An essay in the Guardian by writer Alison Lurie on giving up fashion because she feels that the industry has nothing to offer older women has been bugging me all week. While complaints from women over 40 that clothing retailers and manufacturers don't cater to them certainly has merit--we all know their ideal customer, at least until fairly recently, was a woman as young and lithe and with as little body fat as possible--after working with older women as a personal stylist, I am convinced that this is not actually the case, or at least the situation is not as dire as she makes it out to be.
Yes, you will have to search through racks of scanty dresses placed prominently on the sales floor to entice younger women to incur more credit card debt and items that are not actually wearable by anyone with hips. You will have to search more and work harder at creating outfits that tread the line between being too youthful and unnecessarily dowdy. But it can be done.
I had a client in her late 50s who had been a high school principal before she retired--and it showed. Lots of stodgy jackets and frumpy pants. I sent her to Banana Republic with a list of items like flat-front pants and simple cardigans, and she soon emailed me back: "Why did I never shop here before?" Then there was a woman I met at a talk I gave who looked stunning with snow-white hair and a motorcycle-style jacket--an outfit that was stylishly casual and comfortable (lack of comfort is one of Lurie's complaints).
I can't help but think Lurie was never really that into fashion or style in the first place. Otherwise she would have found a way to incorporate it into her life.