The Vanishing Older Women- Part 2

I’m armed and dangerous with my cell phone and a mirror. Selfies are becoming easier for me, but the camera and tripod are still a recipe for disaster. I’m practicing, but the results are pretty comical so far.

Thanks for sharing your tips on remaining visible in Part 1 of this series. Several confirmed they enjoy flying under the radar of society’s pressure to look a certain way.

But what about the woman who is not happy being passed over and overlooked, merely because she’s gotten older?

Our wardrobe can be a powerful tool in our struggle to remain visible.


Author and stylist Sherrie Mathieson has this to say on the subject of wardrobe:
"The fact that as women get older, the less likely they are to be noticed for their looks (certainly less by men, but also less by other women) is true. Too often the exceptions that get double takes and compliments fall into three groups,
  • the ones who dress very sexually
  • the ones who wear something like a bright color or "cute" ("Oh love that color on you! Oh isn't that darling!?)
  • and the ladies who indulge in non apologetic eccentricity--wearing all sorts of clothing (especially odd hats, lots of jewelry,  glasses, scarves and tons of layers, textures and volume in clothing ) to a theatrical effect."

I don’t quite agree. Here’s my take on her three groups.

  • Older women are and can look sexy. What we reveal needs to be strategically chosen. It’s often more important which skin shows than how much. Our shoulders, for example, seem to be the last place to age. I don’t know about you, but my shoulder skin hasn’t sagged yet.

Case in point…me.

I tried on this dress the other day. It fit, the shoulder skin was fine…but my knees just didn’t cut it. And haven’t for many years. It didn’t matter how many people in the shop told me they liked it…I knew it was too short for me. Sexy dress, maybe. Great dress, yes. Too young for me, definitely. Because I wasn’t comfortable.

I wouldn’t feel confident in this dress, and visibility is all about confidence.


The Vanishing Older Woman-Part 2


  • Color is personal. I’m a fan of neutrals and not pattern. Some women love bright colors because it makes them happy. They don’t call it the Red Hat Society for nothing. These women are making a statement about their visibility. They will not be ignored and it’s their privilege to do so. There is a fine line between colorful and clownish. If we cross that line intentionally and are confident enough to wear it, that’s our choice.

Case in point, me

Yes it’s black,  sort of traditional but has a red asymmetrical lining that sweeps around and buttons in the back. (I know the picture stinks, trust me)  I’m extremely comfortable in this coat. In fact it’s my favorite jacket. It’s a double-breasted, floor length Ivan Grundahl jacket that I’ve had for years. When the moths get this baby I’ll be devastated.


The Vanishing Older Woman-Part 2
The lighting was horrible. Pardon the fuzz.


  • Women who dress with true eccentricity and always have, are fabulous. There’s nothing wrong with trying on new looks and playing with theatricality, so long as you can own the look. If it feels like a costume…beware. Your confidence doesn’t get a boost by feeling like a fraud.

Case in point, me. I have dramatic, head-turning garments in my wardrobe, that I wear when I want to make a statement. I love capes, scarves, and drama. I adore hats and wear them often. They’re attention-getting simply because most women don’t have the confidence to wear them. I don’t think I wear goofy ones…but goofy is in the eye of the beholder:)


We are all a combination of style components that make up our personal style recipe. No one woman has the right or wrong formula for personal style. However, some formulas can be more effective if visibility is your goal.

In Part 3 I will share some choices we can make to remain visible.


  1. I find that I’ve sampled my style as I’ve gotten older. Less is more. I used to wear pashimas all the time and then my friend who is a stylist told me to let them go and stop hiding behind them.

  2. thanks for the story about the shoulder-revealing dress–and the enthusiasm of the sales staff. It’s so true. They may think we look OK–and you looked great in the top part of the dress. But we’re our own most critical eye. I think you made the right decision. I find Eileen Fisher staff are really helpful in that regard–in knowing what looks stylish and still a little sexy for my age–even if it’s not shouting for attention.

