M. Susan Street is the President of Vintage Jewelry Supplies Company, Inc. and the founder and editor of Fiftynotfrumpy.com, a great blog we just discovered–and we love! Here is her story:
After working in the fashion industry for most of my adult life as a model, visual merchandiser, corporate level manager and boutique jewelry designer, I realized– in my mid-fifties– that I could no longer speak the language of fashion. Since high school, I had floated effortlessly from one trend to the next: I wore the fashions of the moment, and my hair and makeup reflected the current trends as well. But at some point in my forties, my marriage and my personal life started to crumble beneath my high heels. The resulting depression lasted for a very long time, and I retreated into my work.
At forty-five years old, I had to start over, with nothing more than my clothes and the contents of my design studio. I began building an internet-based jewelry supply business, which meant that I rarely came in contact with others. I worked alone for eighteen hours a day, seven days a week, for several years.
The world continued on without me, but when I was ready to be a part of it all again, I looked in the mirror to see a woman I no longer recognized. I had gained a lot of weight, and my health was failing because I really didn’t care what or if I ate, and I never exercised. So, I took control of my weight issues by switching to a mostly vegetarian diet, going for vigorous walks and working out with light weights. But losing forty pounds meant I had to buy a whole new wardrobe. Not even my shoes fit any more! The first time I wandered into the local department store, I came to the full realization that I was now fifty-five years old and invisible. The clothes I saw other women wearing–and what was on the racks–made me feel like I was a time traveler from a different planet. I tried on clothes until I was nearly in tears. I went to another store and experienced much the same frustration. Nothing was right for the person I saw in the mirror. What I wanted to wear no longer looked right on the middle-aged woman staring back at me in desperation.
Determined not to be defeated, I bought some fashion magazines and started studying. I visited hundreds of fashion blogs. I studied what other women my age wore whose looks I admired. Gradually I began to find my fashion voice again. I made a lot of expensive buying mistakes before I figured out what look was right for me at this stage of my life. I certainly couldn’t wear the styles I had enjoyed in my early forties. This thick middle and other wobbly bits don’t need to see the light of day!
Finally, after many trials and expensive errors, I came upon a formula for dressing in light-weight layers of different lengths and muted tones of color that fit with my personality. Scarves and other accessories are always a part of my look, in varying degrees throughout the seasons. Cardigans, blazers and vests are now a large portion of my wardrobe. I’ve found that well-made classic hand bags can elevate your look even if you are wearing jeans and a sweater. And I still enjoy wearing my high heels for special events, when I won’t be standing or walking a lot.
My own struggle made me realize there are a lot of other women who feel the same frustration: we have given our all to work, children, aging parents or other all-consuming life events. Then comes the wake up call: the one that lets us know we still want to participate fully in life. You may be newly single again and meet a person for whom you want to look your best. You may be starting a new job and want to project a professional, updated image. Perhaps you feel that you need a new look after losing weight. It’s your time to engage with others and enjoy your life to the fullest. Looking your best is part of that joy.
I started blogging in order to share my experiences with others, hoping that it would make the journey a little less solitary for those who might be going through similar struggles. In the past year, I have received mail from hundreds of women and several men. Some are battling with or recovering from cancer or other illnesses. Some are emerging from abusive relationships. I am deeply touched and motivated by the people who tell me that being able to get dressed with confidence again has helped make their daily lives better and more enjoyable. Some women tell me they print my outfit ideas to keep in their closet or to take on shopping trips with them. I create outfit ideas and share style tips to flatter women in my age group. I publish my ideas, tips and photos on my Facebook page on most days, and on my blog at FiftynotFrumpy.com a couple of times a week.
I’m M. Susan Street and I recently celebrated my fifty-sixth birthday, with joy and celebration!