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Vivian Diller, Ph.D.

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Fashion for the Ages

Posted: 09/12/2011 11:08 am

Fashion Week 2011 has ended, which means new trends are just beginning.

As a former Wilhelmina model who strutted down her share of runways, I know how clothes worn this week can set styles for years to come. Designer outfits -- more often like costumes than clothes -- are created to wow and turn heads, having little to do with how women may feel wearing them. So, now as a psychologist at midlife, I was happy to hear that contemporary fashion may soon have a new and strong influence: Boomers!

According to Reuters, fashion designers are becoming aware of the strong economic power and growing needs of the aging baby-boom generation. "Instead of designing for young buyers and adjusting those styles to sell to older generations," experts say, "designers should put baby boomers first -- those born between 1946 and 1964, who now make up almost a quarter of the U.S. population."

David Wolfe, of the Doneger Group, an organization that forecasts fashion trends, believes there are already signs of such a shift in the industry. He says that although it's a difficult leap for most companies who are used to thinking that the youth market sets fashion trends, these days if the clothes don't fit an older person's lifestyle, they don't sell. "Boomers are regaining fashion economic control," according to Wolfe, and designers are just beginning to catch on. Today, Boomers have purchasing power. Just ask their children or grandchildren!

As 10,000 Americans turn 65 every day over the next 19 years, we are likely to see more designer clothes suited to our needs. Here are five fashion trends that Boomers have already influenced:

1) Shoes: Notice the popularity of the ballet slipper? And Uggs? Flat shoes, boots and sandals are important to those of us who aren't willing to wear high heels and narrow-toed shoes on a regular basis. Our feet just won't tolerate being uncomfortable. Flats have already become fashionable, but we may see more stylish ones on the market in the future. Audrey Hepburn was famous for wearing flats with capris. We will be wearing them with everything!

2) Pants: We are seeing an increasing number of stretchy, flexible materials used for pant wear. While the "skinny jean" and "jeggings" may not work for most Boomers, pants that allow greater comfort with less restriction are increasingly popular. We may see the return of loose fitting trousers -- a style the other Hepburn was known for -- perhaps accented by wide belts that make the most of midlife curves.

3) Skirts: We need not rule out the occasional mini-skirt at any age -- they look great with tights and boots -- but for most Boomers, they get in the way of picking up grand-kids and feel inappropriate for office wear. Long, loose and flowing is more their style. Have you noticed how the length of skirts have become much more variable? Designers know that Boomers are going to wear longer skirts more often than minis, so they are creating styles that go from ankle to mid-calf. Worn with flat boot and sandals, long skirts have become all the rage.

4) Tops: Ruffles are everywhere -- on the front, back and around the collar of designer tops. They dress up blouses, sweaters and even jackets. Baby Boomers love them, especially those unwilling to enhance their bosoms with cosmetic surgery or Victoria's Secret push-up bras. Ruffles in just the right places add femininity and fullness. They are flattering to almost anyone's figure, but especially Boomers.

5) Scarves: Scarves are probably the fashion trend that has most likely been influenced by Boomers. They can be found everywhere -- in department stores, boutiques and street fairs. Made for every season in silk, wool and cotton, they are worn for warmth and for fun. Why? Many Boomers are sensitive about their necks -- Nora Ephron wrote a book on the subject -- so designers know that scarves can help. They've become a fashion statement for women of all ages, and they're here to stay.


For years, Madison Avenue has refused to believe that anyone over fifty could promote their products -- let alone dictate fashion trends. Yet, Baby Boomers are doing just that. This is not our parent's midlife. We expect to live longer, stay fit and look great well into our 80s and 90s. We represent $1 trillion spending dollars. No doubt we'll be designing and defining style for many years to come.

Do you have any fashion ideas that you think Boomers would like to see more of?

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Vivian Diller, Ph.D. is a psychologist in private practice in New York City. She has written articles on beauty, aging, media, models and dancers. She serves as a consultant to companies promoting health, beauty and cosmetic products. "Face It: What Women Really Feel As Their Looks Change" (2010), written with Jill Muir-Sukenick, Ph.D. and edited by Michele Willens, is a psychological guide to help women deal with the emotions brought on by their changing appearances.

For more information, please visit my websites at www.FaceItTheBook.com and www.VivianDiller.com. Friend me on Facebook (at http://www.facebook.com/Readfaceit) or continue the conversation on Twitter.


 
 
 

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