DEAR CA & AC —
I had a terrible fright recently when I saw this frumpy woman in a window and realized it was me. I know many people have had that experience, but never me. I truly didn’t know who the woman was for a good five seconds. My hair looked ratty (it was a windy day), there was a gap in my blouse, and I looked like every nondescript woman over fifty.
I never thought I was dowdy. I have lovely clothes and have received a fair number of compliments. But I’m wondering if that feedback is dated. It is possible no one has said such nice things to me since I retired.
I’m embarrassed. I hate to think what people must be saying behind my back. Please, please tell me what to do. I haven’t a clue where to start!
SIGNED, FRUMPY WOMAN
DEAR FW —
You have just given vent to a universal problem of retirement style. Without a need to dress up for work and lacking a bottomless clothes budget often conspire to make us look less than stellar. Also, there’s the problem of not caring as much about what others think of us.
But you show by asking the question that you DO care. So now the question is how to tackle the topic.
I think either you, a friend or a sister needs to do a biopsy of the problem. Is it your wardrobe? A fitness issue? A matter of grooming? Or, God forbid, is it ALL of those above that was you look like a frumpy woman?
We have come across an excellent book, How Not to Look Old, by Carla Krupp. It is a go to bible for anyone over the age of 50. It tackles make-up (“lose the heavy eyeliner”) clothes (ditch the mom jeans) wrinkle management and shoe selection, among other fascinating topics.
Advance Style is also a good read though one of your correspondents (CA in this case) thinks many of the outfits there are a bit costumey.
Please give us a progress report!
DEAR FW —
“Advanced Style” too costumey? Come now! Our Dear CA can be so maddeningly opinionated at times. The truth is New York fashion photographer, Ari Cohen has done what the rest of the fashion industry has refused to do: make the invisible older woman visible.
Inspired by his stylish and elegant grandmother, Cohen started a blog capturing what he calls “the sartorial savvy of the senior set.” The blog became a book, and the book turned into a documentary film.
Start reading the blog now. Download the movie. Buy the book. If you are feeling playful, buy the coloring book. (Seriously there is even an Advanced Style Coloring book.)
Cohen’s subjects will inspire you. They will make you believe there truly is life after youth. Many of his subjects aren’t just older; they are old. But they are gleefully, joyously old: women (and an occasional man) in their 80s and 90s who are striking to say the least. If they don’t feel good about themselves, they do a good job faking it
To be sure, more than a few of Cohen’s subjects are colorful eccentrics (red feather boas, anyone?). The only thing you may learn from them is what to avoid. But who’s to judge? If you are in your 90s and still dressing up to walk to the mailbox, you are surely permitted an extra feather or two in your cap.