Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Stylish L.L. Bean? It's True!

Around mid-August, the first of the fall-winter catalogs arrive in my mailbox. On the cover was a young couple. The woman was fashionably dressed: skinny jeans tucked into high leather boots and a cropped green leather jacket. The man wasn’t as hip-looking (not-so-trendy baggy jeans, a solid color shirt and a corduroy jacket), but he did have a bit of facial fuzz (though not a “hot” beard). In the background were brick storefronts and a cobblestone street. Much to my astonishment, the name “L.L. Bean” was scrolled across the cover with the word “signature” beneath. This wasn’t the LL Bean catalog I’ve been receiving for 20-odd years! It's a new Bean Signature collection—clothing that an over 50 shopper like myself might order.

Every year, L.L. Bean bombards me with catalogs (especially pre-Christmas editions). I usually place several orders, buying Christmas gifts for my parents and siblings. I have also bought polar fleece jackets, luggage, parkas and rain slickers for myself over the years. I do not, however, purchase any of the other women’s clothing from the Maine clothier. Whenever I flip through the women’s section, visions of snowflake-motif and Fair Isle sweaters, shearling slippers and flannel nightgowns make me want to break into “Climb Every Mountain” or some other “The Sound of Music" tune. In my mind, Bean's women clothing has always been best described as alpine homey. Needless to say, I was amazed to find that LL Bean had created a new “Signature” collection, featuring leather jackets and gabardine trench coats. Did the Bean designers (why does that sound like an oxymoron?) realize that classic styling was going to be a trend this season and figure, “Hey, that’s not a huge leap—why don’t we try to be stylish this year?”

I suspect the Bean marketing team didn’t have 50-year-old women in mind when they were planning the collection. However, I think some of the pieces are perfect for the over 50 dresser. I love mixing classics with something trendy—a jacket or accessory, for instance. And you can find both—classic and trendy—in the Signature collection.

The catalog—as well as the website—has put together “Key Looks” for the season. Click on any of the words in blue to go directly to online description and photo for the garments. For the over 50 women, I love the blazer, shell, dangly necklace, jeans and flats. The dark blazer and long necklace are slimming. I also like the key look that combines a leather jacket, straight skirt, and ankle boots. It’s a simple look that is made a tad edgy with the leather jacket and ankle boots. I’m not sure how many more “edgy” years I’ve got, so I’m going to take advantage of them now. And lastly, check out the key look that includes the wool trench and corduroy slacks. This classic look is always stylish. Personally, I gave all my turtlenecks to charity during menopause and haven’t looked back. But if you’re like Diane Keaton in “Something’s Got to Give,” you might want to complete this outfit with a bright-colored turtleneck.

I’d barely recovered from the shock of the Bean Signature collection when another catalog appeared in my mailbox around Labor Day. At first glance, I assumed this second catalog was from “Urban Outfitters,” delivered for one of my sons. Even the catalog’s paper felt like a UO catalog. The models—especially the guy with the scruffy face, lab safety-styled glasses, plaid shirt and utility jacket—looked tres UO. However, the catalog was Lands’ End Canvas 1963. Say what? Apparently, great minds think alike, because Lands’ End has created a nostalgic, return-to-classics catalog just like Bean’s. And once again, many of the garments and accessories would look smashing on women over 50.

Some of my favorite “Canvas 1963” pieces are the Women’s Cardigan Sweater Jacket, the Women’s Cashmere V-neck Sweater, which comes in 10 different colors, and the Women’s Motorcross Jacket.

The Lands End Canvas site also has quite a few things on sale. One item that caught my eye: The Tiered Ruffle Tee for $11.99. I wear T-shirts year round. In winter they’re my bottom layer, if I’m not in a camisole or tank top. I also love the Women’s Button-Front Knit Shirt for $13.99. This long-sleeve shirt with a collar is made of cozy T-shirt fabric. In wintertime, I love having a few soft, light long-sleeve shirts to wear over a camisole or tank for a casual dinner out.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Post-Labor Day Fashion

I don’t know any over 50 woman who takes the “no white after Labor Day” rule seriously. (In fact, winter white is a trendy color once again this year.) What I do take seriously, though, is my desire to change up what I’ve been wearing for the past three or four months. After Labor Day, I want to shed my summery skirts and tops. And yet, here in the Northeast, September temperatures are often in the 70s during the daytime—not exactly woolly weather. Since I don’t have the luxury of creating a wardrobe just for warm fall days, I look for transitional clothing that can be worn on warmer September days, but also worn into late fall-early winter, and perhaps, even winter with an additional layer or two.

