shape information was gathered from Your Personal Proportionality by Teresa McCarthy, AICI FLC in Inspired Design.


Pamela Lutrell

Pamela Lutrell began her blog, over50feeling40, July 2010 with a desire to encourage women over 50 to walk in strength, confidence and joy. Of course, head turning style makes each day fun!

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B Beck

Saturday 2nd of May 2015

I've always had problems buying clothing. It is not because I don't use your '6 ways". The manufacturers just don't care about plus size clothing; it's either cheep looking or doudy & often it's just been made bigger all over, not just where it's needed. The V necks are too low cut, even for an older woman, the arm holes are huge & round neck lines are cut way too wide & deep. The result is that the clothes look sloppy. I've shopped everywere from Nordstroms to Walmart, including Lane Bryant (cheep material, poor fit & a lot of it is meant for sleezy teenagers). Lane Bryant used to have some nice clothes about 15 years ago. There really is not a good store for plus size clothing.

Also, I've completely had it with the sizing manufacturers use. The difference can be a whole size different. Garmets are cut in large stacks now to save costs, so there is also a difference with in the same size of the same garmet. I often hold up a garmet by the side seams to tell which size 2X I want & more often than not there is a differnce of 1".

The manufactures determines how many of what sizes a retailer gets, they have to be ordered in lots. That's why the sale racks are always loaded with the small size & have maybe one or two large sizes left. The sale racks have been this way since at least 1965!

Men's sizes are really standardized; that's why they don't understand why women have to try on everything. They can just run in & grab a size 36 pant & it'll fit. We women need to stand up for our selves to stop this hidden form of descrimination, along with unfair pricing.


Friday 6th of March 2015

I have a 2 fold problem, I am a tall, plus size, with bad varicose veins.. I am on a continuous search for dresses. I love dresses, BUT I can't for the life of me find any. Almost all I see are too short and sleeveless. A dress which is 40 long is above my knees. I have tried maxi's which I love for the leg coverage, but most of them are too short also. A maxi which is 54-55 inches long hits me mid shin and that is horrible because of my veins. Oh how I would love to see a wrap maxi with elbow sleeves which is about 58 inches long...........I have been shopping at Lane Bryant for many many years, however their clothing is really becoming way too young for me. I don't want to wear skulls! Their sister store, Catherines is too dowdy for my taste and they do cater to shorter women. I truly wish I could sew!

Elaine @ Following Augustine

Thursday 5th of March 2015

I definitely followed your advice to try on everything last weekend when I went shopping for a dress for my son's upcoming wedding. After trying on 24 dresses, I found the one I was looking for!


Wednesday 4th of March 2015

My 50+ sister got married (for the first time!) this past year and my 80+ Mom set out to get a MOB dress. She doesn't like to shop online, so if was off to the mall for her. Her biggest issue is that she's pear-shaped, and has stooped shoulders - not to the extreme, but enough that loose necklines don't hang quite right. She kept at it, and used the store's web site to scout out what was available. Then she made a trip to the mall, down an interstate and about an hour away, and tried things on. I received a stream of dressing room photos of duds, but in the end she found a dress she liked, it was one she'd identified off the web site, and went down the aisle looking lovely.

My Mom will spend big for some items -Eileen Fisher is a favorite of hers- but this dress was around $150, not the most or the least expensive. Then she topped it off with a hand-knitted shrug, that cost more than the dress that I'm sure we'll see again even if the dress stays in the closet.

My take is that there are some genuine design issues for older women - missing waists, shoulders that are rounded, problems getting your arms into things- but often it's also a matter of being willing to shop. Now what she's going to do with the 3 pairs of shoes she bought on her dress search shopping trips I don't know. :)

Maggie Fieger

Tuesday 3rd of March 2015

These are great tips; however I live in a small town and have a fairly small clothing budget. Three hundred dollars for a sweater is not going to work. It is also difficult to find clothes that fit which is a different problem. Thank you.

Pamela Lutrell

Tuesday 3rd of March 2015

I agree Maggie...I would not pay $300 for a sweater either. There are so many great retailers who sell online and once you have your sizes down, you can get them online easily. I can try to give you specific help, if you want to email me ....depending on your size issue, I know some online retailers who are great to work not exorbitant. I hear your frustration...there are answers. Thanks for reading.

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