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Some Beauty and Style Advice I've Never Confided Before

Our fashion guru lowers her guard — and her filters — to deliver some frank counsel you need to hear

Some Beauty & Fashion Advice I’ve Never Told Anyone


Listen to some beauty and fashion advice I’ve never told anyone.

Now 88, my feisty, fashionable mother, Phyllis, is still famous for her overly candid comments. "Lois," she informed me the other day, "that nail polish is hideous. Why would you choose such an ugly color when I gave you such beautiful hands?" (For everyone's information, my hue is a discreet nude; Mom wears a vibrant purple).

Now take that gene pool and sprinkle it on my experience — decades of doing makeovers — and you won't be surprised to learn I like telling it like it is, too. So with my editor on a brief summer break, would you mind if I share a few thoughts I can no longer keep to myself?

Stop with the "athleisure" wear, already! Athleisure is a make-believe trend fabricated by the fashion industry. Does anyone really need wild patterned leggings with mesh inserts down the sides, matching cropped bra tops, embellished hoodies and tricolor neon sneakers? And I hope you don't believe those claims about "everyday togs," either. Despite being touted as appropriate for bed, gym or office, these are nothing more than ultrafancy workout clothes. Do yourself a favor, and just say no.

Make friends with a pair of high-rise, ankle-cropped, mini-flare jeans. This trend, by contrast, is legit. So hurry before it runs its course — or they sell out of your size! The higher waist covers your stomach, acting like shapewear to suppress any potential muffin top. The subtle, boot-cut cuffs accommodate all booties, eliminating worries that they will bulge under the hem or require a tuck-in. Mini-flares are also much easier to pull on and off than skinny jeans, plus they look great with loafers, lace-ups, sneakers or ballet flats. As a bonus, they come in those stretchy denim blends we love.

Cross-body bags belong in a body bag. Yes, cross-body bags are trendy, and they probably discourage purse snatchers — I get that. So what's the problem? The wider the strap or the bulkier the bag, the more unwanted attention is drawn by that diagonal between your breasts. And by a strange dynamic, a cross-body bag can in fact turn us into even bigger schleppers: With our hands free, we may suddenly feel we have the luxury of adding a tote bag. Then, before you know it, we're laden down like pack mules — with the aching shoulders and necks I imagine those other beasts of burden must experience, too!

But if you're bound and determined to wear a cross-body bag, choose a medium-size "structured" style, with a flap closure and a narrow, metal-link chain strap. This looks like a necklace even when it's wedged mid-bust, and it will cause the least stress (both physical and mental). And that leaves you truly hands-free to slurp an iced tea, check your phone or shop.

Pose like a pro. In this brave new (by which I mean "photo-driven") world of Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook, five cellphone pics a day is the new normal. So practice these celebrity poses until they become automatic:

  1. Face the camera directly, and cross your legs at the ankles.
  2. Stand sideways, and face the camera over your shoulder.
  3. Stand sideways while hugging your body to another person.

Bonus points will be awarded to anyone ballsy enough to pull off this "celebri-pose": Face the camera with your legs slightly apart, one leg straight and the other bent at the knee. Now put one hand on your hip and laugh, look into the distance and run your free hand through your hair. The next words you hear should be, "Is that you, Ms. Brinkley?!"

Stop obsessing about your looks. Men — for those of you interested in them — do not notice all, or even half, the stuff that we do. They have not been trained to spot bad hair days, roots or tummy bloat. And they are often surprised to learn that certain women — newscasters, actresses, your neighbor and your two best friends — have had "work done," whether that involved Botox, filler, a face-lift or breast implants.

A woman, on the other hand (and burdensomely so, as I'll discuss in a future column), can gaze across a crowded restaurant and detect a peer's eyelash extensions, spray tan, fresh highlights and 75-percent-off Dolce & Gabbana dress. Her male lunch partner, meanwhile, can take in the exact same view and observe only that this obscure object of desire looks fresh, clean and fit. Leading me to conclude … let's hear it for gender blindness!

More shameless reality checks to come! (Don't tell my editor.)

For more beauty and style tips for women 50+, check out The Woman's Wakeup and AARP's new Beauty & Style digital magazine, which is available for tablet.

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