If you’re feeling more frumpy than fashionable, it could be because your style has not evolved with your body. Changes in weight, hormones, and lifestyle call for a wardrobe change.
Enclothed cognition is the theory that what we wear affects our attitude, behavior, confidence, mood, personality, and even the way we interact with others. Feeling good in what you are wearing can give you confidence and a mood boost. This positive mindset can be incorporated into all aspects of your life.
In The Wardrobe Wakeup: Your Guide to Looking Fabulous at Any Age, author Lois Joy Johnson offers advice on how to look “sexier, confident, successful, well-dressed, and put together” in old or new clothes by dressing the body you have now. It’s basically a style bible for women over 50 and you’ll see it referenced multiple times below. Without further ado, here are nine simple ways women over 50 can update their wardrobes to feel stylish and confident.
Monochromatic looks are in right now. Not only is wearing one color from head-to-toe easy to match, but its also slimming. Black on black is effortless, but you can also wear different shades of one color. Feel free to play with texture combinations like cashmere and corduroy.
Nude pumps create the illusion of long legs and they go with just about everything—from pencil skirts to jeans. Choose a shade that matches your skin tone to visually elongate your legs.
A black, fitted jacket is the versatile staple your wardrobe is craving. Pair it with jeans, skirts, dresses, or pants. It should be short enough to hit at the hips, snug enough but too not tight. If its not quite jacket weather, but you still want to cover your arms, a cardigan provides coverage and can add color to your outfit.
Skirts are back! According to The Wardrobe Wakeup Guide, women over 50 should choose knee-grazing skirts. A black pencil skirt is a versatile staple for any wardrobe. Just don’t pair it with flats—at least do a kitten heel. If your derriere leaves something to be desired, opt for dresses and skirts that skim over your rear.
Toss or tailor old pants that no longer flatter your 50+ figure. The Wardrobe Wakeup Guide advises shopping for new styles with “improved proportions, design details, and body-friendly fabric blends.” Ankle-cropped pants that sit just above the anklebone are stylish and go with practically everything. Beware of flare—flared cropped pants don’t do anyone any favors, no matter how trendy they are.
Ankle-cropped jeans are another trendy yet versatile addition to your wardrobe. Again, we’re not talking wide-cropped. If you like the flared look, go with a long flare. Just remember you’ll have to wear heels to accommodate for the extra material, leaving about a ⅛ of an inch at the bottom between the hem and the floor.
AARP says skinny jeans may be unflattering, but you can’t go wrong with dark denim, mid-rise, boot-cut or straight-leg jeans. They say to pick a pair with some stretch and to take in the waist if necessary. Try to find denim without whiskering, which highlights your hips and makes them look broader.
Jeans go with just about any shoe, but The Wardrobe Wakeup suggests “ankle cropped boots that won’t create bulges or bulk beneath jeans legs.” The book also warns not to “try tucking straight jeans or boot cuts into your knee-high boots.” Author Lois Joy Johnson says that “It’s also time to give up the discomfort of wearing your knee-high boots under jeans.”
Not only does layering cover “problem” areas, but it’s also on-trend. The Wardrobe Wakeup Guide recommends starting with the longest, thinnest layer of fabric like a tank top for a sleek base that eliminates any gaps at the waist. Move on to thicker layers like a V-, ballet-, or boat-neck t-shirt or blouse, then add your thickest and shortest layer, which could be a sweater, cardigan, or jacket.
On the bottom, you can go slim with leggings, fitted jeans, or slim ankle cropped pants or a relaxed fit with roomier jeans, cargos, or khakis. The Wardrobe Wakeup Guide advises defining your waist with a belt if you’re going with a relaxed look on the bottom to avoid looking dumpy.
Let It All Hang Out
Yet even more advice from The Wardrobe Wakeup Guide: Avoid looking too put together. Shirts buttoned to the neck, matching turned-back cuffs, and tops tucked all the way in can age you. Leave at least a couple buttons undone at the top of a collared shirt to expose your upper chest, which elongates your neck. For a more casual look, roll shirt or jean cuffs in an irregular way (not neat or flat) about an inch wide, just above the wrist or ankles. Master the done-yet-undone french tuck that Tan France made famous on Queer Eye by tucking your shirt in at the very front and leaving the back and sides loose.
A good fitting bra and shapewear are the foundations of your wardrobe. If you’ve become a bustier due to weight gain or water retention, it’s time to buy a new bra that fits. The Wardrobe Wakeup Guide notes that a “full-coverage minimizer or shaping bra will contain, center, and lift without adding extra cleavage or rigid cardboard look under clothes” and recommends brands such as “Le Mystère, Wacoal, SPANX, and Chantelle.”
If you’re wondering where your waist went, The Wardrobe Wakeup Guide suggests trying a leotard bodysuit with a snap crotch. Wear this in place of a tank top to smooth, flatten, and camouflage a flabby middle section. If your booty could use a boost, invest in some SPANX Booty Booster Shorts.
Colors, Prints & Designs
Don’t shy away from colors, prints, and designs. The Wardrobe Wakeup Guide suggests playfully pairing florals, tweeds, stripes, abstracts, geometrics, and animal prints. The key here is to keep them in the same color family—a black and white polka dot blouse paired with a black and white houndstooth jacket, for instance. The more subtle and small-scale the print, the easier it is to work with.
The Wardrobe Wakeup Guide says to wear your belts, especially the ones in the half-inch to one-inch range, at your waist (not hips) to restore definition. Johnson says to pair the status jewelry and accessories you’ve collected over the years with low-key “basics and sporty, low-cost clothes.” She advises to “err on the side of minimalism” to avoid looking like a Christmas tree. Wear one piece at a time—don’t deck out your neck, wrists, and ears all at once. Johnson also says those big statement necklaces so many women wear to distract from other areas look “unsophisticated and cheap”. Eep! Oversized sunglasses can be paired with ankle-cropped pants and flats for an instant, effortless, and timeless look. Town and Country suggests investing in a nice bag, and who can argue with that?
New bod, who dis? Take the clothes you love that no longer fit to be re-tailored to your current body.
Nothing ages you like a matchy-matchy twinset that looks like it came from QVC, so those are first on our toss list. Next, toss old jeans with extras like studs, statement logos, extra-wide flares, or low rises, which were already out of style when The Wardrobe Wakeup Guide was published in 2012. Johnson says to toss out big fake jewels that can make you look cheap, halters that show too much flesh, and sequins, because “light-reflecting surfaces look bigger than they are.”
Hire a Stylist
A personal stylist is out of the question for most women’s budgets, but an online stylist isn’t! Websites like Stitch Fix assess your style to send you pieces based on your taste. You pay for what you decide to keep, and simply send back the rest. Wantable is another site that offers this service, while Haverdash will let you rent and return clothes.