I’m almost 60 years old and I don’t know how to shop for clothes

I hate shopping. I quite literally would rather go to the dentist than shop for clothes. So I avoid it like the plague, which means my wardrobe is just completely sad and desperately in need of updating. Plus I have an event coming up. So I spent some time shopping on Saturday, and had my usual discouraging frustrating experience, and came home empty-handed and nearly in tears.

Problem 1: I have no idea what would look good on my body. Scoop neck, V neck, high neck? Structure? Knit? Fitted? Straight leg, wide leg, tapered leg? Hip length shirt? Longer? Shorter? Tucked in? Patterns, geometrics, solids? I have tried all of these and I still have no idea.

Problem 2: Too too TOO many options. I need a nice blouse/shirt to wear at work. I walk into the women’s department and there are 2000 nice shirts. Even if I can filter a little to, say, short sleeves, that’s still 1000 shirts. How do I zero in on 1 or 2 or 10 to try on? It’s completely overwhelming, and I just shut down.

Problem 2A: Inability to visualize. Apparently most women can look at a piece of cloth hanging limply on a hanger and sort of imagine what it might look like on them. I have not the first idea how you do it.

Problem 3: Inability to assess. I try on a blouse. It might look fabulous or – equally likely – it might look ridiculous. I can’t tell. When I was younger, I’d usually buy an item that was on the fabulous/ridiculous bubble, wear it once or twice, and then know for sure – it’s ridiculous. Now I’m unwilling to waste money on something I’m not sure of, so I put it back. And since pretty much everything is on the bubble as far as I can tell, I go home empty handed.

Problem 4: D(ep)ressing rooms. Poorly lit, cramped, my bare feet on floors that are visible dirty. And the 6-item limit. If I could take 30 items in at once, it might not be so daunting. But this cycle: find 6 items-undress-try on-get dressed-find 6 more items – is wearying and discouraging in the extreme.

Problem 5: Length. Stores have Petite departments. Stores have Plus departments. Why don’t stores have Tall departments?

Problem 6: None of this computes. I can’t make it make sense. Don’t laugh, but I used watch WNTW with a pad and pen. I’ve known since junior high that I have no instinct for this, but I was hoping that at least I could glean some general principles, or at least a few basic rules. But (though I loved the show), the only thing I ever learned was that the shirt/jacket should nip in at the narrowest point.

How exactly do you find that specific blouse which might potentially be a winner? And when you try it on, how exactly do you know that it is or is not a winner? And how, from the literally infinite universe of fashion, do you know which pants/shoes/bag/jewelry is going to pull it into a “look”? What is the thought process?

I know for a fact that style has little or nothing to do with budget, because my D shops at Goodwill, and she looks fabulous for every occasion. But I’ve just about resigned myself to the fact that I need the help of a shopper, so I’m going to have to pay Nordstrom or Macys prices and my budget will go about a third as far.

/pity party. This is all rhetorical. I’ve scoured the internet and found not much that’s helpful: Take a friend (I did this once and my friend shopped really well for her style; plus it’s just embarassing), find a look you like and duplicate it (I tried this once and it didn’t look at all the same on me), you don’t know until you try it on (where among the 1000 shirts do I start trying on?), it’s easier to find long length online (I can’t even find clothes in a store; I’m going to buy them from a picture?). Off to Nordstrom.

I think the key may be to figure out a few “uniforms” and then stick to variations on those themes. What is your body type? Maybe folks here could give you some pointers if you provide a bit more info on your body type and general preferred style preferences within broad parameters. For example, are you looking for casual jeans or more tailored options?

With sales, the department store prices can be very, very low.

Quite a while ago, @BunsenBurner recommended a Lauren faux wrap dress that comes in many different variations, is incredibly well-priced, and is very flattering across a variety of body types. It also can go from quite casual to a bit more dressy. I bought a couple of them and was wearing them constantly until I started having health issues that caused problems with my legs (making dresses impractical, hopefully short term). I’m very tall and the length worked for me. That’s an example of a very easy “uniform” type outfit.

The other thing is that when you are tall you may have to buy more expensive pants because they run longer. Again, sales are your friend.

I’m 5’8" but somewhat short-waisted, hence the length problem. My arms are also long, so I have the same issues with jackets, sweaters, long-sleeved shirts. I’m 145, heading toward 135. No idea what my body type is. I guess I’d say my style is classic or preppy (as I understand the word), but that may be because it’s safe, and it’s pretty much all I’ve ever worn.

