Tag: clothes for over 40 (page 1 of 2)

Normcore: Bland is the new hip

Dear Wendy,

The other day while I was grocery shopping, I spotted a couple about our age pushing their cart ahead of me. I realized right away that they were deeply savvy, in-the-know hipsters—I could tell by the way they dressed. The man wore navy blue cargo pants topped with a black fleece zipped jacket; the woman wore what we used to call “mom jeans”—pleated, loose-fitting, a little tight under the bosom—and a grey sweatshirt. They both had white sneakers, and Madame sported a white sun visor, with her curly hair sprouting jauntily out in all directions.

I know, they don’t sound like old-school hipsters, right? But that’s because old-fashioned hipsterdom has become distinctly passé. Gone are the thick-rimmed glasses, carefully waxed moustaches, nonchalantly draped scarves, and fingerless gloves. No more luxuriant growth of facial hair, carefully messy up-dos, and thrift-shop vintage dresses.

The new thing is normcore, baby!

And my grocery store couple had it in spades. They were practically oozing it.

I was awestruck.

What the heck is normcore when it’s at home?

Glad you asked.

Overview of Wal Mart supercenter -Plateros- St...


Normcore has been defined as “anti-fashion.” It’s the latest way to rebel against cultural norms of fashion—except instead of heading to the thrift store for that perfect pair of vintage oxfords, normcore adherents do their wardrobe enhancement chez Walmart.

You see, it’s hard to be hip these days. The scene is changing so fast, who has time to keep up? That wonderfully distressed leather bomber jacket you picked out of your neighbour’s garbage last week turns out to be totally outré this week…plus, your friend down at the espresso bar has one that’s exactly the same as yours, leading you to think that you might accidentally be harbouring a mass-produced product. OH MY GOD. Maybe that’s why your neighbour threw his out in the first place.

You see what I’m saying? Hipsterism takes a lot of work, a lot of over-thinking, a lot of tying yourself up in knots over whether you’re really being your authentic self, or just being co-opted by the system in ways you can only dimly fathom.

Normcore, on the other hand, offers the stressed-out hipster a big comfy couch (it’s a metaphor, you don’t actually wear it). You can take off your too-tight faux-crocodile shoes and sink into a comfy pair of white Keds.

You can start dressing like the cast of Seinfeld circa 1995, secure in the knowledge that you are on the cutting edge…no, the bleeding edge of cool.

The perfect trend for boomers

The best part of all this is that normcore is practically ready-made for people over 50.


We totally rocked normcore long before it was cool.

Let’s face it: youngsters look like dweebs when they try to dress like displaced soccer moms. And dads. They don’t have what it takes—that certain je ne sais pourquoi—to look effortlessly chic in their pleated-waist jeans and full-sleeved t-shirts.

You and I, though, we fit right in! Or we could, if we chose to. Which I don’t.

My problem is, I’m so over normcore. In fact, I was over it before it even began, because that’s how hip I am.

Didn’t we get enough of dress-to-depress back in the ’90s? I’ve moved beyond the ironic use of unfashionable clothing as a fashion statement—these days I’m into a post-post-modern aesthetic, which I cannot disclose because I’m pretty sure that as soon as I do, someone will rip it off.

Such is the price of being a dedicated follower…er, leader of fashion, I’m afraid.



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As classy as Bassey

Dear Karen,

Last week, before saying good-bye to Michael, who was heading off for his final term at school, I had him do all the things I can’t do when he’s not in the house:  reach for plates on the highest shelf, dust the tops of photos and cupboards, and just because I don’t feel like doing it, carry heavy things for me.

He does all of this for me, uncomplainingly and with an actual, authentic smile on his face.  Perhaps he’s thinking to himself “One day…soon…heh heh heh”, but I prefer to think he just enjoys helping me.


Will lift heavy objects and collect dry cleaning for beer.

Let me live in that fantasyland.

Two days before departure, I asked him to start a pile for clothes to be given to our local charity shop, Barnardo’s.  All his unwanted shirts and trousers, jackets, sunglasses…all these things went into the bag, over the arm, out the door and into the shop later that day.

When I walked in, I noticed something.  Something sassy.  Something new:  there were signs up stating that Dame Shirley Bassey was donating her clothes to this very branch of this very charity shop this very week!

Holy Mother of all that’s Starstruck, I was all over her collection quicker than a rat up a drainpipe.

For a measly £50, I bought a very elegant wrap-around cardigan in camel; it’s a bit big for me but I don’t care.  This winter, it’s going to be my wardrobe choice du jour, I promise you that.

Problem is, I don’t want to remove the tag.  It’s glittery, it’s got stars on it and best of all, it’s got her name, and that’s all I care about.


Stars for a star. It all makes sense.

