Oddly enough, each new year's fresh crop of awards shows makes me feel better, not worse, about my own average-woman looks. Blame it on my long stint as a magazine editor whose beat was fashion and beauty, but I just can't resist scrutinizing the celebs for evidence of possible recent face-lifts, eye jobs, extensions, fillers, wigs, makeup miracles and gowns designed to camouflage yet flaunt.
Yes, the Golden Globes are behind us, but awards season is really just ramping up. Screen queens will pose and preen when the People's Choice Awards get handed out on Jan. 18 and the Screen Actors Guild Awards are bestowed on Jan. 29 — all leading up to the Oscars on Feb. 26. Me, I'll be glued to the tube for every one of them, but this year I plan to put my jealousy on ice and use each awards show as a style seminar. If you're ready to do likewise, here are some of the lessons I think we all might glean.
1. Take the sort of risks the stars do. You never know what Jane Fonda, Viola Davis or Helen Mirren will turn up in. Remember the emerald green Balmain jumpsuit Jane rocked at the Grammys? Or how Viola knocked our orbs out at the Globes with that one-shoulder, sun-yellow sequined number from the Michael Kors Collection? And don't forget Helen at last year's SAG Awards, parting the red-carpet seas in a curvaceous silver mermaid gown.
Well, why shouldn't the likes of us take chances, too? The problem with staying in your comfort zone is that it becomes a rut. At the same time, no ball gowns are needed to break free of that old groove: Start with a single knee-length cocktail dress in a style you have always coveted but never dared to wear. It might be an off-the-shoulder sheath with elbow-length sleeves, a cold-shoulder shift with long sleeves or a belted jersey dress that fits and flares.
2. Let cheerful colors do you favors. Star players use certain hues to achieve specific effects. To restore a head-to-toe glow, diminish facial lines and erase ashy undertones, try wearing white, cream, soft pinks or any shade of yellow. That was the strategy Sarah Jessica Parker adopted at the Golden Globes, and she looked like a Greek goddess.
To energize your looks, minimize fatigue and camouflage any deep expression lines, choose a warm, intense shade of red, coral, gold, apricot or orange. (You can pull off the same effect by sporting any item of clothing covered in light-reflecting sequins.) This style move paid off big time for both Annette Bening and Nicole Kidman at this year's Globes.
Oh, and that little black dress you've been falling back on for years? It's still versatile and classic, sure, but it won't really help you bust a move until it's "bejeweled to thrill," as Meryl Streep's dress was at the 2017 Globes.
3. Find your best light. Savvy celebs check every angle — front, rear and side views — before stepping in front of any camera, so there's no reason for you not to do the same before heading out the door. If you have a little extra time to spare, take a cluster of selfies in different mirrors and under different lighting conditions — near a window, in the evening, on a dimmer switch — to see how light changes everything. You may find, as I often have, that what looked harsh in the mirror over your sink comes across as soft and glowing at an evening event. (That favorite dress that appeared so becoming in a head-on view, by contrast, may suddenly seem way too tight across your tummy or tuchus.)
The same dynamic applies to cosmetic effects: Makeup that seems overdone in real life often "defines" just fine on film, providing some much-needed impact in dim evening light or full-length photos yet appearing justifiably glam in close-ups. To make it last for hours, do as the bold-faced ones do: Use primers under and over to keep your makeup from sliding or creasing.
4. Pack a 911 kit. Never be without:
- a backup bra and Spanx
- shoe cushions (to prevent blisters)
- double-stick tape (for last-minute hem snags and keeping plunge necklines in place)
- Visine (to dab on broken capillaries; it gets the red out by constricting blood vessels)
- a glitter polish (to touch up chips and nicks)
- a sheer, shimmery gold eye shadow (to perk up your favorite neutral brown eye shadows; simply layer over all)
- a kick-ass red lipstick (just because). Women in their 50s, 60s and 70s are a richly diverse group. It's high time we band together to resist comparisons and put-downs and celebrate one another's differences!