Sunday, May 10, 2015

Style Over 50: 9 Things To Look for When Buying a Dress

I recently added a  new draped dress to my spring wardrobe (photo, above). I'm a big fan of draped dresses for women over 50, so I was drawn to this dress, a Lauren By Ralph Lauren design. Upon closer inspection, though, I realized this dress embodies just about everything I look for in a new dress. Naturally, I grabbed it.

How do I measure the value of a dress? Let me share the 9 ways. I look for...

#1: Feminine Styling
These days, I'm finding style inspiration in what Dame Helen Mirren, 69, is wearing. Her style tends to be very feminine, if not downright sexy. I’ve always encouraged feminine style after 50. But each of us must decide: How much “sexy” is just right?  My new dress is feminine, showing my curves, but it isn’t too revealing (no spaghetti straps, plunging necklines or cutouts). That balance of feminine and reserve is the right amount of sexy for me.

#2: Draping
I love draping--whether it's around the neck, waist, stomach or hips--because it conceals and distracts.  My new dress is draped across the stomach, an area I always want to downplay!

#3: A Splashy Print
In general, I love prints. Like draping, prints conceal and distract. While floral prints are popular this spring (Diane Von Furstenberg, 68, wore a floral DVF gown to the Met Gala 2015 last week and looked smashing!), I pick flowery dresses carefully. My new dress has a trendy blurred floral print, which is colorful, but is neither demure nor dainty. Perfect!

# 4: A Comfortable Fabric
There are lots of comfortable fabrics out there, but right now I'm loving the ones with a little stretch. I love the way they give when I walk or sit. 

#5: Lining
Like draping and a print, lining conceals those little lumps and bumps. Lining also increases the garment's weight, making it more sturdy and helping it hold its shape. I love the soft jersey linings, which also have a little stretch.

#6: Quality
Okay, I hate style rules. The reason: There isn't a style rule that women can't break and look fabulous doing so. That said, women over 50 are rarely flattered by cheap clothes. Cheap is cheap after 50. That doesn't mean, however, that you have to go into debt to buy well-made clothes. Thanks to the "labels for less" type sites, T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, Nordstrom's Rack and so on, as well as the millions of designer outlet sites, it's possible to find quality clothes with a reasonable price tag. Also, these days, huge, semii-annual-type sales happen almost monthly.   

#7: Flattering Style
Even if a dress isn't loaded with lots of "plus"(ie, comfort, a jazzy print, lining and so forth), it still might be a good buy, if the dress flatters your body shape.  The converse may not be true, though. A really well-made dress doesn't mean much if the design doesn't flatter you. There are tons of articles online to help you determine what designs flatter your shape.

#8 Good Length
Readers often tell me they can't find dresses with long hemlines. Those of us who are petite usually have the opposite problem--we can't find dresses that are short enough.  Three things to keep in mind:
  • 1) The models wearing the dress online are often 5' 10" or taller. Unless you're a really tall gal, the dress is going to be longer on you. Always check the dress's description for hem length. 
  •  2) If you're a tall woman, there plenty of sites with dress hemmed proportionately for women of height. 
  • 3) And, finally, petite women over 50 shouldn't allow themselves to be bullied into wearing dresses hemmed at or below the knee. Apparently, there's a rule floating around about hems and women after 50. I'm a petite and a hem that covers my knees makes me look shorter and stockier. Ugh.

 #9: Reasonable Price Tag
I was thrilled to find a draped dress that was well made and flattered my shape. However, it would have gone back on the hanger if the price had exceeded my budget. I will push my budget a little at times, but if  a dress costs too much, it loses its charm. Fortunately, this dress was nicely priced, making the perfect dress to wear to Mother's Day lunch with my husband and boys.

Have I left anything out? Leave a comment to let me know. Thanks! And...

Happy Mother's Day!