The 14 Things Online Women’s Clothing Sites Should Know
by Tina Boomerina (Christina Gregoire)
Women over 40, 50 and 60 need help finding good clothing and accessories online. The best websites provide an easy search for cute styles, stretchy fabrics, and correct sizes.
What Do Baby Boomer Women Want?
Answer: Decent clothes that fit and that hang right.
If Boomers are your target market, you should learn something about us. According to AARP, most Baby Boomers have lived in the suburbs their whole lives. (Not me... but I'm an anomaly.) And, from what I’ve observed, most Boomer Chicks are not tall, willowy yoga instructors… and we don’t look like Samantha in Sex and the City. So, stop trying to sell us clothing designed for Amazons. Most Boomers are just average women (of average height and average weight) who want to look halfway decent… without having to learn to sew our own dresses, cobble our own shoes, or knit our own sweaters (jumpers).
Boho Chic for Baby Boomers
If you fashion designers (and department store buyers) can can come up with something halfway beautiful that fits most of us, you'll make a bloody fortune. So, all of you clothing designers should be experimenting right now, because if you can figure out what looks good on the hoards of Baby Boomer women, we will canonize you. We will throw money at your feet. Yes, this challenge is for you Mssr. Cavalli and your cohort. The only designer who seems to come close is Johnny Was... although Joe Browns is pretty good, too... and, though I'm a former hippie, there are lots of other Baby Boomer niches just waiting for you enterprising designers to fill. Hey, I like boho for its flowing, flattering look, but not all of us can wear hippie clothes to work.
Clothes for Work for Baby Boomers
For women who want simple, understated comfort, Eileen Fisher "gets it," because she's one of us. She makes clothing that is flattering and can be worn anywhere, even to work. We love her stretchy cardigans and unstructured jackets.
Oh yeah, that's another thing that Baby Boomer women want... we want to breathe. If we can breathe while we're wearing your clothing, you've already got half of it right.
Two other things that older chicks need are cruise wear and travel clothing. And, we don't want to be dying on long flights because our clothes are too constricting. (Yes, most of us fly coach.) Oh... and we need cute shoes with heels that are thick enough to stand on, but high enough to give us height.
Boomer Women Want Nice Clothes That Fit
I am a Baby Boomer, born in 1952, almost in the middle of the Baby Boom. I have one foot in Twiggy's Carnaby Street and the other foot in the California discotheques of the 1970s. Well, that may sound "old" to you, but I'm not ready to roll over and wear muumuus, yet.
Today, I have been searching online for some new clothes, and I’d like to give you a few ideas about how to make the online shopping experience a lot easier for me (and for you). And, I’ve seen a lot of outfits I love, but I’ve also seen a lot of things that make me go, “Hmmm.”
Well, I’ve compiled a list of ideas that I think you online retailers should consider. Hey, I’m not telling you buyers, designers, and website gurus this stuff in order to make you feel bad. I’m trying to help you make money. You should think of this list as the results of a one-woman focus group.
Why Can't I Find What I Want?
Sometimes, when I go to your website to buy something specific, I can’t find it or I can't find important, pertinent information about your product. So, I think you should consider making a few changes to your websites based upon the things I experienced today. Here are my suggestions:
1. Faux Wrap Dresses: When I enter the keyword phrase “wrap dresses” into your search boxes, I am looking for a “real” wrap dress. Real wrap dresses are not sewn shut. A “true” wrap dress can be adjusted for a proper fit; a faux wrap dress cannot. And, while I have many cute mock-wrap dresses in my closet (similar to the cute dress in the link), there are times when I really need a dress that can be adapted to fit me on fat days as well as on skinny days... and that would be a "wrap dress." So, can we all come up with some universal phrase for those wrap dresses that actually wrap? Maybe something like “True Wrap Dresses” or “Real Wrap Dresses.” If I can find the right wrap dress in my size, I will buy it... right?
2. Show Me the Right Size: When I do a search on your website and I click a button to specify the size I need, I don’t like to see results that are one size too small or two sizes too big, so have your webmaster or your data entry person fix this issue. And, if your website doesn’t have a way to search by size, your website is out of date.