Skirts would be a good solution to the pant-leg problem, but I don’t wear them because of a foot issue I won’t bore you with. But the result is that I can’t wear the types of shoes which would at all go with dresses/skirts. No heels, no pumps, no cute flats, no sandals.

For work, I wear trousers and a collared button-down, every single day. For non-work, I’ve been wearing the same thing since college: Levi’s + polo. I have no in-between look, and frankly I don’t know if there IS an in-between look.

My sister realized her wardrobe was in need of a serious update recently and utilized the services of Macy’s personal shopper. She let them know what she thought her size was, what she was looking for, and when she arrived, they had a dressing room filled with clothes for her to try on without having to keep getting dressed again. Once the shopper had a better idea of what they were looking for, she was able to remove some things without even trying them and bring in others. My sister felt no pressure at all to buy anything, and I believe she was given the heads up about some items that would be available on an upcoming sale. Not that I would want to overuse someone’s time, but maybe that is an option for you to get the event outfit and also some ideas on what you should be looking for in other items that you could then on your own try to purchase at some other stores.

Just realized that I had a similar shopping experience this spring when my daughter was looking for dresses for graduation and an upcoming wedding weekend. We somehow ended up at Dress Barn. She was trying a couple on when I brought in a few more for her. I hate shopping, and as my daughter is not an easy to fit size, it usually doesn’t end well. A salesperson casually got involved by bringing in more options, I found myself sitting on a chair near the 3 way mirrors, and it was the best shopping experience I ever had!

Good luck to you!

I’m 6’0" and lately I’ve been finding pants that are long enough, so you might be surprised! Many of the department-store bridge lines – like Theory, Hugo Boss, Tahari – have pants that run very long. Many stores are having sales right now; nice trousers in those lines can be found on sale in the $120 range, which may sound like a lot but you can wear the basics over and over again. Nordstrom’s house brand Classiques may be long enough, too, and it is less expensive. Honestly, at 5’8", even with long legs, you should be able to make most brands work!

I wish I could lend you my mother for the afternoon. At 50, I still drag her along for most of my shopping trips because she can figure out what looks good on anyone, is ruthlessly honest, and can find the most amazing deals. You need to find an equivalent person in your life – could be a salesperson, even,

The best advice I can offer is to make use of the alterations department. Proper fit makes all the difference!

@nottelling What is a bridge line? Which department stores? And which stores have alterations departments?

I used to have my own personal shopper, my D. From the time she entered high school until she stopped coming home from college for holidays, it was good. We’d go into, say, Kohl’s, she’d scan the store for a couple of minutes, pull 2 or 3 shirts for me. Then she’d decide whether they were good or not, and then pick pants. But she’s now 800 miles away.

You might enjoy an online personal shopper experience designed so you don’t even have to go to the store:


Friend of mine has a DD who has worked there since it was a start up. Personal questions about your style preferences, your measurements, your work and leisure needs…all fed into a computer program invented by one of those Stanford/Harvard geniuses…they will ship you clothing selected for your size and style by their buyers. You keep or return (postage paid) what you don’t want and the program makes note of what you didn’t like so its not repeated. Haven’t tried it myself so I can’t endorse, but the company is going gangbusters so some people must like it.

jazzymom, I actually started to fill out the Stitchfix form, until it got to the style questions, which I can’t answer. I know what my default wardrobe has been for the last 35 years, but wow it sounds so boring to just get more of the same. I may push further on it if Nordstrom/Macys personal shopper doesn’t work out. I’ve heard the prices are reasonable too.

But same problem – I know that for reasons that are mysterious to me, certain styles look good on a person, and certain styles don’t. Or fabrics, or cuts, or proportions, or something. Stitchfix wouldn’t help me with that, because when I look in a mirror, I don’t know.

I’m petite so if I find a shirt that I like, regardless if it’s a size or two, too big, I’ll buy it any way. If the shirt sleeves are too long, I would just roll them up. Not sure how my comment would help you since you are tall and have long arms.

Maybe you should just buy any shirt that you think you might like. And if the sleeves are too short then use a washable magic marker and color the rest of your arms in to match the shirt???


You can shop online. Don’t have to pick through 1000 shirts and try them on one by one. When your online purchase arrives at your home, the clothing that don’t fit, take that to the tailor and let them deal with the headache for you.

LanaHere, every time I go on one of these discouraging expeditions, and I pass the Petite department, I’m so envious. Not only do you have your own department, but you can buy any pants in the store and make them work just by hemming. It’s not quite so easy to add a couple of inches.

