If you leaf through your old high school yearbooks, you might be filled with nostalgia (“We were so young… and beautiful!”). Or, you might be mortified (“What were we thinking?!”).
Certainly, fashion styles change over the years. And we do too. But does our individual fashion style really change all that much? It’s a question worth asking, especially now that we are being released from the most extreme restrictions of the pandemic and want to ditch our sweats to step out into the world.
For those of us over the age of 60, many of the new style trends present a mixed blessing. We are thrilled to see all the joyous splashes of color and the breezy and playful vacation attire.
And yet, cropped tops, knit bra-like tops with their little matching cardigans, dresses with cut outs and slits, and the return of low rise jeans (gasp!) is making us feel… old. At least when we were all locked down we shared in the same sartorial misery.
You might feel that the pandemic has accelerated the changes you see in the mirror. If you haven’t seen your friends for a year, it can be a bit of a shock to discover just how much they might have changed. Recently, I wrote to check in on a friend to see how she was doing. She replied, “Well, I seem to have avoided the Covid 50.” (She was referring to the common side effect of the lockdown: weight gain.)
But in general, it’s not uncommon for women to gain weight with age. Adding a few extra pounds plus the inevitable changes in hair color are certainly factors to keep in mind when you consider how to express your style at this stage in life.
Yet, even if you have put on a few pounds, your fundamental bone structure – the scaffolding for your body – does not change. What that means is that the silhouettes of the pieces that worked for you in the past will very likely still work for your body now. You might just have to size up.
Of course, a larger size in any type of garment might hang somewhat differently than what you are used to. So be sure to examine how the fabric drapes on your body. Check yourself in a mirror from all sides, particularly from the back. You don’t want the garment to pull or crease, or to cling to any area that you aren’t willing to emphasize.
As for hair color, this is a smaller indication of the colors you can wear now. Skin tone is a much more significant factor. About 80% of a person’s individual color palette is determined by their skin tone. Over the years, your skin tone may fade a bit or become less reflective of light. But the color undertone – whether it leans toward the cool end of the spectrum or the warm end or is somewhere in between – does not change.
That means that if you were able to wear bolder colors or brighter colors in your youth, it’s likely that you will still look attractive in them now. And if you have always tended toward warmer and earthier colors, or the softer and more delicate ones, those are still going to be the mainstays in your wardrobe.
However, it is true that you might find yourself favoring some colors more than others, even those you may have worn a lot in the past, and avoiding others. For example, I’ve noticed several clients who just stopped wearing red because now they no longer feel as, well, “romantic.”
If that’s the case, I want to encourage you to still wear your reds. Everyone can wear some shade of red. All of them – from scarlet to pink to coral – bring vibrancy and energy to the face. One clue to determining your best reds in clothing is to look at the shade or the range of that shade that you tend to wear in lipstick. You likely repeat it because it flatters your skin.
Unless you have undergone a vast transformation in your face, body, or in the way you speak, walk or express yourself, your overall style is not going to change significantly as you age. Also, it’s just the reality that nearly everyone is a delightful combination of style essences. Most people don’t fit into a single, narrow style archetype.
That variety of style qualities has a lot of benefits. It’s what gives you the freedom to play with new trends. So, although your style has not likely changed all that much, it is very possible that throughout your lifetime you might choose to express or emphasize different aspects of yourself through what you wear.
Maybe you don’t wear minis any longer. But you might still wear a pair of sparkly or playfully dangling earrings with a fitted white button-down and slim pants. That might be your new version of saucy!
Of course, environmental factors do play a role in how your style gets expressed. This is particularly true if you are retired, and especially if you have moved somewhere that has a very different climate and culture.
That would require considering how to adapt your fundamental style to what is the acceptable attire of a new locale. If you retire and remain in your own surroundings, you also have to consider whether your wardrobe is reflecting your new lifestyle and the activities in which you will engage.
When it comes to new trends, how do you stay true to your fundamental style but not get stuck in a rut. And how can you be fashion forward without looking like you’re desperately trying to hold on to your youth?
Fortunately, we have some great role models now. We are starting to see older women featured in catalogs, magazines, and on the fashion runways. Unfortunately, these women are usually slender, tall, and have great bone structure. So it requires some honesty and self-analysis to determine whether a particular trend or style will actually suit you.
One way to determine that is a “mirror” check. If you see something attractive or interesting in a catalog, magazine, or online, or worn by a fashionable woman, look at the garment then look at your face in a mirror or at your reflection in a window. Then look back at the garment again and then back at yourself.
If you feel a sense of “energetic” connection between what you see in the garment and what you see in your face, it’s a pretty good bet that you will enjoy wearing it and it suits your style.
It’s not necessary to ignore a new fashion trend simply because younger people embrace it. Unless it’s really quirky or impractical, it actually might give you the chance to highlight your coloring or emphasize the best feature of your body in a new way. It might provide a refreshing update to your wardrobe.
Just tread carefully. New fashion trends tend to last about three years. If you love the trend, maybe just buy a couple of items and then make sure that they harmonize with what you already own. If they do, that indicates that it might be more of a “perennial” piece for your style and will last long beyond its trendy sell date.
Regardless of your age, regardless of where you live, or your weight, or your hair color, great style is all just a matter of maintaining congruence between the person you are on the inside and what you wear. This is true at any stage of life. It’s all about staying authentic. Authenticity is the basis of lifelong beauty.
Has your style changed over the years? What are you no longer wearing that you used to love? Why? And how experimental are you with your fashion style now?