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Formal Wear for Older Women

Updated on January 22, 2017
Blond Logic profile image

Middle age women are forgotten about by retailers. I offer help with clothing choices, skincare, and healthy eating for the mature woman.

Lack Of Fashions for Women Over 50

Who knew that once you hit 50 you became invisible? This cloak of invisibility is evident every time I walk into a clothing store. There are fashions for millennials by the truckloads sporting the latest designs, fabrics, and colors of the season. Then there are the clothing stores your grandmother enjoys because they cater to her needs of warm feet and covered knees. What about the rest of us? Where are we suppose to purchase our dresses, skirts, and blouses? I often wonder if it will take a revolution of middle aged women running naked through the streets to highlight our cause. A protest that even Lady Godiva would be proud to have attended.

Ladies before you start stripping off and heading for the door, let's talk formal wear for women our age. If you have been avoiding going to your school reunion or telling your children to wait to get married because you can't find something suitable to wear, I want to help you (and your children).

I am in the same boat, as now I am on the wrong side of 55. I currently live in Brazil and it is refreshing to see the attitude of women here, as it is very different to those I witnessed in the US & the UK. Here a woman, no matter what her age or size, will quite happily wear tiny clothing while excess skin hangs over the fabric. There is no shame or feeling that they should cover up because here, fun comes first.

I realize that for many reading, this is not an option as you might be embarrassed or ashamed of a particular part of your body. You probably notice that part of your body more than other people, but in order for you to feel comfortable in your next party or formal gathering, we will discover some suitable dresses and pant suits, which will have you enjoying your evening on the town.

Formal Fashions for Mature Women

Older or mature women have certain areas which we may wish to hide. Although you may think you're the only one plagued by these problems, you're not. I personally have 4 or more of them that I will be discussing, so you're not alone. Many fashions which are targeted at younger women will suit us, however, it does take some sifting through the choices and picturing ourselves in a given outfit. Many popular sites, such as Amazon, rarely use older women in their advertising images, a fact which doesn't help us in our quest to find our perfect outfit.

I have listed a few ideas of clothing for you to look at for your next formal occasion. These also include what areas they help to cover up and I also will touch on other important things to consider when selecting your perfect attire for a wedding, or other formal events. It is worth spending time selecting an outfit, as when you feel confident in what you are wearing, it shows in how you carry yourself and how much you enjoy the event.

Fancygowns Plus Size Mother Of the Bride Dress With Pants Suits Jacket 18 Silver
Fancygowns Plus Size Mother Of the Bride Dress With Pants Suits Jacket 18 Silver

When I had my nephew's wedding to attend, this is the style I chose. For me, it was elegant yet comfortable. I'm 5'6" and wore 2" heels so the longer length jacket hung beautifully. I was a bit worried about wearing pants (trousers) to a formal occasion but the compliments I received pushed all those concerns out of the way.

This covers up many problem areas including the arms, hips, ankles, tummy and even a hump!

With a few carefully selected accessories, this single color pant suit is perfect.

 

Loose Underarm Skin

This problem has many names such as bingo wings, underarm dingle-dangle and some which may be specific to your area or family. Whether this is due to weight loss, or a simple lack of toning, it doesn't matter, it is a common problem which we can deal with. I won't suggest you lift weights or do dips from a chair (clearly, my triceps have been subjected to these various exercises) we are here to find clothing options which will mask this problem area.

Wearing sleeves is the obvious answer but as I'm sure you're aware, some are better than others. Lace sleeves are often found on formal dresses and add to the elegance of the outfit. Some lace is more suitable than others as certain ones are stretchable. If your arms are large consider only lace sleeves which do have a bit of stretch. If they are too tight the skin could begin to push through the lace creating an unattractive appearance. Plus you do not want a potential clothing failure during the event. The image below shows sheer 3/4 length sleeves which mask the problem area whilst still leaving the dress with a lighter chic look. This is a good choice if your upper arms are large.

Another option is wearing a light jacket, such as the one with the pant suit or a short bolero style which will look striking paired with pants, a skirt or a dress.

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Tummy or Flabby Abs

If you read women's magazines or go to exercise sites, the women have flat abs but let's be realistic, how many women do you know with flat abs that are your age? That isn't to say, you should cease with your workouts, just don't get stressed about it because there is clothing to help.

