En español | Typically, a column like this for women our age would include classic things like a good leather handbag, diamond studs, basic black pumps and a silk scarf. The truth is that fast fashion has changed our thinking from timeless to contemporary. Take the dress-casual trend and combine it with diverse lifestyles and our desire for comfort, and you get a very different group of essentials. Here are the 11 top accessories we all really need now.
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PHOTO BY: Uniqlo, H&M, Old Navy, Target
1. A chic leather tote. Everyone needs a shopper (aka a tote), so choose a size that fits your largest, bulkiest must-haves — laptop, folders, magazines, water bottle, portable umbrella — in a neutral color. Look for a sleek, uncluttered shape like the Uniqlo Women Enamel Tote Bag by Ines de la Fressange ($30, uniqlo.com); A New Day Reversible Tote Handbag ($30, target.com); the H&M Shopper ($25, hm.com); or the Old Navy Faux Leather Zip-Top Tote for Women ($30, oldnavy.gap.com). The dual straps should be long enough to fit easily over coats and jackets but short enough to hand carry without dragging on the ground (crucial if you're short like me!).
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PHOTO BY: Zara, H&M, Target
2. Sophisticated black ankle boots. Ankle boots (also called a Chelsea boot) are a way more sensible and versatile choice than tall boots, and they're the best “mate” for ankle-cropped or slim pants. They also won't squeeze your calves or cause circulation issues. Look for a sleek, chic style — like the Zara Low-Heeled Ankle Boots with Trim at Heel ($60, zara.com); A New Day Ellie Chelsea Boots ($30, target.com); or the H&M Ankle Boots (from $35, hm.com) — with an almond toe (not round, pointed, stubby or square!) because it looks elegant but won't cram your tootsies and has a pull tab, elastic side vents and a sturdy chunky heel.
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PHOTO BY: Zappos (3)
3. Black strappy pumps with attitude. We can't balance on needle-point heels or wear flats and sneakers to everything in life. Basic black pumps? Been there, done that. But a strappy, sculpted pair — like the LifeStride Seamless in Black Micro ($60, zappos.com); Franco Sarto Davey ($69, zappos.com); or Nina Talley in Black ($89, zappos.com) — won't leave you missing the days of stilettos. Look for a refined 2- to 2 1/2-inch heel and sexy instep straps to add style and security with every step.
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PHOTO BY: Target, H&M, Gap, Uniqlo
4. An oversized scarf. This monster-sized scarf is the ultimate multitasking accessory. Just drape a huge generous square or oblong in a soft, supple acrylic or wool blend — like the Gap Cape Scarf ($50, gap.com); Universal Thread Women's Striped Square Scarf ($13, target.com); or the H&M Triangular Wool Scarf ($60, hm.com) — over anything you wear for extra warmth and coverage and major style. Toss it over your shoulders with ends dangling (like a long scarf), or toss one end across and over your shoulder for a touch of glam. It's an ideal stand-in for a coat or jacket (and works well even over one). For travel and naps on planes, nothing's better.
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PHOTO BY: Gap, Uniqlo, Old Navy, Zara, H&M
5. A slim leather belt. Not every woman 50-plus still has a discernible waist — but we sure can fake one. If you've sworn off belts, try a narrow leather style about one-half-inch to 1-inch wide like the Zara Embossed Leather Belt ($40, zara.com); the H&M Narrow Belt ($10, hm.com); the Old Navy Skinny Faux-Leather Belt for Women ($17, oldnavy.gap.com); or the Uniqlo Women Emboss Skinny Belt by Ines de la Fressange ($30, uniqlo.com). It will instantly restore body definition thanks to that narrow line and subtle indent. The skinny part is important, too, since a narrow belt won't crowd your torso or a big bust but will give loose shift dresses, long sweaters or tunics and tailored jackets — and you — a shapelier look.
