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Fashion has been a fun part of my life ever since I was a little girl and my mother, Rose, Aunt Jean, and Grandma would go look in the Neusteters’ store window in downtown Denver.  (You know, “the store” of the1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s and 1960s)  They would ogle and ah and my grandmother would make a few sketches.  In a short time, she would sew each of a dress very similar to what she saw at Neusteters!

I love the colors, the styles, the looks and the implications of fashion.  It feeds my creativity, which never seems to have enough to eat.  The only time I did not like fashion was in the early 70s – so shapeless, so brown, so ugly.

Well, dear Ladies-of-a-Certain-Age, I am here today to tell you I am thrilled with Spring Fashion 2013 – despite the fact that the major national retailers I have shopped for years seem to have disowned me now that my hair is gray! (Note:  In the future, I will write about my real shopping joy – consignment shops and Good Will stores.  I know many of you love to shop them, too!)

I have decided to do a twice-yearly fashion report and retailer report card for Ladies-of-a-Certain-Age because I have found it is not easy to shop at this age and even though my money is still green and my plastic still works, retailers don’t seem to want “grandma” to shop for herself.  (They sure like it when I buy my 40-something-year-old daughters’ clothes or my adorable granddaughter a new outfit.)

The ranking (yes, I gave them grades!) is based on secret shopping I recently completed.  I was trained in this marketing technique many years ago.  It is used to evaluate companies and give them feedback for improvement.  (Disclosure – I hold an M.S. degree in marketing and organizational development from the University of Colorado and have over 40 years experience in these business areas.)

Talking with many of you about your experiences with clothes and retailers, I have found your experience is about the same as mine.  Our bodies – even for those of us who still wear the same size and weigh the same amount we did in high school – have changed. We have bulges and sags where we never had them before and veins and wrinkles, too, that – in our youth-crazed culture – we prefer to camouflage as much as possible. Further, we know and appreciate the value of being comfortable.

In the past couple of weeks, I went shopping at five of the Denver stores I have shopped at a good portion of my life.  They included: Kmart, Lands End, Ann Taylor, Macy’s and Nordstrom.  I will share my experience with you shortly and the grades I gave them.

Spring 2013 Fashion Report for Ladies-of-a-Certain Age

I love the new spring fashions and think they are very adaptable for Ladies-of-a-Certain-Age whether you tend to like romantic, tailored, dramatic or sport styles.  And — many of the items I have in my closet – and I bet you do too – are very appropriate this year!  There are no weird colors or cuts.

 2013 Hottest Spring Fashion Statements:

1. Black and white

2. Lace

3. Paisley

4. Floral prints

4. Pastel colored jeans to the ankle or Capri’s (amazing how long these have been around)

5. Vivid yellow

6. Berry colors (pinks and purples)

7. Thin belts

8. Flats, wedges, 21/2 inch heels, canvas shoes

9. Dresses

So, this is what is new in this fashion maven’s closet for spring:

1. A floral shirt (Kmart)

2. A floral silk dress (Ann Taylor)

3. Black/white tops with ¾” sleeves (Ann Taylor)

4. Black ankle pants (Ann Taylor)

5. Yellow/white/black silk scarf (Ann Taylor)

6. Black/white earrings (Kmart)

7. Yellow purse (Macy’s)

8. Black Capri’s (Lands End)

9. White Capri’s (Lands End)

10. Yellow ankle pants (Kmart)

11. Stripped canvas shoes (Lands End)

12. A long black/white full-length dress (Kmart)

Also, I bought a narrow, yellow, leather belt at Target for $15.  I just could not see paying triple for one at Ann Taylors, Macy’s or Nordstrom. I already have a pair of wedges I love and flat shoes. I am planning on buying a yellow bracelet and necklace when I see something I like.

These new items join a lot of black and white and various berry-colored pieces I already have in my closet.

National Retailer Report Card  – Ladies of a Certain Age Spring Fashion Report 2013

 Here is a review of the five retailers  - Kmart, Lands End, Ann Taylor, Macy’s and Nordstrom – I have shopped for clothes for many years.  I looked at the following:

1. Styles of clothes – were they in tune for our love of elastic waists, longer sleeves, sensible shoes

2. Age of sales clerks in store and how attentive they are

3. Images of ladies-of-a-certain age in advertising – print and electronic – I emailed customer service for a response to this

4. Music in stores

5. Price

6. Clothes care (many of you have told me you don’t want to go to dry cleaners anymore)

Below are the grades I gave them for Spring 2013 and details of my experience:

B+    Lands’ End – Clothes, styles, prices, easy care.  They are the only one that returned my email with a personal note.  Sales clerks are not Ladies-of-a-Certain-Age, but very knowledgeable of our needs.  In the past, they have had “one of us” in their catalog

B      Ann Taylor – Clothes, styles, good sales, helpful and knowledgeable sales clerk in our age bracket. They did return my email with a “form” email.

B-    Kmart – Kmart is Kmart.  Good prices, good clothes, easy care. The Jaclyn Smith line is spearheaded by “one of us.” They never returned my email.  If they put a couple of us on their web site and in their promotional pieces, they would have ranked much higher.

C     Macy’s – The store and web site seem so disorganized.  They did not have an email address for their customer service.  The music in the store was loud and brass and metallic.  A clerk “like us” was very helpful in their purse department. I have seen others “of us” in their stores; but, never on their web site or in their promotional materials.