  3. My mother’s friend just loves bright colours and she pulls it off so well with her beautiful platinum hair. She just turned 90 this week! She has a big personality so it suits her so well. I, unfortunately, am more beige but I do like a dash of bright colour so I don’t disappear. I agree that you have to also be comfortable in the style to maximize your confidence. Love the black jacket! I have one just like it.

  4. Oh what a minefield! I can see many women wearing that dress, certainly with not as good a figure as yours and thinking it looks ok, and if they thinks it’s ok, then it is ok! If you have the confidence to wear it over a certain age, then do so. I think women should be kinder to each other in our wardrobe choices rather than judgemental, we all have different battles to fight before we face our public. At 51 I don’t choose to wear short skirts anymore unless paired with opaque tights and flats or boots, but if you want to get those pins out at any age and you can rock it, you go girl!!

  5. I’m really enjoying this series of posts, plus the comments. I’m just under 5’1″, so long skirts and dresses don’t do me any favours. I’m a member of a couple of private facebook groups organised by Imogen Lamport of Inside Out Style blog. The other members have told me that my legs look good and I shouldn’t hide them (I wear trousers most of the time), so I have worn skirts and dresses just above my knees, but mainly here in Spain where women of all ages wear them short. When I go to see my family in London I usually err on the side of caution and wear knee-length skirts and dresses. I do love colour and when I wear neutrals I will always add a colourful necklace, scarf or other accessory. At the age of 67, I think I dress better than when I was in my 20s, 30s and 40s – partly because I have more money to spend on myself and partly because it makes me feel good.

    1. You sound like you’ve got a great formula going! Bravo. I dress way, way better now than I did when I was younger. Yes , because of the budget, but also because I’m more comfortable in my own skin.

  6. I agree with your comments – we don’t have to be eccentric, cute or tarty to get noticed!

    1. There is another way, if we rely just on wardrobe. That’s part of part 3!

  7. There is a difference between “sexually” and “sexy- Tila Tequila vs. Catherine Deneuve. You are right about that flowered dress on you and brava for posting the shot.

    And seconding your point about eccentricity: maybe 2% of the women who aim for that pull it off. The rest look like they are desperately cawing for attention. That may sound mean, but I am sick of the fawning over women who look absolutely dreadful, and no one will say so.

    I care not one bit about visibility. Those I love see me wholly and they are the only ones who matter to me in that respect.

    1. Thanks for recognizing it was uncomfortable to post that photo of me. I almost didn’t!
      True creative dressing is tough to do well. Many older women are trying it on for size, but it takes a true authentic to do it well!

  8. Deborah Montgomery says:

    Love reading this, and all the comments. In the past 4 or 5 years, I have refined my style, and feel more confident in my clothing choices. Experimenting with Project 333 helped with this. It’s ongoing I think, but that is part of the fun.

    1. The comments are the MOST fun. I love to have this conversation with all you smart women! Experimenting is fun, and the older I get the more I do!

  9. I guess I’m one of those drawn to deep jewel tones like purple, Turquoise and red but usually with something black underneath to cover my roundness around the middle. I love that you still have the figure of a teenager and am jealous. LOL That floral number with the cut out shoulders is hot but I agree about the length. It would be wonderful knee length or long.

    1. Thanks Rebecca. It was really too body conforming for me too, not just the length. I adore color, I’m just not that comfortable wearing a lot of it.

  10. Reading through this, (which, thank you for writing btw,) I realize that my approach to visibility as I age (58) is to try and have my intellect and reasonable eye for design show through in what I wear. To some people, intelligence is sexy, and a good eye is sexy. I layer that on top of reasonable fitness, and I feel like I’m just attractive and visible enough for the way I want to live – now.

    This is sort of a refined and minimalist and intellectual approach to the 3rd category of women you’re talking about. I sound kind of arrogant, I do apologize for that. It’s possible that I’m not intelligent and I don’t have good taste:), but that’s how I want to feel and often do feel (hesitantly), so I dress to emphasize what I hope/usually believe is true.

