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10 Easy Style Updates to Make at 50

Subtle tweaks in length, shape and color that make everything you wear look better

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Looking our best is a top goal at 50-plus. Superficial? Not in my book! In fact, looking good makes you feel good and that is a major mood elevator and confidence builder. Your appearance speaks volumes about your attitude toward aging and life in general, and clothes play a starring role. But fashion is tricky and changes all the time. Despite our preference for comfort, we still like looking updated and “new.” But how do we navigate the fine line between style trends and a down-to-earth wardrobe? Here are 10 easy ways to keep your cool:

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1. Untuck your tops

This key dress-down styling change not only gives your clothes a more contemporary effect but hides a bloated belly or a waistband that is bulky or too tight. Unless you’re wearing a belt or making a defined waist your focus … untuck. It works for layering pieces like tanks, camisoles and tees and any silky blouses or shirts. When shopping for new tops, look for those with a high-low or curved hem designed as “outies” for a little more coverage at the rear. Guys can look for button-down shirts freshly cut straight at the bottom, though tees, polos and light pullovers always work untucked.

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2. Embrace midi and maxi lengths

Sorry, but no matter how fabulous your legs still are, short mid-thigh skirts (and especially short, tight skirts) look tacky unless you’re on stage or playing golf, tennis or pickleball. If you’ve been holding on to your old mid-thigh skirts and dresses — pack ’em up and donate! Yes, I know super-short minis are a major trend right now, but not for us. Longer-length dresses and skirts allow us to sit, stand, move and stride any way we want, skip pantyhose even in winter and they look just as great with everything from chunky sandals to sneakers and booties. Those with amazing legs can opt for a classy knee length.

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3. Make black pants your go-to dressed-up look

More women are skipping cocktail dresses and gowns and heading straight for black pants and jumpsuits. They’re the new LBD (little black dress) for big-deal celebrations and dressy events and just as versatile. The only decision is leg width. Choose a wide, roomy leg style for extra comfort and a skirt-like effect or opt for slim ankle pants or flares paired with a tailored jacket for a balanced and sophisticated silhouette.

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4. Personalize your accessories

If you never give shoes, hats, glasses, scarves and hair accessories a thought, do so now. They’re an easy way to update an overall look without changing your entire wardrobe. You might opt for show-off shoes like white loafers or metallic sandals instead of black; decorative hairbands in elegant fabrics; or a pair of new glasses for up-to-the-minute impact. Use your stash of silk scarves as belts like Sharon Stone does or make a collection of caps and hats your signature like Sting. The quickest foolproof way to upgrade your usual jeans and tee is to throw on a tailored blazer (yes, consider these handy add-ons as accessories!) and swap your sneakers for more polished shoes.

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5. Mix your neutrals

Just like women, men 50-plus now know that dressing tonally in one solid color head to toe always makes them appear slimmer and more pulled together. Though matchy-matchy works, combining neutrals not only maxes out your fashion options but has a little more sizzle and personality now. The secret is to keep the “core colors” top and bottom toned and add an unexpected spark with a jacket, print and shoes.

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6. Trade heels for festive flats

Considering tossing your stash of high heels? Good move! We can survive without them now thanks to the trend of flats and loafers that are embellished, metallic, sparkling with gold chains and pearls and that look great with dresses and skirts, ankle pants or jeans for day or night. Stock up!

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7. Tweak your pant width and sleeves

No need to reinvent your style; it’s all in the details. Just be aware that proportions — like a higher waistline or lower hemline — are what make clothes look current. A dress with puff sleeves or a pair of wide pants (cropped or ankle length) are all it takes to elevate a basic look. Eye-catching trends like these are easier to blend into a wardrobe when you stick with a favorite neutral shade for a seamless transition.

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8. Get a leather item that’s not a biker jacket

OK, we made our point. Yes, a black leather moto-style jacket makes us all feel edgy and irreverent, and we love it. Now it’s time to add another leather item. A buttery-soft tailored leather jacket or trench coat, a skirt, pant, dress or top will deliver the same cheeky attitude without the tough-girl effect. No need to stay true to black though it’s always a good choice. Try another neutral like brown, gray or cream for a softer touch.

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9. Brighten up with red

Women who wear a lot of black know the face-brightening impact of a red lipstick. It never fails to look sharp and is still a perfect switch to make now. To energize your face and wardrobe fast, amplify that lipstick benefit with a red jacket, sweater or top. It’s an easy wardrobe addition with no regrets.

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10. Cut loose or show your shape

Body positivity and fashion is all about having options. No need to flaunt your shape 24-7 (although if you want to, great!) or stress over weight shifts. Some women prefer the freedom of oversize tunics and loose shifts and empire-waist dresses and make it a 50-plus lifestyle change with no apologies. Others revel in their newfound ability to accept their size and shape or celebrate it by choosing curve-defining clothes like shirred dresses and leggings. And you can bounce between the two options whenever you want. That’s a modern approach to fashion that ignores the scale and is the epitome of “cool.”

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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