Remember how much fun it was to shop for clothes in your 20s and 30s?
Back then, you may have fallen for all the fabulous looks you saw in fashion magazines, styles that promised to make you look hip, desirable and successful. At that age, some of us were total fashion victims, updating our wardrobes at the slightest rise of a hemline.
For women, one of the perks of hitting "a certain age" is we no longer feel that we must keep a strict running pace with fleet footsteps of fashion.
As we've matured so has our personal style and self-confidence. We finally know what looks good on us — and what doesn't — and can very easily say no to the latest trend if it makes us look or feel silly or uncomfortable. Beside, trends often fade away fast.
Also, shopping and updating after 50 becomes more perspirational than aspirational, which is to say, mature women shop with frugality, practicality and comfort at the top of the list. The uncertain economic climate combined with fixed retirement income makes it difficult to justify a new jacket when food, housing and medical expenses need to be paid.
Still, while women 50 and older no longer want to look like we stepped out of a Vogue editorial we also don't want to carbon-date ourselves by wearing the exact same styles we've worn for the past decade or two.
So, we talked with Nordstrom Fashion Director Gregg Andrews about the trends in fashion this fall and how women 50 and older might incorporate these new looks into an existing wardrobe.
Modesty Is Back: "We're not seeing a lot of skin," says Andrews. "The body is covered and the look is more about looking feminine and sensual as opposed to overtly sexy. It's looking back at the '70s, which were in turn looking back at the '40s and a return to classic feminine clothing."
Great Lengths: Hems have fallen farther than the stock market, all the way to mid-calf. Is every woman going to embrace a middy length? No, but you will want to cover the knee. If you can only buy one, buy a below-the-knee A-line shape.
Wide Pants: Think Katharine Hepburn. "A lot of women won't wear flares and are hesitant about wide legged pants," says Andrews. "But this style is actually very flattering because it balances out the hips. And since the waist line is also moving up, the new wide pants will give you a long slim look."
Soft Tops: There are lots of fluid soft blouses this season, especially with ruffles, bows and ties at the neck. The trick is that these pretty tops are paired with mannish trousers, sturdy jackets and mannish footwear."There's a juxtaposition, a kind of high/low masculine/feminine look," Andrews explains. "There are lots of chiffon and georgette feminine floral dresses and blouses. But what makes them look new is juxtaposing them with a heavier boot or a chunky cardigan or a parka. It grounds the look. Women don't want to look precious or fragile now."
Walk Like a Man: Shoes are substantial. "There are lots of menswear inspired shoes, oxfords and loafers with higher, more substantial heels, rounded and squared toes. They are all inspired by menswear's lace-ups, and loafer. There are even flannel, herringbone and tweed shoes."
Color: Grays, blacks and browns are the foundation. But Andrews says there are also deep jewel tones, teals, amethysts, ruby reds and several Mondrian bright bold colors, unusual for fall. And there's a major trend toward colorful bottoms. We're talking bright red or green pants. "Many women are fearful of colored bottoms," Andrews says. "But if a woman doesn't want to wear bright red, green or gold bottoms, she can get a great colorful bag that works with gray, black, beige, even denim."
Plaid Madness: There's a plethora of plaids, menswear checks and traditional menswear patterns in suits and slacks. But don't pull out any old plaid shirt to skate by. New plaids have a different feel and color. They may be in hot pink or turquoise or have shiny Lurex shooting through the pattern. "Classic but with a twist," Andrews explains.
Dirty Metal: Multiple-tiered necklaces are a big trend. And metals are getting downright dirty. "Rose gold was hot for spring," Andrews says. "Now you'll see brown-, bronze-, chocolate- or mocha-colored metals mixed with faux gemstones and pearls."
Pep Rally: Peplum jackets fit the return to classics craze. "It's part of the retro 1940s feeling," says Andrews. "A peplum jacket can look great worn with a narrow slim bottom. The jacket has to fit your waist, then flare out to create the hour-glass shape."
On the Dotted Line: Polka dots were everywhere on the New York runways. We're not talking about a cartoony polka dot, more of a dot as a graphic pattern done in a new way, in a grid with a different finish, sequined or embroidered or with Neoprene or vinyl. Marc Jacobs showed Swiss dotted hosiery. "That's a fun way to play with the dot without going crazy," says Andrews.
Think Layers: Fall is always a season of layers. This year it's layering a cardigan over a fine-gauge knit. Or it could be as simple as wearing a turtleneck underneath a white shirt or under a simple sheath dress, turning it into a jumper. It's very '70s (i.e. '40s), chic and sophisticated.
Of course, many of us can't afford designer clothing but most department stores translate the trends in various departments, according to personal style, fit, size and price range.
"Women want to look updated and current. But they also need things that can fit into their existing wardrobes," Andrews says. "They don't need another pair of black pants unless it's a different cut. If you add the new below-the-knee A-line skirt to your closet, you can wear it to work, to dinner, on the weekends. Pair with a turtleneck one day, a plaid shirt the next. Pretty it up with a soft belt, or rough it up with a faux fur vest. Wear it with menswear pumps or high boots.
It's all about cost per wearing, thinking about how much you will wear a garment, how much use it will get in all areas of your life."
Elizabeth Snead is writer/producer of the celebrity blog The Dishrag, covering entertainment news, awards, celebrity culture, fashion, films, parties and more. She is now covering 2011 Emmy and Oscar awards season fashion for Deadline Hollywood.com.