Saturday, July 31, 2010

Ironic Outfits for Women Over 50?

In a recent posting on the New York Magazine website, New York Times fashion critic Cathy Horyn, 54, asks: Can Women Over 50 Pull Off Ironic Fashion? To answer this question, she offers a slide show (click on blue title above to view) with analysis of nine celebrity women over 50 wearing what she considers ‘ironic’ outfits. As one reader so astutely observes, nowhere does Horyn define ‘ironic.’ If irony has to do with intent, can it be judged by looking at a photograph of a woman’s outfit? Perhaps, Horyn is using the term loosely, to mean 'incongruous,' that is, not what we’d normally expect a woman over 50 to wear.

The slide show’s celebrity women over 50 include Madonna, Cher, Diane Keaton, Sharon Stone, Deborah Harry, and Betsy Johnson. I admit: their outfits—cone hats with pom-poms and hip-high leather boots—are attention-grabbing. But if you’re a celebrity, especially in the performing arts, isn’t dressing a little over-the-top the norm, part of the job description? I expect Diane Keaton to wear big-brimmed hats and Sharon Stone to wear sexy tops and jeans. Frankly, I would find it ‘ironic’ if Madonna or Cher turned up at an event dressed like me!

Also, call me crazy, but what’s so ‘ironic’ or ‘incongruous’ about what Deborah Harry and Sharon Stone are wearing? Sure, I wouldn’t advise any of my over 50 non-celebrity friends to wear mini-dresses or torn-up jeans. However, it’s not unusual to see older, non-celebrity women in my town trying to dress like 20-somethings. It’s not ironic, it’s just a bit tacky and sad.

And finally, I'd like to say “bravo” to all the readers who commented that the important thing is to wear clothing that makes you look good. I hear too many older women over 50 say, “Enough! I don’t want to be a slave to the ever-changing fashion trends or to the media’s perceptions of beauty. I want to wear what I like and what’s comfortable—period.” I get that older women are tired of caring about such things. However, I don’t think we should throw caution to the wind—that is, start wearing clothes that neither flatter our shape, coloring or age. Just because we’re over 50, doesn’t give us license to start dressing with the inhibitions of a 4-year-old. (There’s plenty of time to do that when senior dementia sets in!) Instead, being over 50 gives us the freedom to pick and choose clothes that are both comfortable and flattering, regardless of whether they are in vogue or not. And that may mean we’ll have to leave the hats with pom-poms for the celebrities. I can live with that.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Dresses for Over 50: Let'm flow

Jones New York Printed Maxi Dress (Green, Size 12)

Editor's Note: This post was updated with a sample of current bargains in July 2013. For up-to-the-minute sales, click on the photos and shop the clothing sites, or...take a peek at my Bargains Now page.

The other day while shopping, I spotted a woman over 50 in a long, straight, sleeveless cotton dress. The fabric had a trendy grey, black and white “tribal” pattern. The neckline was somewhat plunging, so she wore a matching pale grey scoop-neck, sleeveless cotton shell underneath. The lack of excess fabric perfectly suited the woman, who was slim and petite. I actually went up to her and told her, “You look fabulous.”

I’m seeing more long dresses than I have in a while and I find it wonderfully refreshing. At the risk of sounding like a crabby old lady, I find the very short skirts and shorts coupled with spiked-heel sandals on young girls in the city a little creepy, more than a little hooker-esque. This post features a sample of maxi dresses online, like Jones New York Printed Maxi Dress (Green, Size 12)(was $119, now $47) in Sizes 0-12.

But first, here's a list of why I love long dresses, especially those in light-weight fabrics...

Light-weight, long dresses have several advantages for women over 50:
  • They hide less than perfectly shaped legs and/or varicose veins and other skin imperfections.
  • Long dresses, especially those that fan out below the torso, are ultra-comfortable and offer freedom of movement.
  • The continuous fabric color or pattern from shoulder to ankle makes a woman look thinner and distracts the eye from a widening waistline or hips.
  • Long skirts and dresses actually make shorter women look longer. As a 5’ 4” woman, I have found that I look best in hems just above the knee or hovering near the ankle. (A hem only an inch or so below the knee makes me look like gigantic parasol mushroom!)

