Clothing choices change as people age. Clothing choices for seniors are mostly determined by functionality and comfort, but some are necessary for medical reasons. Clothing for seniors has a reputation for being boring, with practicality placed over style in a way that leaves little room for fashionable choices.
Yet in today’s market that is changing. Clothing plays a greater role than just practical necessity. There is no rule that says older people can’t have fun with their clothes! People’s positive emotions about themselves are often boosted by wearing flattering clothing others comment favorably upon.
Chinese Advancements in Fashion
As society ages, there appears to be a slow growth towards the acceptance of “elderly fashion.” Researchers Liu and Liu have been studying the role fashion is playing in the aging process, particularly in the area of “age reduction.” Age reduction is a design focus that takes into consideration everything from color, fabric, styles, and even makeup trends to best suit a psychological concept of looking great while feeling better at the same time. In short, age reduction designed clothing is an aesthetically pleasing way of dressing practically while still fitting into society and feeling good about oneself.
In short, seniors can still wear elastic and look great too! The goal isn’t to dress an 80-year-old like a 20-year-old. Rather, the growing trend in newer fashions aimed at the elderly population is to allow practical needs to be met in such a way that allows seniors to feel “put together” and stylish.
Being well dressed makes a person feel not only more confident, but also beautiful and more energized. When a person feels more energized, he or she has greater motivation to make healthier choices, such as circulating socially.
Tips for Age Reduction Fashion
Being fashionable after the age of 60 doesn’t have to mean buying younger, ill-fitted trendy clothing to hide a maturing age. Comfort and practicality don’t have to be sacrificed, and neither does the wallet. Researchers found the following techniques useful in creating an age reduction design that can be implemented in the following areas:
- Color: avoid contrasting colors and choose complementary colors that promote elegance and softer, more natural hues that accentuate skin tone and appeal to modesty.
- Style: keep with vertical coherence (as opposed to horizontal patterns) that flatters the elderly frame. Consider using shoulder pads for petite frames to help rebuild fullness in the chest area.
- Fabric: Loose fitting fabric helps to hide abdominal bulges and meets the need for comfort while promoting confidence. Avoid wools and synthetic fibers that cause greater friction on thin skin, leading to skin breakdown and painful chafing. Choose fabrics such as cotton and even silks or chiffons that are better at wicking away moisture and are more breathable in humid climates.
- Keep clothing easy to put on and take off. Frustration with dressing and undressing is counterproductive.
- Accessorize: A scarf, sunhat, brooches, hairstyle, and even a small amount of makeup can make the biggest difference. Sunhats and scarves protect fragile skin from the elements and can still be fashionable. Hairstyles add to an overall image and can be changed frequently. With thinner hair, lightweight Velcro clips are suitable for anchoring hair in place.
The Red Dress Project
Grace Douglas designed the Go Red for Women Dress for the American Heart Association’s foundation. Douglas was an undergraduate for an apparel design degree at Ball State University. She did the design as her honor’s thesis. Douglas wanted to design a dress that was functional but also created confidence, a confidence that would help women find their inner beauty and as a result feel better about themselves, even as the design of the dress disguised scars created by heart surgery.
Douglas stated that she saw fashion expression as part of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs toward human self-actualization. Beyond physiological as well as safety needs, human beings yearn for love and a sense of belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. Individual confidence and comfort aid a woman to achieve social belonging as well. For an older woman, maintaining individuality is a fundamental aspect of aging well, but so is belonging to groups.
This understanding supports the need for clothing choices for the elderly to be practical, comfortable and also meet psychological needs for confidence and self-esteem. The same holds true for fashion forward men.
The next time Grandma goes shopping for a new pair of compression hose, urge her to pick up that bright scarf or stop in for a new lipstick and rouge. It is just as important to her quality of life and well-being as the stockings.
Douglas, Grace. (2015). Go Red Together: a Creative Project Illustrating the Positive Effects of Clothing in Social Situations. An Honors Thesis. Ball State University. Muncie, Indiana. Available at http://cardinalscholar.bsu.edu/handle/123456789/199701. Last Visited April 11, 2016.
Liu, Z., and Liu, Z. (2015). The Attention on “Age Reduction Design” of Elderly Ladies’ Fashion. International Conference on Arts, Design and Contemporary Education (ICADCE). Atlantis Press. Available at http://scholar.googleusercontent.com/scholar?q=cache:qQD5FqvVOl0J:scholar.google.com/+special+needs+clothing+for+seniors&hl=en&as_sdt=0,11&as_ylo=2015. Last Visited April 11, 2016.