(A Note from Dorothy: Every once in a while during my online travels and ongoing conversations with women over fifty, I run across an exciting new voice. This was my experience when I stumbled upon Susan Street’s page on Facebook, FiftyNotFrumpy. She provides a breath of fresh air for women who are tired of trying to find their way around the fashion world and what it seems to offer the older woman. If you want to be able to reach into our closet and pull out something you like and feel comfortable wearing, visit her website and fan her Facebook page. Let her help you begin the process of midlife fashion self-discovery. She is a valuable guide and provides a relaxed, comfortable and open minded venue for dialogue, examining options, and considering guidelines that may work for you. I did!)
FIFTY, NOT FRUMPY
by Susan Street
As I emerged from a more than ten year total immersion into starting and building my company, I realized that my sense of style had all but vanished… not to mention I had gained more than forty pounds. After I lost the weight I was forced to start shopping for a new wardrobe but I quickly realized I had no idea what was appropriate for me at fifty-five. The amazing thing was that I had worked in the fashion industry for most of my adult life but I was no longer comfortable with anything I saw in stores or in fashion magazines. When I tried clothes on, I often laughed out loud but many times I became so frustrated, I left very depressed and of course without buying anything.
You may think that shopping for a whole new wardrobe would be fun, but I can tell you it is expensive, frustrating and traumatic. As the President of a successful company which contributes to the community, I interact with other professionals and city leaders often. I have a large circle of friends and I attend many fund raisers, Symphonies, and dinner parties. I get dressed to go to my office at my warehouse every day. I don’t have an unlimited budget so I wanted to invest in pieces that would work well in many of these situations. Projecting confidence, easy elegance and sophistication is a tall order for a woman who spent the last ten years in jeans alone in her home office.
I began studying the women whose style I respect. I developed a formula for shopping and dressing which allowed me to get the most for my wardrobe investment. This formula included an honest evaluation of my new postmenopausal body and the styles that are flattering and comfortable for me to wear now. My look often includes a jacket or cardigan left mostly open with an interesting scarf or necklace to draw the eye upward and away from my thick waistline. I wear slim pants or a straight fitted skirt with heels in a nude color to make my short thick calves look longer. If I wear a dress it has wrap effect at the waist and a flattering neckline. After doing quite a bit of research, shopping and self evaluation, I can now get dressed quickly for any event. I feel confident and happy going out to dinner with friends and can fully enjoy being there.
At some point in this journey of rediscovery I thought about all the other women in my age group who have given their all to their children, aging parents or like me, to building a business. You may finally be ready to start living your life and doing the things you enjoy but then you realize you don’t know what to wear anymore. I thought perhaps sharing my journey might help others gain confidence so I started a Facebook page and named it “Fifty, not Frumpy”. I was quickly overwhelmed with the popularity of the page and with the emotional emails I received from my readers. Both men and women wrote to say how much they looked forward to my tips, the outfits I create on Polyvore.com and pictures of my own outfits. I added a web site and linked it to a blog with the same name in 2012. (FiftynotFrumpy.com)
My perspective is to share what I have learned about current fashion as it applies to women over fifty and to be receptive to the comments of my readers. It isn’t only the best outfits I share with them. I still make some goofs but I post those pictures as well so that we can discuss why it isn’t such a good look for me. I respect my readers immensely. They are honest with me and mostly positive. When my readers disagree with me it becomes a learning experience for all of us. We discuss everything from the pros and cons of trends to foundation garments to lip stick and shoe heel heights. Many of my outfits and blog posts are a result of letters from my readers. I love hearing that a reader used some of the tips we’ve discussed to choose an outfit for a special occasion which made them feel confident and happy.
Susan Street is the editor of Fiftynotfrumpy.com and the President of the Vintage Jewelry Supplies Company, Inc. (VintageJewelrySupplies.com)