The Invisible Older Woman


The average older woman is still struggling with feelings of being invisible so says Jennifer Connolly of the 40 plus blog. A Well Styled Life.  For some, that may be desirable. Some women feel relief and love flying under the radar of society’s pressure to look a certain way. They revel in the freedom to march to their own drummer…even/especially if it’s got a funky beat.

invisible older woman

But for most, not so much. Being made to feel invisible is not a good thing. And I suspect it’s somewhat true for the trans woman too, at least for this one.

It’s no secret that America is a youth-obsessed country. When I was young, my friends and I couldn’t wait to grow up. Today, nobody wants to grow up. But there comes a time in every woman’s life when we can no longer chase youth and we can’t run away from age – nobody can run that fast, especially in high heels.

Marie Therese Norris of The French TouchMarie Therese Norris of the blog, The French Touch, (an over 60 woman) sends the message that she’s interested in the people and things around her is the way she presents herself. If she dresses as if she no longer cares, the world will return the sentiment. If she dresses as if she’s trying too hard to look young, the world will not take her seriously. Is it any wonder that, living in a Peter Pan society, mature women in their fifties and sixties start to feel as if they are invisible and slowly fading into the background? Sometimes we just feel like shouting, “Hey, we’re still here, and we have a lot to offer!”

I know this sounds incredibly superficial, but we need to face facts. We live in a superficial, increasingly visual world; and for men in particular, when it comes to women, the visual will always trump the verbal — at least, in the beginning. It doesn’t matter what’s inside; if they don’t like the wrapping, they won’t open the package. So, how we present ourselves matters a great deal. In fact, the older we get the more it matters, and not JUST to the opposite sex.

Being of advanced age, I worry less about meeting some arbitrary standard of beauty and certainly it’s almost easier to blend in as less is expected of me. But wanting to be invisible, no. I want to be seen for the woman I am. I want to be seen as being stylish and desirable, at least to know and not in a sexual way, that I have self worth as a woman

Jennifer gives this example of invisibility

“The last time a gentleman walked through a door ahead of me, and let it close in my face, I had a “word” with him. It was along the lines of, “I’m sure you’d love it if someone slammed a door in your mothers face!”  He gave me a blank stare which led me to conclude:

  • he was raised by wolves
  • his mother taught him no manners
  • he was a Neanderthal clod

As we age, we’re less likely to be noticed for our appearance which can sting and it’s all so unnecessary, but I’ll come to that in a moment.

Invisibility Impaired

Jennifer tells the story about being out and about in London with her beautiful daughter. When the heads turned to look at them, she realized they were looking at her daughter and not here. A small jolt went through her. Nothing earth shaking, but a page had turned for her, a shift had happened. A loss of something. A loss of power.  Her power of visibility

And I’m sure we may have experienced similar feelings when out with a beautiful younger person. God, I hate those photos of young 20 something crossdressers who look good in anything

Does losing visibility as you grow older matter?

  1. It matters because it affects our self-confidence.
  2. It matters because we have much wisdom to share that may not be heard.
  3. It matters because self-confidence affects our happiness.
  4. It matters because our happiness is crucial.
  5. It matters because it seriously pisses me off.

But what about the woman who is not happy being passed over and overlooked, merely because she’s gotten older?

Sister House is about fashion and our wardrobe can be a powerful tool in our struggle to remain visible. Author and stylist Sherrie Mathieson has this to say on the subject of wardrobe:

The fact that as women get older, the less likely they are to be noticed for their looks (certainly less by men, but also less by other women) is true. Too often the exceptions that get double takes and compliments fall into three groups,

  • the ones who dress very sexually
  • the ones who wear something like a bright color or “cute” (“Oh love that color on you! Oh isn’t that darling!?)
  • and the ladies who indulge in non apologetic eccentricity–wearing all sorts of clothing, especially odd hats, lots of jewelry,  glasses, scarves and tons of layers, textures and volume in clothing to an almost theatrical effect.” (The ladies of the Advanced Style blog would probably disagree)

Jennifer doesn’t quite agree. Here’s her take on the three groups.

The Sexual Look

Jane Pesch at 73 not invisible

Jane Pesch at 73

“Older women are and can look sexy. (Check out Helen Mirren) What we reveal needs to be strategically chosen. It’s often more important which skin shows than how much. For some older women, the  shoulders, for example, seem to be the last place to age. I don’t know about you, but my shoulder skin hasn’t sagged yet. and an off-the-shoulder dress or blouse is figure enhancing.” For many crossdressers and t-girls, our best feature is our legs hence 1-2 inches of skin above the knee creates an alluring look. More than that, you may be branded as something else.

Color is Personal.

Maye Musk not invisible

Maye Musk

Like many women, my wardrobe has many neutrals meaning too much black but I love patterns and royal colors, turquoise, dark blue and red  being my favorites. Some women love bright colors because it makes them happy. They don’t call it the Red Hat Society for nothing. These women are making a statement about their visibility. They will not be ignored and it’s their privilege to do so. There is a fine line between colorful and clownish. If we cross that line intentionally and are confident enough to wear it, that’s our choice too

Women who dress with true eccentricity and always have, are fabulous. There’s nothing wrong with trying on new looks and playing with theatricality, so long as you can own the look. If it feels like a costume…beware. Your confidence doesn’t get a boost by feeling pink outfitlike a fraud.

