Why I changed how I shop over 50
Happy April Monday, all! Today, I am going to share why I changed how I shop?
I realize that for the past three years, many of us over 50 and beyond have been changing our styles, clothes, and lifestyles.
We have been experimenting as if in a science lab with seeking the right mix of what we want to tell the world about us in a new stage of life.
I, for one, left a professional office world and came home to work. I felt a need to be more casual, but now I think I took it too far.
The lifestyle I currently lead warrant a casual chic look that I am now sharpening in my overall wardrobe.
That means that how I shop over 50 needed to change, and here is why….
WHY I CHANGED HOW I SHOP OVER 50: BACKGROUND
Before I dive into why I changed how I shop over 50, let me share the outfit of the day.
There is only one new piece in this outfit and that is the JJILL ESSENTIAL COTTON STRETCH PANT in the fern color…comes in five colors.
I love these pants…super comfy…great fit…and polished. They went nicely this day with one of my older Talbot’s jackets and a navy Loft top from last year.
The look paired nicely with the UGG® Alameda Sammy Slip-On Sneakers in Seashell Pink that I bought at Dillard’s in the past two years…the shoe is still being sold in six colors.
I start with this to exhibit how I want my nice casual style to look. It does reflect my adjectives of polished, approachable, joyful, current, and creative.
When I began blogging over 12 years ago, I quickly learned that the audience wants to see outfits I put together…lots of outfits.
It is the same for most fashion bloggers and now that Instagram is around, it requires even more styles and different looks.
I think this is the mindset that sucked me into fast fashion at the time. Inexpensive clothing I could style in many different ways.
There are bloggers (mostly younger ones) who purchase a mass quantity of clothes and return them over and over again.
San Antonio is a large city with a small town mindset.
I see people I know in the retail industry often at events and in their stores. I did not want to be that person who was always returning outfits just to look different on the blog.
Of course, there are wonderful brands who occasionally supply clothing for the blog, and that is so helpful.
But, this is honestly how I got drawn deeper into cheaper, fast fashion selections.
As I near turning 70, I have known that how I shop needs to change.
WHY I CHANGED HOW I SHOP OVER 50: MOTHER-OF-THE-GROOM
My son’s future wedding and shopping as mother-of-the-groom has been the biggest catalyst to change how I shop.
I saved the money and was ready to look for special outfits for the wedding and events surrounding.
I desired high quality designs which made statements; yet, fit in with the rest of my wardrobe built on certain colors and style adjectives.
This took me into higher end retailers and boutiques to seek the styles I desired.
Spending a great amount of time in the finer retailers had me assessing the fabric quality and fit like never before.
I pondered more in the dressing room as to why a garment might be worth the more expensive price and I always ask…What else can I do with it after the wedding? What will the cost per wear look like?
I returned to shopping local boutiques and discovered unique designs.
I now have three colors of that blue dress above which is a washable Italian silk used by an Italian designer. I still have not seen anything like it at a mall.
Elizabeth’s Boutique in San Antonio is my favorite, but there are others which I like as well. These boutiques are less expensive than most of the high end retailers.
My experience working with a free Nordstrom stylist has been incredible.
It is the perfect way to receive quality customer service and have someone show you new ways to style a look.
Working with their stylist, is another new way I will shop after the wedding especially when a special event or trip arises.
Through this event shopping, I also was introduced to Tuckernuck dresses. I like them, but they do run small and I would prefer a place to try them on.
I have helped my daughter and daughter-in-law with their wedding dress selections. These decisions are not firm just yet.
But, I do want to add that one experience was a nightmare and one was incredible.
Let me start with the positive...Saks Fifth Avenue.
We actually found a gown at a very reasonable price. It arrived within four days of the order. We also had to return it, but it was such an easy pleasant return.
The other experience was Neiman Marcus. We ordered the dress early February. I paid a huge fee to have it shipped quickly so she could wear it to another event.
We did not see the dress until mid-March…after two calls to customer service with no answers, and three attempted deliveries to a car wash…you read that right…three times.
If she did not live in a small town, she would not have the dress right now.
To their credit, they did lower the price of the dress considerably to account for all of the trouble. But, I was upset when I made those calls.
