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Conversational Threads

Stuck with what to wear

marthaq | Posted in General Discussion on

I have sewn since I was 12, now I’m 51. Never had a problem picking out fabric and patterns, happily sewing and wearing my creations. I feel STUCK now, not with sewing, but with what I want to wear. I can’t quite get a grip on what my style is now, hate to say it, that I’m 51. This could be a result of watching too many “What Not to Wear” shows….Does anyone else have this problem, and how can I snap out of it??? I did make a skirt this morning, but don’t like it on…..Am I just being silly? thoughts?


  1. KharminJ | | #1

    Hey Martha! It's not an uncommon problem, really! And it's got a lot of causes and sources. Definitely, one of them is watching too much "anxiety TV"! Some of those programs seem designed to make people unhappy with their personal status quo, no matter where it is!Can you pin down what it is that you're not happy with about your brand new skirt? (Some possibilities: fit, color, style, length, "too young-looking", "too old-looking", or free-floating clothing angst!) Some other questions to ask yourself, if you want to dig into it ~ How many different wardrobes do I use these days? (If you no longer "go to the office", how many business-like outfits do you really wear in a month?)What do I feel most comfortable wearing? - for work, for church, for casual around the house or out with friends? Is that different than it used to be?What colors and patterns do I like NOW? What pieces do I have that I still like and could build off of? What can I get out of the closet, because it just doesn't fit or feel right anymore?I hope this doesn't make you feel even more unbalanced - but once you're aware of a problem, the only way out is through!Bright Blessings! Kharmin

    1. marthaq | | #3

      thanks for the advice. I realize I wear versions of only 2 or 3 outfits, and anything else doesn't feel right. So I think I should just focus on making nice versions of those few things.....somehow my "fashion" seems shrunken. Reading Vogue will be different - I guess it is just knowing myself though. I should feel good about it. Will work on that!

      1. GailAnn | | #8

        I still read Vogue.  Otherwise, how would I know what is new, looking fresh, and what the "Sweet Young Things" are wearing?

        Very little of the contents of Vogue find their way into my closet....  One piece in the "new black", whatever colour of the Season that may be.......... maybe.  A skirt a little longer, shorter, fuller or trimmer than my usual.......... maybe.

        We each have 3 or 4 colours and 3 or 4 styles, that make us look and feel our best.  BUT, over time, these things do change a little.

        My sister looks FABULOUS in tourquoise!  (But ONLY when she is pregnant.)

        At 58, blue jeans are no longer my best friend.

        I have always prefered tops without buttons down the front, because I didn't like the inevitable "gap open" between the buttons at my bust line.  Now, those same tops, only serve to emphasize my matronly bustline.  Brings to mind, a line from an old T.V. show, "These breasts are NOT just for show, these are WORKING breasts!"

        Suddenly, tucked in blouses look, well, just plain odd.

        Dresses, fitted at the waist, don't anymore.  The waist creaps upward, and in short order, I find it stuck at my bra line!  UGH!

        AND NOW.........

        My husband came home a month ago, and surprized me with the news that he had turned in his paperwork to retire!  I guess my days of spending mornings, doing housework, and looking like a "Rag a Muffin", are over!  Now, I think I need an outfit or two, suitable for cleaning the kitchen AND serving lunch.   For one brief moment, my reaction was, "I'm going to have to hire a housekeeper".  Followed immediately by, we couldn't possibly afford a housekeeper, even BEFORE he retired!

        What a challenge!  What an opportunity!  Times, they are a'changin'.

        Any solutions???? 

        How about suggestions????


      2. Josefly | | #13

        I know what you mean about your fashion range shrinking. It's easy to fall into wearing a few tried-and-true styles. I have discovered, though, that I mentally limited myself unnecessarily. When I was desperately looking for something to wear for my daughter's wedding a few years ago, she finally went shopping with me and insisted that I try on some things that I "knew" wouldn't look good on me. I was pleasantly surprised that some of her suggestions did work, and I found something in an afternoon, after having shopped for months. I had just dismissed so many styles, for years, because I have more stomach than I like, I have wider hips than bust or shoulders, my arms aren't firm, yada, yada, yada - which led me to rule out bias skirts, dresses with waistlines, sleeveless dresses, and a whole lot of other style features. So when you shop, try on things you don't think will work. You may be surprised, too.

  2. Ralphetta | | #2

    Before you invest in materials/patterns maybe it would be a good idea to go to a good store and try things on. That helps me decide.

