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Mary Portas, queen of shops, looking for opinionated women

Retail guru and television presenter Mary Portas is about to start filming a new Channel 4 TV series and wants to speak to you.  The series will follow Mary’s quest to fill the gap in the fashion market for fabulous, forty-plus women.   Mary believes that women like her, those strident, confident forty-plus women have dropped off the fashion and retail industry’s radar.  Mary wants to put them back at the centre of the retail industry and give them the same fabulous shopping experience of women half their age.

Are you stylish and over forty but fed up of what’s on offer on the high street?


When you shop for fashion is it not as much fun as it used to be?

As part of the television series Mary is looking for a group of opinionated women to act as her focus group, advising her on anything from where to buy the best fitting dress to road testing whole fashion collections.


If you’re interested in being involved please email maryportas@optomen.com with your name, contact details and why you’d like to be part of the show.

Share this article if you found it useful! And leave a comment in the box below. We hope to connect with you soon.

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  1. I totally agree about affordable fashion for 40+women, I am 58 a size 14 & get very bored with high street fashion I also have 2 other problems, I am 5’10” tall, trousers are OK now but dresses almost impossible , I also have a size 34F bust so things do not even do up properly, M&S do a longer length dresses,(all horrible anyway) but the bust is always to small & the body length not long enough, Bravissimo are very good but their dresses are now only aimed at women of 5’5″ ,I am not tall enough for Long Tall Sally , many women my age have tummy’s & bigger boobs, but are not overweight,

  2. To Gail…this is more to do with mass market garment production as it is nigh on impossible to mass produce one style/one colour of a garment to fit every different body type. The addition of elastane in fabrics helps a lot but people no longer do ‘dressmaking’ or are able to ‘alter to fit’.

    M+S often do the same style in different lengths but it has to be a populist or basic garment as the volumes sold make it worth their while.

    Unfortunately, the consumer has got used to very mass market cheap clothing and the price of this trend is a very much ‘one size fits the majority’.

    I had shops for 20 years and customers, for example, would adore the skirt, it was a great price (£30 odd) and not available in any other High St store (as I had a niche supply) yet it would be 2” too long. We offerred a shortening service @ £6 per skirt but they baulked at payuing that as it seemed a high cost on top of the £30 (but it was UK labour rate @ £7 per hour…..we couldn’t ship the garment back to China for shortening @ 20p per hr labour rate) whereas years back, it was very normal to alter clothing to suit the individual.
    Don’t very expensive trousers/skirts (£200+) still have the hems unfinished so they are sewn to customer spec?

  3. Sheila Nicholas

    I felt I had to comment. I am approaching sixty- five and fed up with having little choice of where to spend my money on clothes. The fashion industry is missing a trick as I am part of a group who have more money than when we were 35-23-35. (we had waists in the sixties )
    I don’t want to dress like a granny or a prim person but I don’t want to show off my body which lets face it is not the way it once was. I want to look good in an understated, with just a hint of mischief, way.
    Why doesn’t anyone seem to take pride in producing well made clothes that fit properly with the sewn seams pressed flat not sewn together and even expensive clothes are just churned out and not finished properly. Moan, moan.

  4. M&S- although Stuart Rose has helped M&S move forward from the rows & rows of gondolas packed full of unstylish, boring, lack-lustre, one colour – one cut drudgery aimed at the ‘mature’ market, they now offer lots of colour; this however, remains mundane! A prime example is the summer dresses offering, SAFE, SAFE, SAFE! Each consecutive season the dresses appear to be cut from one simple tried & tested safe & styleless block! Their V’ front & back, sleeveless, eight panel, fit & flare frock made up in a multitude of prints appears to be cloning itself overnight as new prints of the same thing appear on the shop floor. Well M&S, lets hope new Chief Executive Marc Bolland has a ‘Passion for Fashion’ and is able to lead and inspire the team in producing new & exciting designs that inspire the 40+ market.
    Debenhams – don’t even bother any more, too much like a jumble sale, no visible staff & lack of customer service.

