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Style and Error: Avoiding The Most Common (And Often Accepted) Fashion Faux Pas

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By Mia Bolaris-Forget

You’re finally comfortable in your personality and skin…but that is NO reason to go OUT in your most comfortable attire just short of housecoats and pajamas.

In fact, your empty nest does NOT give you license to “come out of the closet” looking like “desperate” housewives and their even more fashionably “underprivileged” husbands. In fact, for those committing such fashion transgressions, experts suggest you (literally) get back in. Back in the privacy of your home and into your closet in search of more socially acceptable and appropriate attire.

Remember times have changed and seniors no longer bear the “stigma” of being old. In fact even women who get married in their twenties may opt to establish themselves in their career(s) and wait to have a family. Others simply get married later in life, which also means starting their families later too. Women in their 40 and 50 have young children, people are working and living longer and in fact with the population growing quite literally, many “older” women have better bodies than their young/younger daughters. Additionally, people are more health conscious and active and feel good about themselves, their partners, life, enjoying it and looking and feeling their very best….and that includes women and men well into their 80s.

Designers note that seniors (now defined as anyone 45 or 50 and over) were considered “elderly”, while once considered “elderly” are now seen as vibrant, contributing members to society…and with the shift in societal perceptions and values, that’s exactly how they too view themselves. They say the 50 plus crowd, once perusing in (and I quote) “those HIDEOUS polyester jogging suits” (as well as spandex, stretch pants and what I like to call “almost slacks” that combine two “no-no’s polyester, with elastic waistbands)….are following in the frequently “healthier” footsteps of the younger generations and taking the lead from their kids and grandkids. They are becoming more conscious of their external and internal environment and their external appearance. They are smoking less (or not at all), exercising, eating less fats, and more vegetables….and keeping generally much more active.

Additionally, seniors realize that they have something “enviable” they didn’t have in their younger years. Comfort and confidence as well as possibly more balance, time and finances to focus on themselves.

While comfort (and easy maintenance) are key, many older women state that often looking good positively enhances personal perception and contributes to maintaining a sound mind and body. Additionally, according to experts, they add that they want both themselves (and their spouses) to look contemporary yet classic and NOT like “stereotypical” grandparents (from the past).

According to top designers, fashion and image consultants that means knowing your body type and dressing for the occasion; one of the most important concepts to understand, especially for women who generally have more fashion choices than their counterparts.

Some designers, with clients well into their 80s, say they remember a time when anyone over 50 and considered seniors, would have to shop in the “matron’s department”. Today however, youth is not wasted on (only) the young as both designers and an aging population celebrate every age beautifully (through fashion and style).


Ladies over 50 should veer away from clothes that cling to the body. They should also avoid baggy, sloppy, unflattering attire that adds substantial years by authenticating “The helpless GRANNY” look.

Consider clothes that move sexily “away” from the body. Dressing means looking age-appropriately sexy (YES, “Sexy”) and sophisticated which means choosing classy clothes with a modern and daring twist.

For many women this often means dressing in layers. Consider wearing a tank top or camisole under a pullover or cardigan, which can be removed and draped over your shoulders or tied around your waist. It can also be used to shield bare legs in the air conditioning or elements. While many may see this as a trademark popular among the younger crowd, it’s also a successful and comfortable look for the more mature generations

The classic suit is also a timeless wardrobe essential. Consider wearing a sexy cami, instead of a shirt under the jacket, especially if you are going out to dinner or to a special family affair. Fluid, sexy pants (made out of material other than polyester, fleece, or spandex) with button and zipper or elastic waistband and possibly pleats (to hide a protruding tummy) are scintillatingly chic.

Many seniors however revealed that they were more comfortable in straight pants and in the color black. While experts agree that, that’s a primarily “outdated” stigma (imposed on the older generation), and one that they need to realize has changed…there’s no need they can’t combine “comfort” with style.

Consider incorporating a more updated piece with a more “traditional” one. Add items like “pleather” (imitation leather), separates and a range of knits for fall and winter. “Funky” accessories and handbags as well as festive jackets are great for spring and summer. Lots of fun shoes are also a necessary accessory and can change a “look” Most of all it’s about finding out what looks good on YOU and NOT compromising good taste based on age or even finances, there are plenty of stores that offer classy fashions at reasonable prices.

Below some additional do's and don’ts.

