Older women and fashion: The big issue

Older womenWhen I was a kid, women always seemed to look older than they do now. Of course, everyone looks old when you’re tiny. But looking back at films and pictures, it seems that despite the teenage youth-quake, when women hit 25 they felt they had to grow up so 25-year-olds dressed like their mums and by the time a woman hit her 50s, she looked much older.

Just look at the picture above of my dear old Nan on holiday and myself at roughly the same age taking advantage of the short September heatwave. I like to think I look a lot younger (hopefully I’m not fooling myself!)

But it seems the fashion industry hasn’t quite cottoned on to this change, at least, that’s the conclusion of a new report from Mintel. Women think the industry is too obsessed with Millennials and Gen Z, but its the over-55s who should be its big target, Mintel says.

This age group (my age group actually) really does feels neglected. While 32% of all women say there aren’t enough cool clothes for their age group, 52% of over-55s think so.

Not sure I fully agree with them as I’ve never had a problem finding clothes I like (in fact there’s too much out there that I want most of the time). But if women really feel the clothes aren’t out there, then it’s a communications problem at the very least.

Anyway, the industry is obviously missing a trick if so many women feel under-served. Especially given that this age group has higher disposable incomes and is more likely to be looking for quality (74%) compared to only 55% of the Gen Z age group.

Interestingly, it’s not all about trying to look younger for them either with three-quarters of the over 55s wanting to look was good as they can for their age, rather than chasing a more youthful look.

Another fact that should get marketing departments scratching their heads. And no, it doesn’t mean we need more JD Williams-style advertising (I hate ads populated by older women having faux fun as much as I hate ads with teenagers having faux fun).

The older customer is also frustrated by sizing issues and with almost 25% of this age group buying clothes in sizes 18 and over, Mintel feels that retailers not offering plus sizes are missing out.

Should the industry care? Yes, population shifts mean the 55-plus segment is only going to grow and for a UK womenswear market that’s expected to reach £27.7bn this year with growth of around 3% (after a 3.7% rise in 2015) that’s a lot of money that retailers risk going to their rivals.

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