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Guide for choosing clothes for older relatives

In a follow up to last month's article looking at how the high street intimidates women over 70, Carr and Westley have some tips on how to choose clothes for older relatives

As women get older, our clothing needs change. Like it or not, we can’t slip into the same designs we grew up with and we need to find a greater balance of comfort and style. Unfortunately, many high street retailers get this wrong as their sizing and length proportions are skewed towards younger generations and there is a lack of choice in terms of attractive, yet comfortable styles.

As a result, shopping for the right fit and style can be a frustrating process and even more so when a relative is tasked with a shopping trip on their behalf. A recent survey conducted by women’s classic fashion brand, Carr & Westley revealed that of those people who said they had purchased clothing for an older relative before, almost three quarters found the process stressful and were unsure what to look for. More than half said they had got the wrong size, length or unsuitable style with a previous item.


Clothing can play an important role in helping older people maintain a positive self-image and express their personality. Research from Carr & Westley revealed that over two thirds of 60+ women choose clothing that reflects their personality or image, with over half saying they feel more confident with their clothing or image as they get older. But, despite this, a huge percentage feel that manufacturers and retailers don’t provide enough choice for their age group in terms of clothing options.


One of the biggest faux pas’ manufacturers make is designing clothes with disproportionate sizes to suit all shapes and ages. Often standard clothing ranges are cut to suit regular proportions. But, as women get older, the shift in weight usually moves towards the middle of the body, often called an ‘apple shape’. This can make other areas seem a little out of proportion, so whilst a top might be the right size, by ‘standard cut’ it will be disproportionate and as consequence, too short in length.


To assist relatives with the purchasing process, Carr & Westley has put together some tips of what to look out for when choosing clothes for older women to ensure optimum comfort and ease, but without compromising on style.


• Tiny buttons or small zips can be difficult for older women to manoeuvre, so look for pull-on and wrap-around styles of tops and trousers

• Choose fabrics that can be machine-washed and dried in either a home or care situation and avoid fragile fabrics that require special care, such as hand-washing. Look for fabrics that feel soft against sensitive skin

• Two-piece garments can be complimentary for women who are different sizes on top and bottom as they can make for a better fit • Wraps and shrugs can be useful for wearing over tops and dresses for those relatives who often feel a chill


• As the waist can a problem area as women get older, look for tops that are between waist and hip level as they cover the stomach and rest just above the bottom at the back

• Steer clear of tops and t-shirts that hug the neck and look for tops with V-necks and lower rounded necklines

• Arms are an area that older women often feel self-conscious about, so tops with full length sleeves are a good option. Raglan, dolman or kimono sleeves are also a better fit for rounded shoulders


• Jeans are ageless and suit every size and shape. If your relative is slightly larger on the bottom, look for a boot cut style, as the flare with help draw attention away from their mid-section and give them a slightly taller look, which is important as you get older. If they’re a bit smaller on the bottom, look for straight or skinny leg instead.

• With all trousers, look for an easy-fit stretch waist for a comfortable fit. A little spandex/lycra content will also help to control any problem areas.

Skirts and dresses

• For skirts, stick to straight or A-line cuts that hit slightly below the knee

• Pleated skirts are good for allowing the fabric to spread over the knees when seated, which is especially important if your relative has mobility issues

• Accessible, but concealed side or front pockets on dresses can be useful for women who want to carry personal items around with them

• Dresses with belts are fantastic for transforming a body shape and adding to an overall look of an outfit

Underwear & Nightwear

• Front closure bras can be significantly easier for older relatives, so they don’t have to twist their arms in order to reach around their back

• Dressing gowns that wrap to close in the back are great for people who may need help getting dressed and undressed


• Shoes should have non-slip sloes to minimise the risk of falling. Look for easy-on, easy-off styles that are easy to remove. Velcro closures can also hold the feet securely.


Before purchasing clothing for a relative, ask them to give you their appropriate measurements or assist with this process to ensure the garments fit as well as possible. Bust & Hips – for tops and trousers, measure the fullest part of the bust and hips with no allowance for extra fullness. Dresses & Skirts – measure from the top of waistband or nape of neck to hem.

Do you shop for an older relative? Have these tips helped you? 

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