Forgotten but not Gone

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Today’s WSJ has a great piece by Christina Binkley, whose columns are always a favorite destination. Her contention in “Forgotten Market Online: Older Women” is that although women over 35 are responsible for 65% of online fashion purchases, most apparel sites target 18-34 year olds and forget the woman with the bigger waistline and wallet. She points to examples of ensembles that are so young, and online tactics, so teenager-y, that a mature woman would sooner go naked than click on.

She writes, “After the initial fun is over, weather forecasts, friends’ groups, and video can seem gimmicky, and when the sites present youthful styles like that pintucked T-shirt and tights to a grown woman headed to the office on Monday morning, they can seem downright disconnected.”

She notes brands that are trying to reach out with tactics like models who show how clothes fit or custom-measuring systems that could take a tailor to input. I’d like to cast a different vote on this. Stop cheesy “older woman” targeting. Start selling me great clothes.

Over the past year or so, my online apparel buying has escalated, especially for deals, and it’s got nothing to do with complicated, fit-to-measure sites. Instead, I turn to brands I know or super deals like I get on ruelala.com or bluefly.com.

I like when Nordstrom.com simply asks if your body is straight or apple shaped, which any 40 something knows with her eyes closed. I worry that if sites start uber-catering to women over 40 as if they are clueless about what looks good on them or offering Internet version of boomer chit chat, they will fail as miserably as Gap’s Forth & Towne, a retail concept that assumed that women over 40 thought they looked over 40.

My message to the hidebound apparel industry: Wake up. Midlife women want well-made, on-trend, consistently-sized, good quality clothes that are well-priced for what they are. We love a bargain. We’re glad to try a trend (if return shipping is free) and we’re super loyal to brands that like us. Catalog brands like Acacia, Garnet Hill and Athleta, all inspire us to buy stuff that make us feel eco, homey or fit. Love our complexity. Respect our smarts about our bodies. Realize we know trend from fad (especially the second time around.) Our minds are open. Is your store?

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