One thing about online shopping that scares me is that I know the shirt on me probably isn’t going to look anything like it does on the model. Plus I have the same selection paralysis. Hundreds of shirts on a website. How do I decide which ones? And, when I try it on, how do I know if it looks good? I am 100% fashion impaired.

Even Levi’s has betrayed me. Remember when they were sized like men’s, with a waist and inseam measurement? I knew my measurements, so buying jeans was a piece of cake. Then, curse the day, they went to women’s sizes and mostly eliminated the long inseams. So this weekend, after not being able to find anything else, I went to the jeans department and was informed that they no longer carry Levi’s in Long. Not a single pair in the store. I still figured I was OK because I could easily order online. But it turns out that my style – though it comes in 5 colors – is only available in TWO colors in the Long length. So I did order a couple of pair, but they’re not the color I want. This is considered a big victory in my fashion life, though: “At least they’re long enough.”

Oh my, can I relate to your post! I despise shopping. Really. There’s not a single thing I like about it except having something to wear at the end. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come home with clothes that I liked somewhat in the store and hated when I got them home.

I am a petite so I can’t really relate to the exact issues you face as a tall person, but I also know that clothes can look so fabulous on tall women.

So my solution has been to use Stitch Fix. I absolutely love it. It is also EXTREMELY easy to use. Box comes. Try everything on. Throw unwanted clothes in the postage paid envelope they send with the package. Done. Each clothing item comes with a little card on how to style it with other items in your wardrobe so you see how you can wear it.

My suggestion is to have your daughter fill out the profile for you since you have indicated that she does have a good sense of style and can select things for you that are successful. The stylists at SF will provide things that generally fit what you indicate you want, but they also will push the envelope a bit for you. It does take some time for the stylist to get to know you and also for your wardrobe to begin to “fill out”. You can communicate quite a bit to your stylist about each fix (both before and after). Most times now, I get 2 or 3 items in a fix that I really love. You can let them know if you have an occasion coming up (vacation, special event), and they will try to put things in the fix that can work for you. I suggest committing to six boxes or something like that before judging. The first ones are not the best ones. I’ve been using for well over a year now and am thrilled I barely ever have to go in a clothing store.

I do take the time after each box to tell them specifically about the fit (they ask in a little survey) - - so if something is three inches too long, I’ll indicate that so they get the feel for my size. If something isn’t comfortable to me or pulls or whatever, I always tell them. But also tell them if I love an item. I try on EVERYTHING they send and have sometimes been surprised by something that didn’t look good in the box, but looked great on (and vice versa).

Another “service” that has been somewhat, but less useful is Stylit on Facebook. Once a month it sends photos of outfits with accessories, and you rate them. If you like the outfit, it tells you where you can purchase the component parts. I don’t really shop with it, but it has helped me get a sense of current trends and also what goes together.

Good luck with it all. I really really don’t know how I missed out on the shopping gene, but I truly understand what you are going through.

Oh, and for jeans, I swear by NYDJ (not your daughter’s jeans) - - they come in long in many colors and styles and have an easy fit that works for many women who aren’t in their twenties or thirties anymore.


I recently started a thread about my shopping experience with a friend of mine – who sounds a bit like you. I booked a personal shopper for her, and it was the best shopping experience she ever had. Some of your issues would be eliminated with a personal shopper (at least where we went, which was Saks) – personal room with better lighting, for example.

A good personal shopper should be able to answer many of your questions, like whether you look better in V-neck vs. scoop neck, what length skirt, etc. You may never develop that sense of personal style, so I would suggest using that personal shopper maybe once a year. My friend was looking for business clothes, but the shopper said she would do anything – casual, business casual, special event, shoes, undergarments.

The situation for us tall folks has gotten much better than when I was growing up – many catalogues have tall options. There may not be a tall department, but there are more pant lengths so that I don’t find myself wearing “flood pants” anymore. I buy a lot of my casual clothes from Athleta, which has a lot of tall sizes. I just searched Lands End tall, and came up with this – http://www.landsend.com/shop/womens-tall/-/N-fxlZfoi.

Since you can’t visualize how something on the hanger looks on you, I’d suggest looking through catalogues and online. Some online sites have videos with models showing the clothes, and sometimes give the sizes of the models. Zappos has videos, I know.

