Stylish clothes for women in their 50s
April 3, 2008 2:19 PM   Subscribe

My wife just can't find appropriate and stylish clothes for women in my age group (mid-50s). Eileen Fisher is too shapeless; she doesn'tt like low-cut waistline jeans; and the shoes available these days are just godawful. Can anyone recommend any labels, stores, catalogs, etc. where smart-looking, but not extreme clothes are sold? She's not trying to impress a Vogue editor, but she's tired of dressing from Land's End.
posted by quintno to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (22 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Many women in that age group like Chico's, Northwest Territories, and Talbots.
posted by yohko at 2:22 PM on April 3, 2008

My mother, one of the most fashionable people on the face of this earth, likes Ann Taylor, J. Crew, Talbots, and some of the higher end department stores, particularly Nordstroms.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:25 PM on April 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

What about J Jill?
posted by dreamphone at 2:25 PM on April 3, 2008

Thanks, perhaps I should have been more specific. She knows those labels, but thinks they're not quite sophisticated enough for city living. She can't afford Calvin Klein, but that's kind of the style-set she's looking for.
posted by quintno at 2:27 PM on April 3, 2008

Adrienne Vitadinni? My wife has suits and stuff from there and they're great. Buttoned-up and adultish (she's not as old as your wife, but...), but pretty stylish too. There's an outlet store of her stuff nearby and my wife always checks in there. The clothes strike me as pretty "New York" but HerMMV.
posted by zpousman at 2:33 PM on April 3, 2008

She can't afford Calvin Klein, but that's kind of the style-set she's looking for.

if you can't afford high-end designer, j.crew's gotten quite style-y in the past several years so i'm not sure what her issue would be with it—particularly if she's stepping up from lands' end. banana republic is maybe a little more mass market, and a touch more bland, but still along the same lines as calvin klein—i.e. clean lines, elegant, classic. j.crew also sells great shoes with good quality and both labels have great accessories as well.
posted by violetk at 2:41 PM on April 3, 2008

She might want to go Nordstrom and explain all of that to a personal shopper. They have such a range of stuff that she could spend quite a while trying on different looks and explaining to the personal shopper what she does and doesn't like about each, thus refining her choices.

Even if she doesn't end up buying anything there, it might give her an idea of specific styles and brands that she digs.
posted by dizziest at 2:49 PM on April 3, 2008

Coldwater Creek. Great stuff, fashionable but not too pricey.
posted by pearlybob at 2:58 PM on April 3, 2008

Nordstrom Rack for budget shopping. Assuming she's a no-nonsense kind of shopper that spots good pieces when she sees them.

J. Crew and Chicos I find both very overpriced, though the former I tend to prefer over the latter. My 56-year-old mother on the other hand loves Chicos, and won't listen to any of my bad-mouthing.
posted by nonmerci at 3:10 PM on April 3, 2008

Tahari would be nice, as would Theory. If those are too expensive, Banana Republic knocks off most of their looks.
My mom is in her mid-50s and looks best (IMO) in her DKNY gear. Do you have a Bloomingdales near you? They have the most selection of classy looks in many different prices. You could start at the higher end to see what it is in fashion and what might look good, and then go to the lower end brands for cheaper versions.

One recent item that looks good on me, my mother, and my godmother (hello, one-stop gift shopping), is the long-tailed wrap sweater. You can wear it in different ways and it is perfectly adjustable to differently sized women. Also it is comfortable and still looks sophisticated. No, I don't make money off selling them, sadly. This is similar to the one I got everyone.

Another recommendation is to buy clothes in nice fabrics from where ever and then get them tailored to fit her shape better. Tailored and Trouser cut jeans look great on middle-aged women, and many button down shirts need to be tailored because no woman's midsection is the same.
posted by rmless at 3:14 PM on April 3, 2008

If your wife isn't averse to second-hand, she should check out resale shops--and not just the hoity-toity ones either.

