Do you sometimes feel invisible? Patti Gibbons did, but she didn’t let it put a damper on her love of fashion. Instead of “receding gracefully”, Patti burst online and started a blog that she playfully named, Not Dead Yet Style.
Five years later Patti is having a ball posting outfit photos that are one part modern, one part vintage. She’s also busy running her Visible Monday blog link-up that lets other over 40 bloggers express their style too.
I recently got a chance to chat with this Florida Fashionista about her blog and unique style. Here’s my interview with Patti, a Fabulous After 40 Styleblazer.
Deb: How would you describe the way you like to dress?
Patti: Since I retired from my psychotherapy practice a year ago, I dress much more casually. But not sloppy! I live most days in smart jeans, knit tops and a completer piece, like a blazer or vest. I usually add one piece of jewelry, red lipstick, and I am ready for most anything on my schedule.
Deb: You say you are a latecomer to fashion. What took you so long, and how did you get interested in style at midlife?
Patti: Most of my younger years were spent working in big corporations. I followed the usual “uniform” of the young working woman in the 80’s and 90’s: skirts, blouses and blazers, hose and low heels. It sounds so blah to me now! It wasn’t until the internet allowed us to see all manner of fashion, which I realized I could do better. And changing careers to psychotherapy meant a much more lenient dress code. My patients and I both enjoyed my choosing more interesting outfits!
Deb: A style blog is a fashion journey for the blogger. Tell where your journey has taken you.
Patti: So many journeys and detours, and roundabouts. And having a blog is wonderful for forcing one to pay attention to clothes, yes? Since I started my blog, I went from fairly conservative to more intrepid outfits (more patterned trousers, funky shoes, new shapes, bold lips). And lately, I find myself wearing more of a “uniform” again, although a softer one of my own choosing.
Deb: You live in Florida, by the beach. Does living in a warm climate present any style challenges?
Patti: Oh yeah, a thousand yeahs. We have two seasons here, hot and a little cool. Hot and humid dominates nine months of the year. As your readers no doubt know, it’s harder to pull together smart outfits for hot days. I don’t wear shorts, but cotton or linen skirts, plus natural fabric tops and cool sandals, have become my staples. I do a big cheer on the first 70-degree day, and immediately pull out my boots and cardigans.
Deb: How do you feel about color? Tell us about your favorites.
Patti: I like color, but I love black too and have a lot of basic black layering pieces. I don’t often do monochromatic black, as I find it too serious for me. My basics are navy, gray, black and ivory. For color, I adore a cobalt blue blouse or shoes. And olive green is my absolute favorite color, it matches my eyes perfectly. I don’t wear primary colors or pastels, and pure stark white is hard with my pale skin.
Deb: I notice you like to mix edgy pieces with classic ones (recently it was a moto jacket with pearls). How do you decide which combos work and which don’t?
Patti: Great question, and I am not sure how I choose! I think I mainly start with the classic piece, then play around with my accessories until I like the result. Today I wore big gray pearls with a chambray shirt over olive trousers. Without the necklace, the outfit looked OK, but a bit masculine. Pearls work with everything! And I like for my shoes and boots to have personality – that adds edge to an otherwise unsurprising look.
Deb: You have a love for vintage items. What’s the favorite vintage piece you own? What tips do you have for incorporating vintage into a look?
Patti: I love, love, my vintage 50’s dresses, but my waist has outgrown most of them (how did that happen??). Now I wear vintage accessories for the most part, although I just added a gorgeous 70’s maxi skirt to my closet. I have a 1950’s gold-tone bib necklace that’s probably my favorite, and my mother’s engagement ring that I wear every day.
For others who love vintage, you already know how to mix it up with modern pieces (e.g., my maxi skirt with a modern knit top). If you’re new to wearing vintage, take the time to play in your closet, and try to keep at least one item (shoes, for example) of-the-moment.
Deb: You’ve scored some good finds on eBay. EBay can be overwhelming. Any tips for buying vintage on eBay?
Patti: I used to buy and sell vintage clothing on eBay as my second job! It was truly a blast, and my only regret is some of the gorgeous pieces I sold rather than kept (goodbye, fabulous 40’s velvet gown). I buy less now, but I search by the decades I love (40’s, 50’s early 60’s) and always choose a reputable seller. Price matters of course, but there are very few “steals” left on eBay. I try to shop from fellow bloggers’ vintage shops too, especially Kinky Melon, by Vix.
Deb: You say you’re frugal and your husband jokes that you are a cheapskate. What tips do you have for women who want to put together a fabulous wardrobe but not spend a lot?
Patti: Come shopping with me! I am a master at finding nice things at the thrift and consignment stores. Good fabric and construction are always in style, right? Buy fewer and buy better – it’s not an original thought, but it’s a useful one. There are lovely online consignment shops now too, with a mix of everyday and high-end clothing, gently used. I spent only $30 on clothing last month (but don’t ask about lipstick or wine).
Deb: Has turning 60 changed your approach to fashion?
Patti: I haven’t really changed my approach. Sixty is technically just another year older. But psychologically, it was rough for a while. We make 60 a big milestone in our culture, and not in the good ways. Now that 61 is close, I have come to accept and enjoy parts of the aging process. I am letting my long curly hair go silver. I don’t shop at the Mall, or try to wear the latest trends and fads. I have an awareness of time racing past, so I try not to save my “good stuff” for any special occasion. Today is a special occasion!
Deb: You have a personal policy of one item in the house, one item out. How do you choose which item you get rid of when you buy a new item of clothing?
Patti: It’s so easy, really (and this keeps my shopping light as well): I ask “Under what circumstances would I rather wear (this new thing) over (this older thing)?” If the new thing wins, the older gets donated. Another simple trick is to take clothing out into the sunlight, wear your glasses, and you’ll get a good idea of what’s looking a bit worn.
Deb: As a psychotherapist, can you give your insights into how clothing psychologically affects the person wearing it?
Patti: Absolutely. I can tell when my patients are feeling better just by their hair and clothing. One prominent indicator of depression is allowing our grooming to slip, and the reverse is also true. A splash of color seems to elevate the mood. And wearing clothes that fit well changes our mood. For example, I cannot feel happy and confident if my trousers are too tight. Clothing should feel good (silk, cotton, cashmere are all helpful), to lift our mental health.
Deb: Fun, silly question- On your blog, I read that husband is a bona fide rocket scientist! If he told you he was arranging a special dinner for you to meet an alien, what would you wear?
Patti: LOL! I am sure we’d all be self-conscious. I had better choose my favorite knit dress, tights, and boots, so as not to have any wardrobe malfunctions. I was a language major in undergrad, so hopefully that will come in handy as well.
Deb: Any last words of wisdom for women over 40 trying to find their style? Anything else you’d like to add?
Patti: Enjoy, experiment, be kind to yourself. All shapes, sizes, and ages look beautiful. Splurge on yourself once in a while and talk to yourself the way you do to a beloved friend. And thank you so much, Deborah, for interviewing me and for all you do.
Deb: Thanks Patti for sharing your style and thoughts on fashion over 60 with us. Ladies, be sure to visit Patti’s blog, Not Dead Yet Style where she shares her style and her insights on beauty and life for mature women.