Our bodies, faces and lifestyles have changed over the decades. However, our fashion choices haven’t always kept up.
But do we need hard-core rules? Actress Ellen Barkin famously declared in O, The Oprah Magazine that women over 50 should never wear blue jeans to dinner. I (and my 7 For All Mankind jeans) beg to differ.
Forget the rules! We just need a few guidelines to great style and answers to questions about how to get it.
Below is a master list of go-to pieces for women who want to fight the frump and look smart, energetic, youthful and appropriate. You can wear these basics to work, out to dinner and anywhere else:
1. Dark denim, mid-rise, boot-cut jeans
The boot-cut hem leaves room for booties (a footwear option for almost every occasion).
TIP: Keep length about 1/8-inch off the floor (depending on the shoe), and make sure the jeans fit well (with a little stretch) in butt and hips. Take the waist in, if necessary.
2. Dark denim, mid-rise, straight-leg jeans
Skip the tight skinny jeans (unflattering on most of us), and get these in dark blue, with no fading or whiskering. Pair with flat ballet slippers, moccasins, loafers or kitten heels, and tuck them into tall boots in cooler weather.
TIP: Straight-leg jeans go perfectly with longer jackets or tunic tops. Check out options from Uniqlo, 7 For All Mankind, J Brand, Levi’s or Not Your Daughter’s Jeans, in prices from about $40 to $200.
3. White jeans (boot-cut or straight-leg)
In warmer weather, wear with wedge sandals and tunic tops or a crisp navy jacket and white tank. When it gets cooler, pair with brown or black boots and a sweater or jacket, and a pretty scarf.
TIP: Be sure to wear underwear that matches your skin color with any white pant.
4. Great-fitting pants
Look for a lightweight wool blend (wool/Lycra is best) in black, charcoal or navy. The cut of the pants is crucial and the length must be exact. Take your shoes to the store (and to the tailor, if necessary) to get a perfect fit.
TIP: Wear with a silky blouse, a T-shirt or a tank with a cardigan or jacket. Look for pants made by Theory, Tahari, Joseph, Banana Republic, J. Crew or Ann Taylor in prices starting at about $60.
5. Black fitted jacket
Short and snug (not tight) jackets that hit at the hips are a great look. Black is most versatile, but consider navy and cream, too. Wear it with jeans, skirts, dresses, pants — everything.
TIP: Wear tanks, T’s and jewel-colored blouses underneath, and check out some of the longer, less-fitted options to wear with skinny jeans. Some to try are from Theory, Tahari, Ann Taylor, DKNY, Chico’s and Target, in prices starting at about $50.
6. Black pencil skirt
Versatile, stylish and surprisingly flattering, no matter what your size. Wear it to the knee (or slightly shorter if worn with black tights), and make sure it has a little stretch and some draping but is not tight. Pair with black tights and booties, or patent-leather pumps for night. Don’t wear a flat shoe, but a mid-heel or high-heel pump, wedge shoe or boots. (Here’s a video about how to shop for shoes that are both stylish and sensible.)
TIP: A black jacket could look severe with this skirt; instead, balance the look with a long tank and a cropped multicolored jacket. The best-fitting pencil skirts I’ve found are from Diane von Furstenberg, Michael Kors and Tahari in prices starting at about $120, but you can shop around.
These are a year-round fashion accessory and the best way to cover up arms that are less than toned. Look for long and three-quarter-length sleeves that hit you at or above the hip. Longer cardigans are great with straight-leg jeans or pants, but not with skirts. The best cardigan I’ve found so far is the Classic Cardigan from Merona at Target ($19.99 and up).
TIP: Get a size or two smaller than usual or you’ll end up with a “Mumsy” sweater, which can look frumpy. The sweater’s fit should be snug, and never wear it closed: The point is to cover your arms and add color to your outfit.