Many years ago I remember watching the Wimbledon Tennis tournament and Sarah Ferguson (Prince Andrew's ex-wife) was in the audience. Of course, the cameras were pointed at her the entire time as this was just before her upcoming wedding. She sneakily ate a candy and the press went crazy about whether she would be able to fit into her wedding dress. She later went on to represent Weight Watchers but her weight was a constant source of news in the British press. This made me sad then and it still does as she didn't fit the mold of a perfect woman.

My point of that story is, no matter what age, unless you are an athletic type, it is likely you feel you're carrying more than you want around you mid-section. Call it a spare tire, love handles, or just your gut, it causes women a lot of distress. If the upset is caused because it's seen as unhealthy then I can see why there is a cause for concern. If however, it is because other people comment or you feel peer pressure (yes even at our age), then I don't think we should get worked up about our tummies.

Formal Wedding Attire
Formal Wedding Attire | Source

Swollen Ankles

If the thought of wearing shoes which show your swollen ankles fills you with dread, you are not alone. This is something I too deal with. With long formal wear, be it trousers or a dress, your large ankles are covered. However, if you choose to wear a shorter dress, then more care needs to be taken. For me, shoes with straps seem to accentuate the problem. My favorite pair of dress shoes is a kitten heel pump. They are low enough to be comfortable but the pointed toe helps draw the eye away from the ankle.

If you know you will be standing, walking or dancing opt for shoes which are comfortable. High heels, unless you are accustomed to them, should really be called sitting shoes.

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Wide Hips, Saddle Bags, And Large Legs

When I think of how many hours are spent looking in a mirror and the worry this causes to women, I almost want to cry. Sisters listen to me, this is your shape and has been the form that artists have chosen to paint through the whole renaissance period. You know the types of paintings I'm referring to, the Rubenesque women who are plump and sensuously draped over a chaise lounge, arms and legs akimbo. They are adorned with nothing more than a wisp of burgundy fabric and long wavy locks of auburn hair. You have a wonderful womanly shape.

Believe it or not, the current medical research says carrying weight around the hips, as in a pear shape, is healthier than extra weight around the belly.

The key to finding something ideal for a formal event is, buy the correct size. I know this sounds crazy but I have seen women with large hips try and squeeze into a smaller size thinking it makes them look smaller, in fact, this has the opposite effect. Correct fitting clothing makes you look better and feel better and when that happens you enjoy yourself more.

Solutions for Saggy Breasts

Unless you've had breast augmentation, it's likely your breasts aren't as pert as they once were. What once were full and bouncy now are akin to the ears of a Labrador. In our next life, hopefully, we will be on a gravity-free planet where this type of thing doesn't occur. If you have the chance, put into a Google search 'normal women's breasts'. There are websites where normal women of all ages have uploaded images of their boobs. You will be amazed at what you see, and I promise you after seeing them, you will love your own.

If your girls are letting the side down, when it comes to dressing up, don't worry, this problem is easy to fix without resulting to drastic measures. Correct fitting corsetry is a must have to make you feel comfortable in any formal wear.

These might include:

  • Silicone bra inserts, or as my daughter calls them 'chicken fillets'. These are easily tucked inside the bra, normally in front of the armpit side. Some women choose to place them below although you don't want your cup to runneth over, just be filled.
  • A push-up or padded bra: Don't be fooled into thinking a push-up or a padded bra is only for the young. Both types of bras help give the breasts back their fullness.
  • Body shapers. My personal favorite is what are collectively called, body shapers because they solve so many problems. It pays to shop around until you find the right one. Not only will you get the bust supported correctly, you'll also benefit from a smooth line which looks better under a dress.

Miusol Women's Floral Lace 2/3 Sleeves Long Bridesmaid Maxi Dress
Miusol Women's Floral Lace 2/3 Sleeves Long Bridesmaid Maxi Dress

Don't immediately look at this dress and think it is only for slim women, it isn't. That was my initial thought when I saw the model they used but after looking at the images of women who have bought it, and love it, this dress would be perfect for so many women, myself included. There were even a few ladies who were 5'3" and quite stout who felt elegant for the first time in their lives wearing it.

The 3/4 length sleeves help to hide loose upper arm skin. Coverage at the back obscure any emerging humps and the cleverly angled dropped waistline pulls the eye away from the tummy area.The skirt fabric cascades beautifully creating an illusion of longer legs

Although this Victorian style dress is available in a variety of colors, black is the most popular as it suits so many events.

