As little as 40 years ago, turning 50 meant you were probably in for an “Over the Hill” hoot-fest where your friends would roast you and give you a mobility device as a gag gift. Frankly, I’m thrilled that that attitude has faded, not least because I just hate being roasted! In our present culture, 50 is being called the “New 40,” and plenty of women in their 50s are in their primes! We look better, feel better, and have a better seat at the table than ever before. That said, there are still groups of marginalized women who need a bit of an extra boost, and when it comes to clothing and styling advice, plus-size women definitely fall under “marginalized.” That is a separate article (or 20), so suffice it to say that while the majority of women in the US wear “plus” clothing, plus-size clothing is not the majority of clothing available either online or in brick-and-mortar stores.
So, what is a plus-size woman to do when she is fifty-ish, looks great, feels great, knows it’s time to adjust her style to her changing priorities and period of life, but advice on the subject seems to gloss over her situation? There are thousands of articles on style over 50, but not a lot on plus-size style over 50, unless you like to read pieces titled “What to Buy When You’re Over 50 and Overweight.” Pardon me? That’s a bit insulting. We bet you know the basics of plus-size dressing, such as loading up on classic stand-bys that always help plus-size women look great: wrap dresses, V-necks, pencil skirts, straight-leg jeans, structured shoes. . . you know! We’re going to talk tips and tricks to choosing plus size clothing when you’re over 50 specifically, and we promise to talk about clothing you can actually find, and tips you can apply immediately.
Be you. We are not here to give you a list of “don’ts” or overhaul your personal style. Your own extant clothing is the best place to start, and whether you favor Boho skirts or wear a motorcycle jacket, no one is here to talk you out of it. This is about adding pieces, elements, or adjustments to your wardrobe that help you enter your middle years making the most out of your wardrobe as well as your personal presentation.
You deserve better basics. Your T-Shirts should be well-cut and made from something other than tissue-thin material that will last maybe one season. Buy sweaters of Supima cotton, good wool, or cashmere that are meant to last for years. You know what jeans work for you, so go up a step in quality and construction—skip the big box stores when it comes to clothing. You’re not meant to buy jeans at the same place you buy a snow shovel. Better basics show that you’re a mature person who appreciates the value of quality.
We are mature, experienced, self-actuated women. It’s okay to decide that your days of suffering for beauty are over. However, commit to investing the time it takes to find attractive clothing that feels comfortable for you. If you no longer want to wear heels, find appropriate flat evening shoes. If you prefer to skip compression garments for the rest of forever, commit to finding an evening outfit that doesn’t need one. Giving in to wearing something inappropriate (or just plain unattractive) in the name of comfort will only make you feel as though you’ve sacrificed a part of your personal style. We say, seize your personal style, just take the time you deserve to find the right pieces for your needs. I once found an evening gown that was essentially a jersey wrap dress on top but a taffeta ball gown on the bottom, and it was as comfortable as a nightie! Anything, and I mean anything, is possible!
It’s no secret that tailored styles help balance plus-size figures. A great blouse defines the shoulders, a structured blazer nips your waist and well-cut trousers enhance your, um, assets. However, especially if tailored style isn’t your personal style, you need an actual tailor to make the clothing you do prefer fit perfectly. This is about more than a simple hem; consider buying clothing to fit the widest part of your body and then having it tailored to your measurements. It’s a whole new world! There’s a reason celebrities look so amazing in white T-shirts and grubby jeans—every single thing you see celebrities wearing has been tailored to their body. Nothing is sagging or pinching or pulling or dragging because it’s been altered. Especially if time has changed your figure in ways that frustrate you, a tailor can make all the difference. Find a tailor, and you can look that terrific in your everyday jeans, too.
If you have always secretly loved the pleated, high-waisted “mom jeans” that you wore in high school, go ahead! They are trending hard right now so knock yourself out! But if you don’t like them, knew at the time they were not great on you, and can’t wait for this trend to fade—ignore it! Only try trends you are truly interested in, and even then, we advise you to experiment with trends in small doses. Investing a lot in a garment that you won’t want in two seasons is just not something mature, experienced women do, especially when finding just-right clothing can be challenging. As a plus size shopper, we encourage you to spend your time and resources on pieces that will be meaningful to your wardrobe in the long run. Don’t waste energy on things you don’t love. Luckily, we’ve seen it before, and we know better now!
Notice I’m not following that up with “eliminate the negative.” Lean in to your best features. Enhance, or even show off, your decolletage, your legs, your derriere, whatever you love! If there is a part of your body that you want to draw attention to, do so unapologetically. Statement necklaces or bateau necklines draw focus to your pretty face. Belts and wrap dresses can create curves, but if you already have curves it can give you real va-va-voom! Great legs call for short (or perhaps just short-ish) shorts and skirts. If you do wish to camouflage a specific “not happy with it” area, there are many ways to do so, but we want to encourage you to concentrate on what you love, not what you don’t love.
As you reach or pass 50, know that you can still showcase your personal style as you add or adjust elements to suit your maturity, wisdom and figure. Choosing plus size clothing when you’re over 50 isn’t much more difficult than it was when you were 35 but knowing how to adapt your style to a different stage of your life might have a learning curve. Understanding that it’s a new stage of your life is not negative at all; I’m so glad to have had the adventures I did as a young woman, and I am equally grateful that I’m done with that part of my life. Dancing ‘til dawn holds no allure, so to speak. We’re here to support you as you embrace choosing plus size clothing when you’re over 50. We think you’ll be just fabulous!