Best part of this though, the part that makes me feel warm and fuzzy?  It’s knowing that our clothes will be re-sold, re-worn and re-used.   The money they earn from our things will go to help vulnerable children, young people and their families through the UK.

And that makes me feel as classy as Bassey.



p.s. Here’s Dame Shirley at Glastonbury Festival, awesome as usual:

My closet teaches Facebook a thing or two

Dear Karen,

Nearing my one-year anniversary in a new city, I realise that some of my very strong friendships have become innocent and unintended victims of our move.  Continue reading

Oh, Suzannah!

Dear Karen,

About 7 months ago, we received an invitation to Ascot Ladies Day.  To attend Ladies Day, one must obey certain dress rules. We were required to follow this code of conduct:


  • A hat, headpiece or fascinator should be worn at all times
    Strapless or sheer strap dresses and tops are not permitted
  • Trousers must be full length and worn with a top that adheres to the guidelines above (i.e. strapless or sheer strap tops are not permitted)
  • Jackets and pashminas may be worn but dresses and tops underneath should still comply with the Grandstand Admission dress code
  • Midriffs must be covered
  • Shorts are not permitted.


  • Are required to wear a suit with a shirt and tie.

That’s it?  All he had to do was put on his work clothes and he was set.  As for me, I wasn’t allowed to wear my short shorts, halter top and disco bunny ears, which was a little distressing.

I needed help, clothes that I could wear that were hopefully comfortable, perhaps attractive, but mostly, that wouldn’t get me kicked out on my behind at the entry gates. I put off doing anything about this quandary I found myself in, until a week before the actual day. I had no idea what I was going to do, but fortuitously (another word I use here a lot: “I was served a very dry martini by the barman last night; fortuitously, he made it a double”) I happened to read a tweet by Liberty London Girl, who raved about getting her hat at a certain Maida Vale establishment.

I had two thoughts:

  1. Hat—I must have one
  2. Maida Vale—where is that?

I made a phone call, booked a time for the next day, and walked the 20 minutes it took to get to the shop that was going to save my life: Suzannah Boutique.

Shop Interior. Friendly, intimate and quiet…the perfect boutique atmosphere.

Since walking in that first day, I never felt like a customer, more like a good friend who’s come by for an hour of dressing-up.  Suzannah Crabb, the owner, is a highly skilled designer, very talented at matching the right outfit with the right woman.  Her shop is welcoming and intimate, and I instantly felt at home and at ease.

We discussed the event I was attending and within seconds, she knew what would suit me.

Me, wearing Suzannah dress and hat from her shop. Never having worn a hat like this before, I was very pleased at its comfort and stay-in-one-placeability.

Originally, I just wanted a hat, but I walked out with hat and dress, both of which have been used this past summer on numerous occasions:  Ascot, two weddings, and a holiday in France.  That’s a lot of usage for a woman who usually wears jeans!

At a summer wedding in Germany, here I am wearing my dress again.

Each time I have what I consider a “clothing crisis”, I contact Suzannah and she sorts me out with a calm smile, encouraging manner and the ability to find the perfect dress for me.

I bought some of her stunning tea dresses, the styles of which are inspired by 1930s women’s fashion. Suzannah sees a style she particularly likes and adapts it to fit and suit women of the 21st century, using fabric she develops and sources in Italy. Most of the pieces in her collection are made in England; I love the idea that my dress is organic and locally made.

Here we are, celebrating Lars’s 40th anniversary with his company, at a lovely restaurant in our neighbourhood. Dress? Suzannah, natch.

This year was a big year, with our move in spring and Kirsten’s wedding in autumn. I wanted a dress for the church, something that didn’t make me look fusty and matronly; every Mother of the Bride outfit seems to expect us to want suits in pastel colours.  Before despairing, I looked at her online boutique, chose a few outfits, and asked her to please hold them for me so I could try them on.  Suzannah put a few more aside for me, and when I went in for my appointment,  they were waiting for me to try on.

Sadly, I don’t have a professional photo of my outfit, but this is the beautiful Kaleidoscope dress, which has pockets (pockets!) sewn in along the seam in the bell of the skirt.  It has a 50s vibe which I like.  It was comfortable, beautiful and you know what else?  I wasn’t living in fear that another woman was wearing the exact same dress.


It really was a beautiful event…and you looked utterly smashing!

No photo of me in this, sadly, but I wore this into the church, over the Kaleidoscope dress. Suzannah altered the collar to suit. It comes with a belt and can be worn as either a coat or a dress. I’ll be wearing this a LOT.

I arrived in London with no hats.  Now I own two*.  I arrived without a dress that I could wear in the day, night, summer or winter.  Now I have, well, rather a lot of them.  These outfits are for women of all ages and tastes, as you can see from Gilly snitching mine (below) to wear at her sister’s bridal shower in the summer.  I was fine though, because I brought an extra Suzannah dress, just in case.  How wonderful to wear something light, breezy, feminine, and unique.