Are you ready to make a statement with a long dress this spring? If so, there are some very lovely dresses for women over 50. For example, there's a Anne Klein Stripe Print Maxi Dress (Blue, Size MD)(was $129, now $79) available in Sizes XS, S, M, and L.

Anne Klein Stripe Print Maxi Dress (Blue, Size MD)

Or here's a striped maxi from Shabby Apple called Jacobethan


Not surprisingly, most of the summer maxi dresses are sleeveless. I, like many of my over 50 friends, aren't crazy about our upper arms. But I'm not going to stop wearing sleeveless, especially when it's 80 degrees outside! My thought: If I'm dressed nicely in a flattering style and I keep smiling, people (unless they have an upper arm fetish) aren't going to be fixated on my aging limbs. And if I'm feeling self-conscious, I can always throw on a little lace or loose knit cover-up, or my beloved jean jacket. I'm especially fond of print maxi, but I've included a few maxi dresses in solids as well.

Women's Regular Pattern Slub French Terry Tie Shoulder Maxi Dress - Imperial Navy Print, M

Women's Regular Pattern Slub French Terry Tie Shoulder Maxi Dress - Imperial Navy Print, M. Also available in Sizes S, L, XL, as well as Petite and Plus sizes.

Grecian Style Maxi Dress - Sienna

Grecian Style Maxi Dress - Sienna (was $118, now $59) in lots of sizes and in Navy from Pure Collection.

Desert Modern

Desert Modern

Joie Lunaria B Dress

Joie Lunaria B Dress

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Beauty Secrets of Aging Frenchwomen

The United States is not without its beauties over 50. With very little effort, I can make a long list—Meryl Streep, Sigourney Weaver, Angela Bassett, Andie MacDowell, Diane Sawyer, to name but a few. So why am I drawn to articles on how to age like a Frenchwoman? Well, I suppose it’s because, right or wrong, I believe the average-looking Frenchwomen knows how to look her best at any age—better than the average-looking American does. Not all women—French or American—have genes like Meryl or Signourey. However, Frenchwomen, especially those over age 50, seem to have that je ne sais quoi, if you will. And I always want to know: What's their secret?

A recent New York Times article, Aging Gracefully, the French Way, attempts to shed light on this French phenomenon. Amid photographs of French beauties—Isabella Hubert (age 57), Juliette Binoche (age 46) and, of course, the French goddess Catherine Deneuve (age 66)—the article offers a list of 10 Ways to Age Like a Frenchwoman.

Many of the secrets are predictable. For instance, French women...
  • Take care of themselves (secret #1)
  • Use creams and lotions instead of soaps (secret #3)
  • Eat carefully (secret #5)
  • Go to spas rather than gyms (secret #6)
  • Think sexy (secret #10)
There was, however, one secret that surprised me. Frenchwomen...
  • Swear by cold-water rinses after face-cleaning, shampoo or shower. (secret #4) "They say it improves circulation,” reports the NY Times.
And one secret I could really relate to. Frenchwomen...
  • Never try to dress like their daughters (secret #9)
I look at younger women and breathe a sigh of relief that I live in a parallel universe, where women don't feel required to follow the trends. At 50+, women can pick and choose the trends that look the best and feel the most comfortable on them.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Lovin' Lace

I’m crazy about all the garments with lace, mesh, and crocheted accents in the stores and online this season. These peek-a-boo accents are ultra-feminine without being too revealing, making them the ideal trend for over 50 women.

Lace and crocheting can cover up a multitude of aging hardships—less than perfect upper arms, shoulders, neck and chest—without giving the impression we’re anxious to hide all. The skin peeking through the garment shows that, yes, we're still living, breathing sexual creatures without suggesting we are desperate to prove it.

Depending on how the top, skirt or dress is styled, lace, mesh and crocheting can be elegant or playful, or both.

For more informal occasions, you might want to consider Michael Stars Sheer Supima V-Neck Yoke Applique Top (below), which comes in 7 different colors. Price: $58. For details, click the garment name or picture.

Michael Stars Sheer Supima V-Neck Yoke Applique Top

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Jean Skirt Alert

Old Navy Women's Denim Pencil Skirts

True confession: I’m in love with my jean skirt. I can wear it with a cotton T-shirt to run errands or dress it up with jewelry and a shell top for a summer barbecue. Once the quintessential preppy or WASPy look, the jean skirt is a "young 50" look that works with many different styles. And no matter how you choose to style your jean skirt, you’ll look put-together with very little effort.

