Dress Your Age

By Vicky Katz Whitaker

May 15, 2009 5 min read


There's no need for fashion to be frumpy

Vicky Katz Whitaker

Creators News Service

When it comes to fun fashion, there's nothing wrong with trying to stay trendy -- unless of course, you're over 60 and opt for gold spandex leggings, cropped tank tops or low-slung baggy pants.

"Women and men, in their never ending quest for youth, often go off the deep end," observed Ohio-based Pat Nowak, an author, speaker and former fashion director. "Instead of seeing themselves as Clark Gable or Audrey Hepburn, they opt for dressing like Britney Spears or Mickey Rourke. It's not a pleasant sight."

Simple tips never go out of style, she said, even if you join the minions of aging fashionistas who feel a little awkward about their looks as they grow older. If you want to be trendy but dress appropriately, she suggested the following tips:

* Ignore the tag. "A woman can look spectacular in an outfit that is $10 and horrible in something $5,000. Learn what looks good on you, stick to lines that flatter your figure and make sure that clothes are tailored to fit you perfectly."

* Find the right look. "There are women who think if they dress like they were 30, people will forget that they are 60. If you choose that fashion magazine look, use a longer skirt and a fashionable shorter top rather than a mini with a cropped top baring your skin."

* Pick where to shop. "Department stores often have something for everyone. A specialty store usually is trendier and caters to a more youthful audience."

* Accessorize. "Putting together the little touches will pull together your outfit and make you dazzle. A small investment can be all you need to update your wardrobe."

* Think color. "Lighter colors tend to soften the lines on your face, so think lighter when coloring your hair, picking out clothing and choosing makeup."

* Redo the 'do. A tired hairstyle dates you. Buying those updated fashions is not going to make you look fresh or youthful without a great haircut. Cut it at least once a year. The older you are, the shorter it should be.

Layer your clothes, suggested ElderThink founder Gretchen Heuring, whose Colorado-based company provides information for seniors on health, relationships, lifestyle, work and fashion through its website, Elderthink.com. It even offers a line of clothing for men.

Heuring, who has written extensively about fashion, recommended wearing complementary colored T-shirts under a sweater or open cotton shirt and pleated-front pants or shorts with waists that are not too tight. "We need a larger waist size because our clothes hang better on older bodies, not because we're getting fat," she said.

Like Nowak, Heuring said to address color. "Not only our hair, but our skin also becomes paler. Beige and neutral colors above the waist make us look washed out. We can choose freely from pastel and rich color groups. Many of us look great in shades of grey."

At 67, Heuring bemoaned the fact that there are so few options for those 60 and above when it comes to finding clothing to match the natural changes that come with aging. "Our skin gets thinner and less elastic," she said. "As a result, for both men and women, anything on our body that is a bit heavy changes shape. Bits of fat, never before noticed, drop over elbows and knees. At the same time, some parts of us get thinner because so much has moved down."

That's why pants may look baggy in back and shirts too big at the neck, she added. "Also, because our skin is thinner, anything that is tight or rubs can really hurt." More generous cuts solve some of these problems, Heuring said, "but the true issue is one of design. No one makes clothing for us. No one is selling to us."

Former modeling agency owner Kay Presto, whose California-based Presto Productions developed an website to market a line of shirts designed expressly for seniors at shirts4seniors.com, contended that "clothes for women nowadays are cut for teens and 20s, or they are completely dowdy and drab. Most stores have just about eliminated their stylish clothes for older women, despite the fact that those 60 and above still want fashionable, attractive clothing."

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