    Whether it’s true or not, it gives me confidence, and a strategy, which is, as you say, critical.

    1. Remember, these are Sherrie Mathieson’s categories, not mine.
      I don’t pigeonhole women’s style choices into such narrowly defined parameters. Intelligence and actively engaging people, is absolutely the fast-track to visibility.
      I don’t see your style represented in Sherrie’s category’s at all! You dress with an edgy, modern style which would be the antithesis of her category 3.

  11. I’ve always been a tailored, neutral, less is more kind of girl, but in the last year, I’m wearing things that are “more” and loving it. Bought a fox-trimmed sweater and a pair of black leather pants. Think Helen Mirren would wear them well.

    1. I’ve seen your wardrobe Brenda and you certainly rock the look! Bravo!

  12. I enjoy reading your blog AND the comments….so very right on. I enjoy dressing and neutrals are my mainstay. I use scarves and bold ethnic jewelry to add color and
    make a statement. I design jewelry and was at a show once years ago when a woman
    tried on one of my pieces….”I love it but it’s so large….people might look at me.” It
    still makes me sad thinking about her. AND it wasn’t even a bold piece!

    1. Thanks Kathleen. I really enjoy the comments. I have some really smart readers

  13. I thought you looked hot in the dress! A little pair of sassy kitten heel sandals in fushia . . .
    Something to mull over!

    Hugs to you, my dear. XO


    1. Thanks! It was so fun to meet you at BAM! And we’re really so close to each other. Blogging is an amazing community. xx

  14. Wonderful article Jennifer! I went back and read part one and completely related to this feeling of beginning invisibility (it started at 47 for me too). Enjoyed part two just as much especially the style suggestions. Confidence is absolutely the key to pulling off any look!

    1. Thank you Cheri! Part 3 will go more indepth wih suggestions. Stay tuned and stay confident!

  15. I felt ever so flattered when an approaching middle aged man said to me (well he was at least 30-40 years my junior): “Would it bother you if I told you that you remind me of Judy Dench?” And I said: “Why no, I find it to be a great compliment. Thank you.”

    1. That’s awesome Liz! I love this. Sounds like you’ve got it right! I adore Judy Dench. Class, strength and unique style. Perfect!

  16. Lots of thinking fodder in this post. I’m 58 and ready to be a bit edgier in what I wear because I have the confidence I lacked in my younger years. But I’m still playing with what really works for me and is age-appropriate. I look at the women I see around me and find everyone dressed so similarly. I want to be unique but not costumed. It’s a tough balance.

    1. That’s what works for me Lorrie. I’m not “highly creative” in my style, because it just doesn’t feel natural to me. I can’t say I was a shrinking violet when I was younger, but I do have much more confidence now. The “edge” you may be looking for, I call “drama”. It’s how I prefer to make my statement and stand out. That’s part of what I’ll be talking about in my next post.

  17. Another great post. Clothes certainly help one be less invisible. But it’s interesting, while I agree with how you broke things into three groups, I don’t fit any of them. At this point in my life, I’m trying to find another, fourth group. I have some, vague idea what it might be but it’s hard to define. A bit more “edgy,” I guess you could say, but that’s not all there is to it. When I figure it out, I’ll let you know.

    I agree about the dress being too short, and I’ve written about this myself. Just please manufacturers, you can make a short one, but then add two inches to create a longer version.


    1. Thanks, I’m glad you enjoyed it. Those categories were not mine, they were the referenced stylist’s and I gave my take on her thoughts.
      There is another way Anita, and that’s the subject of my next post. It’s how I prefer to dress. It gets attention and is highly visible because it makes a woman stand out.

