Women over 60 have lived through six dynamic decades. We have navigated life's many twists and turns. We have studied the world, protested injustices, raised families, navigated the business world and, now, we are getting ready to "retire." Along the way, we have become comfortable in our own skin. After all, our bodies have supported us through 60+ years of life. Then, just when things seem stable, our bodies start to change again.
Nothing can prepare us for the changes that take place in our bodies after menopause. Everything seems to happen overnight -- although, of course, the process is gradual. Our hips, breasts, legs and arms are transformed in ways that no-one told us to expect. Inside, we feel like ageless, vibrant young women, but, on the outside, we are slowly turning into our grandmothers.
If we were like previous generations of women, we might be able to "age gracefully." But, for most boomer women, this isn't our style. Women over 60 today are challenging stereotypes and living life with verve and passion. We don't want to be "invisible." We still want to look and feel our best. Unfortunately, as I discovered while filming a series of fashion videos for older women, this is not as simple as it sounds.
The Problem With Fashion For Women Over 60
Looking at a full-length mirror after 60 is like running a gauntlet filled with emotional traps, irrational comparisons and destructive media messages. We know that the "anti-aging" messages that we see are nonsense, but, we still feel like we should have the right to be desirable and fashionable.
Most women I know respond to this dilemma in one of two ways. Either, they give in and adopt the latest potions, pills and trends that bombard them every day. Or, they stop caring what other's think all together. On the surface, this second option sounds desirable -- even noble. I've even had people tell me that I am putting women over 60 in a box by even talking about fashion. After all, shouldn't people just accept us for who we are?
There are two problems with the "I don't care what people think" approach to fashion for women over 60. First, most people, deep down, really do care how they look to others. It's a part of human nature. Second, and more important, why shouldn't women over 60 have the right to be desirable? Surely there's a "golden mean" here somewhere, if we look for it. Why can't we express ourselves, while applying the rules of technical dressing to choose clothes that fit our body types perfectly?
In my opinion, we can have the best of both worlds. We can love our bodies and care about the image that we present to the world. We can be independent and fashionable.
The One Fashion Tip Every Older Woman Needs To Apply
Visiting Milan to film with fashion expert Melanie Payge was a turning point for me. Over the course of two days, I learned how to find clothes that match my body type, discovered secrets for addressing my perceived flaws and studied the art of accessorizing. But, throughout the whole trip, one tip stood out. I realized that there is one person in the fashion industry that should be your best friend. No, I'm not talking about a new designer or even a personal stylist (although Melanie is fantastic!) I'm talking about your tailor.
In a world filled with mass-produced goods of every kind, it's unrealistic to think that clothes will fit perfectly "out of the box." This is especially true for clothing for older women for a couple of reasons. First, despite the fact that we represent a huge market, designers still haven't gotten around to designing clothes just for us. Second, as we age, our bodies change in fascinating, and often unpredictable, ways. For example, if you are like many women, you may be a 12 or 14 on top, but, a 16 or 18 on the bottom. You are almost certainly dealing with changes in your skin, muscle tone and body shape.
This is one of the many reasons that a good tailor is your best friend. A tailor's job is to make sure that your clothes fit perfectly, not "just ok." If your wardrobe essentials fit perfectly, then you will have more flexibility to accessorize and bring out your individuality. In this way, tailoring is one of the main pillars of technical dressing after 60.
As Melanie explained, the foundation for our wardrobe after 60 should be a set of four perfectly fitting "wardrobe essentials." These include a dress, a pair of pants, a top and a sleeve to cover your arms when needed. If you get these items tailored perfectly, there is no limit to the number of fabulous outfits that you can create with the right accessories.
Right about now, I can hear many of you saying, "That's all very well, but, I'm not made of money. Tailoring is so expensive." It's a fair point. That said, when you think about the amount of money that we waste on belts to hold up our poorly fitting pants, replacement shirts and other items, tailoring is a bargain.
Accepting Your Body is Actually a Part of Looking Great
When I talk with the members of the Sixty and Me community about fashion-related topics, I get strong reactions. The majority of women are just happy that someone is trying to provide no-fluff information on a topic that they care about. Some, however, still insist that we should just "accept our bodies and not worry about what other people think." Personally, I don't see a contradiction. In fact, accepting your body is an essential part of looking your best after 60.
If you are always buying jeans that are 2 sizes too small, because you "know" that you're going to lose 10 pounds this year, you're making a mistake. You're likely to end up with clothes that, at best, feel a bit uncomfortable and, at worst, look ridiculous.
While there are plenty of reasons to get in better shape after 60, fitting someone else's idea of an "ideal" body isn't one of them. Conversely, if you want to look your best, getting clothes that fit perfectly is essential. You won't be able to do this until you can look in the mirror with acceptance and love for your body in all of its wonderful complexity.
Women over 60 are special. Each of us has earned the right to be ourselves and express our individuality. At the same time, we are pragmatic; we want people to speak honestly and not just tell us what they think we want to hear. This is certainly true when it comes to fashion. So, if you want to look your best in your 60s, my advice is this -- be honest, be real and love yourself and your tailor.
Are you a woman over 60 with a passion for fashion? What steps are you taking to look and feel your best in your 60s, 70s or 80s? Please add your thoughts in the comments section below and check out our other fashion tips for older women on our website.