Two questions from frustrated readers who want to look great at any age.
Dear Answer Angel Ellen: I will turn 49 this summer, and I am having an awful time figuring out “age-appropriate” clothes, shoes, hairstyles and makeup. Are there any basic rules or universal tips (similar to “don’t wear capris”)? When I shop, I get discouraged by the barrage of too-short skirts, sleeveless everything, see-through shirts, unnecessarily clingy clothes that seem to hug all the wrong spots and pain-inducing shoes. I am as average as can be (average height, brown shoulder-length hair (a few grays), could lose a few pounds). But, with all that said, I don’t want to look matronly or dowdy. Please help. It would be the best birthday gift of all. – Michelle B.W.
Dear Michelle: My birthday gift to you is a conversation I just had with one of the savviest fashion women I know, Susan Swimmer, fashion features editor of More Magazine. I’m going to boil down her great suggestions:
Pay attention to trends, but choose carefully. A sure bet is investing in classics that have a bit of structure. They’ll become your wardrobe “workhorses.”
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▪ Jackets and blazers are popular, but make sure yours are on the short side (to the hip bone), a little fitted at the waist with rounded, natural shoulders.
▪ Choose a classic pant but mind the shape: You want higher-waisted, skinnier and to the ankle or with a fuller leg than you’re used to.
▪ Solids – navy, black, gray, brown and jewel tones – are easier to mix and match. And yes, they all go together.
▪ Find an A-line skirt that hits at or below the knee.
▪ Add a shirt dress or wrap dress (again, not above the knee).
On shoes, accessories and makeup, she had ideas for following trends but with caution:
▪ Instead of ballet flats, try lace-ups and loafers, especially in metallics; scarves add color and texture, and you can’t go wrong with noteworthy faux jewelry.
▪ If you wear glasses, change the frames to plastic in nude, skin tone or even blue, green or red for a new look.
▪ Less is more when it comes to makeup. Tinted moisturizers also known as BB and CC creams (Garnier at drugstores) are great.
Dear Answer Angel Ellen: I would like to update my wardrobe with some fresh and current basic pieces, but I’m unsure as to what is appropriate for my age! I have looked in magazines that carry fashion, but I can’t picture my 63-year-old body in the clothing that the 20-year-old model is wearing. I’d like to see mannequins or pictures of women my age wearing clothing that is stylish, attractive, reasonably priced and current. Instead, what I see is either waaay too young or waaaay too matronly. Any suggestions for a style resource for the mature woman? – Amy
Dear Amy: “You’re not going to see what you’re looking for in magazines or advertisements. You’re really not,” says fashion expert Swimmer. She says to look to celebrities who are older and getting it right. Search for online images of Helen Mirren, Diane Sawyer, Sophia Loren, Katie Couric, Lauren Hutton, Candice Bergen, Diane Keaton and Isabella Rossellini – or others you admire. (From Ellen: A favorite of mine is Alfre Woodard.)
Ari Seth Cohen has created a career by featuring stylish older women on his blog, advancedstyle.blogspot.com, in his book “Advanced Style” and his documentary also called “Advanced Style.” Check them out. When I saw the doc, the audience gave his featured women a standing ovation. So clearly there’s a yearning for the kind of fashion you’re looking for. But no, alas, there isn’t one designer who will solve your problem.
Swimmer favors a looser more comfortable style for you and your peers, especially fluid knits. “Also, in your 60s you need to wear color,” she says. A big color for fall is all shades of pink from the brightest to fuchsia to petal. Stay away from blue undertones in lipstick and blush, and instead veer to the coral and peach. As for makeup, chose a light foundation with “luminosity,” says Swimmer. She recommends Stila and Becca light coverage foundations, tinted moisturizer and beauty balms with glow (though a bit pricey) available at Sephora (sephora.com).
A tee with UV protection
With good reason, Lee G. and Molly weren’t entirely happy with my answer to Nancy M., who was looking for well-priced, long-sleeve T-shirts with a modest neckline to help protect her from the sun. I should have noted that they won’t really protect unless the tag says the shirt provides UV or UPF protection. So, wear sunscreen under untagged cotton and blend T-shirts. Clothes made of sun-protection fabrics (shorts, skirts, pants too) are at sports and travel shops and websites such a REI (rei.com), Sports Authority (sportsauthority.com) and L.L. Bean (llbean.com). Lands’ End (landsend.com) has sun protection “swim tees,” which Erin O. says are “light and easy to wear almost anywhere. I now have four in my closet, and they are winners.” Mott 50 (mott50.com) specializes in stylish sun protection fashion, and Athleta (athleta.com) has a good selection. These special fabrics cost more and often are more sporty than fashionable, but they do the job.
Send your questions and rants – on style, shopping, fashion, makeup and beauty – to email@example.com.