My friend Marj and I were having lunch on Sunday. We got to talking about style for wise, wonderful ladies in the vicinity of “our” age. Marj expressed her dismay with clothes that are in stores these days. “How’s a woman to dress when the choices aren’t out there?” she said.
Marj was on a roll. I pulled out my notebook and started taking notes.
You weren’t able to read my notes? Let me translate.
What do I want to wear?
How do I want to feel?
Nothing excites me anymore.
I don’t know what I’m supposed to look like anymore.
What are the basic clothes for me anymore?
You’ve probably had questions like that yourself.
You have to know Marj loves clothes and I love Marj. I wanted to give her words of wisdom that might make her feel better. But what were those words? I decided not to address her exactly but to share with her some of the things I do with my clients to modernize their wardrobes. I started jotting ideas down as we drank our coffees. Here’s what was on my list.
Look for high tech fabrics. Modern fabrics help women look modern. That’s why it’s important to update basics. Basic clothes in newer fabrics look sharper.
Updating shoes are a must. Even if you go to the shoe store and feel disgusted by what you see, make yourself sit down and try new styles. One client last year got into a fashion forward shoe and it not only changed her wardrobe, it changed her life! I couldn’t have predicted how the purchase of this one item gave her such an emotional and stylish lift.
Always adhere to the 50/50 rule. Within one outfit, be sure one of the items is following the outline of your shape. The other item can be more flowy, but only if there’s definition somewhere else.
Create an edge. Women “our” age need definition. There are catalogs out there for older women and they are filled with images of loose, flowy pieces. I’ve admired some of the looks myself, but I’d always want to introduce some edge to prevent all that softness from looking droopy, saggy, or shapeless. An edge can come from a collar, a lean pant with stretch, or a strong piece of jewelry.
Have a clear focal point. Your finished outfit should always have something in it that directs us immediately to the face.
Women want comfort clothes. I get that. But comfort can come with clothes that have body and oomph to them (again, not shapeless). You can be comfortable without losing sight of your shape.
How lunch turned into a girlfriend shopping experience at Chico’s
After lunch Marj asked if we could stop at Chico’s. Sure! I said to her, “Would you like me to show you some of the modernizing ideas we were talking about earlier?” She said yes.
As I started creating outfits for her, the clothes started talking to me. I was trying to be sensitive to what I know Marj has been comfortable in but I knew it was important to push those boundaries. Otherwise she’d just go home with what she’s always had and not something new, refreshing, and liberating. I wanted to be diplomatic but at the same time challenge her because that’s what the clothes were telling me to do!
I saw immediately how a blouse with a collar framed her face and brought strength to her look. “I don’t wear shirts with collars much at all,” she said. Duly noted, but I pursued my hunch.
Marj has always dressed in a pretty, soft, gentle way. What I was seeing with each new outfit was Marj 2.0. Strength, leadership, dynamism.
I started to see Dynamic Marj, Powerful Marj. I saw the part of her that is a natural leader. She truly is a champion and advocate for women. I could see her claiming that leadership role. With each outfit I saw her claiming that role with gusto!
I checked in with her to be sure she was resonating with these looks. I wanted her to feel more like herself than she did earlier in the afternoon.
And she did. She started seeing it. Here’s what she said:
This is making me realize why I have been discontented with much of my wardrobe.
It’s like I was reaching for a change in my look but didn’t know what direction to go.
Your words really help.
I see myself in a different light. It’s a real eyeopener for me!
Marj’s dynamic-powerful-advocate-and-champion-for-women outfits
I love the drama of these long sweaters on Marj. I paired them with a column of navy blue underneath. That column shows strength. The column pieces are in fabrics with stretch. They are comfortable but they have definition. Nothing’s droopy or sloppy. She looks sharp!
I love the new denim pieces we added to her wardrobe. The bomber jacket is easy to wear and is on trend. I love her denim vest on the right. I like how the white blouse is long and the vest is long. They make a great team.
From Marj’s lips
I never would have thought about wearing a collared blouse but I like the way it frames my face.
