Is clothes shopping really this hard?

I used to love shopping for clothes.  If I saw something I liked and had money in my purse then I would buy it.  Never mind if I needed it, never mind if it made me look like a dog’s dinner (and looking back on pictures from my youth I realise that this was quite often the case), I bought it anyway and couldn’t wait to bear the fruits of my latest shopping spree on a night out.

Fast forward twenty years, add a few middle age pounds here and there and a total lack of know-how in dressing ‘age-appropriately’ and suddenly clothes shopping isn’t half as enticing as it used to be.  As I’ve reached my forties, there are suddenly just so many factors to take into consideration when buying even the most simple of items that quite frankly, it’s not surprising that I spend a good proportion of my time loafing around in fleece-lined ‘leisure pants’ and a hoody (in the winter, I also pop my dressing gown over for good measure), with the rest of the time spent mainly in work clothes comprising amongst others, a warm, lined skirt, a long cardigan and a pair of black tights so thick that they should really have been advertised as pyjamas.

Until recently I’ve been able to get away with this attire, however a sudden change in weather conditions, seeing temperatures exceed 30 degrees, have forced my hand and I have found myself in the unfortunate position of having to go shopping for some new summer clothes.  These have been mainly for work (I felt that by switching to a cotton ‘leisure pant’ and losing the dressing gown that this would sufficiently cope with those hot summer nights spent loafing) and so with a heart as heavy as a pair of thick opaque tights, I began my quest.

I’m now going to share with you a small taste of what I go through when looking for something new to wear:

  • Finding something that suits my shape
    ‘Determine your body type and you will never have to worry about what suits you again’, boast the fashion magazines.  Well, what if you’re a pear on top, an apple in the middle and your legs look like a footballer’s from the knee up eh?  I don’t recall ever seeing a description for THAT  body shape but I’m open to suggestions.  It limits my options somewhat as I’m eternally looking for something that doesn’t flatten my chest, doesn’t tie at the waist, doesn’t cling anywhere, doesn’t rise too far above the knee and a short sleeve must never sit in that unfortunate position that makes the top of my arm look like a large joint of ham from certain angles.  Never mind if the item eventually selected looks like something that Demis Roussos would covet – if it ticks all of these boxes, I’m having it regardless.


    For the benefit of younger readers, I bring you Demis Roussos


  • Material
    Pure cotton or linen crease too much, polyester is too risky if you find yourself sitting on a plastic chair at any point during a hot day (ladies, you know what I’m talking about….don’t you?!) and silk or satin are complete sweat-stained no no’s.  The only material that does it for me is viscose – and not that flimsy, easy-crease stuff either – I’m talking about the heavy, drapey variety that doesn’t cling, stretches in all the right places and can go straight from washing line to wardrobe without so much as a ‘not today thank you’ to the iron. Oh, the number of labels I’ve scrutinised for this magic material.
  • Dressing for my age
    Yes, I know I’m hardly in my dotage and that it is quite possible to dress age-appropriately without looking like I’m about to join the WI but it’s bloody difficult at times.  Last week I went shopping with Molly and went in quite a few shops that I used to enjoy getting my clothes from; Top Shop, New Look, Primark, Miss Selfridge to name but a few.  Yes, we were looking for clothes for Molly but I couldn’t help noticing the lack of clothes for the slighter older woman.  And if you take shops like these out of the equation because they’re geared towards younger females then what does it leave us with?  M&S??  Please God, no!

I realise that I’m overthinking this clothes buying business a bit too much but I don’t think I’m on my own with some of the problems I’ve mentioned.  Only today a forty-something friend reported that she’s been struggling to find a summer dress due to similar reasons.  All of which makes me think that if other lovely ladies of a similar age face this sort of struggle when finding something to wear, surely it can’t just be a problem with the actual clothes themselves can it?  Could it be that we need to start being slightly less tough on ourselves and a bit more forthcoming with our compliments to each other perhaps?

But let’s not get too deep and meaningful eh?  I’m going to finish on two positives and say that after forcing myself way out of my comfort zone (i.e. I stopped looking at black shrouds), I’ve found some clothes!  The jury might still be out on one top as it’s venturing ever so slightly into ham-arm territory but it’s all progress nonetheless.

The last word though goes to a friend who told me that she was going out tonight and that she wouldn’t decide on what to wear until she was getting ready to go. I told her that I could never leave it to chance like that – what if she didn’t look right on the night? – and she told me that she was way over worrying about things like that and about what other people think of what she’s wearing.

And I reckon that she might just be on to something there!