Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Style Over 50: Back Away From Black?


It’s no wonder that women love black. It mixes well with just about any other color, it creates a slimmer silhouette, and it’s been a trendy color, well, forever. I love black. One look at the black shoes, pants, blouses and shirts, sweaters, skirts and, of course, little black dresses in my closet and no one could doubt my devotion. Lately, however, I’ve actually started to back away from black—at least, a little. The color seems to make my over 50 face look sullen and severe. I don’t think I could ever give up black completely. But I am starting to pay more attention to how I style black garments.

Consider, for example, the SILK & COTTON BROADCLOTH STRUCTURED COAT-10-BLACK at the top of this post. It's my Fashion Over 50: Pick of the Day. I love long, tailored black coats or blazers. The continuous line and structured shape are so flattering on women, including women over 50. This coat, from Max Studio, is currently on sale, reduced from $350 to $228. In my 20s, 30s or even 40s, I would have grab this coat and paired it with black pants and little boots or high heels. Now that I'm in my 50s, I feel the need to add a bit of color--a white, red, shocking pink or cobalt blue collared top or camisole--when I wear black.

Whether an older woman does or doesn’t look good in black depends on her complexion. According to an online article in Britain's Daily Mail, entitled Black clothes can put years on you: The unwanted side effect of fashion's favourite colour, only 1 in 5 women, old or young, looks really good with black anywhere near her face. Who is that woman? It's the woman with a "winter" complexion, which is flattered by austere colors, like white and black, and bold colors, like red and shocking pink. By contrast, women with the other three complexion "seasons" suffer when black is pressed up around their faces. Black clothing, especially garments with high necks or collars, emphasizes the dark circles around the eyes and deepens the wrinkles and sunken areas on a woman's face. If you don't know what your complexion "season" is, take a look at How to Choose Colors to Flatter Your Skin Tone. It will help you find your best colors.

But here's the thing: I have a "winter" complexion--black is supposed to flatter my skin tone. When I was younger, I wore black without a second thought. Lately, black around my face is too harsh--emphasizing my dark circles and wrinkles. Too much black adds 15 years (at least) to my age. Why can some older female celebrities--Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric and the like--wear black and I can't? I suspect it has something to do with professional lighting and makeup magic as well as the occasional air brushing. Unfortunately, I don't have a staff keeping my skin aglow.

If you want to wear black, but don't want to look like, well, someone who turns princes into frogs, here are a few basic black dos and don'ts that might help...


--DO wear black where you could use slimming the most--your bust, arms, stomach, hips, bottom, thighs, and/or legs.

--DON'T frame your face with black. In other words, avoid black tops with round necks, turtlenecks, or standing collars.

DO wear black with low necklines. You want your skin tone to reflect on your face, instead of the black garment casting shadows under your chin and highlighting your dark circles and wrinkles. V-necks, scoop necks, off-the-shoulders, wrap tops are all perfect choices.

--DO wear scarves and tops that flatter your complexion. For instance, a woman with a "summer" complexion might wear a flattering lavender or plum scarf or top.

--DON'T wear a lot of make up when wearing black. (Don't wear heavy makeup any time, for that matter!) In general, heavy makeup makes a woman, old or young, look severe. Add a black garment and she'll look twice as grim.

--DO use bright accessories when wearing black. A bold color purse or shoes adds energy to your attire and keeps you from looking too dour.