  5. Why oh why does the fashion industry think that over 60s want to look like their mothers, or in some cases their grandmothers, so we may not want to wear “way out” clothes, most of us not having the figure for it (or as in my case never did) but we do not want crimplene dresses and cardies, we want good quality interesting clothes, and just because some of us are big we do not want to look like ancient sacks tied up in the middle, or in the equivelant of “preggie” dresses. So come on fashion industry help out the biggest(in more senses than one), most wealthy and time rich ladies who want to be “out there” looking great.

  6. I’m really happy to be 50. I love fashion and dressing up. Is it just me or do women seem to be dressing younger and younger? I think that old idea about women becoming invisible as they get older is being turned on its head by Baby Boomers.

    I got so fed up with the boring greige stuff aimed at my age group or the too-frou frou, revealing high fashion stuff my daughters buy that I set up my own label, designing and buying gorgeous clothes and accessories that I would want to (and do) wear. There’s some lovely stuff out there, it’s just so hard to find amongst all the poor quality dross. I am often shocked on the high street and even at fashion trade shows by the huge volume of unwearable, unflattering, crap quality clothes for women. Good for Mary Portas if she can start a revolution in Fashion for Fabulous Forties – she could be the Jamie Oliver of fashion!

  7. Why is it assumed all women over 50 are larger than they were in their teens and twenties? I am a petite, 5ft size 8. Petite ranges in department stores look like something your granny would wear to a wedding. I do sometimes have garments altered but begrudge paying for smaller sizes and then again to have even more fabric taken away!! I recently went to France where I found some wonderful high street ranges that actually fitted and weren’t boring. Why can’t we do this in th UK?

    Tried to get a pic but lost all my comment when I clicked on Gravatar and have had to type it all again – not ideal. If you want to see what I look like, look me up on Facebook.

  8. Christine Johnson

    I am 65, slim, boyish figure, size 8. I love clothes and keeping my wardrove up to date. I am prepared to pay extra for a fashionhable well made garment, but where do you look. Yes, Debenhams looks like a jumbe sale with hardly any staff. Clothes for the older women are generally drape round your ankles which makes you look old granny. Most shops only want to sell you garments whether they suit you or not and their staff are not trained to advise you. Most of the departments stores have a fashion adviser, but often I have made an appointment and come away with nothing. Why is the older women not expected to feel good the way she looks and dress feeling sexy and confident. I could go on.

  9. I am 48 and have found recently that decent clothes are really hard to find. I want classic sometimes but not frumpy and not flouncy frilly like some ghastly 80s throwback. Aaargh!!!
    I fondly remember working hard in the 80s and absolutely LOVING the next directory – classy work clothes and casual weekend clothes and great lingerie ALL great stuff and all in one place!
    A Mary Portas backed kind of next directory would be fantastic!

  10. Speaking from a shop assistants perspective, everyday i see women 40, 50, 60 plus, who feel they have lost their direction, and voice that the designers do not cater for them. I work in an independent boutique , which sells a diverse range of labels, suitable for these women, but the biggest hurdle my collegues and i find is that these ladies have often very low self esteem, and a very poor body image! They have reached an age where they should feel they have accomplished, this could be bringing up a family, having, or still in a successful career, or possibly a survivor in one of the many challenges life throws at as! but instead of being individual and strong, they fall into a very safe trap with no true identity anymore. Sometimes we are very quick to blame the media, but i think its got to come from within, and not to become a stereotypical 40,50,60 year old!! Some of the most stylish and inspirational women i have met have been 60plus, who are not afraid to push the boundaries, in fact this is the perfect age to exploit your wild side! who cares if you have lumps and bumps or fat knees or chunky arms, just explore different looks and bring out your creative side, and yes have a look in top shop too!!!
    p.s. I am not 18, but a 53 year old, with the same issues as you all….except i just choose to ignore them and have some fun allong the way!!!

