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Just because a woman turns 35 or 38 or 40 doesn’t mean her wardrobe has to become a wasteland of frump and "mom jeans." Especially these days, when 40 is supposedly the new 30.
Plus, many middle-aged women are just finding their confident groove after some tumultuous decades riddled with insecurity and self-doubt.
That doesn’t mean a middle-aged woman should run around in clothing that screams "look at me!" either. Hence, for some middle-life ladies, deciding how to present oneself – particularly what to wear – becomes challenging.
But according to Carrie Arrouet, the owner of Lela Boutique, 321 E. Broadway, it doesn’t have to be daunting.
"Dressing our age really gets a bad rap, but it just means we should be old enough to know what looks good on our body type, and if we don’t, it’s time to seek out an education on that subject," says Arrouet.
Arrouet suggests buying quality over quantity, meaning fewer "cheap" pieces and instead those made from better fabrics. In most cases, better-made items will be more flattering.
"As our bodies shift and sag – it happens – we need to understand that clothing that used to work for us in our 20s will not fit right. It will pull and gap in the wrong places and just won’t help our cause," says Arrouet.
Arrouet also warns against wearing too much black. Many women think that black is more slimming, but not necessarily.
"Colors and pattens are our friends. Although it is easy to go to the basic black and neutrals, they are not as flattering against our skin and don’t help our complexion after pulling an all-nighter at work or home," she says.
Most of what we choose to wear on the outside must be validated by what’s on the inside. Heidi Calaway, who owned Bven Boutique on Brady Street for almost a decade (the shop is now located online), is a wardrobe consultant who works mostly with women ages 30-60.
"I’m always helping women getting over the anxiety of trying on clothes," she says. "Most women have a tummy, and so I sometimes remind them that it’s OK not to be a size 4 and that we all do the best we can with what we have."
Indeed, body acceptance is integral to picking the right items. Calaway says she sometimes has to gently remind larger women that wearing "flowy" tops and bottoms together is not doing justice to her appearance.
"Love the body you have, no matter how ‘different’ it is from 10 years ago. Beating up on yourself helps no one," says Arrouet. "Find a store that helps you learn how to dress, enlist the use of a tailor more often, and try to get in a few sit ups or lunges every day to keep things a little tight."
Sheila Teruty is the co-owner of Cocoon Room, 820 E. Locust St. Her advice to middle-aged women is to avoid malls in order to not look like every other middle-aged woman. She also suggests getting a good tailor.
"Having a tailor is a great idea, too, to fix things to your body shape. If you buy something vintage or used and then bring it to a good tailor, it will cost the same, if not less, than if you bought it new," says Teruty.
Rachel Buth, also of Cocoon Room, says adhering strictly to trends is never a great idea no matter what age, particularly middle age. "I try not to follow trends too much because that’s very high maintenance," says Buth.
Arguably, the most important accessory a person of either gender or any age can "wear" is confidence.
"It’s awesome getting older. We no longer care what the rest of the world thinks about us, so enjoy wearing what makes us feel great," Arrouet says.
However, there are some items that 40- or 50-somethings might want to avoid.
"As a general rule, if you don’t want to see your teenager wearing it, you shouldn’t either," says Arrouet. "Keep the micro miniskirts in the costume bin and let the crop tops go to the dust rag basket."
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.