Lawrence Laundry: How to dress when you’re 50 without looking like you’re 80

Monday, January 30, 2012


Submitted by Ali Edwards

Carolda Edwards, mother of Ali Edwards.

My mom, Carolda Edwards, is a beautiful woman. She’s in her late 50s, and her simple, practical style and the way she wears her clothes with such ease leaves people regularly saying in bewilderment, “You’re how old?”

She and my dad have been married for 37 years and still live 10 miles from the small town they both grew up in. He takes care of the farm. As a nurse, she delivers babies at the local hospital.

He has grease stains on all his clothes; she wears designer jeans she gets on sale at Dillard’s. Despite not living in a city with plenty of trendy items for sale and eclectic street style to mimic, my mom is the one I think of when it comes to true Midwest style.

Naturally, when I decided to write about style for 50-something women, she was the first person I called.

Classic styles, clean lines

Style for women over 50, according my mom, should start and end with comfort. If you’re walking out of the house and already tugging on your blouse or readjusting your belt, you probably shouldn’t have put it on in the first place.

Go for classic styles and choose clothes that create clean lines like A-line dresses, a trouser and button-up shirt combination, or skirts that hit just below the knees. Tailoring becomes increasingly important with age — the older you get, the more essential it is that clothes fit well.

Have a closet full of staple pieces, and adapt accessories to trends instead of buying an entire new wardrobe each season.

Wear rich colors

Usually, if the color can be described as a food, mature women will look good in it (plum, wine, chocolate, champagne).

Don’t hide the bad; accentuate the good

One of the biggest wardrobe mistakes mature women make is wearing big and loose clothing because they believe it makes them look slimmer and hides figure faults. Wrong! Despite not having the body you once did, draping yourself in tons of baggy clothing actually makes you look less fit. Instead, emphasize your favorite features. Accentuate toned legs with skirts that end just below the knee, a slender waist with a skinny belt or a slim neckline with a scoopneck shirt.

Don’t overdo the makeup. Lots of color on a mature woman’s face actually makes her look older. As you age, putting on makeup should take about twice as long but should look like you’re wearing half as much.

Never forget about the waist

Of all the advice you can hear, this is one of the most important points: Never forget about the waist. It’s the smallest and one of the most feminine features of a woman’s body and should always be highlighted.

Dressing younger does not make you look younger

In our 50s, we can no longer get away with wearing jeans with holes in them, short shorts, college t-shirts (unless it’s game day!) or really light denim.

When you wear jeans, make sure to wear dark denim. If you want to add a little pizzazz to your jeans, a couple rhinestones are okay, but don’t overdo the flashiness. Maximalism is in right now (big chunky jewelry, layering clothing, etc.), but it’s important to keep the glitz in check.