I do not believe, however, that I will shop at Neimans again.
And that makes me sad because it Is a Texas business that I wanted to support.
Now, you may be thinking…well, if you are going to begin to shop higher end, standout pieces won’t that limit how often you wear them?
Tish Jett writes, “One of the greatest compliments a Frenchwoman can receive is, ‘I love you in that dress.’ She doesn’t care that her friends or co-workers have seen her in the same dress or suit or jacket on many occasions. She looks and feels comfortable, confident, and chic, and it shows. It is more likely that she changes her accessories with each wearing.”
This is exactly the mindset I want to have about adding some of these special pieces to my wardrobe. The fit and feel of the styles I have been adding is so great that I do not care if I am seen in them often.
I want to shop for me less and with more purpose and intention of what is added.
Now, I am not going off the budget cliff here like this dress above… with a price of $1300… it’s not in my closet.
But, I have gone from not wearing dresses at all because the fast fashion ones just did not work, to adding several to my closet at about $150+ each because the higher quality ones fit and feel better.
I will continue to shop my favorite mid-range retailers….Chicos, JJILL, and Talbots…though these purchases will be fewer and with more forethought of where I have wardrobe needs.
When I look at the brands that survived several recent clothing purges, they were Eileen Fisher, Ming Wang, Chicos, Talbots, Banana Republic and JJILL.
However, the only affordable fashion retailer I can think of that I am impressed with at this time is JC Penney’s.
I have gone into Kohls twice recently and Old Navy once in an attempt to do dressing room posts for you.
The fabric quality and fit was so bad, I just could not show the pictures online. Just know, I will keep trying to find affordable fashion options for you.
The wedding shopping also took me into some excellent designer fashion consignment shops and that is where I found the rehearsal dinner shoes.
I will always stop by those types of retailers as well as Marshalls.
But, basic thrift shops have changed since the pandemic and are not what they were…I will write more about that later.
Trust me, I will continue to shop for you and to go to places where I notice you shop with my shopping links.
But, how I shop has changed. I now am one of those shoppers who look to occasionally add quality, higher end fashion pieces to my wardrobe.
After I blow the wedding budget, those purchases will occur less often….but it will be fun to look for them.
HOW I SHOP AND A CAUTION FLAG
I shared with you a local retailer Fiesta Feet. I like their shoes, and their mission to help an orphanage in Mexico with proceeds.
But, sadly they are a very small retailer and just cannot handle too much online business. Apparently, they fall behind with deliveries.
If you live in San Antonio and see one of their pop up shops, then by all means check them out. But, for online, I caution that at this time, there seems to be problems with getting product out.
I know they are apologetic of the shipping delays.
Before I close, please know that I will continue to bring you options in slideshows and dressing rooms that will be across all price points.
But, for my personal shopping, I will be doing things a bit differently now….how I shop has changed.
You may see more styling from my closet and different ways I use the new purchases.
Your thoughts are welcome….thanks for being here……have you changed how your shop?
By Pamela Lutrell
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I understand your new methods of shopping. I’d rather have fewer pieces of better quality than a closet full of clothes. As I said, having too many choices is unsettling for me and tends to raise cost-per-wear. I sit in the dressing rooms looking closely at construction, fabric content and details like buttons and zippers. Quality will always last longer. On the very rare occasion that I try a trend, I will spend less because I know it’s something that’s here today, gone tomorrow. I’ve definitely applied quality to shoes also. My lifestyle, like yours, has changed and I admit I miss shopping for suits and business attire. I dress up for church and that meant I could keep a lot of favorites, so it works out. I think if you are a person who likes to change looks frequently, you could get away with lesser quality since you aren’t shopping for longevity. So we really have to evaluate our current lifestyle from time to time.
What has been so important to me lately is the comfort and feeling of fabrics. Many fast fashion fabrics just feel cheap and awful. Then the fit is not as good. My wardrobe right now is manageable and not busting at the seams as it use to be. But with mostly separates, I can have lots of fun!