I never would have thought of wearing a blouse with such strong colors and pattern but the more I look at myself in the Ikat blouse, the more I like it.
I really love the column of blue when I had on the blue pants and the blue blouse.
I have navy in my wardrobe but it’s darker. This navy blouse is a brighter blue and has more energy!
I love the long white blouse. It has pockets!
I had a long cashmere vest that I wore in the winter and loved but this denim vest will be great in the summer!
I love the idea of wearing a piece of statement jewelry, or a multiple strand necklace closer to my face inside the V of my shirt.
The key pieces that make up Marj’s new wardrobe
She got the So-Slimming Brigitte ankle pant (4-way stretch) in deep navy and dark butterscotch. I like how the center seam gives definition. Plus, she purchased the refined denim ankle pants with the contrasting topstitching down the center. They are more like a denim trouser than a jean.
She got three no-iron blouses: Ikat Scrolls Shirt, Navy Bartack shirt, White cotton shirt with pockets. The Ikat print blouse is powerful and looks just right on Marj. That was maybe the biggest surprise for her. The long white cotton blouse looks great under her long sweaters or the denim vest.
Two long cardigans: a striped belted cardigan (reminds me of a Missoni design) and a geometric color blocked cardigan (found this one on sale). These will work with multiple colors underneath them. I would always pair strong jewelry with them.
When I pulled this denim jacket for Marj she said, “I have a denim jacket at home.” I told her, “Your denim jacket at home is stiffer, bulkier and not as refined as this one is. Part of updating your basics is to look at new styles and new fabrics.” “I can see that,” Marj said. I paired it with the collared Ikat blouse.
Part of the math of this new look is to create a bridge from her strong hair color to her shoulders. I think she looks great when there’s framing around her face and strong jewels at her neck. It’s a stronger look for her strong hair coloring. The collar and the jewels are the bridge to the top of her head. Otherwise, if you squint, it can seem like her head sits on her shoulders but isn’t securely anchored. I love that brighter navy blue which is also a great balance with her hair color.
Marj is ready to lead us all into enjoying fashion and feeling great being ourselves. I’ll follow her anywhere!
Have you tried something on that was new to you and it unlocked a whole part of your personality that was ready to be expressed? Please share!
SpagsMarch 23, 2017 at 4:53 am
This is brilliant! Marj looks amazing. I like your tip about one piece of clothing following your body, I think this is key: I love comfort, but something needs to show your shape or the whole thing drags. Thank you Brenda!
BrendaMarch 23, 2017 at 11:15 am
You are so welcome! Glad you got a tip out of this!
Cathy CogdellMarch 23, 2017 at 6:54 am
Very pretty. Should definatelt try some iof the amazing pieces of Oleana of Norway. Stunning and timeless with beautiful color combinations.
BrendaMarch 23, 2017 at 11:16 am
Oh Cathy, I love Oleana of Norway!!! Did you know I’m half Norwegian and half Swedish? I swoon over the colors they use! Great resource.
Cathy CogdellMarch 23, 2017 at 6:56 am
Ooppps, some spelling mistakes. Sometimes a problem typing on my phone
BrendaMarch 23, 2017 at 11:17 am
We love your effort no matter what! Glad you shared!
Eileen TernulloMarch 23, 2017 at 7:04 am
This post is extremely helpful!!!! A real person, in a real store, is something we could copy. This is what’s missing, visual , pictures, of role models. Women with short hair, gray hair, all body shapes, etc. And your explanation of why it works, is so valuable. The reasons we are lost is , no visible role models, and stores that “sell” rather than “dress” their clientele. I vote for more ” before/after” blogs. And any blogs/ magazines/books/ stores, with info on before / after looks. Thanks Eileen .
PatMarch 23, 2017 at 7:24 am
Right on Eileen!
BrendaMarch 23, 2017 at 11:18 am
I really love your distinction of “sell” rather than “dress” their clientele. Maybe I’ll need to do more shopping posts like this. So glad you enjoyed it, Eileen!