  18. Pia Louise says:

    I’m chuckling because right now I’m wearing camouflage leggings…I do tone down accessories and make up with this type of clothing. I think balancing a more eccentric article of clothing makes me more confident. But I also have a tiny nose stud! Very minimalist make up. My friends are fairly conservative but they love how I dress and often compliment me. My advice: if you’re going to wear something’edgy’ keep everything else minimalist and toned down. For the camo leggings to work I have a charcoal crew neck hits below buttline, a few rings on. tiny posts and my nose stud. I’m 58 and I ain’t going away…lol

    1. It’s all about balance, and what makes us feel confident. You sound like a very fun, creative person!

  19. Great conversation going here and love the idea of staying relevant. I adore that dress on you and what you see as not great knees I see as you still have good legs and a cute figure!! We are our own worst critics I know.. I think I am getting more brave with my clothes and color and I see how women gravitate to that as you get older. You also have the guts to be yourself as you don’t give a damn what others think. I appreciate the women who make an effort to be chic as they age. The norm in America is to just wear sweats and be comfy and that is why I was so impressed with European older women. They look amazing and I don’t know why we give up here..

    xx Kim

    1. Funny that so many women are polar opposites. Women who obsess about their appearance and those that simply give up. There is a happy middle. And yes, we can be our worst critics. For me, I have a pretty clear vision of what I’m comfortable wearing and if something doesn’t project the image I want, I won’t enjoy, or wear it.
      It was great fun being with you this week Kim!

  20. I love this follow-up post!

    It is so funny you should write this (are you in my head?) I was thinking of this last night when I caught the preview of the upcoming Iris Apnel documentary. She was a true eccentric. I cannot dress like that. It horrifies me! I did this free online course a couple of weeks ago that my friend Mary put me on to and the information made sense and then it didn’t, because based on my personality type, I should be wearing airy-fairy clothes and flowers in my hair. I hate those clothes! I have never felt comfortable in them, and yet based on my personality type I should be all colours. For me, sexy is all about my attitude and as GSL has said, wearing the right outfit always gives me confidence. I think you look great in the first dress, but I could never wear that style either. I am still refining me, but my winter uniform of skinny ponte knit pants, a tshirt and white and warren open cardigan never let me down. Now and trying to get this for the spring and summer….And really, I need well cut clothing. and cheap brands cannot do what I need in a blazer or a dress! Keep these coming sweetie – I am loving them!

    1. Let’s talk Wendy. I’ve got a couple of tests and tools that might focus things for you. Airy-fairy doesn’t seem right for you at all!!

  21. Our collaboration on this topic has been a real joy, my Friend. I’m not sure I would count that dress out. I’d have to see it in person. As for your knees, we may no longer be the “bees knees” (I’m old enough to remember my Grandmother saying that.), but if you feel self conscious about yours, a pair of semi-opaque/semi-transparent black stockings would work beautifully w/that dress. Besides, you have lovely legs. Show them off! They say the gams are the last to go. We’ll see.

    A great post, as usual.

    Cheers, M-T

    1. It has been fun. I read your posts and think, damn, that M-T is such a great writer!
      I remember my Grandmother saying the very same thing but at my age I’d rather be a queen bee :)And yes, the gams do last a long time. My mother had enviable, gorgeous legs, her entire life!
      Let’s chat this week.

  22. I definitely am not in the camp of dress to excess….too much volume and too many accessories and I look like Bozo the Clown! I like a sleeker, chicer mode of dressing with an eye on minimalism with maybe one or two accessories at the most. I am very confident in my way of dressing and it has taken me years to get to this place…and it is black, white and grey with a few items of colour. Visibility has never been important to me…Mother cautioned my sister and I about blending in, never sticking out and minding our manners at all times. Never outdo your hostess or reveal too much cleavage….and leave something to the imagination…
    I am enjoying your series….selfies work or you could have your husband or a friend take your pictures.