One thing I will say is the v-neck on this dress is a quite deep, a padded bra, simple silicon inserts, or an all in one body shaper would help with the overall look.

If you prefer an empire waist and a fuller skirt, Kiyonna do a similar lace dress but it is only available in plus sizes.

 

Big Butt Or No Butt Fashion Fixes

Who could have imagined that a big posterior was going to be in fashion? Go figure! Thanks to the likes of Beyonce, and Jennifer Lopez the tables have turned and an ample booty is trendy. Those who are challenged in the tush area, have easy fixes without resorting to drastic measures.

These can include the:

  • Shape wear, this one piece which I mentioned in the bra section, has padding already included. The range is vast and can start around the knee and extend under the breasts. The fabrics used now are much more breathable and can be comfortable.
  • Inserts: Similar to the ones for your bra, these silicone or foam butt pads, insert into panties. *Word of caution get panties that have a pouch for these inserts. Otherwise, you could be dancing carefree and it could move or fall out. No one wants to see themselves on You Tube the day after the event.

For a large derriere, you have the choice to cover it, for example, the long jacket and pant suit style or other loose fitting clothing.

Or you can flaunt it by wearing a dress which will hug your curvaceous figure! The long lace dress by Miusol on this page will help accentuate your curves without being flashy or looking like a tart.

Clothing For A Dowagers Hump

The hump on the upper back can be the result of osteoporosis, bad posture or other causes. If this is something which is an embarrassment to you, choosing the correct clothing can help. Don't fret about this as there are styles which can easily mask this. Dresses or blouses which sit at the collar line or even higher up the nape of the neck can hide the bulbous lump.

It is worth mentioning that if you are at an event, and are relaxed or tired you may tend to slump forward which will cause your hump to be more evident. Sit up straight, pulling your shoulder blades towards the center of your back and imagining they are taped together. Sitting upright and checking your posture frequently during the day, will make you more aware of incorrect posture. This also pulls the abdomen muscles into play which helps with your core muscle groups.

Yoga is an excellent way to help you understand your body and the interconnectivity your muscle groups play to your wellbeing.

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Fashion Inspiration for Mature Ladies

It can be difficult to know what styles might suit us as we age. One thing I have done is to look at the mature women in the film industry when they are attending an awards ceremony. I am not referring to women such as Lady Gaga in her dress made of meat, Madonna with her eclectic wardrobe or even Cher who has shown more flesh in her time than a high street butcher. All three of these women are talented but their fashion sense is warped, in my opinion.

Look more towards women such as Helen Mirren, Meryl Streep and Jane Fonda to see that what a well dressed mature woman looks like. In fact, at this year's Cannes Film Festival Helen Mirren was wearing a similar style to the black dress I have shown you on this page, albeit her's was shorter.

Jane Fonda Berlin Film Festival
Jane Fonda Berlin Film Festival | Source

Hair & Make-Up For Over 50s

Once you have purchased your outfit, your hair and make-up will be next on the agenda. If your hair is short, you may be limited to the style you already have. Consider highlights or lowlights which will brighten up your look.

If you have longer hair, consider wearing it up as an elegant up-do is glamourous. The exception to this would be if you are trying to cover a hump on your back. Be aware, though, elongating the look with a bun or chignon will draw the eye up and away from your problematic back.

For your makeup, keep it simple with colors you're already accustomed to wearing. Bold eye shadow doesn't work on women our age, leave these for the 20 somethings. Choose a bold lipstick if it is your signature look. The focal point should be eyes or lips but not both.

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Accessories for Formal Wear

Accessorizing your formal wear will be dependent on what you are choosing to wear. As with the make-up, less is more. If you have opted for a solid color low cut gown, then do wear a necklace or a beautiful scarf. Earrings should compliment your outfit and your face, and not be the focal point of outfit or conversation around the table.

Opt for a small evening clutch bag as opposed to large shoulder bag to keep your look refined and fresh.

With a few simple key pieces you'll feel self-assured and it will show.

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    • Blond Logic profile image
      Author

      Mary Wickison 5 weeks ago from Brazil

      Hi Toni,

      The cup sizes of bras has many factors. If you live in the UK then it would be an E after DD. However in the US it can be DDD. Various manufacturers will offer different sizing and fits. It isn't just cup size though. It could be that you may need a different size altogether. If the rear strap rises up the back you need a smaller band size.

      The front part of the band also should fit well on the sternum, no leaning out or digging in.

