If anyone understands the style needs of women over 40, it’s Tracy Breslin. In 1992, Tracy was working in the garment district in NYC when, on a whim, she stopped by the showroom of EILEEN FISHER. An assistant had just quit, and Tracy was hired on the spot.
Twenty-two years later Tracy is the Director of Merchandising for this world-famous brand that is loved by women who favour simple, elegant quality designs.
I got the chance to chat with Tracy about EILEEN FISHER and her personal perspective on dressing over 40.
Deborah: Tracy, What does your job as Merchandising Director entail?
Tracy: I work with the creative teams on fabric and yarn, style selection, planning and editing the collection, and merchandising the season looks. Our inspiration is drawn from trends and our design ethos. I also present the collections to key business partners and store management.
Deborah: Who is the typical EILEEN FISHER customer?
Tracy: Our customers tend to be conceptual, curious and creative. It’s about personal expression – it’s not a brand or a trend for them. They have their own style, and EILEEN FISHER is the brand that answers their style needs. They like to keep it simple and have an appreciation for high quality and beautiful materials.
Deborah: What makes EILEEN FISHER unique?
Tracy: What makes us unique is our love of perfect, simple pieces. The purity of shape and proportion. A passion for beautiful materials and allowing women to express their personal style. We try not to get in the way of that with too many bells and whistles.
Deborah: Do customers request certain things?
Tracy: We love hearing from customers because it gives us a chance to solve a problem or create new opportunities. Sometimes we are asked to re-issue styles that we stopped carrying. A particularly persuasive customer demanded our signature poncho that we were ‘resting’. Since it’s been back on the line, it’s one of our best sellers. We also hear a lot about sleeves. Women really like sleeves.
Deborah: Do you think there is such a thing as age appropriate? Why or why not?
Tracy: I don’t like the idea of limiting myself or others, but there are some things I would feel silly wearing now. Those babydoll dresses and platform mary janes I wore in the ’90’s are off my list, and I swore off acid-washed jeans when Reagan left office. It’s fun to watch my daughter discover an era that I lived through. Those trends feel fresh to her. For me, not so much. If I already did it, I’m not going back.
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Deborah: What’s the biggest challenge over-40 women face when it comes to getting dressed?
Tracy: Sometimes women talk about parts of their bodies they want to hide, and that becomes the goal. I always dress to flatter (I have a particularly attractive clavicle), but I’m also ok with limbs and such that aren’t so amazing. Other people aren’t focused on my arms or knees. If they are, it’s not my problem. I dress for myself and let the little stuff go. Perfect is boring, and great style is ageless.
Deborah: What’s a simple way to add a little edge/interest to a simple wardrobe?
Tracy: I like brave combinations. A sheer blouse peeking out from under a chunky knit or a sleek maxi cardigan over skinny jeans or super-wide pants with a skinny tank top and boxy cardigan. Mixing emotional materials and slightly extreme proportions are interesting to me and feel like a statement.
What’s the biggest mistake you see midlife women make in how they dress?
Tracy: At this point, no one needs more stuff. Buy only what you love. I’m passionate about materials, so if it doesn’t feel amazing and make my heart skip, it doesn’t need to be in my closet. Choose fewer things and make sure they are exactly right. Also, when you find your soulmate shoe or the love-of-your-life cardigan. Don’t make it precious – wear it. You can’t take it with you.
Deborah: How can mature women stay relevant in the way they dress without looking like they’re trying too hard?
Tracy: Stay true to your personal style and go bold with one piece. Take on a trend from a conceptual perspective instead the literal interpretation – such as a shift in proportion. It’s a more confident and creative approach, and it’s more likely to blend with your signature look.
Deborah: Anything else you’d like to add?
Tracy: I am very proud to be a part of this amazing brand EILEEN FISHER and to be involved in not just making clothes, but making a greater impact on the world. Not everyone gets to do what they love and work with people they respect.
Thanks, Tracy. It’s been a pleasure chatting with you.