    1. Figuring out what looks best on us and staying true to our style goes a very long way with our confidence. If I find myself adjusting or fidgeting with an item, I know it’s wrong and don’t wear it.
      Sadly husband likes to take crooked pictures or cut me in half so I may stick with selfies:)

  23. Jennifer I totally agree with you here! Women of a certain age CAN look and feel pretty. I work in an industry where I see women giving up on their looks ..or worse, getting desperate. Statement pieces, knowing what works best for our body shape/type, and emphasizing our favorite features is key;) Happy Sunday! xxleslie

    1. I bet you see some real doozies!!
      Getting desperate is so sad, and happens all too often, in our youth obsessed society. Add airbrushing of all media images into the mix and it’s a disaster. Happy Sunday to you! xo

  24. Jennifer I adore the long black coat, yes you must protect it from the moths!
    I find I am wearing beautiful jewelry, not fine, fine, but custom make from semi-precious and lovely pearls and when I have a necklace and earrings ensemble, plus a great simile and lipstick, well I DO feel great! ( even in a so, so black or neutral outfit!

    The Arts by Karena

    1. My feelings exactly Karena. That final polish we get from accessories and a swipe of lipstick makes the world of difference.

  25. It is such a shame that dress wasn’t longer. I don’t know why they insist on making all the dresses so terribly short. The colour and cut was gorgeous on you.

    I think the 3 areas of dressing as stated by Sherrie could be referred to at any age. Not just as we grow older. The fact is that people dress that way all their lives. I don’t think we turn a certain age and then have our entire character change overnight. Granted the dresses may become longer, or we may choose to wear tights more often and start to cover our arms more but I think it is refreshing to see that rather than one “sea of older looking ladies” all dressing the same style we have maintained our individuality well into our later years. There should be no standard “uniform” for a woman of a certain age.


    1. That’s what I thought when I tried the dress on. An extra 4″ and it might have come home with me! How boring the world would be if we all wore the same clothes. That’s one of the reasons I like to shop at boutiques.

  26. So true about confidence in women’s dress. It’s even hard having a conversation with a woman who isn’t comfortable in her outfit.

    1. I love hearing your perspective GSL! And you’re absolutely right. It’s as though they can’t concentrate because they feel so uncomfortable. Are men like that? I would guess not. xo

  27. As we age (season), chic is still the key. As a child growing up in the 50’s, I can remember women of a certain age wearing oxfords with Cuban heels, a plain dress with mostly like a girdle underneath, and sporting a tight little cap of permed curls or finger waves. Thank goodness times have changed! Funny story: we were in a video store a few years ago and saw what we thought was a young woman, from behind. Slim figure clad in form-fitting jeans, cute jacket and long blonde hair. She turned around and she must have been at least seventy-five! If you have not read “Beautiful Encore – Makeovers for Mature Women” by Anne Reizer, check it out. Each morning when I use my disposable eyeglass wipe, I remember your tips for not looking (quite) so old. Thanks!

    1. I do remember those styles. When I look back at photo’s of my Granny, I realize she was younger than I am now,but looks ancient!I have not read that book! I’ll have to get it.
      PS- I keep a few of those eyeglass wipes in each car and also my handbag. My glasses are smudge magnets!

  28. You are so right…visibility is about confidence and when we are confident our attitudes and smiles shine bright and we cannot help but be visible. You look amazing in that dress, yet now that I have met you, I know it is not you and you would not feel good in it. And now that i have seen that coat…it is amazing and all the ladies last weekend were drooling over it. Enjoyed the read!

    1. Confidence is the key!! Ah my coat…I do adore it on so many levels. If I can get a decent photo of it, it will be a key component in Part 3 🙂

  29. Hi! I do love your blog!
    Following you from Portugal!

  30. A funny story from a few years ago. I went to the opera with my husband. It finished at about 10.30 and we were headed home on the tube (subway). I was vaguely aware that 3 youngish men were sort of following me and making comments. I turned round and could just hear one say to the other “oh more Helen Mirren”. I guess I looked younger from behind but not invisible. Am happy to live with the “more Helen Mirren look”!!!! I think we are about the same age.

    1. That’s quite a compliment. I wouldn’t mind “oh more like Helen Mirren” either!

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