I have realized, like you, that one of my objectives is to be polished but unique, or in your words, creative. I have a friend who has told me before that I always look so elegant though I certainly do not think of myself with that objective. Your included quote of “ I love you in that dress” reminds me of your telling me once to wear my Chico runanas often rather than saving for a special occasion. Your wedding searches have certainly taken you down numerous paths that have and will continue to be delightful and encouraging, while others have been disappointing. I, for one, realize you have also changed how I approach fashion and buying clothing.
It really is a journey…and I have learned so much for others and from getting out and going through the experience. I am so glad my journey has helped and encouraged you, Celia.
Your post is very interesting to me. I try to do more with less when it comes to fashion. My go to are Talbots for jeans and Eddie Bauer t shirts. I wear a really nice 3rd piece and I have very nice jewelry. The prices at these stores has really gotten to me to actually look at prices more. It is expensive out there! I love dresses for summer (Texas) but I couldn’t see paying almost $300 for a knock around dress at Talbots. My go to has always been Nordstrom or Dillards when I was working. The point is this: I felt like as a non working woman that I couldn’t justify the dollars to shop these places. I very recently realized that I DESERVE to shop for nicer things. They are better and they last longer. I, too am changing my style as I get older. I appreciate you showing us looks for all spectrums. It opens up opportunities.
I tried Amazon this year and it was a fit and quality nightmare for me. I am not dissing the retailer, it was just hard for me. Inyy th junk we all deserve to look and FEEL our very best. Thanks to you, we can find a way.
Yes! I really think I am honoring myself now more than ever before. I agree prices are nuts. But, I have changed and now would rather have a well made, and great fitting dress at $200 than four kind-of-nice ones at $50 each. When I feel confident and fabulous in a garment, I am going to wear that garment more often and the cost per wear goes lower…it might even be lower than a so-so $50 dress.
We deserve it and smart shopping may no longer be cheaper shopping, but less shopping with more intention.
Pamela…A very thoughtful and much needed message. Enjoyed your post today.
Thank you, Carol!
I, too, have changed my shopping habits over the last year or so. The most obvious change is that I’m not shopping/buying as much or as often. Years ago I bought quality (pricier) pieces that I knew would last and be part of my wardrobe for a long time to come. Things that I would feel good in and wear often. Even after retirement I continued to shop, but faced the inevitable conclusion that I didn’t need such pieces anymore. In my mid 70’s I’m shopping lower price points and fewer of the moment pieces……..I want longevity in my closet, but I don’t want a big investment. Social activities call for nice clothes, but I’ve always enjoyed accessorizing and continue to do so, therefore, I can get by on a more limited wardrobe. I’ve never been a T-shirt and jeans gal—in fact, I own no denim and T’s that are from a concert or activity are not in my drawers or closets, either. Yes, I have clothes I clean house in and run errands in, but they are pieces that have done their duty on the front lines and now are ready to be useful in another way.
I think most of us go thru’ different shopping phases, just as we tend to go through different style phases, How many times have you looked at an old photo and thought “Sheesh! why did I think that looked good?” Even developing and using style adjectives that happens since we are all works in progress and that’s good, I think, because it means we are still aware of our image and want to always be our best self. No matter how much we change.
Great accessorizing does wonders to stretch a wardrobe…you are so smart, Carol. I hope to always be my best no matter my age.
I enjoyed reading your thoughtful post, Pam. Fortunately, I didn’t succumb to fast fashion b/c so much of it is poly and I eternally run hot, plus I sew, sooo I recognize good construction. There aren’t consignment or thrift stores very nearby (boo!), but I have taken to refashioning a lot of my own preloved clothing. Which is quite fun, actually!
I still wish I could sew, Kim. You are right about those materials making us hotter here in Texas. And that is something I keep in mind more and more.
I am so excited to read this! I love the hunt for the perfect piece so much more than looking at a wardrobe full of just OK items. I tend to save my favorite pieces for special occasions but am going to wear them when I feel like it now. Good quality and proper laundering will make those favorites last and I will feel so good wearing what makes me smile. Great inspiring post! Thank you!
You are so welcome, Cheryl. After the wedding, I will be wearing those special pieces often. Life is too short not to look fabulous and confident every day.
Pam, I did not receive your posting in my email today. Something off?
