Fightin’ the Frump

I was at the bookstore the other night reading through my usual selection that I am too cheap to buy even though it’s on my recommended reading list over in my left side bar enjoy scanning through while the kids play with the lead-tainted Thomas train set.

I’ve learned so many invaluable tips from this book:

Have you ever noticed, when looking through old photos, how much older everyone looks in them? Pick up a high school yearbook from the 50s and all of the girls look like they are headed to the nearest AARP office to sign up.

Some trends just make us look older than we are. And at my age, I’m not willing to fall into that trap. Look at Oprah, Katie Couric… these women look better now than they did fifteen years ago!

Here are some of the tips recommended in this book:

Cut Bangs (there are so many styles of bangs to choose from. Not all will be flattering on your face shape. But choose some. Bangs soften and frame the face)

Lighten the lipstick and lipliner.

Choose fun hip eyeglasses, not granny styles. Seriously, girlfriend was probably younger than I am when she had this photo taken. But the hair and the glasses make her look like she could be my great aunt Hilda (if I had a great aunt Hilda).

I don’t think these express anything except temporary loss of sanity.

Avoid hair that is too long and parted down the middle.

Lighten the hair.

Eyebrows, ladies! Eyebrows! I am example numero uno for what a good brow shaping can do to improve your looks. Weedwhackers come to mind when I think of my eyesbrows pre-1994, which is the year that will forever be known as the year that I got a clue that my bushy eyebrows needed help, STAT!

And her top 24 items that must be removed from all closets: (listed in this great article)

  1. Holiday sweaters with bells and appliqués (reindeers, teddy bears, bumblebees, pumpkins).
  2. Granny necklaces that tell how many grandchildren you have.
  3. Souvenir T-shirts.
  4. T-shirts with meant-to-be funny sayings.
  5. Acid-washed jeans.
  6. Ripped jeans.
  7. Shoulder pads.
  8. Flannel shirts.
  9. Muumuus. (**Does this really need to be stated?)
  10. Photo handbags (the older you get, the more sophisticated your accessories should be).
  11. Flesh-colored hose.
  12. Penny loafers.
  13. Oversize blazers.
  14. Mommy robes.
  15. Thin gold chain necklaces.
  16. Elastic-waist pants.
  17. Granny undies.
  18. Baggy sweats.
  19. Bearlike, full-length fur coats.
  20. Short shorts.
  21. Cargo pants.
  22. Stockings with reinforced toes.
  23. Three-piece suits with vests.
  24. Backpacks.

For more information, check out these links:

This video shows Charla talking about some of her tips.
Read an excerpt of How Not to Look Old here.
An interview with Time magazine here.

Let’s fight the frump, ladies! We can do it! My challenge to you, should you dare to take it, is to clear your closet of at least ONE frumpy outfit (we all have them). Take a picture of it and post it. Then get rid of it.

I’ll take my own challenge and I’ll be posting my frumpy outfit on monday so that I can spend my entire weekend in it, crying over the future loss…


  1. Mrs. Fussy Fussypants says

    I tip my supa-fab hat to you!

    I love it! Wonderful.


    You keep it up, we’ll fight the frump together!

    Bravo, bravo!

  2. Sarcastic Mom (aka Lotus) says

    LMAO @ “odd-shaped eyeglasses express personality” What the heck!?

    I love this post, Karla… but I refuse to throw out my frump. Ya’ll can fight the frump – I’m gonna pimp the frump. Hehe. Jk.

    Hey, Dawn issued a challenge that isn’t quite the same, but it’s similar – you might want to check it out. It’s cute.

    And her whole “hautolucion” thing, where she vows to become uninvisible this year. (see her button in her sidebar)

  3. The Chatty Housewife- says

    Are nude hose ok?

  4. But if I threw out all of my frumpy clothes, THEN I WOULD BE NAKED! And really, I look younger covered.

  5. Ok, I was cheering every item on the list of things to throw away, and then we got to the “thin gold chains”. I don’t generally wear “thin gold chains”, as I favor silver jewelry or pearls. But, I’m not sure exactly how a thin gold chain makes you look older, and it’s never a good sign if you don’t understand an item on a “This makes you look older list.”

    Is she talking about a thin chain that holds a pendant, such as a cross or locket?

    Or, is she talking about those eighties style chains that many older women wear two or three of?