MargaretMarch 24, 2017 at 2:24 pm
Yes- please do! All body types need your help!
PatMarch 23, 2017 at 7:22 am
Marj looks wonderful!! She also looks great in the first picture with the scarf framing her face. You were right, (of course) Marj can, and should, wear stronger colors. I love the slim pant style. Thank you for continuing to open my eyes about this interesting apparel store.
I really am going to have to spend more time looking around instead of passing thru..
With summer on the way, your styling tips to update basics couldn’t come at a better time.
Thank you so much, Brenda, for sharing your passion and knowledge so generously.
You are the best,
a faithful fan,
BrendaMarch 23, 2017 at 11:20 am
Thanks, Pat! As I mentioned in the post, Marj always looks great and pulled together. But it was very magically to see the ways clothes brought out other qualities about her that she was ready to embrace “out lout” so to speak. I also got about three jackets for myself that day. You’ll see more on other posts. You do need to spend time — and this is true of all stores — in them rather than passing through. Gotta roll up your sleeves and explore. Glad this was inspiring to you about your basics.
Your faithful friend,
Maggie FiegerMarch 23, 2017 at 7:32 am
Thanks for this. I’m struggling to find clothes to fit- I am 65, short, not plus size but slightly overweight and busty. Not a great combination to try to dress myself! I’m hoping that this helps me get going. Oh and I recently retired (yay me) so I need a whole new wardrobe!
BrendaMarch 23, 2017 at 11:21 am
I love that Maggie! And maybe a whole new view of you in your retirement. Time to daydream and think about what that will be like. Very thrilling! Thanks for your comment!
Ann WerriesMarch 23, 2017 at 7:40 am
I loved everything about this article….I have a friend that I used to live a few miles from, but now I live 1800 miles away. I try to help her with her wardrobe long distance. but she does not use a computer and it’s hard….. Would it be alright with you, Brenda, if I print this off and send it via snail mail? I think it would be so helpful for her….Thanks….
Katie RossMarch 23, 2017 at 8:19 am
What a coincidence: this past weekend, I went to Chico’s for the first time in years. I tried on and liked three solid V-neck tops to wear with some skirts I already have. Just before I checked out, I decided, on a whim, to try on their light blue oxford no-iron button down. I cannot tell you when I last wore a button down, either. And I LOVED IT on, especially even how they style it with the collar turned up. I am already trying to figure out which of the white button down styles to get, too. Who knew? Love to see confirmation of this choice in your great post!
JoDiMarch 23, 2017 at 8:50 am
All the new pieces look great on Marj, but the Ikat blouse and denim jacket are the real standouts! The colors in that blouse are amazing on her, and I love the shorter more fitted silhouette on her. It looks just as comfortable as the longer more flowy outfits so I hope it’s convinced her to add more looks like this to her collection!
La semaine d'une gourmetteMarch 23, 2017 at 8:57 am
I more than agree on modern fabrics and definition! Definition, even on a slightly overweight body like mine, is much much better than flowiness (especially as I’m 5ft2). And I love color block (I have long color block wool coat/jacket with black blocks, hot pink blocks and coral blocks I absolutely ove), but it can be hard to find, alas. Oh, I would love to have you look into my wardrobe (there is a lost to “shop for” in my wadrobe, ahem) and give me some advice and a new perspective, alas I’m so far from you…
BrendaMarch 24, 2017 at 7:06 pm
Wouldn’t that be so much fun!!!!!! I’d love to take a look and work with your things!
jodie filogomoMarch 23, 2017 at 9:11 am
Isn’t it the most amazing feeling when you can guide someone through this transformation, Brenda!!
I think the reality is that we all want to change some things about our clothing choices, but then we get stuck in that—I don’t wear this or that! That’s where it’s so helpful to have other suggest items you’d never pick!!
