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New year, new you: Age-appropriate fashion for women over 50

Age-appropriate fashion doesn't have to mean looking dowdy

01/02/2012 5:43 PM

01/03/2012 8:23 AM

By the time women reach the age of 50, we think we know our bodies well.

But in reality, as we grow older, we have to discover new and innovative ways to dress and care for our ever-changing bodies.

As a 50-plus woman, I've realized that I can't dress the same as my former 30-year-old self. Throughout the years, with my work as a stylist and fashion writer, I've learned secrets for dressing for my age and habits to follow to look my best.

Here are some of my favorite tried-and-true beauty and fashion tips, in the form of easy-to-accomplish New Year's resolutions that every woman age 50 or older should try to make this year.

Hint: Think "update" and "refresh" as we go along.

1 Resolve to show off your curves. Step out of your fashion box and pull on a pair of great-looking boots, with a flat, wedge or lower heel -- comfort and fashion all rolled into one. Instead of a wider-leg pant, which adds width to hips, stick your pant leg into the boot for a fresh, fashionable look. This look actually works best with a slimmer pant.

Add a fabulous fur vest, a standout sweater or blouse to top off the outfit.

For an extra punch, try one of my favorites: a stretch belt that can form to fit us all. Go on, give your old style the boot and add a fashionable belt.

Leopard-print stretch belt $28, Kohl's.

2 Resolve to have a weekly manicure and a monthly pedicure, even during the winter. Hands and nails can tell your age if not properly manicured.

Nails should be well groomed and shorter as you age. Choose a subdued polish that flatters your natural complexion. (Leave outlandish nail polish to your daughters and granddaughters. Using extreme colors will only draw attention to your 50-plus-year-old hands.)

Moisturizing and using sunscreen will help to keep your hands looking younger longer. Pamper those nails so they will not tell your age.

One of my favorite go-to nail colors is O.P.I.'s Crepes Suzi-ette, $8, from Target.

3 Resolve to get out from under clothes that look like a tent. Instead, choose more fitted clothing. Don't be scared by different types of design treatments such as ruching, which can be a girl's best friend. Ruching is material that softly gathers into slight folds. A top or camisole that features ruching can do wonders to hide imperfections.

I love to wear a sleeveless, ruched camisole under my jacket. It definitely hides my trouble areas.

Even the slimmer 50-plus-year-old woman might have some flabby areas to hide, and ruching does the trick.

Last Tango sleeveless camisole, $40, Ooh la la!

4 Resolve to take a closer look in the mirror, but not just any old mirror. Try a magnifying mirror of 5X -8X strength or higher that will let you see what others are seeing. Remember, your eyes are not what they used to be.

Please don't use the mirror to look for wrinkles; rather look to groom any problem areas such as extra hair growth or dry skin. Being well-groomed begins with seeing your problems.

I love this super powerful 15X-magnifying mirror with built-in light, $49.99, from Bed Bath & Beyond.

5 Resolve to get a professional bra fitting and try body shapers. As we age, body parts can go south, but you don't have to let things fall.

Get some added lift with a great-fitting bra. You'll find that with the correct bra cup and size you will have better body balance and look more proportional. Your bra should rest midway between your shoulders and your elbows. While Mother Nature causes our breasts to lose their natural shape, a good bra can revive your old shape.

Add body shapers to your dressing routine and you will take years off your body. Today's body shapers target just about every part of your body that needs help -- shapers for back fat, flat rears, heavy thighs, muffin tops or big stomachs. The new shapers have technology that your mom's girdles never had, plus they are comfortable enough to wear all day.

Chantelle bra ,$88, and T.C. high waist shaper, $72. Nordstrom.

6Resolve to help your skin age gracefully. Take off old, dead skin by deep-cleansing your face. Try a sonic-powered skin-cleansing machine; it is a favorite of Oprah's and mine. It cleans deep to remove the makeup and dead skin that your washcloth typically misses. With regular use it leads to fresher, softer, and younger-looking skin. There are many on the market at various price points, and you can buy them at spas, department stores and big-box stores.

Clarisonic Blossom Limited Edition, $225, from Wellness Institute & Medical Spa.

7 Resolve to hide your "bat wing" arms. What's a bat wing? It's not just a piece of your son's super-hero toy, but a hard-to-dress figure problem women sometimes develop as we age. Hold your arm out, and if what hangs down resembles a bat hanging upside down, I'm sorry to break it to you, you have "bat wing."

To help camouflage this area, look for a top with a fuller sleeve to hide the problem. Shrugs and short sweaters -- often with a raglan sleeve -- are also a good choice for layering to hide those pesky arms. Look for a blouse that is loose and flowing all over, such as this Parker blouse, $59.99, from Saks Fifth Avenue Off 5th.

8 Resolve to maintain kissable lips. Just like your nail polish, darker, extreme lipstick can quickly age 50-plus women. Instead, soften your lip color. As we age, our natural lip color sometimes seems to fade, leaving behind pale lips.

Don't pile on dark lipstick to remedy this problem. Instead, the idea is to have some color, but keep it soft and natural. If you insist on using red or another dark color for your lipstick, try to lighten and soften up the look with a lip gloss with flecks of gold color. Also experiment with a lip gloss with a touch of peppermint to plump up your lips and add a touch of color at the same time, like this one.

Jane Iredale lip gloss in Gold Fling, $19, from Mansfield Dermatology.

9 Resolve to wear more scarves. A scarf brings color to your face, which brings the attention up to face level rather than down to your body or neckline areas (where wrinkles are). Stay away from turtleneck sweaters unless you have a long neck. They tend to add too much bulk. Instead, try a V-neck or open-collar blouse to lengthen your face and open up your neckline area. Throw on an interesting, colored scarf to soften your neckline and bring some color to your cheeks.

Printed scarf, $34.50, Ann Taylor Loft.

10Resolve to put your best smile forward. Years of coffee, wine and maybe even smoking can tarnish teeth. Brighten up that smile every day with toothpaste that contains whitener. Fourteen short days later and you, too, can have a brighter smile for little cost. I love Crest 3D White toothpaste for taking off some years, $4.29, Target.

Susan Huston is a freelance writer and stylist and the owner of Susan Huston Fashion Concepts, www.susanhuston.com

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