Nearing your golden years? It may be time to reassess your look

CorrespondentOctober 16, 2013 

  • Define your style after 50

    Only you can decide what suits you, but here are some tips for defining your style after your 50th birthday.

    •  Highlight your assets: What’s lovely about you? Find styles to enhance it. You may have worn your last miniskirt, but slim-fitting pants can outline shapely legs in a way that’s very attractive; black tights worn with black pumps give a similar effect with dresses. If you’re tall, highlight it with a long cardigan and scarf over a feminine, patterned blouse.

    •  Pick your uniform: Create a simple formula for your everyday outfit. Yours might be a straight skirt + top in a neutral color + colorful scarf + jewelry + pumps. By varying the pieces, you look different every day. Mathieson, who loves a classic look, wears skinny jeans, a button-down shirt, riding boots and a quilted jacket.

    •  Invest wisely: Buy the best quality you can with the idea that you might wear basic pieces for 20 years. A blazer, black leather pumps and a trench coat are good examples of pieces you’ll want to wear to death.

    •  Pop your collar: Mathieson likes collared shirts, especially polos, for casual wear because you can raise the collar at the back of your neck. That frames your face in color and draws the eyes up, distracting from skin that’s not as tight as you’d like.

    •  Mute your colors: Your hair turns gray because it’s losing pigment, and the same thing happens to your skin. The bright, intense colors that used to suit you can make you look wan and ashy now. Peachy beige might look better than orange, and charcoal gray can substitute for black.

    •  De-frump your hair: Use a clarifying shampoo to keep grays silvery and shiny, not dull. If you color your hair, choose a shade that complements your skin. If the color is too dark or intense, it will highlight the things you don’t want to, like the blood vessels around your eyes that create dark circles. If you notice anyone with a great haircut, stop her immediately and ask for her cutter’s name. A great cut makes every face fresher. Ask a stylist about natural-hair extensions or wigs if your hair is thinning.

    •  Nail your look: Leave the gaudy colors, glitter, nail jewelry and patterns to the younger girls. Pick a color that suits your skin and nail art that looks elegant. Ditch your square nail shape and pink/chalky white manicure: It’s dated. A modern alternative is an oval or pointed nail with natural pinks or beiges. Pastel pinks, blues, purples and greens are modern and complexion-friendly. If your hands haven’t aged well, keep your nails simple.

    •  Groom yourself: Don’t let a mustache stand; remove it to feminize your face. Have your eyebrows professionally shaped to lift the appearance of your eye; if you’ve never had it done, you’re way overdue. One of my friends who is in her 70s has her eyebrows and eyeliner tattooed, eyelash extensions and a fresh manicure every few weeks. Extreme? For some people, yes. But in her typical outfit of khakis and pastel T-shirts and flats, she looks natural, not overdone.

    Sheon Wilson

If you’re over 50, you might feel left out of fashion.

Style on TV, in magazines, on blogs and on the streets is geared to younger women. And those short skirts, ankle-straining heels, vacuum-sealed pants, neon-bright colors and sheer clothes are pretty hard to pull off.

Still, that doesn’t mean you have to settle for muumuus, mom jeans and other atrocities people expect you to wear.

Send the right message

There’s a way people interact with older women that could be influenced by your attire. If you look tired, people make the leap that you aren’t ready to participate. If your clothes are frumpy and fuddy-duddy, someone might think your ideas and outlook are dated and out of touch, too.

Don’t make it easier for someone to dismiss you. And don’t let frumpiness win.

Pick some elements that suit your age and station in life, and you can look more vital and approachable. That adds excitement to your life.

“I think there are lots of us who still care about how we look and have the money to splurge on ourselves a little bit,” Mollie Rasor wrote in response to my Refresh Your Style makeover of Judith Seligman, who is 73.

Rasor and a business partner own Meetings Plus More in Cary, which does meeting management for conferences and events. “It’s very difficult. I don’t want to look like I dress too young; then again, I want to be stylish-looking.”

Reassess and refine

You should reassess what you’re wearing about every five years once you reach 55, style expert and author Sherrie Mathieson says.

“The truth is, you look the same at 30 as you do at 38, basically. But when you are 50, you see a huge amount of difference when you are 58,” said Mathieson, author of “Steal This Style,” which shows outfits moms and daughters can both wear, and “Forever Cool,” which shows how men and women can update their standard, frumpy looks.

“The aging process is kind of accelerated in your late 50s. You can no longer assume that what you bought at 50 will suit you when you’re 65.”

One key is quality fabrics and good fit so your clothes feel better, look better and wear well.

“I call it refinement,” Mathieson said. “I think refinement projects the intelligence you want to project as you get older. You want to look modern and you want to look intelligent, current.”

Don’t forget your ’do

Another key element is good-looking hair. If you want a quick fix for age-related indignities like thinning hair or hair loss, do what the young girls do: Get extensions or clip-in hairpieces. They work with short or long hair.

“The natural-hair clip-ins are perfect. It just adds to your natural hair,” said Maria Josette Navarro at Anjolique Bridal in Huntersville, near Charlotte. She often styles mothers-of-the bride and other women preparing for special events.

“If you want to do a style but you think your hair is too thin, this solves that instantly. You can have it cut and blended to your hair. And they last a long time.”

Some women are reluctant to fix what’s ailing their hair because they don’t usually experiment, “but once they see it works, they fall in love with it.”

Whatever you decide, don’t stress about it.

“Worry is the last thing you want to do,” Navarro said. “That makes it worse.”

Sheon Wilson (@SheonWilson) is a personal stylist and business writer who lives in Durham.

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