Fashion & Style

What old people wear

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When it comes to fashions for older folks, the rules are slipping away
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What old people wear makes them heros or zeros when it comes to fashion

If you started with the stereotypes, what old people wear is easy to define. For women, it's loud floral tops and pastel colored polyester pants. Or a shapeless house dress and slippers.  For elderly men, it would be trousers belted just below their armpits and short-sleeved dress shirts buttoned up to their chin.

But the reality is, today's seniors don't shop -- or dress -- like the generation before. While comfort and ease of dressing are factors (tiny buttons can be hard on older fingers), style and fashion are just as important to most older people as they are to their kids and grandkids.

So the answer to a question of what old people wear is more complicated than in years gone by. But there are still some trends worth noting.

Cotton is the new polyester

Twenty or thirty years ago, it would have been a safe bet that a woman in her 70's would have chosen poly pants with a visible weave pattern and a wide elastic waist. Now, a woman of that same age is more likely to opt for pants in a soft cotton, cotton denim or cotton-blend.  Or if she selects a poly-blend, the weave will be fine, giving her a more elegant and finished look.

The same change is seen in tops and blouses. Sophisticated cotton or cotton/poly blends with attention to detail have replaced the garish floral and paisley prints.

Pastels are passe

Once upon a time, pastels ruled for elderly men and women. It was the norm to see a man in a pale blue shirt and light yellow trousers stepping out of a yellow Cadillac with his pale-peach clad wife.

But thankfully, color has reached the older shoppers. Women's clothing in rich jewel tones or bright basics are the norm, while senior men are choosing deep denim blues, elegant earth tones and clean greys, creams and whites.

Pull on pants still rule

Whether it's ease of dressing or a need to avoid buttons, zippers and snaps, pull-on pants are still very popular with older shoppers. But the wide, rough elastic of earlier decades has been replaced by more tailored versions. Draw-strings, especially on heavier fabrics like velour and fleece, are also a common choice.

The one exception to the pull-on trend is jeans. These fashion staples have remained popular as the baby boomers aged, and they show no sign of losing their popularity even among people in their 70's and 80's.

Forget the orthopedic shoes!

Today's seniors are more active than in previous generations, so their shoes have to match that active lifestyle. The ugly, bulky old people shoes of yesteryear have been replaced with athletic shoes and lightweight walking shoes that provide needed support with style.

Coats and jackets

I remember my grandmother's winter coats as long, shapeless, bulky, beige and scratchy.  Not so for today's retirees. 

Instead of beige, they're opting for brightly colored fabrics.  And scratchy has been replaced with soft microfibers.

Trim cuts and warm Thinsulate fillings have replaced long and shapeless, keeping seniors warm while they shop, work, travel, hike, ski or just take a stroll around the block.

As age factors fade

More and more, the fashion distinctions among people of different ages are blurring. People who grew up wearing jeans, t-shirts and sneakers see no reason to abandon those choices simply because of age.

While mobility and motor skill issues may become a factor, it seems that the idea of "old people clothing" is well on its way to being a thing of the past.

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