I have been following fashion/lifestyle blogs since their inceptions. Certain bloggers have lost my interest because they seem to showcase everything from Walmart to extremely high end retailers. One is particularly snippy and filters out negative comments; one has such an inconsistent array of clothing, while another is way too cute for my taste. I look at blogs like my old fashion and beauty magazines; I look for inspiration and an interesting storyline. To me, you are an ever changing, honest woman. We are totally different sizes but live in a similar climate. Our style adjectives almost match. Just as your shopping habits have changed so has mine and probably for the same reasons. I don’t need as much as I did when I worked. I attend very few dressy functions. I don’t want to be wasteful. When I was younger with a very limited income I remember how I could stretch a fashion dollar and now I’m going back to that mentality. I let the 40 off coupon go; did not spend the recent $20 and a few other coupons. I don’t want to be a fashion victim succumbing to every fad, trend and special offer. Maybe it’s a mental change because of the economy but I am with you and listening!
I laughed Linda…because last week I had a $20 off coupon at a favorite place and did not use it! It wasn’t on the wedding event shopping list! I truly hope my journeys, lessons and thought process will help the readers. I was recently sent a gown from a wedding site that was one of the most awful feeling fabrics and poor construction I have seen. I told them I just could not show it to my audience. It would be a great disservice. I have also recently turned down two Amazon fashion brands. You have to look at them closely… not all are low quality…but I am not going to work for the ones who are.
Such an interesting and important message you’ve touched on here. Thank you. .Though I find I do not shop as much as j once did I too avoid cheaply constructed or bargain purchases.
Great advice Pam! ( I am shocked to read of your issue with Nieman Marcus!) yikes!
It was such a disappointment. I grew up loving to go in Neiman Marcus and expected more from the brand.
I love capsule wardrobes and have one for winter/spring and one for summer/fall. It is fun for me to shop for separates to coordinate with them. My favorite retailers are JJill and Talbots. My style is comfy, colorful, fun and business casual. I travel often and the capsules serve me well to keep luggage to a minimum.
Thanks for sharing this Lisa!
I truly understand what you have said here. I have so many clothes in my closet that I never wear! I have donated a lot of old clothes that were hardly worn or items that were mistakes because they were inexpensive and on sale. I like Chicos and have bought a lot there. I like Dillards for certain brands. I too have decided to go for comfort instead of trends. I will never buy another itchy linen shirt/blouse/top again. ( You can wash linen a lot to get it softer but it is a pain in the neck). For example, I bought something recently, and decided that I did not need it and it was uncomfortable at the neck, so I returned it. So, I am learning to be more discerning with my purchases.
If a fabric is uncomfortable, it will sit in my closet. Just took me too long to learn that!
Great column, Pam. It makes sense to me to be discriminating in any kind of purchase. Cost per wear is a key element; for me, sustainability is also a key element. I’m not buying anything (except workout clothes) that is nylon and/or lacks natural fibers. I did laugh about re-wearing my MOG dress, though. Here I was thinking not of repurposing the dress but going on a cruise to re-wear it. Okay, I’m kidding! I’m planning to have the dress shortened, so that I can wear it out to dinner, etc. Looking forward to hearing more about your style evolution.
I am not sure what I will do with mine. I need to be on the other side of the wedding before my mind goes there. When my daughter got married it was 108 degrees…hottest day of that summer. I felt as though the dress was glued to me and I never wanted to see it again! But I loved the way I looked in that wedding.
My issue with shopping is fit. My husband is also height challenged but he has a shop were he can go and they have an in store tailor. They shorten his sleeves, his pants and even his ties. They adjust the waist if he is between sizes. They pin all these things while he is there and he can get a true idea of how things will look. You would think that shortening pants would be an easy thing but even that can change the drape or hang of a pant. How long do you spend in a woman’s clothing store finding the garment that fits you best? Do you have any tricks that tell you whether to take a small, medium, large, ten, twelve, or even the strange 1,2,3 sizing into the dressing room?