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PHOTO BY: H&M, Kohls, Target, Zara
6. A polished, secure wallet. It's the sidekick to your handbag and deserves to look good and be organized. It's time to lose that stained and frayed one bulging with old receipts. The wallet you want now is oblong in shape with an all-around zip closure for safety. Try an H&M Large Wallet ($15, hm.com); Zara XL Embossed Dress Wallet in Green ($30, zara.com); Simply Vera Vera Wang Signature Wallet ($23, kohls.com); or A New Day Zip Around Faux Leather Wallet ($15, target.com). Keep it neat with inside slots and pockets for credit cards, driver's license, coins and cash.
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PHOTO BY: Zara, Target, Old Navy, H&M
7. A smaller crossbody or shoulder bag. After years of heavy satchels and hobos, it's time to pare down and let your tote do the schlepping. Skip the mini bags (they do nothing), belt bags (do you need extra bulk around your belly?) and chain-link straps (not adjustable and painful to carry). Choose a size that fits just your wallet, keys, cell and glasses — and watch your posture improve, your clothes fit better and your neck relax. Look at the Zara Quilted Studded Crossbody Bag ($30, zara.com); H&M Shoulder Bag ($25, hm.com); or A New Day Midsize Crossbody Bag ($27, target.com).
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PHOTO BY: H&M, Zara, H&M, Target, Bauble Bar
8. Radiance-boosting statement earrings. You know those days when you wake up tired and no amount of blush perks can perk you up? Sparkly gems on your lobes add a well-rested glow to your face. Clear (diamond-like) or light-colored fake stones, pearls and gold are complexion warmers, so resist dark or opaque drops and cool silver. Skip dramatic chandeliers, too, in favor of lightweight drops and hoops like the SUGARFIX by BaubleBar Oversized Hoop with Crystal Earrings in Gold ($13, target.com); H&M Earrings with Beads ($13, hm.com); or A New Day Wide Tortoise Hoop Earrings ($8, target.com). All work well with jeans, tailored clothes or after-five attire, as well as on bad-hair days since they dress up a ponytail fast.
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PHOTO BY: Target, Zara, H&M
9. Big sexy sunglasses with UV protection. There's no reason you shouldn't look just as glam wearing sunnies and a down parka as you do in a T-shirt. These make us feel like Audrey Hepburn, and since our eyes show fatigue first we need UV protection 365 days a year. Your diminished crow's feet and circles should be incentive enough. Oversized, modified cat eye frames — like the H&M Polarized Sunglasses ($50, hm.com); A New Day Women's Cat Eye Sunglasses ($15, target.com); or Zara Plastic Glasses ($30, zara.com) — have a subtle upward lift at the temples that's very flattering. Go for the black or tortoise.
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PHOTO BY: Target, Old Navy, Zappos
10. Polished black rain boots. No one wants to wreck their shoes, get feet wet or clod around in tall rubber rain boots when short waterproof ones will do the trick. The smartest buys are black and riff on your Chelsea boots like the Old Navy Ankle Rain Boots for Women ($34, oldnavy.gap.com); A New Day Chelsea Rain Boots ($25, target.com); or the Jack Rogers Sallie ($54, zappos.com). They'll look classy with all your ankle-cropped jeans and pants, leggings or opaque black tights — and no change of shoes necessary.
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PHOTO BY: Target, Zappos(2)
11. Leather or suede slip-on sneakers. Now that it's cool to wear kicks with everything, do yourself a favor and get a sophisticated pair of no-laces slip-ons. Resist those big wedge jobs or boxy platform clunkers and let these sub for loafers or ballet flats. Choose black or the neutral you wear most in a leather or suede slip-on like the Vans Classic Slip-On in Perfect Suede Black ($55, zappos.com); the Naturalizer Marianne in Black Leather ($70, zappos.com); or Universal Thread Kensley Microsuede Platform Sneaker Slip On ($ 30, target.com). The texture and color elevate these comfort shoes, so although they are sneakers you look swanky not sweaty.
For more beauty and style tips for women age 50-plus, check out The Makeup Wakeup: Revitalizing Your Look at Any Age by Lois Joy Johnson and Sandy Linter.