    1. marthaq | | #4

      that is a really good idea. Perhaps at lunch this week I'll venture to Nordstrom.
      Thanks for the advice!

      1. [email protected] | | #12

        Nordstrom has a wonderful personal shopper service that can pull together possibilities before you arrive if you call for an appointment.

  3. sewingkmulkey | | #5

    Don't dispair.  I think trying on clothes at a good department store will give you new insite to your best personal style.  I'm nearly 61 now and after years of being able to sew and buy the latest fashion I found I am more limited in style choices that flatter my figure.  So, I'm not a slave to fashion but want to look stylish.  For example, I found that 3/4 length sleeves and princess-seam (semi fitted) style jackets look the best on my plumper, thick-waisted torso.  I perfected a well-fitting pattern as such and now make it up in various flattering fabrics (casual to dressy) that make my skin glow.  I now get compliments on these jackets all the time and no one realizes that they are all very similar in style.  A-line skirts are now more flattering and pegged (narrow leg) slacks have all gone from my closet to Goodwill.

    Good luck and have fun trying on quality clothes to find the "new you".


    1. marthaq | | #6

      I think that I am realizing, like you, that I should only be wearing a limited palette of colors and styles, but I am still clamoring to make fun stuff that may be more trendy or decorative. I did go to Macys and Kohls today and tried on a bunch of stuff, nothing suited me. I think more expensive stores is my next plan. It's the journey, right? But I have scads of fabric awaiting me!!!

  4. User avater
    Sewista | | #7

    Snoop shopping can really enlighten you. It will quickly let you know what doesn't work, which we can't always figure from a pattern envelope. I agree that princess seams and 3/4 sleeves are very flattering for any tops. As far as pants, I don't think the style matters so much as a good fit. That is always flattering in pants. The only skirts I do now are some sort of soft floaty thing for the summer. My professional dressing days are over.

    I also have gone thru that phase of figuring out what to wear. I find I like blouses as opposed to knit tops, well fitting casual pants, and a casual type jacket instead of a sweater for when I leave the house. Behind closed doors, you don't want to see the old jeans and turtlenecks, Yuk! Again, I absolutely love those 3/4 sleeves and think they are so flattering to any size or shape woman.

    1. GailAnn | | #9

      The folks who illustrate the pattern envelopes, can DRAW whatever they like, it doesn't always survive the transition into REAL LIFE.  gail

  5. alotofstitches | | #10

    I too watch "What Not To Wear"--they have a lot of good advice for the younger set.  I'm 61 and they have no clue what a mature woman would be appropriate in!  Over the years I've taken stock of what looks good on MY body and what I feel good in.  Just because something is in "style" doesn't mean it's a good color or style for you.  Today the trend is deep "V" necklines "showing lots of skin".  I know a V neck makes my shoulders look even more narrow therefore making my hips look wider besides the fact I don't want to be half naked wondering if the neckline is gaping.  I do a modified of what's stylish in colors good for me and shapes good for me.  No matter what the fashion forecasters say we have to feel good about ourselves.

    1. User avater
      ThreadKoe | | #11

      I like to people watch in the malls. I keep an eye out for stylish women of a certain age and look to see what it is that makes them look well put together. I analyze what suits their figure and colouring. I look for women who have a similar figure type to mine and do the same. I keep a notebook of ideas for what works on their figures, and look for similar items in the stores to try on as prototypes. I also take note of what doesn't work! I have a few favorite clothes I now do not wear, at least in public, due to the fact that I now know how unflattering they can appear! Just a note: if it is too snug-do not wear it! You look slimmer and it is 1000% more flattering if it is a little loose rather than a little tight! Even if you are a tiny little thing. Cathy

  6. Ocrafty1 | | #14

    Oh, Martha....you are not alone!  I'm 53 and lost quite a lot of weight 3 yrs. ago. None of my favorites fit anymore. Everything is either styled for my 30ish daughters or my 74 yr. old mother. I still have a chest, but no bum and really skinny legs. Sounds like it would be fun to try on things, but its not. Clothing is either sleezy or too buttoned up.  Believe me, a 3" zipper in a pair of jeans just doesn't get it.   I'm not ancient, but I'm no spring chicken either. It is so frustrating! The best I've been able to do is a combination of the 2.  Of course, making/buying tops to wear when we ride the Harley is much easier...LOL...sleezy works there....but I must modify nearly everything so it is not toooo sleezy. I'm not a 'biker momma'...but I am a biker and I am a momma. DH does like me to look good on the bike...makes him look like he can get a foxy lady.(he wouldn't be so lucky if he didn't already have me...tee hee...)

