I often ask myself: If you woke up tomorrow and discovered you were 45, 35 or even 25 again, how would you look?
And — perhaps more urgent — what would you wear?
In case you're wondering, this thought typically occurs to me while I'm browsing (not shopping!) in a trendy store, or when I'm checking out the Pinterest boards of various stylish women. And though I'm loath to admit it, I think what I'm really asking myself is: Am I too old for that?
"Of course not!" is the only possible reply. Smart, grownup women — that's us — never try to look young. At the same time, we have no problem appearing contemporary, and we would never say no to flaunting our edge or attitude. If any of that describes you, consider these five ways to get — or stay — gutsy now, when it matters more than ever:
1. Think age-free, not age-appropriate. Take a chance: Try one new beauty trend — or sport one new fashion item — that falls outside your customary ambit. Maybe it has just enough dash to update your look without compromising your style. Or perhaps you're ready for a major switcheroo that truly shakes things up.
Want specifics? What if you replaced your favorite black cat's-eye frames for the same style in a trendy, translucent blue? Or really amped things up by rocking rounded metal frames with tinted blue lenses? As for that blunt bob — could it be refreshed with long, sexy bangs? Or changed to a hip shag — the new kind with longer layers, that is, and no "spiky porcupine" top.
2. Bigger is better. Volume is trending right now, but you'll have to decide which half to "blow up": top or bottom? (It cannot be both.)
If you want to breathe out as you lean in, replace your skinny jeans and leggings with:
- wide-leg, ankle-cropped jeans;
- zippered pants (not sportswear) cropped at the ankles, but softly tailored for a slouchier silhouette; or
- knee-length A-line or pleated skirts.
If you opt for one of these roomy bottoms, remember to pair it with a fitted top to keep things chic-shape.
And if you prefer your roominess above the waist? I think we still look hot in tailored shirts and off-the-shoulder tops with "major sleeves" (by which I mean billowy or flared at the wrists). Both tops make ideal mates for your old slim jeans, capri pants or pencil skirts.
3. Enough is enough — and you'll know when that is. The aphorism "Elegance is refusal" has been attributed to everyone from Coco Chanel to Diana Vreeland to Garance Doré. Whoever said it first, it means you have to make choices. If you want to pile one trend atop another — a ruffled blouse and a pleated midi-skirt setting off chunky-heeled suede pumps, for example — stick to neutral hues, not wild prints or statement colors. Looking for that one special item that will make your closet spring to life? Go for a fashionable (and impossible-to-ignore) fuchsia, or a bold floral print.
4. Specialize in one collectible. Stick to a single signature accessory, and make your updates there. You can't go wrong with stacked bracelets, for example. Layered necklaces, colorful scarves and decorative shoes are all smart bets, as well.
5. Common sense is key. Why would you wear anything that makes you physically or mentally uncomfortable, or that requires constant adjustment? Decide how much skin to bare — and where. If revealing tie-back tops and off-the-shoulder numbers are not "you," minimize the exposure with a V-neck or cold-shoulder top instead. Not enamored of your legs or ankles? Get real and just say no to ankle-strap flats and lace-up sandals, yes to metallic mules and slides.
And if you hate every new trend? In that case change only your nail polish; rose gold is going to be yuge, I'm telling you!
So go on with your stylish self — and have a haute flash on me.
For more beauty and style tips for women age 50+, check out The Woman's Wakeup: How to Shake Up Your Looks, Life, and Love after 50, as well as AARP's new Beauty & Style special edition for tablets.