All of the statements below are direct quotes from various fashion and beauty consultants:
“Wear v-necks. They draw attention to your face.”
“Never wear turtlenecks if you have a large chest. It draws attention to your chest and makes you look heavier.”
“Invest in several black turtlenecks. Turtlenecks flatter everyone.”
“Think young. Be unpredictable.”
“Don’t dress too young. It makes you look older. Trendy is no longer attractive.”
“Go for bold, classic patterns.”
“Legs are slowest to age. Wear short skirts.”
“Don’t wear your skirts too short.”
“Don’t think you have to cut your hair.”
“Shorter hair gives more lift.”
Does anyone really know what looks good on those of us with wrinkled necks, sagging chests, bulging tummies and thinning hair? Do I actually want to draw attention to my face? On bad days I think I’d be better off putting a bag over my head and drawing attention to my large chest. How unpredictable can you be when you’re faced with a new set of rules that prohibits you from wearing the hot new trends, and tells you to hide your neck, play down your chest, cut off your hair and wear black? Sounds strangely familiar to a line in The Nun’s Story.
We are at our greatest fashion crossroads since we moved from hippy style teens to young adults in the work world. It’s confusing, and sometimes embarrassing. I have committed several fashion faux paux, like the time my daughter came home from the mall with the cutest pair of low-slung jeans and a sweet lacey cami, and I rushed right to the juniors department to get that look for myself. Unfortunately, on me the look stopped short (very short) of “stylishly adorable” and raced head-on into “old lady in an obscene undergarment who forgot that the waist band on all of her underpants hit several inches higher than the waistband on her jeans."
I suffered humiliation at the hands of my daughter and her friends, and learned an important lesson: If it looks good on a fourteen year old it will definitely NOT look good on a 50+ woman.
So how do we know what we should wear as our bodies change to “mature," and our faces look more like our mothers’ than our own? Consider the basics: we’re trying desperately to maintain a shape that looks vaguely feminine, we want to look classy (provocative looks trashy at 50+), our good points are decreasing in numbers, and there are few Hollywood stars to learn from in Glamour Magazine. The stars they feature are young enough to be our granddaughters and can still show so much skin their clothing is irrelevant. Only a few, like Susan Sarandon, Candice Bergen and Oprah provide role models.
Back to the basics:
In order to maintain some curve in our bodies we must avoid baggy clothes. Even though the instinct is to cover it all up, the truth is that baggy adds weight and shapelessness to a look.
Jackets without pockets, tailored shirts and shirtdresses give us shape without hugging anything tightly enough to show off dimples and creases we shouldn’t be showing off.
Body shaping undergarments are back big time – and just in time! We recently received a comment from a reader named Regina raving about the Spanx body suit that goes halfway down the thigh. Spanx, and many other underwear manufacturers, make a complete line of body shapers that are far more comfortable and less obvious than the girdles we squeezed into in the sixties when we didn’t really need them.
While pants are more flattering if your legs have any signs of age, a short (to the knee) skirt that shows off a great pair of legs takes the attention away from a shapeless middle. Classy comes from good fabric and timeless shapes: wear suede jackets over white shirts or even turtlenecks (yes, I wear them even though I’m top-heavy).
Tiny prints look homespun and unsophisticated. Stick with solids, or small stripes or hounds tooth prints, and add a scarf or jewelry in a contrasting color.
Give up the glitz. Too much flashy jewelry, gold or sparkles of any kind make you look like you can’t let go of your Las Vegas show days.
Those body parts we were once so proud of should be camouflaged now with loose clothing (not baggy) that have shape to them. If you still have a waistline I would adopt my mother’s philosophy – wear a great looking belt and that’s where the eye will fall.
Hide the things you don’t like with simple, classic long shirts, long pants and high collars.
Don’t wear harsh colors in clothing, lipstick, nail polish, blush or eye shadow. Understated is prettier and classier. Keep everything soft, including your hair.
Even though I love looking at the young, trendy new styles, it takes my breath away when I see an “older” woman who has really done her look beautifully. Candice Bergen looks absolutely regal (except for that one, unfortunate Emmy night that she will never hear the end of), and Susan Sarandon looks simple, classy and very much herself always.
We can do it, too. Use the correct role models – never anyone with the name Lindsay. Keep it simple. Use common sense. And good luck – something we all need as we try to stay attractive even though we are well…past 50.