3. Lots of Stretchy Fabrics: Unless I am looking for something special for a wedding or a job interview, I am more likely to purchase a dress made of a fabric with stretch. And, that’s because clothes made of jersey and similarly stretchy fabrics are easier to fit than clothes made of non-stretchy fabrics. (Yes, when I was twenty-five, it wasn’t a big deal because everything fit me… but I’m not twenty-five anymore.) And, it would be great if your search buttons included a way to bring up items made of stretchy fabrics. The ability to click on a box (to specify the type of fabric I want) would make the shopping experience easier for me... and for others.
4. Garment Length: On many sites, it is difficult to figure out how long a dress or a top actually is. Your site may say that a garment is 32”, but it would be easier for me to find what I want if your site also said something like “This dress falls to mid-calf” or “This top comes to mid-thigh” on a 5’5” woman. (BTW, 5’5” is the average height of women in the US. Are you surprised to learn that we aren't all built like Claudia Schiffer...?)
Do You Show Us What We Want to See?
I’m not quite sure how it happens, but sometimes I see certain photos and designs that really turn me off when I’m shopping on various clothing sites. And, if I see too many items that I know won’t look good on me, I’m gonna bounce.
Here are a few of the things I don't want to see on any website.
5. Clothing That Looks Strange on the Model: If your clothing doesn’t look FABULOUS on an airbrushed 16-year-old model, who is 5’11” and 110 pounds, I start to wonder if anything on your site will look good on me... or on any average woman. So, get a better photo… or don’t put that item on your website. (Note: I know you don't sell anything as weird as the "thing" in this link.)
6. Weird Ruching: Most ruching (draping) is flattering. However, I’ve seen a few ruched dresses and tops that drape in all the wrong places and give the impression of extra rolls of fat or excess skin. And, sometimes a dress just has too much ruching all over it. I appreciate that designers are trying to come up with something that’s flattering to all body types, but ruching can be overdone. (Note: I have quite a few dresses and tops with ruching, so keep selling them. Just realize that you can have too much of a good thing.)
7. Too Many Ruffles: While I love ruffles on evening wear and sometimes on blouses (necklines and sleeves), ruffles in the wrong places add volume to my already bulky bod. So, remember that Baby Boomers live in Middle America… not Little House on the Prairie. And, make sure your ruffles are made from the right type of fabric. Note: A well-placed peplum is a great example of a “ruffle” done right. Also, I would like to add that clothing that's too cutesy (or precious) will turn me off.
8. Too Many Short Sleeves: Tops and dresses with short sleeves (especially puffed sleeves) can make some older women look like they are caught in a time warp. And, I’m not talking about the Rocky Horror song. I’m thinking more of the high-school cheerleader type of horror.
Hey, if you’re selling to the junior-sized market, then short sleeves and T-shirts are cool. (And a few older women actually look good in short sleeves.) However, if you’re trying to corner the largest US market in history, I would say that you should have a large collection of items with sleeves that come to the elbow and beyond. (T-shirt-length sleeves draw attention to the absolutely worst part of a woman's arm.) Note: Women who are older than I am... gasp... you didn't think that was possible... have emailed me to say that they don't want to show their arms. They prefer gauzy or lightweight shrugs that are designed to go over sleeveless tops and dresses... even with daytime outfits.
9. Too Many Sheath Dresses: Just because Michelle Obama looks good in sheath dresses doesn’t mean that EVERYONE suddenly looks good in them. Try to picture Mae West in a sheath.
10. Too Many Drawstrings on Waistbands: Many lovely summer skirts and jogging exercise pants are secured with a tie that sits in the worst possible place I can imagine. You can’t even pull a T-shirt over the drawstring bow because the bumps will show through in a weird way. If you tuck your top in, all eyes will be drawn to your imperfect tummy. While drawstrings are fine on exercise pants and pajamas, this detail does not look good on all women.
Baby Boomer Women Don't Want Difficult Fabrics
When shopping for clothing online, I usually look for clothing made of stretchy fabrics. A matte jersey dress or a sweater coat, for example, will fit and flatter my shape (and the shape of almost all women). However, other fabrics can be tricky when ordering online.
