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11 Instant Style Tricks That Dress Up Any Outfit

Upgrade your look with some unexpected pairings

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Most of us don’t have a lot of time, money or even the desire to play stylist with our clothes. We just buy the usual essentials that work for our bodies and lifestyles. However, we also can’t help noticing certain members of our 50-plus crowd seem to pull off dressing with a bigger dose of style. They know the twists and tweaks that add personality and polish. It’s not that tricky once you know the 11 quick tips that work for us

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1. Take cover in a tailored coat or raincoat

Ever get caught dressed down and wish you were dressed up? With our casual lifestyles, it happens more often to everyone. While we love marshmallow puffers and hooded parkas, a coat with structure and clean classic lines is the fastest way to give downtown clothes an uptown vibe. Just throw a tailored trench or overcoat over tees, jeans and leggings for polish and sophistication, but with the extra bonus of total coverage and camouflage.:

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2. Pair tough jackets with feminine skirts

No reason to ditch your favorite denim, bomber or leather jackets when the need to look polished arises. Just pair them and any other casual tops (including chunky sweaters and striped boatneck tees) with swirly below-the-knee midi skirts — especially pleated versions, which are the most useful of all.

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Gayle King, Ines de la Fressange, Andie MacDowell, Sarah Jessica Parker
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3. Trade your jeans for wide-leg pants

While there are plenty of ways to upgrade jeans, one of the best alternatives is to swap denim for a pair of wide-leg, relaxed pants. The go-with-the-flow fit gives bulges, bellies, bottoms and thighs a confidence boost and pairs easily with anything from fine gauge sweaters to silky blouses and blazers — even a sleeved tee. A good choice to make if you’re browsing sales.

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Rosanna Arquette, Billy Crystal, Lauren Hutton
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4. Wear a hat and show your character

While almost anything goes (skip the ball caps and beanies), fedoras for women and newsboy/taxi driver caps for guys offer a swift style boost. They also save you from worrying about days your do has fizzled, frizzed or requires a serious shampoo. A hat also covers a thinning hairline and hair loss while adding a signature look. Start your collection! 

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5. Wear gold, silver and sequins night and day

We save certain clothes and fabrics for evenings and special events, labeling them as “too fancy” for everyday wear. Well, break your own rules! Wearing something that shines, shimmers or glitters takes the boring out of basics and makes you glow. It might be a pair of tailored pants with a sheen, satin joggers, a gold leather jacket or a sequin tee reclaimed from your vintage back-of-closet stuff. Sparkle aplenty! 

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6. Let your shoes say it all

Any woman who owns statement earrings or an attention-getting bag knows the power behind a great accessory. Shoes are one of the easiest ways to dial up the style of any outfit. Add a pair of colorful kitten heel pumps to your lineup or try a pair of red, white or metallic booties for an unexpected rock star touch.

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7.  Swap your T-shirt for a fancy blouse

Sounds too good to be true but switching to a blouse elevates a casual look in seconds. The fancier the better, so give your ruffled, striped, puff-sleeved, bowed and tie-neck blouses a new everyday life as a partner to basic jeans and khakis in addition to all your black pants. It’s a DIY way to recycle items you love but no longer wear and get them back in rotation and better than ever.

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8. Mix it all up 

Saving your white jeans and skirts for summer? Wearing your booties and leather jacket only with jeans? If you’ve been dividing your clothes by seasons or attitude it’s time to redo your closet and thinking. First, hang and stack your clothes by color, not season. It’s the secret to making more creative year-round choices. Then address your other habit by making fresh combos that blur the boundaries. Try maxing out your romantic midi dresses with black booties or a biker jacket, wear white jeans with black tops and cozy sweaters, pair a breezy print skirt with knee-high boots and a jacket.

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Catherine O’ Hara, Tracee Ellis Ross, Isabelle Huppert
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9. Pull out the red lipstick

Sometimes all you need is a two-minute beauty boost. No reason for a soup-to-nuts makeover since the idea is to make a major impact with minimal effort. Red lipstick gives an outfit a mindful fashion spin and works best with simple low-key hair and minimal eye makeup, so no further effort is required. Keep a tube on standby. 

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10. Pair a blazer with jeans

Most of the time we grab any old top and our trusty jeans and consider ourselves good to go, but simply adding a tailored blazer to this recipe creates the secret style sauce we covet on others. Dig out your old suit jackets (even when the pants no longer fit — great tip for guys, too), gold buttoned “lady” styles and boyfriend blazers from the ’80s and ’90s for a new take on a classic look.

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Catherine Bach, Kris Jenner, Kim Cattrall, Nia Long
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11. Stick to an all-black color theme

Dressing head to toe in black is now the universal formula for anyone 50-plus wanting to look taller, slimmer, more urban or chic. It’s a confidence-building super-trick for mixing cheap and expensive items, tailored and athleisure, sporty and sparkly, old and new. Black also disguises clothes with stains and items that are low-cost workmanship. No need to go matchy-matchy. In fact, it’s more interesting and contemporary to vary the shade of black with different fabrics, textures and prints. 

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.

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