Saturday, January 30, 2010


When every other ad on television is about joining a gym, starting a weight loss program or finding incentive to quit smoking, you know it’s the first month of the new year. I admit I’m no stranger to setting goals at this time of year. My 2010 resolution: To find a new job. Gulp.

As a 50+ woman with, shall we say, a dubious career history, I realize finding a new job may be my all-time toughest resolution to achieve. The last time I looked for a full-time job, I was in my 30s. All I needed to do then was look and act professional. Twenty years later, that's not enough. The job hunting, 50+ woman needs to looks and acts professional and current. She’s got to have a professional narrative that shows she’s aware of current trends and technology, and she has to look like she has the energy (at such an old age) to keep up with what’s next. Appearance isn’t everything, but she’ll want her hair, outfit, and accessories to make a good impression. Last month, I went for a makeup consultation at Sephora (see earlier posting) to brighten up my 50+ complexion and hide a few flaws. This month, I’m looking for a new hairstyle. The question is: Which hairstyles are most flattering for the 50+ face?

Short of losing weight, I can’t think of too many things that can alter your appearance (for better or worse) more than a new haircut. Have you seen the Jane Austen Book Club? I recently rented the DVD and was astonished by the transformation Bernadette (a fiftysomething character played by Kathy Baker) makes simply by changing her hairstyle. For most of the movie, Bernadette has a very short, spiky hairdo. The hairstyle makes her look like an average looking, middle-age woman. It actually accentuates her nose. However, at the end of the movie, Bernadette shows up at a dinner-dance with a sexy, sweeping hairdo that flips just below her chin. (You can see a ‘before’ photo of Bernadette under a paper parasol in the 4th row and ‘after’ photo of Bernadette dancing with her new beau in the 2nd row of photos at Yes, she’s wearing make up and has a new beau. But the soft, sexy hairdo is the biggest factor in her transformation. I want that kind of transformation!

But here’s the thing: Has any woman ever found a hairdresser who will suggest a new hairstyle? I haven’t. If I go to the salon with an idea, my current hairdresser will work with me. But she won’t say, “I think you should let me cut your hair this way or that way.” (Ditto for all the hairdressers I’ve used.) Is she afraid I will hate her if I don’t like the cut? This has always struck me as rather insane, since she’s supposed to be the hair expert, not me. Whatever the reason, it’s my job to come in with an idea or better still, a photograph of a desired hairstyle.

Fortunately, there are many online hairstyle resources for 50+ women. Moreover, older women have more hairstyle options than ever before. When I turned 40 with long hair, my mother warned me: “You know, older woman with long hair look like hags.” With each subsequent birthday, I asked myself: “Do I look like a hag yet?” I always assumed the day would come when I would feel compelled to shear my locks to within an inch of my scalp. And yet, I kept seeing older woman who looked great in long hair—Meryl Streep, Holly Hunter, Rene Russo, to name a few. Apparently, the hair barriers have fallen thanks to better styling of long hair for older woman.

This doesn’t mean that “anything goes” when picking a new hairstyle. The over 50 woman must still find the right do—a hairstyle that flatters her:
Face’s Shape
Hair’s Character (ie, texture, thickness)
Body Shape

You may find a hairstyle that suits your face and body shapes, but may not cooperate with your hair’s character or may be too fussy for your lifestyle. Long, flowing locks may look fabulous on gorgeous, statuesque Meryl Streep, but I doubt they would suit diminutive Judi Dench. Judi looks stunning in her boyish cut, but can you imagine Andy McDowell with something so severe? If, like me, you can’t expect your hairdresser to lead you to the perfect cut, you’ll have to do the research yourself. There are lots of online hair websites,including a few that show hairstyles that camouflage 50+ flaws. Here are a few sites that might help:
The right cut for your face. The first and the last slides are my personal favorites.

How to determine your face shape and hairstyles to try/avoid.
How to Determine Your Face Shape
How to Match Your Hairstyle and Body Type
Dealing with Specific Facial Features
A one-time $14.95 membership lets you upload a picture of yourself and “try on” different hairstyles.

Here are 4 great haircuts, though the models for 3 cuts aren’t even close to 50. Still, I think they would suit the 50+ woman.

Don’t be turned off by the very first illustration (which looks like a bathing cap my mom wore in the early 1960s). There are some good tips here.

Beautiful Hairstyles
Haircuts on real 50+ woman, albeit gorgeous celebrities.

Love to Know Seniors
If you’re set on a short hairstyle, check out this site. Scroll down for a slide show of short haircuts modeled by non-celebrity over 50 women. Beauty
More 50+ celebrity haircuts

Good luck!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Better Sweater

This probably isn’t the best time to be writing about sweaters, even though the New York area has been in a deep freeze since the start of 2010. If I were a true fashion aficionado, I’d probably be writing about bathing suits and the new dresses for spring 2010. But it’s freezing out and I’m walking around with one, if not two, sweaters on. Plus, my sister got a new sweater for Christmas that makes her look 10 years younger. Sweaters are on my mind.

The day after New Year’s day, my older sister turned up at a family party wearing a new, stylish, long cable-knit, hooded cardigan in off-white. She wore the new sweater with a teal blue cotton top and three strands of flat teal blue beads. I nearly gasped.

Why? Well, you have to know my sister. She’s an oncology nurse educator at a large, teaching hospital and she works a zillion and one-half hours per week. When she’s not working, she’s give, give, giving to her husband and two kids. She’s never found time for fashion. For the past 25 years, her wardrobe has consisted largely of mommy-wear—wash ‘n dash turtlenecks, jeans and sweatshirts. At any given Christmas-New Year holiday gatherings, you could count on her to show up in a boxy cardigan with seasonal trimmings (knitted or applique snowflakes, fir trees and reindeers) and a dirndl skirt—her idea of festive fashion (see my “Before” drawing). The combination of the short, boxy sweater and the gathered, full skirt has always made her look ten pounds heavier. And the absence of style, well, made her look a lot like American Gothic lady. (Sorry, sis.) But the other week, my sister took 10 years off her appearance by wearing a new, stylish sweater (see the “After” drawing) she’d gotten for Christmas.

1) Perfect style and fit for her shape. My sister is only 5’3’’ and a little over her ideal weight. I would have thought the off-white, form-fitting cardigan would make her look shorter and heavier. But the sweater’s extended line, from her shoulders to mid-thighs, actually makes her look slimmer.
2) Perfect Colors. My sister looks best in “autumn colors,” including off-white and teal blue. The colors brighten her complexion.
3) Upbeat style. The hoodie style projects youthful energy (as does the strands of beads).

Last year, I bought a Michael Kors velour, zip-up hoodie. At the time, I fretted: Am I too old for hoodies? After seeing my sister in her new hooded cardigan, I’m convinced: Hoodies are perfect for the 50+ wardrobe. They project a sense of fun and energy and even a positive attitude—all the things that make any woman attractive.

If I were making a list of things to look for when shopping for a sweater that will shave years off your appearance, I would add to the above list:
4) Details. A sweater with a little personality can take years off. (Note: I’m not talking about applique reindeers here.) Things like ruffles, special cable knits or unusual closures can grab attention and divert it away from those 50+ flaws.

J. Crew
My two favorite designs:
Merino ruffle cardigan
Strada ruffle cardigan

Jones New York,default,sc.html
JNY has lots of sweaters on sale right now. Great variety of styles and colors!

Search ‘Sweater Shop'for a huge collection—something for everyone. Check out:
Caslon® Mix Print Drawstring Cardigan
Eileen Fisher Open Organic Cotton Cardigan