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The Most Flattering Ways to Go Bare-Legged at 50+

Ease your way into showing a little more skin


spinner image Julia Roberts, Alfre Woodard and Jennifer Lopez
(Left to right) Julia Roberts, Alfre Woodard and Jennifer Lopez
Jose Perez/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images; Kristina Bumphrey/Variety via Getty Images; Jose Perez/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

Some women have legs so flawless at 50 they appear to be wearing stockings … which they’re not. Others have the firm thighs and toned calves of runners or the long shapely gams of supermodels … which they’re also not. It’s a bit of luck, good genes and perhaps a lifelong commitment to exercise. They ignite envy in the rest of us (me included!) who dread the spring/summer drama of going bare-legged. Whether your goal is to wear shorts or a tights-free dress, here’s how to blur, cover and camouflage and leave your pants at home:

spinner image Jennifer Garner and Gwyneth Paltrow
(Left to right) Jennifer Garner and Gwyneth Paltrow
Jose Perez/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images; JOCE/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

1. ID the real problem

Few mature women think they have “perfect” legs. As a beauty and style editor/personal shopper, I hear celebs and everyday women alike complain in dressing rooms about veins and discolorations, wobbly thighs and chunky calves. My advice? Get into body-positive mode, then look in a full-length mirror. What bothers you most? It’s either going to be discolorations or leg shape — not both. Yes, you’ll need to splurge on a few essentials, but consider it a mind/body investment that’ll set you free from anxiety and boost your warm weather style.

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spinner image French Connection Gretha Floral Midi Skirt in Sheer Lilac; Boden Women Easy Wrap Midi in French Navy, Flower Stem; A New Day Women’s Linen Wrap A-Line Skirt in Pink
(Left to right) French Connection Gretha Floral Midi Skirt in Sheer Lilac; Boden Women Easy Wrap Midi in French Navy, Flower Stem; A New Day Women’s Linen Wrap A-Line Skirt in Pink
Bloomingdale's; Boden; Target

2. First stop? A midi skirt 

Start the exposure process by taking advantage of the trend for midis. The mid-calf hemlines get you used to the bare-legged freedom of sun and air. Sound silly? It works — especially for those used to a full coverage casing of leggings, jeans or pants. A-lines with a slit and wrap styles that reveal a discreet flash of knee and thigh as you move and sit are the next dare-to-bare step. Try the French Connection Gretha Floral Midi Skirt in Sheer Lilac ($98, bloomingdales.com), the A New Day Women’s Linen Wrap A-Line Skirt in Pink ($28, target.com) or Boden Women Easy Wrap Midi in French Navy, Flower Stem ($96, bodenusa.com/en-us).

spinner image Hi Beautiful You Body Perfecting Bronzer in Matte Tan; Tanologist Face + Body Drops; Jergens Natural Glow Daily Moisturizer Fair to Medium
(Left to right) Hi Beautiful You Body Perfecting Bronzer in Matte Tan; Tanologist Face + Body Drops; Jergens Natural Glow Daily Moisturizer Fair to Medium
Hi Beautiful You; Ulta Beauty; Target

3. Groom, tint and blur

Kick things off by shaving your legs; a smooth surface is essential for applying leg-enhancing glow and color. For a swift solution to leg skin issues without the head-to-toe commitment of full-strength self-tanner, try a wash-off, transfer-resistant bronzer such as Hi Beautiful You Body Perfecting Bronzer in Matte Tan ($58, hibeautifulyou.com) that adapts to all skin tones thanks to shade-smart technology, or try a moisturizing gradual self-tanner that lets you customize the shade. Tanologist Face + Body Drops ($22, ulta.com) mixes with your usual body lotion if you love the texture, scent or ingredients, and Jergens Natural Glow Daily Moisturizer Fair to Medium ($14, target.com) simply takes its place. Remember: The goal is not to change your skin tone for a head-to-toe “tan” but simply to lessen contrast with discolorations. All these products work on a sun-damaged décolleté if you hesitate to wear bare necklines too.