I am exactly that size/shape! I find the trying on clothes part of shopping really tedious. I have a couple of suggestions: for DIY shopping, go to Marshall’s or TJ Maxx. You can take at least 10 maybe 15 items in with you to the depressing room. Have a mindset that of 10 maybe only 1 or 2 will work. The other extreme as you mention is to go to a Nordstrom, expecting to pay, but having a helpful person assist you in finding things. There are also less pricey options where you can get assistance.

JJill jeans and pants fit me well. I never buy the “tall” pants anywhere because although the length may be good, the waist is then too high. I buy the regular length and hope they run long.

I buy dresses online usually from TitleNine. I don’t like the feel of synthetics and theirs are mostly cotton. If it doesn’t fit I send it back. The selection does not seem overwhelming if I stick to the catalog.

I can’t shop online, unless it’s an exact duplicate of something I already own or I’m already very familiar with the brand’s sizing. Nothing worse than getting your hopes up, then it’s not well made or the fit is off.

Start small, the shirts. With the pants and blazers you own now, new shirts/blouses can feel like a major update. Later, you go for more. It helps to go when it’s not a major sale, so the quantity and selection are there. Later, when you know a few specific likes, you can stock up at sale time, even online.

I mostly shop at Nordstrom, but the quality and selection just aren’t great where I live, there isn’t the call for as much of the quality pieces for everyday. (And it’s worse here at Macy’s. Same for Marshall’s clothes, though I did get some wonderful Uggs there, deep discount.) It can help to find one of the much more upscale Nordies stores that really serve women in your profession, get a personal shopper there or go when it’s not busy and you can get attention. Tell yourself you’re there for one hour or so, a low pressure look-see. For now, when we head for the movies or the cell phone store at the mall, we tend to park by Nordstrom, allow a little time to eyeball things as we walk through, maybe try something on, but keep it low pressure. Going on a major expedition can be its own hell, agreed.

I do tend to get several colors of something I love, especially if it can dress up or down (and even cotton or blend shirts, well made, from a great brand, can do that.) People at work don’t really notice whether you radically change styles, day to day- it’s more about the colors and your confidence and an occasional difference.

I know the 1000 shirts can seem overwhelming, but remind yourself you’re just going for a few you like. It really can just be the first few you like, not obsessing that you have to try them all. My mother was the sort who nagged shopping should take hours, while you try on everything, just in case you discover a surprise. But you aren’t talking about “perfect” or meeting Anna Wintour, you just want a fresher option. Baby steps.

Later, when you know what looks good on you, what makes you feel good, what sizes work with what styles, then it’s easier to deal with the discounted places.

Some stores have wonderful salespeople. Approach someone of your build, and describe what you are looking for. I do this at BR or athletic wear stores. It is best if you visit during the week, when the store is not busy. Often, opening time works well.

At the department stores, make an appointment with a personal shopper. I mentioned before, when my son left college, he needed a professional wardrobe. I made an appointment for him with a saleswoman. She had a tailor (also female) join them later. Most of the alterations were free, but a dress shirt needed to be shortened, which was a small charge. When he left that job mid-year, he didn’t have to go to the store. She picked out jeans, casual pants, shirts, had all the pants hemmed (his measurements where on file), and shipped the lot for $10 across country.

Try stitchfix. My SIL did and loved what she got.worth a try.

I can’t help you. I hate shopping too. Hate it. When I’ get this chance, I’ll read through the thread, as maybe I can find some advice that will help make it not suck so much.

LaMas, I know what you mean. I’m petite and sometimes it’s great because it’s not so overwhelming. Less choices are good.

One idea is if you trust your D’s taste, have her bookmark a few items on line and you could buy them if you like them. Then try them on and text her a picture of you, she can say yea or nay. A virtual shopping trip with your D!

I try and shop at small local stores or small mall stores. Less choices and the sales people seem to be more helpful.

J Jill, chicos, White House Black Market, Talbots are a few I can think of. They have lots of mix and match choices and the stores aren’t too big and overwhelming.

Another idea is not to try and shop on Saturday. Everyone shops that day and you will get less help. If you can go on a weekday after work, the stores aren’t so busy and you will be likely to get more personalized help. If you go when it’s not busy and tell the sales people that you need help, hopefully you can get it.

Buy a few things and take your picture in them when you get home. Send them to your D or try and analyze the yourself. Return what doesn’t work. The biggest problem I have is that what worked at the store doesn’t work at home. Returning is a pain but I buy stuff and it does not work. There is no shame in returning. Sales people don’t blink an eye.