      My advice is to get measured in a reputable shop with an experienced bra fitter. There will be a comfortable bra out there with your name on it.

      Keep me posted on how your search goes.

    • profile image

      Toni Kelly 6 weeks ago

      Thank you for the articles on finding the right bra size. I do have a question.I wear a 40 DD, and I am 4' 11", weighing 160 lbs. It is almost impossible for me to find a comfortable fit in a bra. What size comes after a DD ? I know there is a G, and other letters, but no clue which come first. I am also an over 50 lady who liked, and appreciated your articles especially for us very much . Thank you for being a spokes person and fashion consultant , since there is no one else that I am aware of with our interests in mind !!

    • Blond Logic profile image
      Author

      Mary Wickison 7 weeks ago from Brazil

      Hi Nell,

      Casual is the order of the day here in my part of Brazil. Dressing up is putting shoes on. LOL

      However, in the city, it's much more formal and people tend to dress smarter than in the UK and the States. Fashion and looking smart here is a huge industry.

      Oh and for the future, don't use a four letter word in my comments. We don't mention the word "DIET" here. LOL

      Great to hear from you.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 7 weeks ago from England

      What a great idea for an article! to be honest I tend to wear the same old same old. I am not one for suits etc. but have become aware of my shape changing so I do exercises etc, and on a diet at the moment to get rid of belly fat. wearing jeans most of the time is a great idea for me and I am comfortable in them. but I am 57 so I suppose I had better grow up and wear more ladylike clothes! lol! either that or i will pop across to brazil and let it all hang out too, what do you think? lol!

    • Blond Logic profile image
      Author

      Mary Wickison 7 weeks ago from Brazil

      Hi Marlene,

      You're right, body shapers are a Godsend. Regarding shoes, a good pair can last a long time and still be stylish. I had my last pair for 20 years and they always looked chic.

      Great to hear from you, thanks for reading.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 7 weeks ago from Northern California, USA

      You have covered all of my areas of concern. Thank goodness for body shapers. I like the look of the kitten heel pump. They have always been my favorite and it looks like they are making a come-back.

    • Blond Logic profile image
      Author

      Mary Wickison 8 weeks ago from Brazil

      I must say I prefer a low heel but with formal dresses, I like extra height. They seem to make a garment hang better. I do call them 'sitting shoes' for a reason, though.

      Some people, like yourself, just have an eye for bringing a look together.

      Thanks for reading.

    • bodylevive profile image

      BODYLEVIVE 2 months ago from Alabama, USA

      Beautiful garments but those heel has gotta go, lol. I sometimes find myself in a pickle for an event but I always manage to put together something eye catching. Best to you.

    • Blond Logic profile image
      Author

      Mary Wickison 2 months ago from Brazil

      Hi Dora,

      Thank you for your kind words.

      I think retailers and design houses are slowly coming around and realizing we are a market which is worth investing in.

      Thank you for your visit.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 months ago from The Caribbean

      Mary, we the older women really do need this kind of fashion help. You offer some practical tips which will cause to consult this article again. The images you used are inspirational in themselves. Thank you very much.

    • Blond Logic profile image
      Author

      Mary Wickison 2 months ago from Brazil

      Hi Glenis,

      A good seamstress can work miracles, they can look at a garment and know what will work.

      You must have a good eye for spotting the possibilities of what the finished article could be, like your cocktail dress. Other women might look at it and not consider using the services of a dressmaker.

      Enjoy your haggis and your evening.

    • profile image

      Glenis Rix on Hub Pages 2 months ago

      I will be seventy this year, live in the UK and really don't have a problem sourcing the clothes that I like. Co-incidentally, I just took a stunning sleeveless red cocktail dress to the dressmaker to be altered. The draped neck was a little too low and the dressmaker is also going to insert lace sleeves in a matching red because like you, I don't like to reveal my triceps! I am planning to wear it to a Burns' Night supper this weekend. In this day and age we can dress in whatever makes us feel good. Most days I wear denim jeans.

    • Blond Logic profile image
      Author

      Mary Wickison 2 months ago from Brazil

      Hi Bill,

      I'm like Bev, except here the attire is shorts and flip flops. Occasionally, when the event calls for it, I have to dress up.

      Thanks for your continued support.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Just dropped by to wish you a great weekend. I'd pass this along to Bev, but she's a jeans and sweatshirt kind of girl. :)

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