Oh how I wish there were tricks, Linda. It is amazing to me how sizing changes for women. My husband also has a men’s store where he gets some of the best customer service I have ever seen. They do have an on-staff tailor and they keep a record of what he purchases. It is so easy for me to buy gifts for him there. I did find this type of service at Nordstrom. They will call up a seamstress to come talk about any alterations you would like to see. This is one of the reasons I love the higher end stores…the customer service is still alive in most of them. But, if I were going to open a boutique it would be very similar to my husbands men’s store…service makes a huge difference. As far as how much time I spend? I have spent more time looking over my purchases in the dressing room than ever before since I began shopping for the wedding. It is worth it to spend the time and get the fit or talk to the seamtress. I guess a big change in my shopping is that I no longer shop in a hurry.
I find I am not doing as much shopping lately. I just have enough stuff I guess. Anyway I agree about Kohl’s. I used to shop there often but not anymore. I just am not impressed. Even in menswear for my husband. I now shop at small boutiques or my favorites Talbots or Chicos if I need something new.
We have to go the route of what works best for us. My husband also likes the Untuckit brand.
I’m very excited about seeing you style from you closet. I need to find new ways to wear the pieces in mine that I love. I find shopping a challenge. I used to live in a small resort town. We were 50 miles from the nearest mall but our town and the next one had fabulous boutiques with unique and stylish clothing. I worked in one for a few years after retiring from business world. Shopping options are very limited when I am now. We have Talbots, J Jill & Chicos. I pop into them about once a month and occasionally find something that fits my style and color palette. But Chicos and (to a lesser degree) Talbots seem to have strayed from their roots to jump on the latest trends. I won’t waste my money on something that will look dated in a year or so. We have a couple of boutiques you would love. I enjoy looking at the clothing there but both lean to drapey and boho styles that don’t work on me. Every now and then though I find something thats perfect. I need to replace some of my basic tee shirts so I am on the hunt for my autumn colors.
I’m really enjoying your MOG shopping adventures. You have found some fantastic items that look fabulous on you. And discovered some great local boutiques.
If you haven’t selected your style adjectives, then do so…it will help you to feel like your closet works as a team. Just pick out 3-5 adjectives that you want to communicate about you with every outfit you wear….and stick to it.
It will help you and sounds like you have your colors down.
I worked on this last weekend. I have:
Does uncluttered mean simple or minimal?
Yes, it means minimal. I just wanted to keep the C thing going. I had my style analyzed and its dramatic minimalist which makes sense to me. Simple lines but I use color and/or one interesting detail for drama.
Love your adjectives with a dramatic minimal focus. Good job!
Being in my mid seventies I share similar sentiments as to Carol (above) as well as Kim (above) since I do sew, so am not investing in clothing like I once did as my needs have entirely changed but am still selective in what I choose. In other words I still look for quality in fabric, workmanship and details in garments prior to making a purchase and yes the the fit’ must work. Also to keep current besides blogs like your own, I will browse the internet with a favourite of mine being YouTube Channels of Street Scenes. For example; Street Elegant Trends -Milan – 2023 (Fashion Week Italy) with window displays prompting me to shop my closet for an Easter Day Luncheon, saving me $1,246.75 (cost of two pieces including taxes and import duty if ordered) having almost identical garments already in my closet that are just like brand new and will also be restyled with new/current/reasonably priced accessories (footwear/handbag). Happy Dance!
I love looking at street scenes from Paris and Italy. Always inspirational. I have learned so much from reading books on their fashions. I am jealous so many of you can sew.
One of the things that I have found is that when I shop at a better retailer, I get more personal service. I went to Talbot’s last week in search a blazer & top that I had seen in their catalog. The store doesn’t care many items in plus size petites, but the sales associate. Encouraged me to try on the regular plus size for basic fit. She then ordered the petite size for me. Shipping was free, & my size & the color I wanted was available. I received the items yesterday. They fit perfectly & were packaged well so wrinkling was not an issue, even though they are both linen. I can’t imagine a fast fashion store providing that kind of service. In the past, I was hesitant to shop at a more expensive store, but I now realize that I deserve it.
Yes you do, Becky! I think we should demand good customer service for ourselves. I realized in a Kohls dressing room recently that the trouble to go back to the floor for different sizes just wasn’t worth what I was touching or looking over. I know there are employee shortages, but this has always been the case at the lower end stores.
