Help Older Women Look Good: Fashionistas (67-93) and Aging Mothers

NY Fashion Week 2015 Shows Style is Ageless*
Look Better, Feel Better

Women  aged 77 and 90— runway models? Here Wilma and Phyllis model at NY Fashion Week 2015.

Past posts (Fashionistas or Frumpy-Dumpies) have addressed women’s appearance over the years. Clearly older women can look very good! And why not? Life has changed for women since the olden days and NY recognized this during Fashion Week 2015 last month.

Senior Advisor R always looked in order and Senior Advisor D, at 90, still looks stylish–not runway stylish–but in style. How do they do it? It’s not the money spent–rather  it’s THE FIT and the time, energy, and desire to look good.

Runway models have countless professionals helping them look their best. Can we be their equivalent to help aging mothers/grandmothers look their best?

We can supply the time-and-energy part by helping them look through their wardrobe and by going shopping with them –at stores or on the internet. Yet there’s another important piece: “People Change, Not Much.” (See Key Thoughts at right sidebar’s bottom.) If people didn’t care about looking good when they were younger, why should this change when they’re old?

That said, there are elders whose appearance is “frumpy-dumpy;” yet their desire to look good remains. We also know when we look good we feel better and vice versa. To that end we share the following tips:

The Fit: “Thanks to Karen, I now have a wonderful alteration lady–‘a gem'” Sr. Advisor D (90) offered on the phone yesterday.  Several years ago I met one of D’s former students, who asked if I knew what D was doing. She remembered D as an outstanding honors English teacher, and said the girls in class couldn’t wait to see what she wore each day because she dressed so stylishly. Confirmation: D’s wanting to “look good” goes way back.

Similarly Sr. Advisor R was very particular about her clothes fitting well. I drove her to the dressmaker countless times over decades as she lost height and weight.  Hems were shortened; side seams were taken in. She shopped mostly through catalogs in later years and the dressmaker made certain the fit was right.

Shopping in One’s Own Closet: Often old clothes–favorites that no longer fit–can be updated. Sr. Advisor D needed a new outfit for a fancy affair last summer. After checking out the NY stores, she decided to shop in her own closet where she found a never-worn long, black skirt that she could pair with lovely top bought years ago. Both needed alterations. “She (the “gem” alteration lady) not only made them fit but, D exclaims, “steamed them so they looked like new!”

R also updated her old clothing. She did some of the easy updates herself–adding new, better and more stylish buttons to sweaters and jackets to make an outfit with old skirts. While shortening formerly long sleeves to update jackets may be expensive, it gives new life to a beloved jacket and doesn’t cost the world. R bought new tank tops in colors coordinated with a sleeved sweater or jacket and paired them with skirts for an updated look.

Many women find–and manufacturers recognize–that pants suits are easy to wear, cover imperfections especially waistlines and arms, and look good on older women (note models above); but they too need to fit. Baggy= frumpy dumpy. Too tight= imperfections accentuated.

Separates suit all figures. Tank tops, shirts, blouses, sweaters, slacks, skirts (knee length and below) often work better for older women’s figures. And a jacket, certain sweater styles, a shawl, poncho, or vest easily hide bulges and pull everything together to make a stylish outfit.

Hiding Imperfections helps elders look good. Wrinkled skin, saggy arms, big waists, large hips, no-longer firm necks, vein-showing legs, tired eyes –the list goes on. The point is… sleeves, blouses that don’t tuck it, a scarf, sun glasses, large-rim glasses–plus black or colored tights–hide a multitude of things women prefer others not see.

iris-apfelIris Apfel is no doubt more flamboyant than most aging mothers and at 94 is impressive. Her advice:  “DRESS AGE APPROPRIATE AND STAND UP STRAIGHT.  There’s nothing worse than an older woman who tries to look young. You can look smashing at any age especially if you have good posture.

“Never try to compete with younger co-workers by wearing short skirts, ruffles and tight sweaters. It won’t work.

“Glasses are an easy way to discover a whole new you. They’re also a wonderful way to circumvent tricky eye makeup if you’re not good at applying it.”  Lessons from 91-Year-Old Fashion Legend.

Sr. Advisor D, 90th birthday

Sr. Advisor D at 89

Sr. Advisor R, 101st birthday

Sr. Advisor R on 101st birthday


*New York Fashion Week Proves Style is Ageless
Iris Apfel, Inspiring fashion icon at 93
The New Face of High Fashion Has Wrinkles
*          *         *

Thanks to Nextavenue for runway model photos at top and Waldina for photo of Iris Apfel. Thanks to AARP blog 3/27/13 for “Lessons from a 91-year-old Fashion Legend” (excellent article, check it out).

Also check out “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely tips, information and research from top universities. respected professionals and selected publications–to help parents age well.

Aging Parents: Fashionistas or Frumpy Dumpies? (updated–2015 store/catalog information)

includes 2015 catalog and website information for women’s clothing

Fashion week 2014 in New York: Young, beautiful girls, walking in sky-high shoes that would cause an aging parent to lose balance and break a bone. Clothing that’s probably a smaller size than any healthy aging parent would/could fit into, filled the runways. What’s a style-conscious aging parent to do?

Some older people don’t care–or perhaps they do care but are too depressed or lack the energy to make the effort.  Yet we’ve said many times, “look good, feel better.”  What comes first?

Aging parents and the elderly can look smart if they care and want to make the effort. And here’s where adult children can help. Think “presents”–gifts that pull clothing together (a cardigan sweater or jacket)–or an outfit. What about making the effort to take Mom on a shopping trip?

Clothing, of course, is only half of the equation. Hair is the other half. Think about the time hairdressers spend on models’ hair! (Check out Luca Luca grandma-style bunsfor an idea). Unkempt hair ruins a smart look, regardless of age or outfit. Then think easy-to-apply make-up.

Indeed, a great parent-present–for any occasion: arrange hair appointments with parent’s hairdresser–charged to you.  Or possibly have a fun outing like I did with R to check out wigs or hair pieces for those bad hair days…or possibly for every day. And perhaps try a new lipstick shade if you pass a cosmetics counter.

J, pictured at the beginning of this post, had hip replacement. This picture was taken a year later when she returned to the rehab center (where she had recuperated) to see a friend. A good hair style and a coordinated outfit make an 86-year-old woman look great, right?

Updated catalog and website iinformation for fashionable clothing appropriate for aging mothers and grandmothers:

1. NorthStyle (, 800-336-5666)
2. Appleseeds ( 800-767-6666)
3. Serengeti (, 800-426-2852)
4. Chico’s (888-855-4986); stores throughout the US.
5. Draper’s & Damon’s ( 800-843-1174); stores in 5 states.
6. JJILL (link has the best store-locator w/ phone # information box; local stores immediately viewed and great map for finding phone # and stores nearest you). Sr. Advisor R, at 101, still buys  jjill clothing through their catalog.

Happy Shopping! Whether for–or with–our elders. Whether online, catalogue, or at bricks and mortar stores: new clothes = look better and thus feel better–and that helps mothers, grandmothers, and even great-grandmothers age well.

Related: 2015 Fashionista or Frumpy-Dumpy~What’s a Daughter to Do? Click: Part 1
and   Fashionistas ages 67-93–Older Women and Aging Mothers who Look Good


Check out: “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely information and research from top universities and respected professionals, plus some practical information–to help parents age well.