I get almost all my clothes there and if she isn't plus size, there's usually a good selection of small sizes, better in fact than in most department store misses departments. At some point, although junior's clothes may fit, they just aren't always the right thing for a 50+ year old.

Fitted jackets, skirts, trousers--for the added price of dry cleaning, she can outfit herself very well.

I've bought Talbot's, Anthropologie, Banana Republic and J Crew clothes at my neighborhood Saver's store. Some designer clothes too, like Alaia, and imported boutique items.

I second rmless in recommending a tailor. Alterations can work wonders on women's clothes.

Sometimes unusual accessories can make the generic Banana Republic style clothes zing. I splurge on stockings and I like unusual shoes. I'm pretty much the same age as your wife and it takes a little work--but it's fun--to put together a hip look for a middle-aged woman.
posted by subatomiczoo at 3:30 PM on April 3, 2008

Ann Taylor Loft also for budget.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:37 PM on April 3, 2008

I second Coldwater Creek. They have nice matching accessories, too. I love their jewelry.
posted by wv kay in ga at 3:38 PM on April 3, 2008

Seconding J. Jill.
posted by pazazygeek at 4:03 PM on April 3, 2008

H&M is inexpensive and she can get take a look at their stuff online in their dressing room utility.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 4:06 PM on April 3, 2008

Ann Taylor! Classic but not old-fashioned, fresh but not too trendy. Cut to fit a real-life lady's body.

I'm in my twenties and it's my favorite store at the moment, but my S.O.'s mother and grandmother shop there too.
posted by the littlest brussels sprout at 4:16 PM on April 3, 2008

Since it hasn't been mentioned yet, how about the Garnet Hill catalog. Thoroughly non-dowdy yet not fashion-victim-y, and a good source for discovering labels you like and can seek more of elsewhere. Really nice bedding, too.

It's got a quirky selection, and may be a bit out of the price range, but who knew that J. Peterman was still around? The pieces are more in the vein of "timeless style" than au courant, but there's a mix of quirky accessories you won't see elsewhere. I've never ordered and they don't have photos, only drawings, so who can say if it's all as good as it sounds.

For more casual pieces with a modern, rustic vibe, and especially jewelry, the Sundance catalog is worth checking out.
posted by libraryhead at 5:14 PM on April 3, 2008

J. Jill. and Soft Surroundings sound right in the range.

And on preview, J. Peterman's clothes are really quite well built and flattering. Some of my favorite pieces are from thier catalog.

and what is it with "J"s, anyhow? Someone in marketing please 'splain to me.
posted by vers at 5:24 PM on April 3, 2008

anthropologie; also go to a filene's basement to find CK, Theory, Laundry, (Ellie) Tahari, and other nice brands for cheaper prices. I think Tahari especially is very stylish for middle aged ladies (it's what I get my mother to buy; she gets lots of compliments from some pretty well-dressed people).
posted by bluefly at 5:30 PM on April 3, 2008

If you have the budget for it, your wife could hire a seamstress to make her clothes. There are always hundreds of patterns to choose from in fabric stores and it's a good way to get high quality, stylish clothes. If you don't have the budget, and your wife has the time, she also might consider learning to sew.
posted by orange swan at 6:59 PM on April 3, 2008

Maybe some boutiquey brands like Isda & Co, InWear, Crea Concept, CP Shades?

Joan and David used to make nice women's clothing; don't know if they still do since the company went downscale, but oldie goodies still show up on eBay for very cheap...

Tilley sometimes knocks out the odd piece that passes for fashionable (viz)

I suggest poking around little independent women's clothing shops until she hits on one that suits or at least digs up a few brands she likes. There're some good suggestions here, but I'm sure she's heard of most of them...

yecch to Coldwater Creek, tho
posted by kmennie at 8:23 PM on April 3, 2008

Ann Taylor Loft, Liz Claiborne and Jones New York are some of my faves although as a budget-conscious shopper I usually get them from 2nd-hand stores.
posted by Lynsey at 12:13 PM on April 4, 2008

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