I thought this was an interesting post. I still work part time, but the office is very casual. I go to church, but it is also very casual. A casual chic style of dressing is my goal. I have always liked simple dressing with two pieces. I am 5’9” and thin, and it seems most retailers target a shorter height. Talbots and Chicos are not cut for me. This is kind of rambling, but I am kind of stuck on where to find clothes that are well made and somewhat reasonable.
Hi Kathy, tell me if you are looking for stores to shop in store or are you open to online shopping?
I do online shop. I like shopping in stores but the inventory is often very limited.
Have you tried Soft Surroundings? They carry talls.
I have not! That is a great suggestion. Thank you!
Kathy, I’m also 5’9” and wear size 8 or 10. I buy almost all of my clothes from JJill, since they offer tall sizes online. If my purchase doesn’t meet the free shipping minimum, my local store can place the order for me to avoid paying shipping. We either do this in person at the store or by phone. They also have frequent 30% off sales on current merchandise. One week it will be jeans, the next tops, etc. I sometimes pay full price for items I feel certain it will sell out quickly, and their tall thinner sizes typically do. Hope that gives you some new options!
So much nodding of my head here! I have enjoyed and agreed with most of the comments. I am thrilled the turn your focus is taking on : higher quality and perhaps unusual pieces. I couldn’t live without some basics from Jjill and Talbots (I DID use the 20$ coupon to replace my off white but stained jeans last week), but I would love to have a few go-to places for something special (like that magic dress, Pam). I have spent $$ on shoes and coats, not designer $$ but better than average. Back to quality pieces being really used smartly, I am reminded of a trip my family took when my kids were teens. We were in Europe and visited family friends in France. The Madame, who was probably my age now, wore a beautiful plaid skirt 3 days in a row. She made it look completely different each day. Many years later when I read Madame Chic, I realized that French women have that knack and do not apologize for it. They invest in quality and wear it liberally. I would love to be more aware of making it into a habit. I am going to work on this. As a sew-er, I often cringe when I handle fabrics, look at the shortcuts, etc. It really spoils you for what is out there in the retail world, eating away at our budgets and disappointing us in the end.
I love that you met your own Madame Chic! Wearing great style that is memorable is a good thing!
Living in Canada, we don’t have the selections you do, and as a person who used to sew I am picky about how the fabric feels and how the garments are finished. I wear my clothes for years and want them to wash well. So much of what I see in the stores in the last few years is not worth bringing home. The ” linen” wouldn’t even make a decent dish towel. I shop with my needs in mind and ignore the rest. A pair of white crops, two gauze tops and 2 pairs of summer shoes, and maybe a sweet kimono a local boutique has in, but as I type this I’m remembering one in my closet, so probably not
Thanks for joining in, Brenda.
I don’t comment often but I feel compelled to tell you that the sea foam green dress with the little topper looks absolutely gorgeous on you. And the way you have your hair in that picture is perfect with the dress. Sooooo pretty!
Thank you, Deb! That is my look for the rehearsal dinner.
Great thoughts on how we deserve to look in this life stage! When I had my color analysis in 2014 I rushed out and bought cheap, fast fashion pieces that failed to last past a year or two (surprise!) I’ve been on a journey of shopping less but shopping smarter and better for about five years, and you’ve been one of my biggest influences. Thank you for articulating these concepts in ways we non-professional shoppers can assimilate, and for the joy you share through the process.
This is a great article and the comments are inspiring. I, too, am leaving the concept of fast fashion in favor of quality fabric and fit. I have also had coupons that I didn’t use… couldn’t find anything at the store I wanted. I have what I need but would like to be updated each season as to what might add a touch of current and up-to-date looks to my basic wardrobe. I live out in the country but will not be shopping by mail anymore. The way clothing fits is so unpredictable and the quality of the fabric can’t be discerned online. I’m also tired of returning things. I remember reading that Katherine Hepburn had several pairs of tan slacks and black turtlenecks in her closet and that was usually what she wore. It’s tempting.
I agree, Mary! It is tempting, but my creative style adjective says I would get bored easily. However, that is where great accessories come in.