En español | No more dress codes? Take a look around any workplace. Sneakers are the new pumps, midi dresses are the new suits, and jeans are kicking pants to the curb. Boundaries between work and weekend are blurrier than ever. Whether you never stopped working, are jumping back in the game or seek a new opportunity, it's time to rethink your look. Here are nine ways to fit in and stand out, starting now.
- 1 of
PHOTO BY: Getty Images (3): Presley Ann; BG002/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images; Leon Bennett/Getty Images for Essence
1. When in doubt, throw on a boyfriend blazer.
It's still the pivotal piece that pulls together basics. But don't grab been-there-done-that oldies from your closet. You need a notch-collar boyfriend style now that doesn't look vintage to dial up all your T-shirts, jeans and pants. The best blazer is slouchier and relaxed in a soft all-seasons stretch fabric — like the Old Navy Jacquard Boyfriend Blazer for Women ($50, oldnavy.gap.com), or a knit like the Ava & Viv Plus-Size Knit Blazer ($35, target.com) — that won't pull across the bust or belly when buttoned, or look stuffy. Cross your arms in front in a body hug to test for a comfy fit at the back. Then scrunch up the sleeves for attitude, and you're in business.
- 2 of
PHOTO BY: Getty Images (4): Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic; Jacopo Raule; Franziska Krug/Getty Images for Belvedere; Jacopo Raule/GC Images
2. Pick jeans that do the job.
Want a raise or promotion? Don't wear your comfy “boyfriends” or distressed denim (even if everyone else at work does). Jeans have become an everyday pant in many workplaces, but unless you're a tech CEO or work in entertainment, skip rips and even frayed hems. To look professional 9 to 5, choose a black jean — which always looks dressier — or a dark wash blue denim. The real secret at 50 is to always elevate jeans with a blouse, blazer or glam shoes for work instead of keeping the look casual.
- 3 of
PHOTO BY: Getty Images (3): Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic; MediaPunch/Bauer-Griffin; Jamie McCarthy
3. Power through in a pantsuit.
So, you vowed never to wear a suit again? If you're in a conservative field like law or finance, starting your own business or calling on clients, a pantsuit looks authoritative and trustworthy. But not any old pantsuit. Have you checked Instagram lately? Pantsuits — in jelly bean hues, plaid and Rolls Royce gray — have returned as the new-again uniform for women who wish to look snappy and don't want to think about how they sit, stand or move. Wear one with the same savoir faire you do jeans and a biker jacket. Your boss will think you are job hunting, and your coworkers will think you're marked for promotion or just got one.
- 4 of
PHOTO BY: Getty Images (3): Michael Tran/FilmMagic; Presley Ann; Mike Marsland/WireImage for Pride in London
4. Trend up with sneakers, not pumps.
Basketball sneakers with a pantsuit? Metallic kicks with a dress? Sure! What used to be a solution for commuters and those with a broken toe is now the bottom line for fashion and work. (Even Gucci and Prada do sneakers!)
- 5 of
PHOTO BY: Zappos (5)
The bolder the better is the way to go — like Dr. Scholl's Madison leopard slip-ons ($50, zappos.com); Keds x Kate Spade New York Ace in Rose Gold Specchio ($43, zappos.com); Converse Chuck Taylor All Star Dainty Ox in Varsity Red ($43, zappos.com); or Vans Old Skool in Primary Check ($60, zappos.com). There's one caveat: At 50 sneakers can look too informal or medicinal at work unless you pair them with something tailored like trousers, a pantsuit or a midi skirt.
- 6 of
- 7 of
PHOTO BY: Getty Images (4): Dimitrios Kambouris; Noel Vasquez; Dimitrios Kambouris; Raymond Hall
5. Buy fruit- or candy-color dresses to network.
That's what talk show hosts and TV anchors do, and for good reason. Cheery lemon yellow, orange, bright green, raspberry or coral project a warm, up, friendly vibe and make you memorable at meetings, job fairs and conferences. Colors like these can sweeten the crisp lines of businesslike sheaths and shirtdresses, or even (yup, again!) pantsuits. Anchor them with a neutral bag and shoes for a classic look, or pair them with any animal print to keep the spirited style.
- 8 of
PHOTO BY: Getty Images (4): Nancy Rivera/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images; Jerod Harris/FilmMagic; Vivien Killilea/WireImage; Tristar Media
6. Wear a leather jacket to look cool.
Leather sends an instant message that it's not about age, it's about attitude, ability and having an edge. Wear your leather biker or blazer to suggest creativity and out-of-the-box thinking to peers and management. Toss it over a dress or skirt and blouse or striped top and pants like an irreverent cardigan. One cautionary note: Skip the extra-glitzy hardware, epaulets and tough-girl studs for work. Fashion bloggers and celebs may pull it off, but you're better off with soft buttery texture (real or faux) and a sleek minimalist style that looks seasoned, experienced and more sophisticated — like you.
- 9 of
PHOTO BY: Getty Images (4): JEAN-BAPTISTE LACROIX/AFP; Gabe Ginsberg/WireImage; Dimitrios Kambouris
7. Emphasize accessories to own your space.
You won't find this in any HR handbook, but there is a guaranteed trick to fitting in at a mostly younger workplace or relating to a younger boss. People do focus 90 percent of their attention on your glasses, shoes and jewelry, so don't overthink the clothes too much. Bold statement add-ons personalize your look and provide an opportunity to show your individuality. Whether you work at a desk in an open-plan office, over a counter, or face-to-face with customers and staff, you won't get lost in the crowd.
- 10 of
PHOTO BY: Getty Images (4): Gary Gershoff; Carlos Alvarez; GP/Star Max/GC Images; Karwai Tang/WireImage
8. Collect trendy blouses to get serious.
Blouses look chic, elegant and more serious than T-shirts (even paired with jeans), and unstuffy in V-neck styles. Even if you never wear a blazer, leather jacket or pantsuit, a blouse provides enough structure and polish to give pants or jeans a stylish spin.
- 11 of
PHOTO BY: Target, Old Navy, Target
There are plenty of romantic or bohemian-inspired blouses — like A New Day Animal Print Regular Fit Long Sleeve V-Neck Blouse ($23, sizes XS to XXL, target.com); the Ava & Viv Plus-Size Animal Print Long Sleeve V-Neck Popover Top ($25, target.com); or the Old Navy Ruffled Tie-Neck Shadow-Stripe Blouse ($35, sizes XS to XXL, $35, oldnavy.gap.com). Do your body and work ethic a favor, though, and wear a seamless contour bra (ironically called a T-shirt bra) or camisole/tank beneath for shape and modesty. Don't let the silky thin fabrics of blouses steal your power.
- 12 of
PHOTO BY: Getty Images (4): Vera Anderson/WireImage; Steve Granitz/WireImage; John Phillips/John Phillips
9. Update your hair and makeup to make an impression.
In this world of beauty routine extremes, take a middle road for work. Enough effort to look like you made one is the idea. Hair that's shiny and well cut, free of roots, and moves — thanks to layers, bangs, some texture, waves or a head-tossing shake — keeps you from looking uptight. Makeup is essential, but don't overdo it. It only takes a small shot of color to bring your skin and features to life. Fresh glowing skin (thanks to a tinted moisturizer or BB, CC cream), a healthy bright smile framed by your favorite lipstick, and groomed polished nails — especially in a newish color — go a long way toward the look of a team player.
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