Allure at 50+: A hard shop

I recently replied to graying pixie, in a recent post about hair: "Even if women don't want to look overtly sexy, most of them want to look like they might be in the game."

This was the attitude with which I went shopping last weekend.

I sought a dressy top for the round of holiday parties. The usual retailers offered missy camis way too junior for me or dowdy beaded sweaters. The few things I liked in luxury shops were stratospherically pricey or not made in my size.

On the ver
ge of resignation, I stopped by a neighbourhood boutique that carries clothes by Montreal designer Veronique Miljkovitch.

I found my deliverance, the "Amber", a sensuous draped jersey tunic shown here in grey; mine is a glowing sapphire. With jersey palazzo pants, earrings and cocktail ring, it's ready for a party– but with jeans and boots, it will read casually cool. Le Duc's gift, lucky me!

I also loved this silk and stretch cotton "Scarlett" top, shown on the web site.

pieces are fresh, sensuous, and discreetly but definitively sexy. And her Large is a 14, not an 8-with-no-bust.

Clothes like this are rare as a blue rose.

is what the big-brand designers and retailers don't get: women 50+ want to look like we still have (or would consider having) a good time that involves our bodies. Think of Catherine Deneuve– we want to be womanly rather than matronly. (I do know one woman who is not interested, and deliberately dresses to telegraph that choice, in overalls.)

If I make it to eighty and beyond, and if blessed with the acuity of my mother and aunt, I will still desire clothes that offer allure. I'm grateful I found something for this season, but why is it so almighty hard?


mette said…
I like the Scarlett top, it looks interesting, as if it is like hiding something!? Yes, I like things ( I know, I have said this before ), that leave something for imagination. I´m 5, 10 and find my size to be S, M, L -depending on what it is, mostly M. Finding something attracting is no problem for me. My problem is, that I find too much of everything that I think looks great on me, and I so very often get this buyers remorse and end up giving my purchases away, mostly to my daughters. Now, this made me think: Do I choose clothes age- appropriate for me as my daughters also like them or vice versa?
Susan B said…
Excellent choice, Duchesse!

It's so true, and one of the reasons I started blogging; it's really tough to find clothing that is sophisticated, womanly and not dowdy. (Many women here in So Cal respond to this conundrum by trying to dress like their teenage daughters.)
Frugal Scholar said…
That top is just gorgeous.
materfamilias said…
I LOVE both those tops, but the one you bought especially! Did you buy that at one of the shops we visited together? Any Direct Flight?
I could live in the Carmen dress on that website, absolutely live in it!
And I bet you'll be living in your new top -- it looks gorgeously versatile.
Duchesse said…
metscan: Many styles are multi-generational and my rule of thumb is the better the garment, the likelier (excepting of course the blingy lines like Cavalli). If most of your purchases are accepted by daughters, it would give me pause to think, like you, "for whom am I buying?"

Pseu: I cringe when I see that, then wonder if I am hopelessly out of it.

materfamilias: Yes, Any Direct Flight. Wish you had hopped that plane with Pater! Carmen dress is sensational. Versatile yes but not that warm so I will wear a cashmere shawl with it sometimes.
NancyDaQ said…
You nailed it with the catchphrase, "womanly not matronly," also with the more lengthy description.

I like both of those tops--the sapphire will look nicely festive and not overly Christmas-y.

While I don't dress as a 20 something, I do find that I stress a lot less about age-appropriateness than many my age. Does that have anything to do with not being a parent? I wonder...
LPC said…
Allure is the perfect word. We want to look like we didn't get our children by accident, even if we won't be having any more.
Susan B said…
Wish she sold online, but I've located a boutique in northern CA that carries her pieces. LOVE that first top, and the "amelie" dress on the website.
Ms Maven said…
Can you tell us where the Northern CA shop is located? I'd like to go have a look if it is within an hour's drive of the Bay Area.

I just looked through a Lucky Magazine as well as a Vogue at the hairdresser. I saw not one item I could wear or would want to wear. Retailers are in trouble, I do have money in my account for a holiday outfit, but from what I have seen, I doubt I will be buying anything new this year.
Duchesse said…
Ms Maven:
Leaf & Petal
439 California Ave.
Palo Alto CA
(650) 329-8070

I wish she sold online too.
i totally get that -- you want to look like at least some discerning 50+ man (or woman, if you're that way inclined) would find you worth flirting with at a cocktail hour. most designers think women over 30 -- never mind 50 -- are invisible, ergo, no clothes for us! i like your choice of top -- elegant but fun!
I spend a lot of time shopping for the more mature woman, and know exactly what you're talking about.

I always wonder why clothing manufacturers think that once past a certain age there is no desire to look attractive?