11. Too Much Shiny Jersey or Shiny Velvet: Sure, shiny jerseys and velvets and satins are trendy and fun. However, shiny fabrics don’t always look good on older American women. There are a few exceptions to this rule. One exception is fabric with a camouflage-style print (leopard, zebra, polka dots, etc.). Another exception is any shiny fabric that’s stiff enough to hold a woman’s jiggly curves in place. However, shiny jersey, shiny velvet, and similar fabrics usually highlight a woman’s curves… and, unfortunately, when a woman is older, her curves seem to pop up in all the wrong spots, like her tummy, her thighs, and her muffin top. And, no woman wants to be forced into wearing body armor every day.
12. Fabrics That Wrinkle: Most of us want clothing that is wrinkle-free. American women don’t want their linen-clad butts covered in wrinkles and we don’t have live-ins to do our ironing… and taking clothes to be laundered is just too expensive. So, if you don’t want us to return our purchases, make sure the items you sell are low maintenance.
How Big Is That Thing? That Handbag? That Scarf? That... Whatever?
Websites should explain how big things are and how heavy they are. Hey, consumers can't really tell what an item is like from a tiny photo. And, one product that we need more information about is handbags. Some sites show each bag on a mannequin or model, however it would be wonderful if we had some idea what size those mannequins are.
13. What Size Is That Purse? It’s helpful to know that a handbag is 15 inches wide, 8 inches high, 5 inches deep, and has a strap that's 22 inches long. However, it would be much easier for women like me to purchase a handbag if there were a photo of an average-sized woman with the bag slung over her shoulder or tucked under her arm. Some sites give us more visual information than others, but every site that wants my business should give me a good idea of how that handbag will look on me. And, if you really want my business, give me the option of seeing how your bag looks on an average-sized Baby Boomer woman… and an average American woman is a size 14 these days... so that means that some women are over size 14.
14. How Much Does That Handbag Weigh? It’s imperative for a woman traveler (or a transit commuter) to know how much any bag weighs when it’s empty. Sites like Zappo's are good about giving a bag’s weight. (And, by the way, you should tell us how much those platform shoes weigh, too.)
15. Contributed by Jeanne Millard: Too many scoop necks, plunging v-necks, and boat neck/ballet neck tops! I ruined my skin in the 60's and 70's (before sunscreen came along), and I need to cover up the damage! Don't need to be buttoned up to my chin--but there is a happy medium!
Is Your Site Baby Boomer Friendly?
If you are trying to sell clothing to older women, I want you to look at the front page of your site through the eyes of a Baby Boomer. Is it easy to navigate? Do you have a variety of sleeve lengths, fabrics, dress lengths, and other things that would appeal to someone my age? And, make sure your backlinks work properly. I won't name any sites, but some online stores are more intuitive than others. Baby Boomers ARE the market, so... as much as you love high fashion on skinny models wearing stilettos... who are the real people who are shopping your site?
We don't want dowdy clothes. We aren't ready to pack it in. We just don't want to wear stuff that looks better on a teenager.
If you are a clothing manufacturer, designer, or buyer for an online store, please scroll down to see if any women have left comments about what they would like to know when they shop at online stores. I wrote a similar article a few years ago and women left ideas for you. (UPDATE: There are many comments. Read them.)
More Articles for Baby Boomer Women:
- Main Photo: Mike Licht, Flickr Creative Commons.
- This is a Cute Dress, But It's Not a Wrap Dress: Isme.
- Tell Us if Your Dresses Are Stretchy: DebenhamsUK. (Actually this website tells you if a dress has elastane - lycra - so we know if it's stretchy.)
- How Long is This Midi Dress? M and Co. (Tell us or show us.)
- Drawstrings are Fine on Exercise Clothing: Dunnes.
- How Big is That Scarf? SansburysTu (We love when you show your scarves on models.... even when the model is 12.)
- How Much Does That Purse Weigh: House of Fraser. (These are lightweight bags, so these are not a problem... it's the big ones that are the issue. Sometimes, I have to email you. Just tell us.)
What do you think of this article? Do you agree or disagree with what I said? Either way is fine... Leave a comment at the bottom of the page.