    I've mentioned this topic several times on this site, hoping that Threads editors would address this in their magazine. There are lots of us that, while we enjoy looking at lots of styles, would love to see some patterns/fashion advice for our age group in the magazine.  Not everyone who subscribes to Threads is young or a great grandmother. Aren't Babyboomers supposed to be one of the largest groups in society?  Why are they ignoring us!!!!!!


    1. marthaq | | #15

      I SO hear you! Sounds like you have it sorted out....or are getting there.

    2. User avater
      ThreadKoe | | #17

      I think I feel the same as you do! Other than some business type attire (are we only supposed to wear that?) the 40 to 60 yr age group is sadly under represented. To curvy to wear the 20something stuff, and to young to wear the "mature" woman stuff yet!!!! Cathy

  7. woodruff | | #16

    I have an unusual body type (big shoulders and boobs, narrow hips, freakishly short rise in pants) and have sewn for years because shopping was so discouraging. Over time, decades to be more precise, I got into a routine of sewing over and over again just a few garments of a type that suited me. No variety, you know?

    But recently I've spent some time in France, and on a whim--and because I was sure nothing there would fit me anyhow--I started popping into big stores and little boutiques to check out the wares. Lo and behold, there were styles and colors out there that I've never even seen back home--and most amazingly, they fit me right off the hanger! It was a revelation, my dears.

    Sooo, in answer to your question, I'd certainly recommend checking out Nordstrom, their high-end stuff at that, but also any funny little boutiques you might run into.

    And of course, go to France if you get the chance. Heh-heh.

    Edited 2/20/2009 2:38 pm by woodruff

  8. Teaf5 | | #18

    A lot of great suggestions so far! I periodically go through the same dilemma, but I think of it as healthy--I really shouldn't be dressing exactly the way I did as a teen, right? And it's always fun to find a few new pieces and try out new possibilities. Not that I throw everything out--I'm wearing a 35-year-old scarf as I type this, with a brand new "boyfriend shirt" and dark wash jeans (it's Friday!)

    When I get tired of my wardrobe, I move the items I haven't been inclined to wear lately to a separate section of the closet or box them up and label them. Vests were popular in the 1980s and again around Y2K, but now I see more scarves, so my vests are going back into boxes this year, while my scarves are coming out again. Anything that doesn't fit and flatter gets donated.

    Each season, I look at magazines and at women of all ages to see which shapes and trends have caught on in our region and determine which pieces I'll add to spice up my basic wardrobe. This year, I see scarves, skinny jeans or trouser denims with ballet flats, large & colorful hobo bags and layered tees or tailored cotton shirts. I bought one pair of new skinny jeans and one pair of trouser jeans that fit well, and I'll "shop my closet" for cotton shirts, long scarves and the big leather belts I haven't worn for the last decade or so.

    I might make a brightly colored hobo tote, crochet a long scarf, or make a fitted cotton shirt to fill in the gaps. That said, I must admit that I don't look great or stylish every day--I go for "presentable" for early in the work week, "well-groomed" for professional obligations, and "neat and practical" for around town and leisure wear.

    I agree with the stylists that one can be comfortable and look good at the same time. One way to make the task less daunting is to focus on one part of your wardrobe at a time-- just your work clothes, or your socializing clothes, or your leisure clothes--before moving on to another. Good luck and keep us posted--we all need inspiration from time to time!

    1. Sancin | | #19

      Threads editors, don't forget those of us over 65. We are not baby boomers but still want to look good. Some of us look our age, but not all. I have the sags and bags, but look much younger than I am, in spite of white hair. It pays to stay out of the sun for a life time, folks - and easier to do when a red head! I want comfortable clothing for everyday wear, not really bright colours (can't see me for the bright colours) but certainly not black or brown or large garish prints, all of which give my age away faster than my face or body.Personally, I stick to classics - when I can find them or a pattern. Yesterday I was at the dentist. As I was going in I passed a very bent over old woman, who looked great in skirt, sweater and classic cotton shirt. I commented on her to the hygienist who said the woman was remarkable at 95 years, living independently. When I left she was still in the waiting room discussing a Times magazine article with her companion. I wish ....

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