What a fabulous read!!
elena daciukMarch 23, 2017 at 9:38 am
your model is SO beautiful! lol – don’t we all love marj? she looks amazing! loving the ikat/jean combo…stunning on her…and the navy blue…can’t wait to see all these in real life when marj & i connect for lunch…
BrendaMarch 24, 2017 at 6:44 pm
That will be so fun! It was really a great adventure. She’ll enjoy your support I’m sure!
SusanMarch 23, 2017 at 9:43 am
This was so well done. A real life scenario – when you are at that age when you finally ‘get’ who you are, but are not sure how to reflect that awareness.
Having a real subject, trying on real (and accessible) clothing brought your excellent words of guidance to life.
One of your very best articles. Thank you Brenda.
TeresaMarch 23, 2017 at 10:28 am
Thanks Brenda a real live model and how clothes work is just what I need. Love the outfits in the after pictures. I do wish I lived nearer to you (I’m in th U.K.) but will certainly take on board what you have said. Love your blog.
BrendaMarch 24, 2017 at 6:57 pm
Thanks, Teresa! It’s lovely to hear from you. Enjoy your own adventure with clothes!
ROBIN LAMONTEMarch 23, 2017 at 11:25 am
Well done Brenda!
Marj looks lovely and stylish with all the selections you made for her!
Your Fierce 50 sister,
BrendaMarch 24, 2017 at 6:57 pm
Hi Fierce Sister! Yes, Robin, I really loved her look. It was so much fun. Transformations always are. Cheers, Robin. Thanks for coming by!
CeliaMarch 23, 2017 at 11:48 am
I’m so happy I read this post Brenda. I enjoyed reading the steps and questions you asked and addressed during the transformation. What a wonderful gift for your friend to be able to have your assistance. Marg, you look amazing!
BrendaMarch 24, 2017 at 6:56 pm
It was so spontaneous and so fun. And an exciting afternoon! Thanks for sharing your appreciation, Celia!
Jan WildMarch 23, 2017 at 4:41 pm
Brenda I love this post and I am going to link to it in a post I am putting up on Monday about older women staying visible through the way they present themselves. What a lucky woman Marj is and how clever are you. Warmest, Jan
BrendaMarch 24, 2017 at 6:55 pm
Thanks for the link, Jan. Let’s spread the word! So appreciate your caring support!
JulieMarch 23, 2017 at 6:05 pm
Hi Brenda, I’ve been reading your blog for a while and this one is the most helpful post yet! Love that you had a real person in a real store, with a real world makeover. That 50/50 rule is a great tip, and i need to think about t creating an edge. Thanks for this in-depth post!
BrendaMarch 24, 2017 at 6:54 pm
You’re so welcome, Julie! My pleasure.
KathyMarch 24, 2017 at 3:52 am
Ditto Julie! Totally agree!
BrendaMarch 24, 2017 at 6:54 pm
Cathy D.March 24, 2017 at 8:04 am
Fascinating post, Brenda! I especially like your tip that at least one item in your outfit needs to follow your shape. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of wearing flowing clothes to conceal a body that you feel may not be perfect. I think a key idea is that the item should “follow your shape”, not be skin tight. Getting the degree of shapeliness just right is so difficult, but so important.
Thanks to Marj for being a good sport and a terrific example to us all!
BrendaMarch 24, 2017 at 6:52 pm
I think Marj was quite happy to teach us all of this!!! (Tee hee, I’ll let her know!) But you are so right. Not that this is the goal (and sometimes it is) but I think it’s so important to show some shape. And I don’t mean skin tight, just body skimming with ease. When you find you, you’ll recognize it for sure! Thanks, Cathy!
Susanna SingerMarch 24, 2017 at 8:05 am
Thank you, this is so helpful. I actually have a lot of pieces like this in my wardrobe, but somehow I have got into the habit of reaching for “soft and unstructured” rather than looking for the edge. Tomorrow I fly to England for a week’s visit with my elderly mother and mother-in-law, and a lovely stolen day in London with my kids. I plan to work on a couple of capsules to pack this afternoon, with collared shirts, punchy jewelry, and long, lean tops – a bit “more” than I usually choose.