I also wonder to myself - will I ever suddenly have a desire to wear crimpelene and boxy clothes? If so when does this happen and why?

by the way - if you could just send me that Sydney top I'd die a happy woman!
Tiffany said…
That top you bought is stunning. I don't think you need to be 50+ to appreciate that! If only they sold online ...
Duchesse said…
tiffany: I've been checking our=t Veronique's designs for the better part of a decade and yes, her customers are all ages.
Tiffany said…
BTW, Veronique M doesn't have an online shop per se, but I emailed and she came straight back to me and said she does sell through her website!! I may have to treat myself ...
a little sewing said…
Really lovely top you found.
If I couldn't sew, I would go crazy.
Imogen, even though it is Sydney and not Melbourne? ;-)

I'm over 50 though I sure as hell am not "mature". This makes dressing complicated as I don't want to be either mutton dressed as lamb or the mad art teacher. But fortunately I get a lot of compliments on how I dress, on a ludicrously limited budget,so haunting these style blogs does have its practical uses.
Duchesse said…
tiffany: You beat me to it, was going to suggest calling and I'm SO happy to hear they are responsive.

alittleonthe side: Used to sew but my skills, uneven, resulted in me making splendid men's shirts and dresses that looked like laundry bags. I deeply admire skilled sewers.

lagatta: Check out Veronique's things- the studio in Mtl might have sales. Full price is not super high, my tunic was $160. Thanks for haunting this blog.
$160 (Canadian, of course, but almost at par with the USD these days) is an EXTREMELY reasonable price for a garment of that quality and design. I'd have thought at least $200 more than that; didn't see any prices on the site.

And of course that grey is one of my favourite non-colours.
LaurieAnn said…

I do understand the look you are shooting for and it IS so difficult to find; especially in sizes 12 and up which often accompanies the mature female body. You have been an immense help to me by sharing the idea of womanly but not matronly; I'll be keeping that one in mind as I shop. Am going to try to find some time to visit Palo Alto specifically to shop at Leaf & Petal. Thank you for sharing the shop name.
s. said…
oooooh, I want one! What's the address of the Toronto store, please?

I'm "only" 39 years old and, you know what? I have the same issues with dressing as you specified for the 50+ group. Too grown-up to want to be in tiny tops and low-rise jeans but, for goodness sake!, I'm still a vibrant woman who wants to look appealing.

Duchesse, I think you ought to start your own clothing label. Whoever's currently making clothes for the over-30 woman doesn't seem to have a clue.
s. said…
Never mind: I found the address of a Toronto store on my own... there's one about 4 blocks from my house!
Ms Maven said…
Thanks so much. I've heard of that store in Palo Alto before. It's not far from where I used to live. I will check it out.
mette said…
So happy to read all the comments. Now everyone knows where to find these clothes: )
Duchesse said…
s.: or anyone else in Toronto: Shop is Any Direct Flight, 1382 Queen E. (just east of Greenwood), 416-504-0017. Owner is Margot Allin. You may know Ca va de soie, another line I like that they carry- plus Margo's own designs.

lagatta: I thought it was reasonable too, given the level of design.
greying pixie said…
How interesting Duchesse. Your reply to me also stayed with me and I have been pondering my reply for the last few days... Whilst I agree with you in terms of clothing choice, (I love your purchase - a real passe partout!) I'm still not convinced about the hair. I think the 'long hair=sexual potency/availability' thing is a Western cultural thing that works in your 20s; later in life the cut needs to suit the face. I think post 50, women need a cut that brings out the twinkle in their eye. In my case that happens to be short and quite closely cropped.
Duchesse said…
greying pixie: This is the position of a various evolutionary pychologists and sociobiologists. Hair quality is equated with health, which in turn signals reproductive potential; the more hair seen, the more apparent that attribute. While a woman may be beyond the reproductive years, the programming is still hard-wired in the opposite sex.
Great designer! Thanks for sharing the photos.

It has always been this way. Back in the Cretaceous, when I was young, clothing that would fit a grown-up body was dowdy, shapeless, and made of synthetic fabrics in busy floral prints. Older women dressed that way for one reason only: they had no other choice!

I sorta hoped that as baby boomers aged there would be more demand for affordable, decent-looking clothes for grown women. But nooooooo! Clothing that fits a grown-up body is dowdy, shapeless, and made of synthetic fabrics in busy floral prints.

I've simply given up on trying to buy things I can pay for that don't look hideous on me. I live in Costco jeans, and honi soit qui mal y pense.
Duchesse said…
Funny: I hardly think evil about Costco jeans as jeans are a stellar example of the imprecise correlation between price and quality. I'll also pay quite a bit for things that are not dowdy, shapeless and synthetic that fit my mature form. it's just that there are so few of these items.
Sometimes I feel like Julia Roberts in "Pretty Woman" when she was trying to shop. She holds out a fistful of dollars and says, "I have money to spend!". If only fashion designers would realize that we women over 50 DO have money to spend and we would if there was something to buy!
Duchesse said…
Couture Vintage: That's it! And do you remember when the Richard Gere character said, "You should suck up to us more"? Have you ever gone into a shop and they don't even LOOK at you?
sallymandy said…
Those are beautiful, classy pieces made to move with the body and take advantage of the fabric's inherent qualities. I love them, and it seems generally true that clothes that are high quality and classy/sexy, rather than sleazy/sexy, are hard to find regardless of our age.

I have gone into shops and they don't even look at me. I'd like to conjure up something to say in those situations, but as yet I have not.
Unknown said…
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