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The Art of Dressing Elegantly – For Women of a Certain Age: Basic Rules 5 & 6

Rule No. 5: Keep it simple!

This is the most important rule to remember. Understated elegance is simplicity at its finest. Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, and Katherine Hepburn had it. Lauren Bacall has it. A lot of us work hard to achieve it. Think minimalist!
Spend what you can on clothes of good quality because they will last you a long time. The simpler the lines or style, the more versatile it is.

About 15 – 20 years ago, I saw a lovely sleeveless woolen dress in chocolate brown, with a matching jacket in a shop in England. I fell in love with it, but the price was more than I was willing to spend. It was a Valentino design. I could still kick myself for letting that go. The tailoring was just beautiful. If I grew too big for the dress, I could have had it altered. The swing jacket would have lasted me for years.

Most women wear black because it is easy to work with. Choose a few basic colors that you like and look good on you. If you are dark-skinned, the world is your oyster. If you’re on the pale side, perhaps, camel brown, tan, and pastels will suit you better. You can get wild in your choices, but make sure your colors and patterns don’t clash. Solid colors are a safe bet but you can mix-match them with more adventurous designs.

Here is a woman dressed in well-coordinated attire. She could have gotten away with a chunky silver bracelet in addition to her dangling earrings, but she opted to keep it simple. Casual? Yes! Elegant? Yes! Achievable? Easily!

Street Style - NL
Photo from Pinterest

The few times that I have traveled to Italy and France, I always marveled at how well mature women there dressed despite their age. They don’t apply lots of makeup on their faces or wear clothes meant for younger women. They simply wear clothes that fit right – not too tight nor too loose. And, they carry them well in spite of the extra weight on their bodies. So, where do we find these clothes?

Rule No. 6: Watch out for sales!

You don’t have to travel far to buy good quality clothing. Several times a year, shops sell their merchandise at reduced prices. Scour the clearance racks! I would avoid shopping online or by catalog unless you are familiar with the company’s sizing and the quality of its merchandise. The following is a list of shops where you can find affordable, but stylish clothing. These stores may not be your cup of tea but do shop around and find your style that agrees with your budget.

CHICO’S (https://www.chicos.com/) – Visit Chico’s sales racks when you have a chance. They carry nice separates and accessories in various colors and sizes.

H&M (www.hm.com/us/) – Believe it or not, you can find inexpensive, but stylish sweaters, tops, skirts, and accessories from this store. They may cater to youngish clientele, but one can find lots of separates which can be suitable for all ages.

T.J.MAXX (http://tjmaxx.tjx.com/store/index.jsp) – This store can be a mine for good bargains if you know what you’re looking for.

MARSHALLS (http://www.marshallsonline.com) – Again, I would advise against shopping online just because you want to be sure of the fit of the clothes. If there is a Marshalls store near you, then you are in business. They offer lots of choices at reasonable prices.

JJILL (www.jjill.com/) – Their clothing and accessories are pricey, but if you check out their sales, you may be able to find some classy outfits within your budget.

DRESS BARN (http://www.dressbarn.com) – Here is another store where one can find affordable clothing and accessories. They carry women’s clothing in both regular and plus sizes.

ZARA (http://www.zara.com/us/) – Zara is pricier than H&M, but you’ll find stylish clothes of good quality and lovely accessories at reasonable prices here.

Go through the sales racks at Lord and Taylor, Macy’s, Nordstrom, and their outlets. Shopping requires a lot of patience so it is never a good idea to shop only when you need something. It puts a lot of pressure on you to find it quickly and even pay a hefty price for it. Shop leisurely and you will probably find a “keeper” and a bargain at that!

Next: Rule No. 7

The Art of Dressing Elegantly – For Women of a Certain Age: Basic Rules 3 & 4

Rule No. 3: Be Foot Smart!

In our younger years, we used to run around in high heels without any problem. As our feet get older, we are faced with the usual dilemma of either wearing stylish high-heeled shoes in pain or ugly flats in comfort. Years ago, older women were given a measly choice of sneakers, chunky flat shoes, and podiatrist-prescribed comfort shoes. Nowadays, shoe manufacturers like Easy Spirit, Clarks, Naturalizer, Aerosoles, Merrell, etc. have incorporated style with comfort in their collections. Most are expensive, but you can invest in a good pair that can last for years, or wait for sales, or order them online. I suggest you first go around the shops and try the ones you like. Once you have identified the brand, style, and size that suit you, look for it online.

Be sensible in your choice of footwear. If you must wear heels for a special occasion, choose a pair you can walk in comfortably. You don’t want to party with pain written all over your face. You want to be able to walk easily and gracefully. Besides, you cannot afford accidents that can wreak havoc on your bodies.

For casual occasions, flats or low wedged styles are advisable. For walking or exercising, sneakers are your best friend.

Rule No. 4: Accessorize!

My accessories have saved me from spending lots of money on clothes. I have a big collection of belts, beads, bracelets, earrings, rings, brooches, and scarves of various colors and designs that help expand my limited wardrobe.

There are so many ways to dress up your attire without looking like a Christmas tree. A sparkly brooch or a colorful scarf can perk up a dark solid top or dress. Add jewelry that will not overwhelm the rest of your outfit. Dangling earrings can look lovely with an open necked top. If you must wear a necklace with it, choose a matching chain or something low-key.

In the image below, the timeless Catherine Deneuve wears a beaded black short jacket with black satin top and trousers. She chose simple hoop earrings, a bracelet and red nail polish on her nails and toes. The emerald green clutch bag she carried made her whole ensemble a success.


Combining accessories with your outfit is a skill that can be learned. Practice in front of the mirror days or hours before you go out. It will give you an idea of how your whole attire looks. Do not pile up the beads if you have a short neck. You’d look better in chains or long necklaces. If you’re petite, avoid chunky jewelry that can be overwhelming. This doesn’t mean confining yourself to pearls or dainty designs. Medium-sized beads will work for you.

A bright-colored scarf can bring a plain dress to life. You can tie it around your neck or hang it loosely around your shoulders. Use a plain brooch to fasten it on your dress if it doesn’t stay in place. Remember when women used to tie a small scarf around their necks? It looked good with an open-necked top or a white shirt with a standing collar. Practice and experiment on ways to wear one! Be creative!

Whatever accessories you choose to accompany your clothes, remember that less is more, which leads us to the next rule.

Next:  Rule 5 & 6