Gillian rocking my 30s Tea Dress this summer.

At the bridal shower, in my dress.

By the way, just because her shop is in England, don’t think that means you’re can’t buy. I didn’t write all this just to brag (well maybe just a little) but to educate. Suzannah ships internationally, which is exciting news for those not fortunate enough to be a 20-minute walk away from the boutique.

She is also branching out, having her collection sold in Harvey Nichols and Matches, among others.  I have a very warm feeling that we’re going to be seeing more and more of this talented designer.

Edit:  Suzannah has moved shop to 3 New Quebec Street, Marylebone, W1.  Since I wrote this almost a year ago, her business has grown in leaps and bounds – it’s easy to find her beautiful designs on, most famously, Pippa Middleton, sister of the Duchess of Cambridge.  Pippa wore the Trapeze coat, in cream for her nephew, the future king of England’s, christening. 

*hats by “Emily”, sold in the boutique

The Suzannah Boutique London




I have done this review with no thought for compensation or gratuity; nor have I been offered any, dammit all.

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In which I launch Operation Closet Organization

Dear Wendy,

You know how a task can stare you in the face for hours/days/weeks, and you keep ignoring it because you know perfectly well that once you start in on it, you won’t be able to stop until the damn thing is completely done, and you don’t have time to really give it your all right this minute?

And you know how that task will nag and cajole you, nipping at the heels of your awareness, causing a kind of low-level uneasiness as you try to shove it out of your mind in favour of other, shorter-term tasks that you actually stand some chance of accomplishing?

This pretty much describes my current relationship with our bedroom closet.

When we moved into this house, lo these 12 years ago, we knew the hardware in our closet wasn’t exactly top-notch. The previous owner had installed some wire shelving that tended to buckle under heavy weight, and always listed to starboard in a threatening kind of way.

But we had other fish to fry—a new roof, a new furnace, a new air conditioning unit, a new front yard—over the years, we’ve undertaken various household maintenance tasks, all of them fairly capital-intensive (read: expensive), and all of them apparently more urgent than our crappy bedroom closet.

And then, one day Mitchell washed a load of his shirts, put them on hangers, and brought them en masse to hang in his section of the closet…and there was a loud crash, followed by some very bad language. The wire apparatus had finally given up the ghost. The racks had come off their wall mountings, the middle pedestal thingy had gone haywire. Our closet was no more.


Shield your eyes if you have a delicate constitution.

You’d think this would have prompted immediate remedial action, but you would be wrong. In fact, we simply wheeled a rolling rack into the bedroom, hung up what we could, and left the closet innards to fend for themselves while we pondered our plan of attack. In fact, it wasn’t really “pondering” so much as “vaguely thinking we ought to do something about it, but neither of us having the time or energy to tackle the thing.”

Our pondering took several days weeks months, during which we studiously walked around the rolling rack and the piles of clothing surrounding it. And eventually, we just kind of stopped noticing that our bedroom looked like a Salvation Army clothes-sorting depot. It’s amazing how the human mind adapts.

But, as I say, the state of our closet, and by extension of our whole bedroom, kept nudging at me. And finally, yesterday morning I snapped.

Without warning, I was suddenly seized with that ol’ can-do spirit, and instead of sitting down and fanning myself until it went away, I rolled up my metaphorical sleeves and attacked The Closet of Doom. Three hours later, I’d cleared away most of the wreckage, and have finally taken down the wire fittings, preparatory to replacing them. And (please hold your applause) we’ve actually found something to replace them with. Not just hypothetically, either. We went to a store, chose what we wanted, and I’m going to pick it up today. Just like a grown-up.


And Karen saw the old clothing, and she saw that it was junk. And the old clothing was an abomination in her eyes. And so she packed it up in bags and deep-sixed it.

But I saved the best part of this story for last. Because in the process of removing all the clothes and other assorted junk from the closet, I discovered two things: a) I have a ton of old clothes that I don’t like, want, or need any more; and b) I have some clothes that used to fit me, then they didn’t, and now they do again.


Dear Charcoal Wool Sweater with Shawl Collar: I’ve missed you! We were once best friends. Can we start over? Sincerely, Karen

This is deeply satisfying to me, since one of my goals for this fall is to get rid of as much crap, detritus, and general junk as I possibly can; and a goal for this year has been to lose weight, and fit back into my old clothes. So…score! I’d say things are starting to fall into place now, wouldn’t you?

And now, I must go purchase some closet hardware. I am on a roll, I tell you. Later, gator!



p.s. Part of my plan for closet domination includes replacing those ghastly louvered doors, by the way. Just so you know.

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