  11. Good on Mary, I have just returned from a very despairing ordeal commonly known as ‘clothes-shopping’ and all I bought from hours spent looking for something, indeed anything that would make me want to buy it because I like it not because I have to, were some socks! To make things worst I have just had a boob job (after breastfeeding 5 children I thought I deserved it) so even the old reliables from my wardrobe were given away, and all I have now are some very pretty new bras. I dont feel Im ready for my grandmothers hand me downs just yet! Im 43yrs old, 5ft 7in, slighty overweight for my frame at 10stone (but thats work in progress) so I shouldnt really have a problem finding anything but I do.
    Please let me know when you find somewhere xxxxx

  12. Oh bliss, I thought I was on my own moaning my way around the High Street chains.
    I am 63 years old just over 5ft tall [small?]with 34dd boobs and I struggle to buy stylish, on trend clothing.
    Marks and Spencer do have a range of inside leg measurements which does help but the quality is not what it was. They have become boring.
    As for Debenhams, I agree with the previous comments that it is like a jumble sale, quite awful. They do stock petite ranges to be fair but designers and manufacturers assume that petite is only for young slim girls. Some us are still petite in height but maybe not quite as petite in other areas!
    How come Italian and French ladies can be stylish without looking mutton?
    In the UK I despair when I look around seeing woman squeezed into the latest fashion which is totally unsuitable for them. Over 50’s need help quickly!

  13. shopping has never ever been fun but it’s so much worse now especially if I do not want to look like a whore! No girl should have to put up with that but there are no shops that cater for my age- middle age! The high street is all about young, small and ditsy and as for Marks and Spencer – that comfortable slide into my mother- no thanks, I do go in and try to find something but there is always something wrong or missing as if the buyer has just missed the mark, a frill too far a bloody unecessary bow or patterns on the material that look like curtains. Recent items have me thinking it’s me grannys bloody bed jacket from the 50’s for god sake. In so many, many ways we are just bloody invisible and it makes my blood boil to see that younger women have been duped again.

  14. Josephine Worrell

    Hooray for Mary.
    I am fed up of looking like a sack tied up in the middle. I am 68, young at heart with yourful personality and I do not want to look old !!! I know I am fat – size 20, but why should not fat girls be trendy ??

  15. Great idea of marys, really enjoy the programe, but i cant understand why people say no clohtes suitable for the older women and also there is an assumption that all older women are bigger than when younger with lumps and bumps.I am 64 size 6/8, barely 5 ft. with a waist, and i dont,mind showing my arms,theres nothing wrong with them! I honestly dont have a problem buying clothes, as ranges designed for teens and 20s fit me, so i buy them,yes there is the odd thing not suitable, but most are fine. Top shop jeans, petite are perfect, and their petite range clothes is good too, i bought a dress there last week, i personally hate midi skirts, they are ageing, if skirt is short, i wear leggings and or opaque tights in winter. Also buy lots oasis, warehouse,some mango, miss selfridge and , zara. marks and spencer limited collection is good much edgeier and trendier than the other ranges.Recently bought a dress from a range at one of my local independent boutiques called dainty, this seems to be a good range for the petite woman. So look more ladies i really think you will find things,i never feel intimidated by so called “young” shops, why should you.just go in and browse..

  16. Kate Underhill

    Dear Mary

    I live in Somerton, Somerset and I understand that you are investing in our town.

    I am the proud owner of Somerton Dry Cleaners and have been trading for 17 years. Over the next two weeks I will be investing in a total shop refurbishment, and i would like to re-launch my business . This is a very exciting time for us all.

    Somerton is a lovely, friendly market town that needs as much help, support and publicity as possible. Any assistance or advice you feel you can offer would be hugely and gratefully appreciated. I have heard only today that two valued businesses in the town are very sadly soon to be closed.

    Our small High Street needs you desperately.

    Thank you in anticipation, and I look forward to hearing from you.

    Kind regards

    Kate Underhill


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