    Help me fight the frump here and explain it to me just in case I get a weird desire to wear thing gold chains.

  6. As you know this is a project of mine this spring. But if I throw out one more outfit, I’ll have to do laundry that much more often!

    I am down to the bare minimum, but it’s good to know what to avoid in the thrift stores.

    I highlighted a funny part of Krugg’s advice on my blog last night, but I do think a lot of her tips are accurate.

    Now to put them into practice. Argh.

  7. You know, over that last year, I lost weight, and that made a huge difference in my frumpiness!!! Not kidding!!! I guess it was because it was really hard to find things that fit the way I wanted them to. Also, I wanted to hide the excess weight I was carrying. I feel so much better in my cute non-frumpy clothes!! I totally support, ditch the frump!!! You will feel so much better!

  8. I always get a little frustrated with lists like these. Why should the fashion world care what kind of underwear people wear? And I like thin gold chains much better than the big clunky stiff out there these days.

  9. Okay I think I need this book! Loved the pictures.

    I can totally relate to the eyebrows. Can you say Groucho Marx? Thankfully I found some great products and people to help tame them!

    Thanks for the tips!

  10. Great entry, Karla! The only thing I am not willing to give up are the t-shirts with funny sayings. They are a signature look for me ;) My “Hip Hop You Don’t Stop” kangaroo shirt is my favorite one of all :) It keeps me feeling young for a little bit longer.

    The eyebrows are definitely a big deal. What was I thinking in high school? I hate plucking them, but am too cheap to go get them waxed (imagine that?)

    Great post!!

  11. This is a great post, Karla. Love it! (And luckily for me, I’ve always had to have bangs. I don’t look well without ’em!)

  12. Came by way of LMS..
    I just have to say I do have long straight hair that sometimes parts down the middle, usually just off center, and if I had bangs they’d poke straight up in the air due to a cowlick. LOL And after my 3rd baby, at age 28, someone asked if I was in highschool! haha…and still I get the remarks about how young I look, and if my husband is much older than me…even though only 13 months (that cracks me up!).
    But oh yes, I agree…say no to holiday sweaters and acid-washed jeans!
    Funny how ones opinion can become “THE” advice.
    Off to make myself a lip stencil..haha

  13. here from LMS.

    Um…please explain Mommy Robe?

    deb meyers

  14. I love your post!

    I know I suffer from too much frumpiousness. I moved away from my sisters and so now I have no one to tell me the truth when I ask “how does this look” or “does this make me look frumpy/old”.

    I don’t want to look like a teeny-bopper, but I also don’t want to look quite like my mom for at least another 25 years!

    I put the book on hold at my library – but have a long time to wait….

  15. Whaaaat?! You want me to give up my bloomers? But they are comfortable!!! ;v)

  16. Noooooooooo why backpacks? I need to know. I don’t claim to be a style queen, but I’m usually mistakenly thought to be years younger. Someone recently thought I was a teenager when I had on a backpack and sandals (though that is a REAL stretch or 20 years), and when out with my children, a college guy started chatting me up thinking I was the babysitter. So I started flashing my wedding rings around until he noticed and ran. I use a backpack diaper bag and NEED my hands. So do tell me about the back pack, please. :)

  17. Thank you thank you thank you…I’ve been working on fightin the frump for the last few months. Love the list!

  18. I have no flannel shirts, acid washed jeans, ripped jeans, penny loafers, cargo pants, short shorts, or mumus in my closet, but please don’t tell me that I have to give up all of my Christmas sweaters. You know how I love to have Christmas everywhere!!
    I’m also with Beck. Me going naked would be the “frumpyiest”.
    Sitting here in my draw string sweats.
    Love you.

  19. Great list, but one comment. The original list calls it 25 things, not 24. You left off “overalls” from the original list. And, in my opinion, overalls top the list of frumpiness. Did you leave them off your list purposely? Most of us don’t live on a farm, and that’s the only place overalls belong. Please, ladies, don’t wear those ugly things in public!

  20. Hi Karla;

    Very interesting-lately I have been praying to God to help me embrace the age that I am (though I don’t) and to send me a mentor that can show me the way.

    We just got some adoption news and I find myself stuggling at times wondering what people will think or how fast ‘age’ will run me over.

    Nice to meet you Karla

    mama to 6
    one homemade and 5 adopted

  21. What, no love for the cargo pants? Why? I actually don’t own any right now, lol, but I do like them if I can find the right fit. Especially cargo capris, ahhh, love ’em. :-)

    April C.

