Choosing Appropriate Attire for the Mature Woman

By Rebecca S. Holder

My long and varied career has required an equally flexible and ever-changing wardrobe. From the “construction site chic” of jeans, boots, and polo shirts to the executive professional button-down suit, it’s been in my closet. But lately, I need help getting dressed. I can handle sleeves, zippers, and buttons—I need help finding something appropriate. I may be mistaken, but surely there is SOMETHING between looking ready for my eighth birthday princess party and wearing a shroud.

Consider my shopping trip for a skirt; a simple swath of fabric to wrap the middle of my body. I found what appeared to be a gray knee-length skirt, size “blank”, and proceeded to the dressing room. After pulling, tucking, and writhing around like a convulsed earthworm for five minutes, I realized the size should have been labeled “blankety-blank-blank”! Who can possibly wear this thing?! Certainly not a woman of a certain maturity. I always thought “hips” and “waist” were two distinct anatomical parts; hence their identifying names, different movements, and separate locations. Apparently, I’m wrong.

While sizes and styles seem to defy gravity, my body hasn’t. Keyhole necklines, wrap dresses, pencil skirts, halter tops, and low-rise slacks have me gathering and re-arranging my body like some uncooperative blob of Silly Putty™. Everything eventually spreads back out to its natural order, rendering the outfit unattractive, uncomfortable, and unwearable.

On one end of the clothing spectrum, I’m confronted with a sea of pink and lavender festooned with fringe, zippers, lacey panels, tiny ruffles, and bows. Every piece embellished with the world’s supply of studs, sequins, and glitter; outfits that are clearly the spawn of My Little Pony™ and Hello Kitty™. Worse yet are the drawstring pants emblazoned on the rump with some slogan. I find my eyes transfixed to the rear-end moniker like it’s some Internet Captcha code I’m trying to decipher—all distorted and fuzzy—only to discover the hyperextended four-syllable word is actually “Juuuiiiccy!”

On the other extreme, clothes are devoid of any aesthetic. If it fits like a dream—it looks like a nightmare. The fabrics used would make perfectly lovely drapes, furniture upholstery, or pet beds—anything but clothes. It boggles the mind that a multi-colored pattern doesn’t match anything—not even basic black. When does black not go with everything?

If the appearance of the fabric isn’t bad enough, it ramps up the awful with the texture and weave. Who knew broom straw and recycled plastic bottles could be made into clothes? Even the fabric names sound like some embarrassing illness—don’t get too close, I have “jacquard”; “damask” seems to be going around; and I’d rather have “moiré” than the galloping “sateens”!

As I struggle to find a balance in my attire, the only bright spot is shoes. I have shoes of every color, style, and heel height imaginable. I’ll throw practicality, comfort, and proper posture to the winds for a pair of strappy heels in red. And really cute shoes can take the attention away from any outfit. If you double-team with the right handbag, no one will notice how horrific your dress looks.

But, back to helping me get dressed. What’s a girl – I mean – mature woman, to do? Please help. And quickly. I’m shopping online and I just clicked on a sequined animal print top paired with neon leggings. It’s that or the combination camo tent/flowered bedspread/pleated skirt and blazer ensemble. Either one will look.… good? Right?

Rebecca S. Holder has worked with older adults for 35+ years and now is one. While assembling a wardrobe as a licensed nursing home administrator/general contractor has its challenges, there is never any question about the shoes.


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