Sunday, March 18, 2007

I've been inspired by yet another Time Goes By article, Elder Fashion – An Oxymoron. Ronni's article contends that it's next to impossible to find clothing for 50+ women that is both stylish and that fits properly. This struck a chord with me and I'm sure many of her readers.

No matter what you do – exercise, eat properly, etc. – your body shape changes with age. There may or may not be extra pounds, but the distribution of those pounds change. The waist thickens, the butt and breasts drop, extra padding appears on the hips. You may still look fabulous, but it's not the same fabulous of your twenties, thirties and forties. Shopping for clothing becomes a frustrating chore.

Over the years, like many women, I found a few brands of clothing that meshed good fit with my particular style. However, even within these brands, it's more and more difficult to find what I want. The fit isn't what it used to be: If the waist fits, the hips and butt are too big; if the shoulders fit, the front sags; and I'm really not into "flirty", bias-cut floral skirts anymore. I'm heavier than my old prime of 108 at age 40, but by no means obese. So what's a gal to do? Mostly, I avoid shopping until it's absolutely necessary.

Anyways, having read Ronni's article, I sallied forth to find more information about fashion for older women (or euphemistically called "the mature woman"). The first article I came across was titled "Designers research fitting clothing for older women". What a great start! Just as the title states it was from the Cornell Chronicle about a study done to design clothes that fit older women.

Then I realized the article is from 1996 - eleven years ago. So where are these clothes that are designed for older women? I searched further. More references to the same study, but no actual clothing being made using the information from the study. How typical.

Many pages of searching later, I came across this article in August 2005, announcing the opening of The Gap's new retail stores named "Forth & Towne" - stores specifically aimed at catering to fashion for older women ('older' being women over 35). This, I thought, seems like a small step in the right direction even if I'm not the biggest fan of The Gap's business practices.

About two more articles further along in my search, I came across the headline, "RIP Forth & Towne". Uh oh, this didn't sound good. Sure enough, only eighteen months after the launch of Forth & Towne, The Gap was announcing the closing of all the retail outlets by the end of June 2007.

If you'd like to see a sample of the fashions they were offering at Forth & Towne, take a look at this article with slide show by Julia Turner on Slate: Go Forth and Go Out of Business.

Turner's article points out some of the flaws of their (The Gap's) misdirected efforts, namely: thinking older women want to wear twenty year-olds' clothing, only cut larger; or that we want large-sized no-style, elastic-waisted (as in velour track suits) clothing.

The Gap went into the venture only thinking of the bottom line and the "untapped market" and didn't do enough research about the needs and wants of their target market. I wonder how many real life 50+ women they actually interviewed and had try on their darn clothing before they launched the stores. Too bad for them. The market is still virtually untapped, awaiting someone smart enough to do the job right. I think it needs a woman, preferably over 40.


Anonymous said...

What a terrific followup to my piece on elder fashion. Forthe & Towne closed before I knew it existed and now I know it didn't have what I'm looking for anyway.

One of the things so-called "experts" advise older job seekers ad nauseum is to update their wardrobe. Obviously it is not possible to find clothes that both fit and are attractive.

In the fashion world, we ARE the forgotten women.

Anonymous said...

My body hasn't gone through all those changes yet, but in the meantime, I go to Chico's for 'nicer' clothes.

Anonymous said...

Chico's does have nice clothes, but alas, they're not available in Canada.

As I pondered the problem with Forth & Towne again, I realized the other big mistake they made was lumping together everyone "over 35". As those of us over 50 know, we're NOT the same.