C-   Nordstrom – And I am being generous.  Oh, Nordstrom, Nordstrom – you who are noted for customer service (I have experienced it in the past) really flunked on my last visit.  Few clerks, all young, and all obviously overworked.  And, sorry, Nordstrom, the floral ankle jeans were lovely; but, I am not paying $125 for them.  Nordstrom never returned my email.  Nordstrom does not have “any of us” on their web site or in their promotional materials that I can find.  You may notice the total amount of money I spent at their Cherry Creek store in Denver was $0.

Here are the details for what I based the grades:

Kmart – You may be surprised that I have shopped Kmart for years.  As a working woman, most of my clothes’ dollars went into “work clothes.”  Then, I loved to shop at Kmart for all of my other clothes needs.  I loved the colors and the prices.  Today, I buy a lot of their “Basic Editions” clothing.  I wonder if Lands’ End makes this brand.  I find the pants, tops and sweaters in this brand quite adequate for my needs.  Also, I like Jaclyn Smith clothes.  I think she is one of the most beautiful women in the world.  She has had her line of clothing and household items at Kmart ever since 1985.  They have flair.  The one thing I don’t like is Jaclyn’s picture. In it she does not look like she was born on her birthday, October 26, 1945.  I hope she really does not look like her picture now.  I find plastic – yes,”plastic” surgery  a real turn-off and disrespectful to older women.  I am not alone.  The fashion editor of Vogue Magazine Grace Coddington, age 70, stated so in her new memoir “Grace.”  I found this book to be very helpful and listed it in the resource section.

Well, Kmart is Kmart.  I feel it is a good deal for the money. I am surprised at how stylish and well made their clothes are.  I did not hear any music in the store (Denver’s Alameda store) There were no sales clerks in any of the clothes/accessory departments I visited.  I saw three female employees that day.  They were all very young and pregnant, and wore blue tops.  I saw nary a one of us in their promotional efforts and to date they have not returned my email.

Lands’ End- For many years they had a gray-haired model on their web site and in all of their catalogs.  She is conspicuously absent this year!  I did get an email promptly back from Connie L. of online customer care.  In the message she stated, “Thank you for your message to Lands’ End regarding our models. We are very sorry we have not used a model who you feel depicts your demographic. We can assure you, there are several retired individuals here in our phone center. They unanimously agree they would not want to model or work a sales floor. “She forwarded my email on to their creative department.  Several days later, I received another email from Jodi M. in customer communications, “….your comments have been passed on to our CEO/President Edgar Huber, as well as our creative and senior executive teams. I’m sorry that you miss the appearance of some of our former and older models we have used in our past catalogs.”  Well, ladies, this is the best that it got from the five retailers I contacted.  Let’s see what Lands’ End does.

The clerks in the Cherry Creek store are very, very helpful, Ms. Malone, whom I have had long discussions about Ladies-of-a-Certain-Age.  She is well aware of what we want in clothes.  I have always loved Lands’ End for their quality and value at a good price, and even better when they have sales.  Their “Starfish” line seems made for Ladies-of-a-Certain-Age.  It is somewhat stylish, easy to care for, and very comfortable, but lo the models wearing it seem to be half our age. I did not notice any music in the department.  What I did notice is how lovely the Lands’ End departments are and how shabby this Sears store is.  I do hope that Lands’ End will have stand-alone stores soon.

Ann Taylor – What can I say?  The clothes are just lovely and so is the Cherry Creek Denver store!  The lady who waited on me, Brenda, is one of us!  She was so helpful. She even helped me tie the scarf I bought.  The sales are wonderful and many of the clothes are easy care.  But, alas, “none of us” are shown on their web site or promotional materials that I can find.  They did return my email with a form email. They describe themselves as the store for the modern working woman. Well, maybe I should not shop there anymore since I am mostly retired.

Macy’s – Sometimes I get their name mixed us with all of their previous ones; after all, I have been in their store ever since I was a babe in Denver.  I even worked there in college.  I went to the INC – International Concepts section of the Cherry Creek Denver store.  It was hard to find.  There are so many racks everywhere and clothes thrown here and there.  I went there because at this age I wear mostly casual clothes.  I still like the panache of this brand, like I did when I was younger.  I did finally find one young clerk at the register.  She tried to understand my questions about concerns of Ladies-of-a-Certain-Age.  I found “one of us” in the purse department (very crammed and hard to really discern what was what) and she was very helpful. The music was loud, harsh and metallic, blaring from the overhead speakers.   I could not find an email for Customer Service. I could not “find us” on the web site or promotional materials.  At least Macy’s values us enough to hire us.

Nordstrom – I never expected Nordstrom to be at the bottom of the heap.  They have lovely clothes and I have had lovely experiences in their stores. But, the day I went shopping in Cherry Creek wasn’t so lovely.  The few young clerks were trying their hardest to help people.  There just weren’t enough of them.  I focused on the Point of View department because of the casual clothes.  Somehow I just could not justify more than $100 difference between the floral ankle jeans I saw at Kmart and the ones I saw at Nordstrom.  Yes, the fabric was softer; but, did that make it better?  Nordstrom never returned my email.  I found that hard to believe with the level of customer service I have experienced in the past.  I did not “find us” on line or in print materials.  I can tell you there were “lots of us” in the store that day. Maybe we will go away when we realize customer service has gone.

That’s it, Ladies!  Let’s see if we see “more of us” on the web and in sales literature and on in these stores, along with more awareness of our style preferences.