  22. Becky Wolfe says

    Yes, I admit I have become the frump queen in recent months of working from home. Or should I say, the pajama queen. But seriously, a couple years ago I had style and class, now I’ve become a jeans & t-shirt sort of girl. I guess life is about comfort and now that my tummy is starting to bulge with baby, fashion is making a comeback, thank goodness for cute maternity clothes!

  23. I have been following Fussy’s advice, but just found you through 365…I am in complete agreement here! I will be looking through the closet this weekend–Oh the pain, oh the agony to be replaced by freedom…

  24. Cindy Swanson says

    Interesting…one of my goals for 2008 is to always look as good as I possibly can, within my limitations…which include being quite a bit older than probably most of the women who’ve commented on this post!

    I’m fascinated with this book, and I’ve asked my daughter who works at Borders to look for it for me.

    I don’t know if I agree with everything she says. For example, beyond a certain weight, a thong is NOT going to be a good idea, y’know? And I’m not sure I agree about the nude hose, although I definitely think tights are youthening (I just made up a word.) :)

    I pretty much agree and am already trying to live by most of the other stuff, though. And hey, I MUST have the name of that bra she was talking about in the video!

    To paraphrase Dylan Thomas: I will NOT go gently into frumpish old age! I will rage, rage against it! :)

  25. Hopped over from Jenn’s Moments – That post was a lot of fun to read, and the comments even funner. And I have this to say…..
    “How in the world am I going to get on What Not To Wear, if I throw out my frump and change my underwear?” A girl’s gotta have a dream…

  26. Hi Karla,

    I hopped over via the bloggy giveaways, but have visited and lurked before. I always love your posts, and I especially love this one about fighting our frump. We all are worth looking and feeling as good as we can.

    Blessings, Gretchen

  27. Oh boy…am I frumpy!

  28. I gotta tell you, I have a bone to pick with a few of these items. I think it depends on context.

    I have a super cute backpack I bought and LOVE it for hiking and summer and long mall days. It is very hip.

    Also, flesh colored pantyhose, they have their place. Funerals. Business suits. And reinforced toes are a must for winter or you end up wasting pairs under boots.

    Finally, sweats? Come on now. You need at least one comfie pair of warm, worn out sweats. Let’s not go overboard peoples. Let’s just not go overboard! :D))

  29. Cindy Swanson says

    Hi again, Karla…just wanted to let you know I blogged about this today, and linked to you!

  30. Blogsterbater says

    A lot of women are frumpy because they carry extra weight either because of babies or just letting themselves go to seed, and they need to be honest.

    A decade ago I was out with my sister and her new baby (my sister is 6 years younger) and an old woman asked if I was the baby’s grandmother. I was in my 30s and significantly overweight. I am slimmer now, and people think I’m 10 – 15 years younger than my actual age.

    So to fight frump, get in your best shape. Wear the right bra to lift up the puppies, and wear clothes that emphasize or mimic a waist line. Also, avoid, avoid, avoid OL styles or styles associated with old women. I never wear chains or necklaces with turtlenecks, tapered jeans, or plain, “classic” jeans, straight leg slacks, or classic librarian clothes.

    Modern accessories are key. Make sure your shoes and purse are the latest and greatest, and your jewelry too. If you’re classic on top, be trendy on bottom and vise versa.

  31. Blogsterbater says

    Want to avoid the frump? First, start with your body and be honest. Getting in shape really helps – especially if you have a matronly physique an apple shape or huger than average boobs child bearing hips and love handles. Secondly anything without a waist, no color in the wardrobe, too covered up, or too basic in design, no trendiness whatever – frumpville. Tiny, quaint old fashioned looking jewelry – frumpville.

    I avoid frumpiness by paying attention. Read fashion magazines, look at what the stars are wearing – especially accessory wise. ALWAYS follow the trends in accessories, jeans, and outer wear. Mix classic with trendy when picking outfits, and keep your hairdo up-to-date. Don't take fashion advise from your daughters, nieces, or mothers. Read. And stay away from people with "age appropriate" don'ts. Trust me that there is really no set definition of age appropriate. They should call it age stereotyping.

    You should dress to your lifestyle, personality, and body shape. Not somebody's arbitrary and subjective idea of what women at whatever age ought to be wearing.

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