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So. I want to start this fashion over 50 post with one very important point. (Pay attention because it matters.)
If wearing big, bold prints, or miniskirts, or red cowboy boots, or angel wings with gold glitter makes you feel incandescently happy, that’s what you should wear.
Don’t let anybody talk you out of it. Not even me. The best part about fashion over 50 is that it’s on your terms.
One of my favorite fictional characters (and a favorite of my readers as well) is Mary Dell Templeton, the heroine of Between Heaven and Texas and From Here To Home. Mary Dell’s fashion sense is…well, questionable. And though she would be the first to admit that she has “no more taste than a hothouse tomato,” she likes the way she looks. And that’s good. Far be it from me to try and talk Mary Dell, or anybody who truly feels good about their current fashion choices, into changing.
However, some of you have been writing to request tips about what to wear when you’re over 50 and I thought I’d address that today.
Once upon a time, my fashion philosophy pretty much amounted to this: if it fits and looks good on the hanger, buy it.
That was before I started doing promotional tours for my books, which involve lots of television interviews and posing for pictures. Believe me, nothing will help you identify and correct your fashion fails like seeing a picture of yourself wearing a really unfortunate outfit plastered all over Facebook.
Those experiences have shaped my fashion over 50 philosophy: “Simplicity is always in fashion.”
One of the best things about life beyond 50 is the experience you’ve gained along the road. At this point, you’ve lived long enough to know a trend when you see it and to realize it won’t last.
So called “flash fashion” can be cheap but if you only wear it a couple times before it falls apart or goes out of style, that ten dollar top is no bargain. The secret to fashion over 50 is going for a pricier but beautifully tailored piece you’ll wear one hundred times over five years. That’s a much better deal.
Here’s my trick for buying investment pieces on a budget: at the end of the season, check out the sale racks in search of high quality, classic garments. If you find a piece you love, buy it and save it for next year. Because it’s timeless, it will still be in style when the season rolls around and for years to come.
MIX AND MATCH BASICS
Stick to well constructed, basic pieces made from excellent fabrics that you can mix and match. These are the foundation pieces you need to build a wardrobe that’s sophisticated, flexible, and fabulous for fashion over 50.
Two great jackets, two pairs of tailored trousers, two sweaters, three crisp cotton blouses, a simple dress in a solid color, and a skirt that can take you around the world in style.
Or even on a six-week book tour. No kidding. I’ve done it.
As an avid quilter, I never met a patterned fabric I didn’t love, but when it comes to fashion over 50, solids are usually the way to go.
I’m not saying that you should never wear patterns but when you do, they should usually be subtle and small in scale. A small check, tweed, or plaid can really add panache to your outfit but big, busy prints can draw attention to areas you might prefer went unnoticed. Occasionally, I do enjoy a big, beautiful buffalo plaid or larger scale floral print, and oh my! how I do love an embroidered jacket! But when I choose a bolder print or pattern, I make sure that everything else I am wearing is very, very simple. Again, it’s about creating a classic, timeless, sophisticated look that is always in style.
Keeping your outfit mostly monochromatic creates a long, lean body line and a polished look. If you want more color, you can bring in it by adding a jacket, vest, or shawl in a complimentary color and pattern.
After my post reviewing the new Weight Watchers Freestyle Program, a reader wrote that she was surprised to know I had much weight to lose because she’d seen me in person and thought I looked great.
(Thank you, bunny! That comment made my day!)
The reason people often think I weigh less than I do is because I have become very adept at using layering to my advantage.
When it comes to fashion and bodies beyond 50, layers can be our best friends. My closet is loaded with jackets, capes, shawls, and vests that help add interest to my outfit and create a long, lean line from my shoulders to a point anywhere from my knees to just below my waist. This helps draw the eye away from any bumps or bulges and creates a sophisticated, pulled together look.
However, layering can be overdone!
Too many layers can result in a look that is sloppy and gives the impression that you’re carrying extra weight. Normally, the best look is just two layers, with the top layer in a fabric that’s relatively lightweight and moves well.
There are, of course, exceptions to that rule. You can’t go wrong with a white blouse under a v-neck sweater and topped with a jean jacket – casual, comfortable, and classic!
FIT THAT’S JUST RIGHT
Even in the leanest years of my life, I had a muffin top. But sometime after my 50th birthday, that muffin top turned into a cake. And what do we do with cake? Cover it with frosting, right?
Good plan when you’re baking. Not so good when you’re choosing an outfit.
Resist the temptation to hide muffin tops and unwanted extra pounds under a frosting of voluminous, overly loose, ill-fitting clothing. Doing so will actually accomplish the opposite of what you want and make you look heavier than you really are.
At the other end of the spectrum, wearing clothing that is too tight and form-fitting can accentuate your least flattering features.
When you’re in the dressing room, channel your inner Goldilocks. Aim for a fit that’s not too loose and not too tight, but just right.
ONE FABULOUS ACCESSORY
If you’ve been reading this post while getting dressed, by now you’re wearing a classic, chic outfit in mostly solid colors and subtle patterns, possibly topped by a figure flattering jacket or duster to add a pop of color. Very nice!
You need just one more thing; a single, show-stopping accessory. It won’t necessarily be the only accessory you’re wearing but this is the piece that should take center stage, the first thing that people notice about you, the item you get loads of compliments on.
This is my favorite part of pulling an outfit together. It’s the place where my personal style really gets to shine and there are so many directions to go. A fabulous handbag, a sumptuous silk scarf, a pair of glittery chandelier earrings, a big, bohemian necklace – any of these can take top billing in your outfit.
But your amazing accessory doesn’t have to be expensive. I do have some pretty wonderful handbags that cost me a pretty penny. However, one of the accessories I’ve received the most compliments on is gold wrist cuff that cost twelve dollars. Another winner was a pair of hot pink floral patterned pumps I bought for 75% off and wore with a cream colored trouser suit. Talk about a show stopper!
Accessories can be the perfect place to indulge your creativity and stretch your fashion budget. Search sale bins, flea markets, consignment shops, tag sales, and craft show for unique and eye-catching accessories can make your look without busting your budget.
TWO IRONCLAD RULES
While there can be a lot of room for flexibility and interpretation when it comes to my tips about fashion over 50, I do hold firmly to two ironclad rules. So should you.
1) No matter how deep the discount or fancy the designer – if you don’t love it, don’t buy it!
2) The most beautiful thing a woman can wear, at any age, is confidence. And confidence is one of the many things I love about being over fifty. If you feel confident when you put it on, that’s what you should wear.
And don’t let anybody tell you different. Not even me.