When I was looking for info about “Eat, Pray, Love” for a previous blog, I stumbled upon an InStyle sideshow of Julia Roberts’ different costumes for the movie. (Click here to view.) Several of the outfits worn by the 43-year-old actress are perfect transitional fashions for the over 50 woman. Check out the white V-neck T-shirt with leather jacket and feminine, dangly necklace in Slide 2. Twenty-something women can get away with dressing in manly styles from head-to-toe, but women over 50 need to balance a masculine piece, like a leather jacket, with a feminine V-neck and delicate necklace. The cozy Michael Kors sweater on Slide 3 is another flattering look for us, as is the relaxed blazer over the printed scoop-neck shirt in Slide 6.

For this transitional season, I like to look for garments that aren't black. I know I'll be wearing a lot of black come winter, so try to avoid too much of it now. Gray and khaki are the hip colors this fall and are perfect for warmer fall weather. It may be cool enough for sweaters and jackets, but I choose lightweight ones. Below are a few online items that exemplify my head-to-toe transitional wardrobe strategy. Or, rather my neck-to-toe strategy, since it’s too warm for head gear. Click on any of the pictures for details from the online clothing manufacturer.

For rainy days and cooler evenings, lightweight trenches and anoraks are perfect.
From Max Studio...

TRENCH COAT-M-gray/ white

I’m a big fan of scarves for the over 50 woman, but I probably won’t be wearing any until cooler October. Instead, I’m wearing necklaces, like the Satya necklaces I showed in my last post. Another necklace I’m loving is the Portia’s Pearl Colored Necklace at the LL Bean Signature site. If the price tag is a little high, check out the necklaces at Jones New York (click promo box in left margin to view all Jones necklaces), all for under $60. Here are a couple pieces:
Jones New York Coin Wood Circles Two Row Long Necklace (brown)

Jones New York Stone Drop Necklace (Gold)

I’ve seen a few over 50 women wearing fashionable military-style garments and, frankly, I don't find them flattering at our age. Military is too masculine for us. On the other hand, the trendy Safari styling works for over 50 and is perfect for this time of year. For instance, check out the Sleeveless Notched Collar Belted Dress by Michael of Michael Kors ($120) online at Macy’s.

Right now, I'm wearing a lot of sleeveless tops under lightweight sweaters. Bold jewel colors, like this purple sweater, are hot this fall. Hessnatur has a wide selection of all natural (cotton, silk, cashmere and natural blends) sweaters. The promo box in the left margin will take you straight to the online site.

The sweater dress (below) from Max Studio is a nice, comfortable transitional piece to pair with leggings or skinning pants.


Michael Star also has a nice selection of lightweight sweaters, like the ones below. Personally, I have a sweater like the one pictured first for weekends and a sweater like the one pictured below it for work.

Michael Stars 1x1 Slub Long Sleeve Pocket Cardigan

Michael Stars Slub 1x1 Long Sleeve Cardigan

I'd go crazy if I limited myself to shades of brown and gray for warm fall days. I also can't put brown and gray shades next to my complexion--they make me look washed out. So I'm looking at the trendy jewel colors--bold shades of blues, red and purple--this fall. And I might throw in some black, if the design is simple.

Jean skirts are ideal for mild September days and easy to pair with lightweight cotton shirts and sweaters. Here's one from Jones New York. But see my posting about jean skirts for lots more online sites. Or if you're tired of your jean skirt, you might want to try a Safari skirt like the one below it.
Jones New York Slim Denim Skirt (Denim)

At this time of year, I'm wearing anything I own that is open, including sandals with slight heels, mules and even slingback pumps with high heels. Many of the designers are showing clog-like shoes, which I also happen to have and love. Feet issues are common among my over 50 girlfriends. Luckily, I find if I rotate my shoes--mules one day, flats the next, high-heel pumps on Day 3--I seem to dodge most sore feet problems.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

India-inspired Accessory

Last week, I was at the US Tennis Open with family and friends. (The international tournament, which is only a 26-minute train ride from my house, is hard to resist.) One of my over 50 girlfriends was with us and wearing a comfortable cotton jersey dress in solid chocolate brown and a pair of wedge sandals. Her handbag was an Indian design—a sack embroidered with tiny mirrors. I hadn’t seen one of those since the 70s. However, my friend’s ‘look’—the combination of a minimally-styled dress with an embellished accessory—is one of this fall’s trends.

An India-inspired accessory—handbags, scarves, and jewelry—is a fun way to “energize” your over 50 look. The secret is to not overdo it with too much Indian styling—that is, a handbag, jewelry and scarf—and end up looking like an aging hippie.