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spinner image Lands’ End Women’s Mid Rise Elastic Waist Pull On 12” Knockabout Chino Bermuda Shorts; Chico’s Linen Embroidered Crops; J.Jill Pure Jill Indigo Knit Jean Shorts in Everyday Wash; Baleaf Women’s Skort Skirt 20” Knee Length with Pocket in Khaki
(Left to right) Lands’ End Women’s Mid Rise Elastic Waist Pull On 12” Knockabout Chino Bermuda Shorts; Chico’s Linen Embroidered Crops; J.Jill Pure Jill Indigo Knit Jean Shorts in Everyday Wash; Baleaf Women’s Skort Skirt 20” Knee Length With Pocket in Khaki
Lands' End; Chico's; J.Jill; Amazon

4. Find your best ‘shorts’

OK, so you’re doing fine displaying some leg in breezy midis, but don’t give up on shorts. If you’re set on keeping thighs and knees under wraps (body positivity goes only so far in dressing rooms!), pull on pants labeled “crops.” Chico’s Linen Embroidered Crops ($129, chicos.com) have become the longest version of “shorts.” The length on crops varies from a couple of inches above the ankle bone to just before the wide swell of the calf; determine the most flattering cut based on your leg-to-knee proportions and the width of your calves. (If your leg looks awkwardly cut off, opt for a longer length.) If you’re ready to show a little more, try the new Bermudas with a sleek straight fit in stretchy pull-on styles that hover an inch or two above the knees. The Pure Jill Indigo Knit Jean Shorts in Everyday Wash ($55, jjill.com) and Lands’ End Women’s Mid Rise Elastic Waist Pull On 12” Knockabout Chino Bermuda Shorts ($37, landsend.com) don’t squeeze, pinch or look boxy and bulky. Skorts such as the Baleaf Women’s Skort Skirt 20” Knee Length With Pocket in Khaki or Black ($34, amazon.com) are hybrids with biker-style shorts that jumped from sports to fashion, hidden beneath a skirt. Available in a variety of lengths from mini to modest, they look super stylish with a tee and sneakers.

spinner image DKNY Women’s Camillo Slip-On Espadrille Platform Slide Sandals in New Nude; Dansko Tricia in Brown Milled Burnished; Crocs Brooklyn Low Wedge in Khaki/Bone
(Clockwise from top left) DKNY Women’s Camillo Slip-On Espadrille Platform Slide Sandals in New Nude; Dansko Tricia in Brown Milled Burnished; Crocs Brooklyn Low Wedge in Khaki/Bone
Macy's; Zappos (2)

5. Lengthen your legs with shoes

Leg length and proportions don’t change with age, size or weight. Sure, you can tone thighs and muscle up at the gym, barre class or Pilates, but that takes months of consistent work. However, the longer your legs appear, the better they look bare, no matter what shape they’re in. Sneakers and loafers are great, but know that going bare-legged in a low wedge, platform or block heel sandal provides the illusion of extra inches. Make it a “nude” neutral shade in sync with your skin tone, and you’ll double the leggy effect. Treat yourself to the DKNY Women’s Camillo Slip-On Espadrille Platform Slide Sandals in New Nude, Saddle or Burch ($66, macys.com), Crocs Brooklyn Low Wedge in Khaki/Bone or Mocha/Mushroom ($41, zappos.com) or Dansko Tricia in Brown Milled Burnished or Linen Milled Burnished ($140, zappos.com), and get a pedicure for an extra confidence boost!

spinner image Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs Spray; Dior Backstage Face & Body Makeup; Estee Lauder Double Wear Maximum Cover Camouflage Foundation for Face and Body
(Left to right) Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs Spray; Dior Backstage Face & Body Makeup; Estee Lauder Double Wear Maximum Cover Camouflage Foundation for Face and Body
CVS; Sephora; Macy's

6. Try high-tech body makeup

I saved the best for last. If you’ve inched your way up to showing some skin and want to cover varicose veins, broken capillaries, brown spots and redness for work, parties or weekends in shorts and swimsuits, it’s time for leg makeup. Here’s when waterproof, sweat-proof, transfer-resistant body makeup becomes your new sidekick. There are three I turn to again and again for myself and clients. They are the tried and true drugstore Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs Spray ($16, cvs.com), which comes in six shades and is super-quick to use and two pricier options — the Dior Backstage Face & Body Makeup ($43, sephora.com) with more than 30 shades and the Estee Lauder Double Wear Maximum Cover Camouflage Foundation for Face and Body ($48, macys.com) with 13 shades. All are easy to apply with no special setting powder or brush necessary, and they won’t come off on clothing, furniture or car seats. Always blend from ankles up toward the thighs — and do the entire leg, not just the front where problems reside. It is so worth the effort.

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