How to dress youthfully, and what not to wear after age 50
THE FEMALE newsreader who smiled at me from across the waiting room of a TV studio last week was beautiful, with lovely plump cheeks and a toned, statuesque figure.
Yet she looked every one of her 50-something years, and more. Why? Poor style choices had added years to her.
Her dress was too red, too lacy and too low-cut, revealing an over-baked decolletage. Her silver-buckled shoes were also red. Her tan tights were too orange, her hair too blonde, her nails too long and she was covered in more gold baubles than a Christmas tree.
Pancake make-up had settled in the lines on her face, and her heavy mascara had smudged. It all combined to make her look incredibly dated.
It’s an all-too-common sight, especially at this time of year. Too many mature women make the most basic style errors that can make them look at least a decade older.
You might put in the time at the gym, count every calorie that passes your lips and invest more than you spend on your mortgage in the latest antiageing products, but if you make certain style clangers you might as well go out with your date of birth tattooed on your forehead.
So here’s my compendium of the most common ageing style mistakes. Learn from them and you’ll see that you don’t have to be a fashionista or have a big budget to look fresh and youthful… THERE is something about a hefty necklace made up of giant baubles that screams: crepey decolletage – look away now! Which, of course, only serves to highlight the problem area. So many older women do this: feminist Germaine Greer and Newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark, to name just two.
Another common mistake is to wear too much jewellery, especially if it’s made of gold. On a plane the other day, I sat next to an older woman whose deeply tanned skin (again, an absolute no-no), was bedecked with heavy gold rings and numerous gold bangles and bracelets.
This is so old-fashioned. Platinum, white gold or silver will give your look an instant update. And instead of plastic baubles, try a statement necklace of Swarovski crystals on a wide black ribbon.
And no matter how tempted you are, never, ever wear a brooch. When I had dinner with 90-year-old Judith Kerr, author of the children’s book The Tiger Who Came To Tea, she looked elegant and simple in a white blouse with a pie crust collar over a velvet maxi skirt, her only adornment a rope of pearls. Perfect. DON’T make the mistake of thinking a heavy liquid foundation, topped off with powder, will cover your wrinkles. It will just sit in them, creating ugly creases that stand out like the Great Wall of China.
Cosmetics have moved on, and everyone should move on with them. Why not try mineral make-up? It looks like a powder, but goes on like a cream and is very light. And you should only use translucent powder, although never around your eyes, as it will clog the delicate skin there.
You should also never apply mascara to your lower lashes (it will invariably smudge, making your eyes look droopy).
Another ageing howler is over-thin eyebrows or pencilled-in brows. In this day and age, no one should pluck their own eyebrows.
Go to a professional threader instead – it’s a service offered by most beauticians these days and can cost as little as R50 a pop. The correct eyebrow shape can really roll back the years.
Even if your hands are wrinkle-free, you can really let yourself down with bad nailcare.
Wearing false acrylic nails and having an oldfashioned French manicure will make you, and your hands, look older. Try
clear polish on fingernails and pink or red on your toenails. FABRIC faux pas by the middleaged fall into one of two categories. The first makes you look older because they’re too young for you, like most garments in leopard print and dresses made entirely of lace. Anything more than a smattering of red is also high risk.
Linen will make you look older because no one under 40 wears it.
Yes, it’s crisp and cool and comfy, but it has no give or stretch and will make you look like you’re on your way to a Saga picnic. WHY DO so many older women still wear orange-hued tights, complete with thick gusset at the toe? You won’t catch anyone under 50 sporting them.
The remedy can slice a decade off your age. Invest in a pair of shape-up tights. They are sheer but matt, so disguise thread veins, and give subtle support right up to under your bust-line.
What’s under your clothes is also important. A badly-fitting bra will only make you look heavier and older.
Fabric technology in underwear has been revolutionised in recent years, so there is no excuse for a VPL, a mono-boob (where your breasts are squeezed back into one by ill-fitting underwear) or, worse, a quadra-boob (where a too small bra cuts your breasts in half).
Nearly all department stores now have qualified bra fitters who will measure you without charging. It’s a service worth paying for. AS WE AGE, our skin becomes paler, so a black dress can be too harsh, accentuating dark shadows and wrinkles. Black is slimming, but navy works just as well and is more forgiving. French navy (which is a brighter shade), olive, grey and creamy camels and nudes work well, too.
If you must wear black, have something silver or bright at the neckline to avoid all colour being drained from your face. And whatever colour you go for, don’t wear it with a hemline that is too long. So many older women worry about going too short. Too long is just as bad – it can make you look droopy. Try this test: sit down, and if your skirt just covers your knees, it’s perfect. A MATCHY-MATCHY look is incredibly dated. So many middle-aged women still accessorise outfits as if they were going to a wedding in 1975 — beige shoes with a beige bag; navy shoes with navy bag.
These days, the trend is for colour blocking, clashing colours and crazy florals. If you are too co-ordinated, you will only look older than your years. This applies to nail polish, too; never use the same colour on hands and feet. Be daring — mix it up! TO AVOID looking like an oldie, make sure your jeans have the right amount of stretch. They must not sit too high on the waist and should be cigaretteshaped. After all, the boot cut went out with the pterodactyl.
Most of all, focus on your bottom. A pouch of fabric around the bum will only illustrate how your buttocks have collapsed. So choose a pair of jeans that enhance the buttocks, such as those with added bottom lift, and find a pair that skim the thighs. After all, if you’re over 50, roomy boyfriend jeans are not for you. GONE are the days when you could get away with one black or navy handbag. For evening, a bag has to be small, and it can be a bright colour: fluorescent or baby pink.
The way you carry it counts, too: holding it in the crook of the arm is far too old lady. If you can’t face a clutch because you want to keep your hands free, then a tiny pouch on a long shoulder chain works well. And don’t stint on quality. Nothing screams “granny” like a bargain basement bag. SHOES can be the most ageing item of all. Navy courts should be banned, and no woman over 50 should wear a block heel. They just look too orthopaedic in your later years: go for a kitten heel or a low stiletto. A pointy toe is always more elegant than a round one. And don’t be scared of low platform soles. THE BOXY jacket that only just passes your waist should be in a mausoleum, as should those ghastly 1960s swing jackets with threequarter sleeves. The first cuts you in half, accentuating a thickening waistline, and the second adds bulk.
A longer line, with a kick pleat at the back and a nipped in waist, is much more slimming, while a subtle shoulder pad will give your posture a boost and sharpen your silhouette.
This is also the time of year when women devote hours of preparation to looking their best for the new year’s party – then ruin it by slinging the day cardigan they wear to work over the top.
Far better is a cashmere shawl, a tuxedo blazer: it must reach beyond your hips with a subtle flare), or an evening coat (this is usually cashmere, gossamer thin, with a smattering of sequins at the hem). – Daily Mail
CREPEY DECOLLETAGE! Big bauble necklaces highlight the problem area.
OLDIE LOOK: Baggybottomed jeans.