10 Date Night Tips to Looking Great at 50+
Easy fashion and beauty upgrades to help you step out in style
by Lois Joy Johnson, AARP, July 29, 2021
En español | Hooray — we're going out again! But here's the problem. After more than a year of comfort clothes, elastic waistbands and almost no makeup we've forgotten how to dress up. Social isolation and distancing, masks and Zoom didn't exactly require much from our fashion and beauty skills. After all, everyone else was in the same boat. Now that our social lives are back, it's time to pick up the slack (or at least our mascara). Here are 10 tips that will make you glow in the dark.
- 1 of
PHOTO BY: boohoo; Dia & Co; Nordstrom
1. Just add a flowing top with a waist
Uh oh. It doesn't fit! Maybe you're 10 pounds heavier than when you bought those jeans or that fitted top. Don't panic. You don't need to be in shape to look as if you are. In fact, one of the biggest “date night” fashion trends is a feminine and forgiving blouse with a flowy silhouette and V neckline. Worn over any trim base — from flat-front pull-on pants to those too-tight jeans — this peplum style creates an hourglass shape but disguises a no longer firm belly, muffin top or midriff. Choose a sophisticated draped style like the City Chic Shibara Faux Wrap High/Low Top in Alpine Plus Size ($75-$79, nordstrom.com), Kiyonna Marcy Empire Waist Top for Dia & Co in Magenta or Red ($58, shop.dia.com) or Boohoo Plus Extreme Wide Sleeve Wrap Top in Blue ($36, us.boohoo.com) that also covers derriere and hips for an extra confidence boost. Bonus: Tops with long or three-quarter length sleeves help counter the deep freeze of excessive air-conditioning without the need for a bulky sweater.
- 2 of
PHOTO BY: Nordstrom; Eloquii; Lane Bryant
2. Make shoulders your show-off spot
One advantage of age is knowing how to be subtle but effective when you want to look sexy. A special evening out is not about plunging cleavage, thigh-baring minis or stilettos anymore. Bare shoulders are the new hot spot. Try an off-the-shoulder top — such as the Lane Bryant Shirred Off-the-Shoulder Crop Top with Crochet in White ($60, lanebryant.com) or Eloquii Slouchy Puff Sleeve Blouse in Spice Route ($70, eloquii.com) — or a one-shoulder look like the Michael Michael Kors One-Shoulder Tunic Plus in Black ($88, nordstrom.com). Simply add a skirt, white or black pants and a convertible/strapless bra and you are done!
- 3 of
PHOTO BY: boohoo; H&M; Lane Bryant
3. Keep the midi-maxi thing going
If you really want to have a relaxed evening yet feel more dressed up, don't go back to tailored dresses and heels. Sure, there are occasions when jeans and a fancy top won't cut it. That's when you pull on a shapely long dress with a defined waist. Stay covered on top and flash your legs in a wrap style — like the Boohoo Plus Kimono Sleeve Wrap Over Midi Dress in Mustard or Black ($24, us.boohoo.com) or H&M Long Wrap Dress in Beige/Zebra Print ($35, www2.hm.com) — or slip into a breezy maxi like the ruffled Lane Bryant Multi-Way Off-the-Shoulder Poplin Maxi Dress in Stripe ($90, lanebryant.com), which lets you go from covered to one- or two-shoulder reveals at will. Top off the look with a pair of amazing sandals.
- 4 of
PHOTO BY: Dia and Co; Target; Eloquii
4. Try fancy pants with a tee
What can you add to a plain T-shirt for an after-dark change? Wide-leg pants in a festive print with some flow and swagger — like the White Mark Women's Floral Paisley Printed Palazzo Pants in Black/Gold ($29, target.com), Kiyonna Mitchie Wide-Leg Pants in Black/Red for Dia & Co ($72, shop.dia.com) or Eloquii Wide Leg Pull On Pant in Black Coffee ($100, eloquii.com) — make an easy night-out update. This elastic-waist flat-front style suits a variety of tops, from bodysuits to tunics or wraps for the option to tuck-in, go untucked or do a front-tucked-only look. Slip on your favorite mules, slides or wedges, and you are set.
- 5 of
PHOTO BY: H&M (2); Eloquii
5. Add a blazer for polish
If your evening out is more formal, work related or posh, a blazer can elevate any pair of jeans or pants (even your back-of-closet tailored ones) with extra polish. Thanks to the structure of the jacket, you can even get away with a bare tank or scrappy top beneath ... and you should. Looking too buttoned-up isn't modern. A cool white or pink blazer looks fresher than black or navy. For a sleek effect try a three-quarter-sleeve style like the H&M Gathered-Sleeve Jacket in Cream ($50, www2.hm.com), a petal pink like the H&M Single-Breasted Jacket in Light Pink ($35, www2.hm.com) or a bright peony with gold buttons like the Eloquii Double Breasted Blazer in Phlox Pink ($100, eloquii.com).
