Sunday, 13 May 2012

Why I Hate Shopping Now I'm 50

When I was in my 40s I used to love going clothes shopping, rifling through the racks at New Look, River Island, Top Shop and the like. Nowadays, however, as I have past that dreaded half century mark, if I set foot in some of these high-fashion retail chains, they do nothing for my self-confidence.

Suddenly, the clothes that I once coveted seem far too young, and even more depressingly, the sizes seem to have got smaller. The last time I went into some of my favourite high-street fashion chains after several years away from the UK, I suddenly felt old and fat - with the fact that I have gone up two dresses sizes since my 40s doing nothing for the ego. And, is it just me or do the sales assistants seem to be getting younger and, even more annoyingly, thinner? 

In many of these shops I found it difficult even to find a size to fit, and when I did dare try some thing on, the cut and the fabric did me no favours. Feeling bad enough as it was, having to look at my expanding girth in the mirror, my bad humour was further compounded by the fact that overzealous assistants kept asking “How are you getting on?”  I also hate it when they pull back the curtain and reveal my figure flaws in all their glory – with me looking like a stuffed sausage in a size 14, whilst they look fantastic in their size 6.  And as for trying to find a “nice” dress with sleeves to cover those bingo wings, well forget it!

Therefore, now I’m in my 50s I've decided it is time to decamp to more more-age friendly labels such as those fashion concessions found in more upmarket department stores, where the quality of fabric is kinder to the body, but the price tag is not kinder to the purse.  

Even here, many of the sales consultants seem young by comparison to the target market, and have the annoying habit of pouncing on you, the moment you walk into the sales area. And, if you dare to spend more than a few seconds looking at a garment, they take this as a green light to give you a full on sales pitch.

Now, I am one of those iritating shoppers who just likes to browse in peace and if I want help, I’ll ask for it. Nothing will send me scurrying away quicker than being leapt on the moment I set foot in the department. Having said this though, I know that is unfair, as having worked in fashion retailing myself, companies are very sales-oriented nowadays and sales consultants are under tremendous pressure to approach customers.

Another pet hate is fitting rooms. Either they are so small that you can’t move (I hate it when they don’t have a seat - especially when you are trying on jeans), or so hot that, after breaking out in a sweat I give up and leave.  There is one particular fashion store in my home town, which, every winter, has its fitting room area so warm that I want to pass out.

Am I the only woman in my 50s, that feels that whilst I still haven’t given up on fashion, when I go shopping for clothes I feel fashion has given up on me?

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Where oh where are the stylish dresses with sleeves?

Something happened to me when I turned fifty - it was a fashion paradigm shift.  The realization that despite feeling only 36 I could not longer continue to dress the same way I did in my 30s and 40s.

These days fifty is not a four-letter word, 50 is now an age, with a little fashion and beauty know-how, when women can look better than they did in their 30s. Take, for example, Carol Vorderman, who looks stunning at 51. And, as for ladies such as Helen Mirren, Lulu, Twiggy or Joanna Lumley, they are living proof that you can be "of a certain age" and still look gorgeous.

However, my biggest gripe is trying to find clothes that are fashionable for 50+ women, that do not have them either looking like their daughter or dressing like their mum.

One of the most frustrating things about going clothes shopping once you are over 50 is trying to find fashionable dresses with sleeves.

Trying to find stylish dresses with sleeves to cover flabby arms is very difficult.  So much so that Prima magazine started a campaign named " A call to arms," backed by grown up and gorgeous celebrities such as Helen Mirren and Lulu, to persuade high-street clothing stores to cater more for fashion over 50. It doesn't have to be a full sleeve, either - a cropped, three-quarter sleeve is very flattering, and even a short sleeve will do, provided it disguises the dreaded bingo wings!

What many fashion retailers seem to ignore is that a 2010 survey found that three out of four British women actually hate their flabby arms more than any other part of their body.

Another thing about clothes shopping in your 50s is that the shop assistants look so young (and so thin)!  I live in France but when I return periodically to my home country I make a beeline for all the familiar high street chains.

The last time I was in London I went into New Look, Top Shop and Monsoon (all the favourite haunts of my 30s and 40s), and for the first time, I felt really OLD. Not to mention that since I was last in the UK, the size of clothes physically seemed to have shrunk, and trying to find clothing in my size, (since I have now had to make peace with myself that I have expanded to a size 14+ - whereas in my 40s I used to be a 10) was an absolute nightmare.

It wasn't so much a case of what I liked, but what would fit me!  Surely reaching that half-century mark does not mean that I am relegated to shopping in Evans! When I did find a couple of dress styles I liked, they were all sleeveless - arggghhh! I remember wingeing to the sales assistant, "Why are their no dresses with sleeves?"

However,  I am please to say that there is hope on the horizon in the shape of good old M&S - that bastion of British retailing, where even Margaret Thatcher admitted to buying her knickers!.  Marks and Spencers are one of the few UK retail chains (Debenhams is another) that has taken heed of the plight of older women and are developing stylish and fashionable pieces that older women can wear, such as the recently released Twiggy collection for spring summer 2012, designed by Twiggy herself.

The last time I was in the UK I bought an M&S Woman red fan-print faux wrap dress in a supportive stretchy material, which not only had a youthful, but still age-appropriate, print (rather than those dreadfully ageing wallpaper florals or hideously on-trend young pyjama prints), but also pulled me in at all the right places and had arm-slimming three-quarter sleeves.  Just to make my day, I turned on the TV today to see ITV This Morning's presenter Holly Willoughby (who I adore) wearing the same dress, although she looks a lot better than me in it!
Holly Willoughby wearing the red fan print dress from M&S -

Debenhams, in their Designers at Debenhams collection, do some great dresses with sleeves too - and I love Fifty Plus and Phase Eight's timeless wrap dresses.

Let's hope there are a few more retailers that don't give up on women over 50 - whilst we may no longer be the right side of 35, we still we want to be fashionable!

I'd love to know about your favourite dresses with sleeves. Where do you buy them? What label do you recommend? Let's share some of your favourite brands with others. Please post your comments below.

Twiggy has designed a new range for Marks and Spencer.
At 60-something doesn't she look amazing?

Twiggy for M&S
available exclusively online

Twiggy for M&S
available exclusively online