BrendaMarch 24, 2017 at 6:50 pm
This thrills me, Susanna! I think you’ll notice a difference. You’re making me think about soft and unstructured clothing items. Those used to only be in our at home lounging wardrobes. Robes and loose nightgowns and pajamas. Maybe we’ve taken this looks unstructured look a little too far! I hope you have a wonderful trip!
Cindy La FerleMarch 24, 2017 at 8:38 am
Brenda, I love so much about this post that I don’t know where to begin. First, you did an amazing job bringing this lovely woman’s style to life here. How fun to see this transformation!
Because of bloggers like you, I’ve “rediscovered” Chico’s … which I “sort of” knew about before. But until I started seeing more women my age — real women — modeling the clothing, I walked past the storefront and didn’t pay much attention to the catalogs in my mail. I love that Chico’s creates stylish things for mature women. There’s nothing “frumpy” in the stores!
Secondly, I wanted to comment about the long cardigans and dusters. I LOVE this length and think it’s a lot more flattering on most women than the cropped jackets. I am fairly slim, but I still feel that I look trimmer, taller, and more elegant when I am not “cut in half” by a short jacket. I’ve tried to make the shorter jackets work by wearing a longer layer, which helps, but it’s just not as flattering as the longer cardigans. Glad to see more of them at Chico’s and elsewhere beside the wonderful Eileen Fisher!
BrendaMarch 24, 2017 at 6:48 pm
You make a great point. I think many people may walk past Chico’s and not realize the gems that are inside. It’s always interesting because every time I wear a Chico’s jacket, I get compliments. I think it’s important to own the look. By that I mean that you’re mixing and matching. Chico’s with other things. Or adding your personal jewelry. I think with any brand it’s important to diversify and wear a little of this and a little of that. That’s how it becomes personal! Thanks for your comments and so happy you enjoyed this! One last thing: I hardly think there’s anymore more flattering to wear than a duster!
VickiMarch 25, 2017 at 12:25 am
I love the tip about using modern fabrics. I sew, so make myself stretch pull on pants. Form fitting but modern. None of that old lady double knit in menopausal pink or mauve! I haven’t been a button down girl but last weekend bought one from Uniqlo. I haven’t worn it yet 🙂 More mosts like this would be great. Thanks. PS I am from Melbourne Australia and no Chico’s here.
BrendaMarch 27, 2017 at 11:52 am
Vicki, you brought back the memories of menopausal pink and mauve double knits. Oh my gosh! Hysterical! Thanks for that image (I think!! Tee hee!). More posts coming up!
ErikaMarch 27, 2017 at 2:03 pm
This is a great post, Brenda. It’s almost like going on the shopping trip along with you, seeing how you’re translating Marj’s need for an update with action statements and then showing the outfits and the specific pieces that do bring her up-to-date and are unique to her coloring and style. Would love this one to be a regular feature!
BrendaMarch 28, 2017 at 9:01 am
So glad you liked that! You’ve got me thinking. Marj is a friend and I got her permission to write about her and post pics of her. I’m doing this all the time with my clients but I rarely if ever take photos of them. Maybe I’ll ask. Or maybe I’ll have to pull people off the street and dress them! Wish you were here! Thanks for the encouragement!
RonnieJune 15, 2017 at 4:50 am
Loved, loved ,loved this post! Would be so happy to see posts like this on a regular basis!
Entertaining ,but more importantly,educational! “A picture is worth …………
Thanks! You made my day!
DianeDecember 28, 2017 at 7:01 pm
gosh, I wish there was a Chico’s in my community! Love those choices and the navy blue column is brilliant.
BrendaJanuary 2, 2018 at 3:29 pm
There’s always online shopping for Chico’s!
MarnieMay 8, 2018 at 5:18 pm
I too would like more posts like this on a regular basis. It’s very refreshing to see real people of my age group, wearing fashions, trying new looks and being confident in their choices! Your ideas, comments and suggestions are so appreciated!
Wish we had Chico’s in Canada.