- 6 of
PHOTO BY: Jessica London; Ashley Stewart; Catherines
6. Find your inner diva
Not every woman 50-plus channels Schitt's Creek Moira or Sarah Jessica Parker's Carrie on an evening out, but who doesn't feel a renewed sense of fashion drama now? Our fling with athleisure has ignited a love of jumpsuits and stretch fabrics. Make an entrance in a fluid one-piece jumpsuit like the Jessica London Wide Leg Jumpsuit in Midnight Violet ($70, jessicalondon.com), an off-the-shoulder maxi dress like the Ashley Stewart Off the Shoulder Slit Front Maxi in Black ($42, ashleystewart.com) or a hi-low jersey midi like the Jessica London Double Layered Dress in Antique Copper ($60, catherines.com). If these looks remind you of designer Halston's elegant runway looks, know that the minimalist 1970s are back in a big way.
- 7 of
PHOTO BY: Nordstrom (2); LOFT
7. Wear statement accessories
This is the moment your wow earrings and chunky necklaces were made for, so don't skip them! Even if you love your everyday studs and delicate chains, bigger, brighter versions focus attention on your face. Try eye-catching drops like the Desert Sun Horn Statement Earrings ($42, nordstrom.com) or embellished hoops like the Loft Beaded Hoop Statement Earrings ($35, loft.com) to quickly dress up hair that's pulled back or worn up. Or opt instead for a layered-look necklace like the Ettika Set of 2 Station Necklaces in Gold ($50, nordstrom.com) to make the most of a V neckline.
- 8 of
PHOTO BY: Bare Necessities; Nordstrom; SKIMS
8. Have a trusty backup plan
It's always the little things — a stain, a dress not back from the dry cleaner, a bloated tummy or a few extra pounds — that require a change in what to wear. One of the best backups for date night is a pair of light-control shaper panties. I'm not suggesting we return to ultra-compression shape wear anytime soon, but why not stop thinking about bulges and jiggles for a few hours? Low-dose control panties like the Reveal Flexible Fit Shaping Boyshort in Midnight or Sand ($15, barenecessities.com) with soft edges around the leg openings, the Wacoal Keep Your Cool Shaping Briefs in Tap Shoe ($45, nordstrom.com) or the Skims Sculpting Mid Waist Brief in Onyx ($32, skims.com) — which also come in nine skin-tone shades from sand to cocoa — hug your curves instead of squeezing them. Let them add a level of security and peace of mind. After all, one super-sexy thing about being 50-plus is not being obsessed with being model-thin or perfect.
- 9 of
PHOTO BY: Target (2); Ulta Beauty (2)
9. Make eye makeup your ally
This is where you need to make an effort. Eye makeup keeps you from looking washed out or tired. It saves you on a bad hair day and makes you feel sexy when you haven't worked out in months. A soft black eyeliner like the Milani Stay Put 24HR Eyeliner in After Dark ($8, target.com) and a black mascara like the Revlon So Fierce! Big Bad Lash Mascara with Eyelash Tint in 760 Blackest Black ($9, target.com) are essential. They shape up your eyes and firm even crepey, droopy or hooded lids. Then add some neutral brown to lids and crease with a palette like the CoverGirl Nudes TruNaked Eyeshadow Palette ($13, ulta.com) or Maybelline Nudes of New York Eyeshadow Palette ($14, ulta.com) to enlarge the eyes and add drama. These shade palettes work for every eye color; you can't possibly overdo neutrals like these. They make glamming up easy.
- 10 of
PHOTO BY: Target; Ulta Beauty (3)
10. Say yes fearlessly to last-minute invites
All you need is a warm, irresistible fragrance and a quick-dry nail polish. For a finishing touch try a one-and-done red polish like Sally Hansen Insta-Dri Nail Color in 383 ASAP Apple ($6, target.com) or Essie Expressie Quick-Dry Nail Polish in Bolt and Be Bold ($9, ulta.com) that dries in a minute and requires no base or top coat. Trade your usual fragrance for a sultry floral like Estée Lauder Beautiful Magnolia Eau de Perfum ($75, ulta.com) with extra hints of gardenia, woods and musk; or Philosophy Amazing Grace Jasmine Eau de Toilette ($52, ulta.com) with essence of coconut and bergamot. Prepare for a night of “You smell great! What is that scent?” compliments.
Lois Joy Johnson is a beauty and style editor who focuses on women 50 and older. She was the beauty and style editor at Ladies’ Home Journal and a founding editor of More magazine. She has written three books: The Makeup Wakeup, The Wardrobe Wakeup and The Woman's Wakeup.