One of the most-often asked questions I get as an image consultant relates to “age-appropriate” dressing. Sometimes when a woman asks about this, it comes from a concern of coming off like she’s trying to appear too youthful. Other times, though, it’s that she doesn’t want to look like she’s lost her sense of style just because she’s old enough to remember when nothing came between Brooke Shields and her Jordache jeans.
The Seven Sins of “Middle-Age” Dressing
Well, maybe not “sins,” but here are surefire signs you’re out-of-the-loop when it comes to current fashion trends. (Remember, out-of-the-loop quickly leads to a growing frump-factor.)
1) Knuckle-length sleeves. Nothing says “I’m not paying attention to my appearance” like ill-fitting clothing. Jacket sleeves that reach for the middle of your hand, dresses that fit when you were 20 lbs. heavier, and pant hems that drag the floor all leave the impression that you “Just. Don’t. Get it.”
2) Panty hose. They’re as unfashionable as your grandfather in black socks and sandals. (Oh, the groans.) There was a glimmer of hope that Kate Middleton could revive pantyhose as a fashion “do” when, as new royalty, she was frequently photographed wearing hose with her stylish dresses. Reality: she’s a princess and the informal leaders of the kingdom simply didn’t embrace the look.
Once the benchmark for conservative business dress, even members of the Big 4 accounting firms now support hosiery-free legs in the workplace. Today’s look: opaque tights (or versions with pattern or texture) in cold-weather months; leg bronzer in the summer months.
3. Incomplete Outfits. The extra 90-seconds it takes to coordinate jewelry with your clothing takes you from getting dressed to being dressed. Savvy dressers know the power of accessories: jewelry, scarves, shoes and handbags — the icing on the cake — all take your outfit up a notch when chosen well.
Don’t where to begin? Visit your best-dressed friend’s favorite boutique and check out what well-dressed mannequins near you are wearing.
4. Your high school hairstyle (or no hairstyle). If you’re wearing your tresses the same way you did beneath a cap and gown (high school, college, whatever), it’s well beyond time to upgrade.
Consider your role in life: if you’re a corporate gal, an understated, polished style communicates that you’re aware of what’s going on around you, yet you allow your work to speak for itself. A freelance artist-type? Let an edgier choice in hairstyle express your creative flair.
5. Long skirts & flats. Don’t do it. Unless you’re in a long wool skirt and riding boots, just don’t do it. Maxi dresses excluded (they fully cover your legs), legs appear short and overwhelmed by the fabric of a long skirt. A dress or skirt hem that lands anywhere between knees and ankles calls for heels.
6. Two long clothing pieces. For a proportion-correct outfit, think: long over short, or short over long. If your skirt is long, wear a cropped shirt, sweater, or jacket for balance. If your jacket is long, pair it with a skirt at knee-length or higher to avoid the appearance of your body split in two equal parts. (The unflattering visual result: short and squat.)
7. Quilted handbag. Unless it’s Brighton, trimmed in leather, or adorned with silver hardware, it’s not a handbag. You can carry it, but don’t be surprised if asked about your latest knitting project. (Quilted bags make perfect knitting totes, by the way.) For a frump-free handbag, choose quality leather or one of today’s high-tech synthetic fabrics.