A site worth taking a peek at is the New York City jewelry designer Satya. The designer has beautiful India-inspired jewelry in gold, silver, and gold vermeil (sterling silver components dipped in 24K gold) as well as beaded and jeweled pieces. I got two reasonably-priced Satya gold vermeil necklaces with little charms last spring (pictured below). If you’re worried about vermeil holding up, my necklaces are doing fine. The chains are different lengths, so I always wear them together. I just have to treat them kindly—no showers or swimming with them. I’m not a “New Age” type, but I love these necklace’s simple design and messages (my charms represent peace, new beginnings). If you’d like to see the jewelry designs in a store, there’s a store locator. And if you're in the market for a scarf, the website also has raw silk scarves in beautiful colors.

Personally, I'm a big fan of bangles. Here are a few India-inspired bangles from Jones New York. Click on them to view up-close.

Jones New York Curved Interlocked Worn Gold Bangles (Yellow)

Shabby Apple also lovely bangles and other ethnic accessories. Click Women's Dresses from Shabby Apple to take a peek

Tunic Time

Last month, the Home Shopping Network had a 3-day “Eat, Pray, Love” shopping fest in anticipation of the movie release of the best-selling book. If you missed the event, fear not. You can find the merchandise—pages and pages of it—on the HSN website. Click here to peruse the site. Apparently, all the fashions and products were inspired by Italian, Indian and Balinese culture.

When I heard there was going to be a movie version of EPL, I wondered if there would be a resurgence of Indian fashion. I’ve been a fan of India’s culture ever since college, when I took “Indian Dance” (and got PE credit!), decorated my dorm room with Indian print bedspreads and pillows, wore Indian print cotton sundresses, and even grew to love dark pink. (As fashion legend Diana Vreeland taught me: “Pink is the navy blue of India.”) I'm happy to report designers are showing colorful tunics and embroidered garments a la India and Asia this fall.

Tunics are a great clothing choice for women over 50. They're colorful, offer a bit of interest with their embroidery, and usually have a feminine, open neckline or key-hole opening. And, perhaps, most importantly, tunics cover up the less-than-perfect over 50 waistline. The tunic above is from Kaneesha, an online company that deals exclusively in India and Asia fashions (click on the promo box in the margin to visit site). It's always tunic time at Kaneesha. However, right now you'll find India-Asia style tunics online at Anne Klein, Jones New York, Macy's and others.

A college friend of mine returned in June from two years in Abu-Dhabi. I saw her several times over the summer and every time she wore a colorful tunic with cotton leggings or skinny white pants. (Tunics look particularly fabulous on women with great legs and my friend has to-die-for legs.) Recently, on an unseasonably cool evening, she wore a dark pink corduroy jean jacket over a pale pink tunic, white jeans and sandals. She’s looked adorable—at 52!

My girlfriend said she’s stocking up on skinny jeans, so I suspect she’s planning to wear her tunics right through the fall. And that’s another thing about the tunic—they’re a great transitional garment to take you through the warmer fall days. Right now, you’ll find lots of summery tunics on sale, like this one from Jones New York.

My friend came back from Abu-Dhabi with tunics for all her over 50 girlfriends. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to wear mine. I, unfortunately, do not have great legs. My best feature: my somewhat-still-in-tact figure. My new embroidered, smoky blue tunic is made of medium-weight cotton, so I tried it with a wide black belt, black cotton slacks and black wedge sandals. I think it worked pretty well; the belt gave me shape and the tunic hid my thighs.

If you don’t have a friend who’s been shopping in the Eastern Hemisphere, you can find plenty of tunics online. Here's one from Max Studio...



Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Hello, Handbag!

If happiness for you is a good quality handbag for less than $50, now is the perfect time to shop for the must-have accessory. There are lots of end-of-season handbags on sale online. Many of the designs will take you right into fall, if not longer. Others are purely summer bags, but at prices worth taking advantage of now. All of the sites have handbags that will look great on the shoulder or arm of over 50 women. Here's a sample of the sites. The links will take you right to the handbags on sale...

Macy's -- $14.99 and up

Nordstrom -- $29.90 and up

J. Crew -- $29.99 and up

Talbots -- $39 and up

Calvin Klein -- $49 and up

Lord & Taylor -- $49.99 and up

Anne Taylor Loft -- $49.99 and up

More Handbags on Sale...

BCBG Max Azria -- $64 and up

Cole Haan -- $59 and up

Bloomingdales -- $43.40 and up