Thursday, October 28, 2010

Over 50 Women Suit Up

Anne Klein One Button Blazer

Editor's Note: This post was updated in December 2012. If you're shopping after the post-2012 holidays, you might want to take a peek at the 17 End-of-Season Cyber Sales

Are women over 50 only interested in dressing comfortably? I was beginning to think—from listening to friends, looking around me, and reading women’s comments in various blogs—the answer was: “Generally speaking, yes.” But last week, I went to the More magazine “Reinvention Convention” in New York City and realized the answer may not be so cut and dry. The vast majority of the roughly 300 women over 40 (many of them in their fifties and older) in attendance were dressed to the nines in suits, beautiful sheaths or well-made skirts and sweaters.

And here’s the interesting part: The pre-event information suggested that attendees “dress comfortably and appropriately for the day’s activities.” At the convention, I couldn’t help but smile when I saw so many well-dressed women. Personally, now that I’m over 50, I feel more comfortable in a well-made dress than I do in a T-shirt and jeans. Could it be I’m not alone? Or was it simply that the women saw the event as a networking opportunity and wanted to make a good impression? Or do women dress as much for other women as they do for men?

Suits were by far the outfit-of-choice for the event. The convention attendees did a fabulous job of counterbalancing the masculine-nature of the traditional dark suit by wearing feminine blouses, jackets with a touch of shimmer, beautiful jewelry and shoes, and soft hairstyles. Take, for instance, the Anne Klein One Button Blazer above. The one-button design plus the camisole and jewelry keep the tailored jacket from looking at all manly. Click on the photo to go to the Anne Klein site, to see the matching Classic Trousers.

Jones New York had a booth at the convention's Expo. The clothier brought their collection of simple, pastel-colored man-tailored shirts and black suit jackets, skirts and slacks. On the back wall of JNY booth was the company’s current ad reporting that women now represent half of all workers, according to a 2009 Shriver Report. However, last summer, everyone was talking about an article in The Atlantic entitled The End of Men. That article reported that women have become the majority of the workforce. Clearly, there are lots of working women out there and regardless of their type of employment—corporate, non-profit, entrepreneur—most of them are going to need a suit for some occasion. After the More convention, I went searching online for suits and accessories. I wanted to find outfits like the ones I had seen on the fabulous-looking women over 50 at the More convention. Here’s a sample of what I found. As always, click on the links or pictures to go directly to the clothier for more details and to take advantage of possible sales!

The traditional skirt-suit or pants-suit have two things going for them: 1) they come with a top and bottom, so you don’t have to find matching separates and 2) the continuous color scheme from shoulder to hem is flattering; it makes you look longer and trimmer than an outfit with different color top and bottom. I'm happy to report that not all suits are the classic man-tailored suits. More and more, designers are adding feminine accents--peplums, thin belts, ruffling or draping--and/or beautiful fabrics to soften the suits.

I also love Channel-esque jackets with round-neck collars. Again, because they don't look at all masculine. Here's a Jones New York Jewel Neck Jacket

Jones New York Jewel Neck Jacket

Suit jackets made of crepe fabric are also more feminine, like the  Double Crepe Hanover Jacket below from Ann Taylor. There's also a matching Hawthorne Double Crepe Skirt

Double Crepe Hanover Jacket

Do you prefer something more traditional? If so, you're in luck. "Classic" styling is everywhere! For example, here's a Jones New York Washable Wool Alloy Suited Jacket (Grey, Size 10).  This suit jacket is available in a variety of sizes, including Women's, Petites and Plus sizes. There's also a matching straight skirt or slacks.

Jones New York Washable Wool Alloy Suited Jacket (Grey, Size 10)

If you choose a suit with more traditional styling, a top in a bright shade that flatters your complexion is great. For cooler days, a thin pullover sweater is a great choice. Or, if you need something lighter for the office, the shell like the  Jones New York Sleeveless Drape Shell below is nice. FYI--raspberry-colored blouses under suits were a popular choice at the More convention.

Jones New York Sleeveless Drape Shell

And don't forget the power of accessories. A lovely necklace and stylish pair of shoes, like these Anne Klein Mann Dress Tailored (black, Size 7) (also available in a solid taupe or yellow suede).

Anne Klein Mann Dress Tailored (black, Size 7)

Personally, I prefer wearing a separate jacket and skirt as opposed to the traditional suit. Dark suits are a nice contrast for the 20-something complexion and physique. However, since turning 50, I find dark suits are a little dreary—coffin-ready. A colorful jacket with a dark dress or skirt seems a little more energetic, a little less predictable. Am I splitting hairs? Probably. But you know what they say: To look good, you must feel good.  I love this next  Elizabeth and James James Blazer (was $465, now $325) for two feel good reasons. Yes, the color is vibrant (reason #1), but it's also made of lovely soft and fluid silk. 

Elizabeth and James James Blazer

I'm also a fan of tweed jackets. If you could find a sheath the same color as the top shown, that would be perfect. But a black dress would be equally stunning.

Femme Tweed Jacket

Femme Tweed Jacket

Here's an example of a possible sheath to wear with a suit jacket...

Jones New York Platinum Sheath Dress (Black, Size 14)

Perhaps, you prefer pants. Try a colorful jacket with a matching dark top and trousers.