6. Black pencil skirt
Versatile, stylish and surprisingly flattering, no matter what your size. Wear it to the knee (or slightly shorter if worn with black tights), and make sure it has a little stretch and some draping but is not tight. Pair with black tights and booties, or patent-leather pumps for night. Don't wear a flat shoe, but a mid-heel or high-heel pump, wedge shoe or boots. (Here's a video about how to shop for shoes that are both stylish and sensible.)
TIP: A black jacket could look severe with this skirt; instead, balance the look with a long tank and a cropped multicolored jacket. The best-fitting pencil skirts I've found are from Diane von Furstenberg, Michael Kors and Tahari in prices starting at about $120, but you can shop around.
These are a year-round fashion accessory and the best way to cover up arms that are less than toned. Look for long and three-quarter-length sleeves that hit you at or above the hip. Longer cardigans are great with straight-leg jeans or pants, but not with skirts. The best cardigan I've found so far is the Classic Cardigan from Merona at Target ($19.99 and up).
TIP: Get a size or two smaller than usual or you'll end up with a "Mumsy" sweater, which can look frumpy. The sweater's fit should be snug, and never wear it closed: The point is to cover your arms and add color to your outfit.
8. Tank tops
Buy these staples in bulk, once you find the ones you like best. Get them in white, black and cream to wear under the cardigans, jackets, blouses and sweaters. I wear them under almost everything for a smoother look.
TIP: The fit should be snug, so size down if necessary, and make sure they're long enough to tuck in and stay put. Uniqlo, Target's Mossimo Supply Co., American Apparel, Banana Republic and Gap all have great tanks in prices starting at about $10.
Dresses make everyone feel pretty and sexy, and there are three styles that flatter women over 50 best, no matter our size or shape:
- Wrap dresses, especially those with long or three-quarter-length sleeves — knot the belt on the side, never in front, and do not tie it in a bow!
- Sleeveless sheath dresses worn with snug-fitting cardigans or jackets, which are perfect for almost any occasion
- "Fit and flare" dresses that are fitted on top and flare out slightly starting at the waist, creating a flirty, swingy look.
Jewel colors look good on all skin tones; keep length at the knee.
TIP: Have at least one perfectly fitting LBD (little black dress) in any of these styles, which can be dressed up or down. Great-fitting dresses can be found at Target (Merona), Diane von Furstenberg, Theory, Nicole Miller, Hugo Boss, Ann Taylor and Chico's at all price points.
10. Cropped black leather jacket
No, a black leather jacket is not too young for those over 50. Wear it with everything you own: jeans (very cool with white jeans), skirts and dresses. This staple is more expensive than the others, so shop around for one that fits right (cropped at the waist is best) and is classic-looking, so you can wear it forever.
TIP: Check out this video to see my moto jacket.
You can mix and match all these pieces, depending on the occasion, for different looks. Add a few key accessories — a statement necklace (chunky, worn close to the neckline), colorful scarf, cuff bracelet, perfect shoes and beautiful bag (clutch for evenings and classic black leather over-the-shoulder for day) — and you're ready to go.
Barbara Hannah Grufferman writes for AARP Media about living and aging well.
Style Smarts (for any age)
- Get a good tailor. Clothes look best when they fit well
- Define your waist, no matter how big or small
- Keep your skirt and dress lengths to the knee
- Don't show too much skin: too-short skirts and tops that are too low don't flatter anyone
- Keep it simple; stay away from bling
- Mute the loud prints, lean toward solids
- Buy bras that really fit, and consider "shapewear" when needed
Also of Interest
- 10 beauty secrets of ageless women
- 4 surgeries to avoid
- Match your interests with AARP volunteer opportunities
Visit the AARP home page every day for more book reviews, celebrity interviews, and more