Betty Halbreich in her book Secrets of a Fashion Therapist says you don’t need a “color consultant” to tell you what looks good on you. Go to a mirror where there is good natural light and hold various shades up to your face. Do certain colors light up your face where other colors seem to f drain the light out of it. That’s a start.

Betty also said that she’s never known a woman who didn’t look good in pink. It looks clean and sensuous on everyone, not to mention incredibly feminine.

Eccentric Dress

I have dramatic, head-turning garments in my wardrobe, that I wear when I want to make a statement. I love capes, scarves, and drama. I adore hats. They’re attention-getting simply because most women don’t have the confidence to wear them. I don’t think I wear goofy ones…but goofy is in the eye of the beholder:)

We are all a combination of style components that make up our personal style recipe. No one woman has the right or wrong formula for personal style. However, some formulas can be more effective if visibility is your goal.

older eccentric but not invisible ladies

So how can older woman really combat invisibility?

  • Attention to personal grooming is very important.
  • Appearance and polishing your personal style is crucial… because frumpiness is the fast track to invisibility.
  • Being informed about current events and able to intelligently join conversations increases your visibility
  • Staying physically active and fit as possible will boost confidence which helps us feel and look more vibrant.

I’m just going to talk about the first two points.

Personal Grooming

I’m persnickety about how I look when I leave the house. I will not go out with unstyled or unclean hair. I always wear makeup…lipstick, mascara and eyebrow pencil (mandatory).  My clothes are clean, unwrinkled and presentable.

Paying attention to personal grooming is a matter of personal respect. How can a woman feel good about herself if she hasn’t taken basic care of her grooming? I just don’t get it? Simple things like arm hair and un-flossed teeth get noticed!

Personal style

We all have a unique combination of styles, that make up our personal style.

My personal style is a mix of classic,elegant, boho and a bit dramatic with a little feminine thrown into the mix. Each outfit I put together highlights different aspects of my personality and how I feel that day. How I want to be perceived also plays a role in what I choose.and I give some thought to where I’m going and who I will be with

And here’s where my point on our wardrobe choices comes in…you knew I had to have one:)

There is an alternative way to dress, which increases a woman’s visibility, and that’s with drama.

dramatic dresser at Royal AscotThe dramatic dresser projects a sophisticated and confident image. It’s strong and conveys assurance. Bold, often exaggerated in line and/or color it stands out in a crowd. It’s not for the faint of heart… because it makes people notice you. Because of its striking appearance, it empowers women. It can be edgy or severe, but it’s seldom overlooked. I love it!!

So what does dramatic dressing look like?

You will find many examples of dramatic clothes and looks  on my Pinterest boards.

  • The clothes are geometric, often with sharp angles.
  • Black and white are popular neutrals, worn alone or mixed with a bold color.
  • Fabrics are usually firm and hold their shape.
  • Patterns are seldom worn.
  • Jackets and coats are structured with sharp edges and straight lines.
  • Clothes have minimal details and are sleek
  • The silhouette is semi-fitted with a slightly defined waist.
  • Hats are a favorite accessory because they add instant drama.
  • There is usually 1 striking accessory and it is over-sized.
  • Hair is sleek, sculpted and worn in a precision cut.

The dramatic dresser is seldom just one of these characteristics. She can add touches of feminine, creative, sporty or classic to the mix, but there is always a striking element to her look.

I pull this look out when I need a boost of confidence and it never fails me. I mix it with other styles to produce my personal style recipe.

I’m reminded of this song…

My my, hey hey

Rock and roll is here to stay

It’s better to burn out than fade away

My my, hey hey

~Neil Young

aging is a privilege

I’m choosing to remain visible, are you?

We’re More Visible Than Ever

We’ve come into our own as a demographic of strong, stylish women who command attention. Our buying power is making corporations stand up and take notice of us. We’re all part of this new movement and I’m proud of each of us.

And our strength is not just our style, but our femininity too. Marie Therese Norris said it most succinctly,

“By the end of the 60s, the pursuit of Femininity had been moved from the Virtue to the Vice side of the Feminist orthodoxy. It was deemed not only to be frivolous, but downright subversive. The French woman sailed through the last four decades relatively unscathed by American-style Feminism. As a result, she continues not only to age gracefully, but to live her whole life as gracefully as she can to the delight of the French man. Femininity underpins everything she is and does. Her individual version of Femininity may be classic or quirky, but she owns it, she works it, and she will go to the grave with it.

A healthy dash of Femininity might just be the missing ingredient we are looking for.

femininity collage

Crossdressers and trans women should not want to be invisible. Kandi Robbins column on Visibility With Style in the Dressing Room gives us many ways to be accepted into our local communities for the feminine person we are

Thanks for reading and have a great day!


One thought on “The Invisible Older Woman

  1. Great article. Enjoyed reading it, however,made me feel overpassed. You article mentions mostly women in their 60’s. I am an 87 old grandma (TG). And had of late been dressed according to my age, but I don’t think that I have come invisible. People still notice me, and men open doors for me.

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