· Stay in shape. Don’t get too skinny and certainly don’t gain too much weight.
· Avoid baggy, shapeless clothes (no matter how comfortable they are…they should ONLY be worn in the house)
· Think about mixing more youthful styles with more mature traditional ones.
· Avoid overexposure of arms and legs. Stay away from overly youthful styles such as bear midriffs and bias cut skirts, especially if they accentuate your “problem” areas
· Stay away from tight, cheap, clingy materials.
· Don’t wear skirts too short. But if you have GREAT legs don’t be afraid to show them off.
· Keep it quiet, your beauty regimen that is. Helmet hair, and excessive color -- red nails, red lips, eye shadow and blush (especially when used together) -- are terribly aging. Also avoid overly long nails and shimmery gloss nail color. Stick to classically, clean tones.
· Don't think you have to cut your hair: a chic ponytail always looks smart and youthful.
· Avoid overly “frilly” attire. Consider a clean, tailored look instead.
· Don't wear shawls or capes (too “granny” looking)
· Think young. Be unpredictable.
· Be “naturally” beautiful
· Choose solids: camel, red, gray, khaki and especially black and white. In fact, when in doubt, go for black and white. You can't go wrong with this combo. Think Tom Ford for YSL: eternally elegant, modern chic.
· Go for bold, classic patterns in black and white: houndstooth checks, stripes, argyles.
· Keep shapes classic. Shirtdresses, trench coats, pea jackets, car coats, balmacaans, jean jackets and jeans are eternally youthful in spirit….and appropriate for every age and season.
· Be a “minimalist”. Choose functional designs and details. (zippers are much more youthful than elastic).
· Invest in several fitted turtlenecks! Get them in a variety of colors. They are versatile for day or night and look great on most everyone.
· Last, but not least, remember people DO notice and getting older gracefully is a case of mind over matter: If you don't mind, it doesn't matter!


The way a man looks, and presents himself (especially at this age) is frequently based on (the efforts, insistence, and disposition of) his counterpart.

If a woman has given up on HERSELF, chances are that the man has not only given up on himself but on her too.

Physical attraction and personal presentation is all part of the “mating” ritual and securing a mate. Once that’s accomplished it’s primarily the woman who will encourage the man to continue to look good and chase HER because she’s worthy of chasing. So, if she accomplishes this by staying positive about herself, her life (and him) chances are very good he will too. And sometimes that just may mean buying his clothes, laying out his clothes, and asking (telling) him to change.

It’s never a good idea to wear too tight clothes, unless: A) you’ve got a great body and you’re in your early teens or early twenties and going “ clubbing”, or B) you’re in amazing shape and over 30 but under 50 or 60 and are at the gym or on vacation somewhere and the occasion calls for it. Most mature men should opt for “classic” styles that make them look “youthful” and “Mod” but that also hides their paunch. Sweaters and vests are a wonderful wardrobe accessory for the mature man. They are easy to maintain and he can wear both for a variety of different seasons. Sweaters and vests can also be both “dressy” and “casual”. Heavier items can be worn in the winter with either jeans or dress pants, while “lighter” items may be worn in spring and summer, often even with shorts.

Men should also own both casual and dress pants, and in both winter and summer fabrics. Stained, old, clothes should be immediately thrown out (not even charities want those) A sport coat or two (one for winter and one for summer) are essential. Dress up with a tailored button-down shirt or dress down with a t-shirt of sweater. Two nice suits (one for two out of the four seasons) are mandatory.

It’s also a good idea for older men to have both casual and dress shoes and a pair of winter boots for heavy snow and rain. A trench coat, as well as both a casual and dress coat is also necessary. Trench coats are generally more casual than long or even three quarter length coats. Those should preferably be worn for dressy and/or special occasions. Have well-lined leather or water resistant jacket handy for hubby for every day wear.

Stripes, checkered and jacquard as well as houndstooth are classics. Accessories such as a dress and a casual watch, and a nice belt or two are excellent additions. Consider belts (casual and dressy) that are double sided (black and brown) to match almost any outfit. Avoid bold “funky” prints and t-shirts with “trendy” sayings. Also avoid wearing sweaters on top of sweaters, such as a cardigan over a bulky pullover (sweater) or anything other than a lightweight pullover, turtleneck or button-down shirt…it wreaks of “grandpa” status…and is simply “just plain tacky”. Also make sure your man has at least one pair of nice, stylish, polished dress shoes, a pair of “boat” shores or other casual but neat slip-ons for less formal specials occasions, sneakers for daily wear and of course, a good pair of winter boots for heavy rain and snow.

Experts stress that dressing is “an art form” and often requires practice and patience. As we get older we often loose our desire to “fuss” with ourselves. But, they note that there’s really no “quick fix” for good taste…and having good taste is especially important as we get older and are able to “get away with” less…at least with regard to how we look, what we experiment with, and how we are expected to present and represent ourselves. They suggest taking the time to trying on different combinations, including shoes and accessories. Once you’ve established a look that works for you….hang the ensemble in the closet (on one hanger), so next time you need a specific outfit, it’s a no brainier.

And remember to “modify” or “update” your closet and wardrobe every season.

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