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Does “Pastel” say “Old Lady?”

In the wonderful film with Dame Maggie Smith and Dame Judi Dench, the title said it all: “Ladies in Lavender.” Those words conjure up some pretty specific images.

How many of us carry memories of our grandmothers – or other elders – wearing knit (often hand-knit) pastel cardigans, their homes filled with dried flower arrangements, cut glass candy dishes filled with hard candies, the aroma of scented sachets in the bathroom. As for the cardigans, well, we do get colder after menopause ends its reign of terror, so we often need that extra layer.

But today’s grandmothers are a far cry from what we considered grandmotherly in days of yore. All of us over-60s tend toward edgier, more up-to-date fashion trends. We have learned that personal style has no sell date. We would just as soon wear skinny jeans, baggy jeans, leather jackets, knit dresses as our granddaughters… if they work for us.

But have you given up on pastel clothing in the process? And should you?

Who Can Wear Pastels?

The reality is that everyone has some pastels in their ideal color palette. These are the shades that are the lightest – or palest – value of your other best colors – blues, reds, greens, and yellows. The specific shade is determined by your fundamental undertone and the level of color saturation in your skin.

So, for example, if you have olive toned or warmer colored skin, your pastels will likely lean toward pale salmons and peach colors, as well as very light sage and greenish blue aquas. If you have either very pale skin and darker hair or very dark skin, your pastels will have more intensity to them. Those will lean toward turquoise and amethyst, paler shades of fuchsia.

If you have bright and pinkish or peachy pink skin, your pastels will include things like orchid, cornflower blue, and many colors in the coral or coral-pink range. And if you have very soft, more delicate coloring with less contrast between your skin, eyes, and hair color, your pastels are a natural for you. They include just about all the mauves, all the blue-grays, moss greens, and, yes, lavenders.

How to Wear Pastels Without Looking “Old”

Interestingly, contrary to the concept, pastel colors actually make us look younger. They bring brightness to the face, especially a face that has some wrinkles. In fact, my own color mentor, John Kitchener of Personal Style Counselors, describes them as neutrals that are best worn near the face: “Your lightest colors give you a youthful yet meticulous appearance.”

So, yes, wear them near your face. That means anything goes – from hats, to jewelry, to scarves and of course, blouses, and sweaters.

But if you really want to try something fresh, you’ll find some terrific trench coats this spring in beautiful pastels. These could be lifetime pieces that would bring you joy every year during those April showers. (Just try to avoid splash from the mud puddles.)

A Natural Textile for Pastels

You are seeing pastels everywhere in linen right about now. And linen works beautifully in pastels. It says, “summer, cool, hip, and relaxed.” That’s hardly a description that screams, “old lady.”

You’ll see a lot of blouses, both in cropped styles, which look great with skirts, pants or jeans, and in long sleeves, meant to be rolled up to show off some bracelets (if you are a bracelet person). And if you really want to jump on a trend, tie the ends at the waist.

And of course, the oversized top trend brings them very fashion-forward. Wear them loose over straight leg pants or jeans and take the whole look edgy with platform loafers or more traditional with flat sandals. Or make the look sexier with espadrilles or heeled slides.

Accessorizing with Pastels

And as for the aforementioned accessories, you can’t go wrong with a sunhat.

And if you just want to dip your toe – literally – in the direction of pastels, you also have options, and they are fun! So, don’t run away from pastels. They can really be a mood booster. And they can make you feel younger. Honestly.

Do you wear pastels? What is your favorite shade? How do you wear pastel colors in clothes and accessories? Did your grandmother knit her own sweaters? Do you still knit?

The Author

Andrea Pflaumer, author of the Amazon best-selling book Shopping for the Real You, writes and blogs from her home in Northern California. Her first online course in the Fashion Perfection series is entitled: Discovering Your Inner Style: An Adventure in Dressing Authentically.

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