I'm regularly asked: “Where did you get your jean skirt? I’ve been looking all over for one!” Perhaps, the easiest way to find a jean skirt is online. For example, you'll find well-priced denim skirts, like the Old Navy Women's Denim Pencil Skirts above online. Below you'll find a variety of jean skirt designs. The Old Navy and Beall's designs have great price tags. Hint: when searching for a jean skirt online, you'll want to find out what the skirt length is. The picture may be deceiving.

When I think of a jean skirt, I picture a classic straight skirt like the one above. However, you'll find a variety of styles online. Take, for instance, this Denim Pleat Front Skirt (was $138, now $110.40) from Pure Collection with the pleated and slightly flared skirt.

Denim Pleat Front Skirt

Or this even roomier Old Navy Women's Denim Wrap Skirts ($34.94)

Old Navy Women's Denim Wrap Skirts

Here are two jean skirts from Beall's online department store. This Alia Pull On Stretch Denim Skirt looks ultra comfortable.

Alia Pull On Stretch Denim Skirt

And I love the fuller skirt and buttons on this IZOD Button Front Denim Skirt

IZOD Button Front Denim Skirt

If you're as crazy as I am about denim skirts, you won't want to stop wearing denim just because the summer season is over. Good news: you don't have to! See how the Pure Collection denim skirt is styled with tall boots above? You can do that, too.

Or, how about a long jean skirt? This Women's Dakota Denim Skirt - Blue ($89.95) has stretch panels at the waist for comfort. This skirt looks fabulous with a long turtle neck.

Women's Dakota Denim Skirt - Blue

Saturday, July 3, 2010


Did you catch Helen Mirren on the Daily Show the other night? Wasn’t she stunning? She's an over 50 fashion role model for me.

Yes, yes, I don’t know what she looks like without a professional makeup artist or in harsh daylight, but I’m always impressed by the way she’s dressed. She never seems to dress like she’s desperate for attention, nor does she dress like a frump. Her outfits always seem to say (if outfits could talk), “Life’s a gas, isn’t it?” And that positive attitude is enormously appealing—even at 65.

For her interview with Jon Stewart, Ms. Mirren wore a white, cropped tie-front cardigan over a simple black dress. The black dress had a low (but not cleavage-baring), square neckline. The white cardigan ends tied above Ms. Mirren’s waist and the sweater sleeves were three-quarters. She wasn’t wearing a necklace or any other eye-catching jewelry, which was hugely commendable. There are few things that make me want to cry more than seeing women who’ve accepted the fashion advice that they should wear huge pieces of jewelry now that they’re over 50. My darlings, big jewelry just makes you look like you hate yourselves for getting older.

So why do I love Ms. Mirren’s Daily Show attire? Three reasons…

1) Most things that tie above the waist are going to flatter the over 50 woman.

2) The sweater’s three-quarter sleeves offer complete coverage of the upper arms, which usually aren’t the older woman’s most attractive feature.

3) The cropped sweater that ties above the waist isn’t the “look” this season. I love the fact that someone who presumably has unlimited shopping funds isn’t afraid to be seen in last year’s fashion. If you find something that looks smashing on you, keep wearing it!

The outfit’s black and white color scheme might not flatter every over 50 woman. Personally, I look better with a little color in my clothing. I suspect Ms. Mirren pulls it off so well because she has the added advantage of exuding confidence, intelligence and curiosity—all of which are immensely appealing. Take that personality and add a flattering outfit, sparkling eyes and smile, and the swish of a white bob haircut, and you’ve got one very vivacious over 50 woman.

For us mere mortals over 50, here are a few looks that I think would be flattering for an interview with Jon Stewart or a night on the town.

Color Block Cascade Wrap Dress, Ships 6/3

Color Block Cascade Wrap Dress, Ships 6/3

Tropical Green Drape Skirt Dress

Tropical Green Drape Skirt Dress

Kaleidoscope Rose Twist Front Dress, Ships 5/10

Kaleidoscope Rose Twist Front Dress, Ships 5/10