Want to add a little zing to your style — but don’t know where to start? Barbara Grufferman’s talked to the experts — so before you buy that, read this!
My husband shops for fun. He’ll spend hours on the Internet, perusing different sites from Zappos to HauteLook to Orvis in search of the perfect kahki pants. Or, he’ll swing over to Bloomingdale’s on a Saturday afternoon to see what’s on sale, lingering a little longer at Armani.
Me? After I turned 50, I was so confused about what I should or shouldn’t wear that I preferred unloading the dishwasher — my least favorite household chore — to buying clothes. Shopping, for me, was intimidating and time-consuming. And I usually got hungry, tired, and grumpy, which meant that I ended up buying either the wrong things or stuff I didn’t need. On the flip side, though, I love style and I love to look good. It’s a dilemma.
I thought about paying my husband an hourly fee to shop for me — but that option became unnecessary when I decided to write The Best of Everything After 50. While doing research for the book, I had the great opportunity to interview Diane von Furstenberg, Ginny Hilfiger, and a few other fashion-forward experts who gave me guidelines (no rules, please!) on what to wear and to avoid once I turned 50. Here’s their master list of “must haves”:
- Dark denim boot cut jeans (Uniqlo, 7 For All Mankind, Levi’s)
- Dark denim straight leg jeans
- White jeans (boot cut and straight leg)
- Great fitting black pants (Theory, Tahari, Joseph, J.Crew, Ann Taylor)
- Short, snug-fitting black jacket (Theory, Tahari, Ann Taylor, Target)
- Black pencil skirt (wear it to the knee, and make sure it has a little stretch, but isn’t skin tight — Theory, Diane von Furstenberg, Kors, Tahari)
- Cardigans (best year-round fashion accessory you’ll ever find — look for the Classic Cardigan from Merona brand at Target and buy one in every color. Make sure to take a size or two smaller than you would normally get or else you’ll end up with a “Mumsy” sweater)
- Cropped black leather jacket (shop around for one that fits you perfectly: cropped to the waist is best, and no, a black leather jacket is not too young for us!)
- Tank tops (buy a few in white, black and cream to wear under the cardigans, with jeans and skirts. The fit should be snug not loose, so size down if you need to — Uniqlo, Target’s Mossimo Supply Co, American Apparel, Banana Republic)
- Dresses — wrap and sheath (Target by Merona, Diane von Furstenberg, Theory, Nicole Miller, Hugo Boss)
I now have all these pieces, which I mix and match, depending on the occasion, for different looks. I just add a few key accessories, like a cool necklace, big ring, scarf, perfect shoes, or a bag, and I’m ready to rock and roll. My two favorite purchases were the Merona dress from Target (which costs $39.99) and the cropped black leather motorcycle jacket from Saks (it costs a tad more than the Target dress, but given how often I wear it, it was oh-so-worth it!) I wear it with the jeans, pants, dresses, and pencil skirt . . . year round. The leather should be buttery and thin so you can wear it in lieu of a black jacket or cardigan.
What’s the best overall style advice for women over fifty? We don’t want strict rules, but there are some pretty good guidelines to help achieve a polished, confidence-boosting look:
- Find a good tailor and make her your friend
- Wear clothes that define your waist, no matter how big or small it is
- Use a personal shopper, or a great sales person if your favorite store doesn’t have a personal shopping department (or try a fantastic online personal shopper: www.what2wearwhere.com)
- Spend more money for pants, skirts and jackets (especially that “must-have” black leather cropped motorcycle jacket . . . you’ll have it for years)
- Try discount retailers for basics like tank tops and cardigans
- Keep it simple and stay away from bling
- Steer clear of frilly, ruffly, puffy, or overly girly styles
- Think “cardigan” before “jacket” for skirts and dresses (it’s a softer, easier look)
- Be careful of loud prints, and lean towards solids
- Invest in a few great bags
- Keep your skirt and dress lengths to the knee which is most flattering
- Have at least two perfectly fitting LBDs (little black dresses) in your closet at all times, and at least one terrific little black cardigan to wear with your LBD, if it’s sleeveless
- Invest in some good new bras, including one specifically for wearing under a t-shirt or other smooth shirts, and make sure to get fitted by a pro at your local lingerie or department store.
- Stop wearing Granny panties. Try on a pair of Hanky Panky thongs (or even their boycut panties), and you’ll never go back. Also, don’t wear white panties when wearing white or light colored pants; instead, go with the lingerie that’s closest to your own skin color and they’ll blend right in.
Having a basic wardrobe is essential, but there’s a world of fantastic fashion out there, and your personal style should be your guide. Pick a look that reinforces your confidence and sexiness, put it on, and then go out and live your life. Don’t worry about what you look like; we did too much of that in our younger — and more insecure — years. Now, we should enjoy ourselves and not waste time overthinking every fashion choice. Forget rules and just wear what makes you feel good about . . . you.
Editor’s Note: Barbara Hannah Grufferman is the author of “The Best of Everything After 50: The Experts’ Guide to Style, Sex, Health, Money, and More”