Google “clothes never to wear after 50” or “frumpy fashion choices for Baby Boomers,” and you’ll get a bazillion articles on what not to wear after ‘a certain age.’ Many women say all of that is horse-pucky and, at 50+, we should be able to wear whatever the hell we damn well please. I agree. But if you don’t want to look like your 85-year-old Great-Aunt Agnes from Buffalo, you’re going to need to ditch the old-lady dresses that include lacy, Peter Pan collars and tiny floral prints with matching belts. There’s just no getting around certain truths.
But even with our collective female angst about looking older, the average woman’s greatest insecurity is looking fat. During my years in the retail beauty industry, with only rare exceptions, every woman coming out of a dressing room would ask “Are you sure this doesn’t make me look fat?” And it’s solidly in the top five things wives ask their husbands when they’re getting dressed. Many a hubs has been stricken with tangled-tongue syndrome when faced with a wife pirouetting in a new dress, asking “Does this dress make me look fat?”
To get your poor hubs off the hook, here are a few clothing mistakes you might want to weed out and give to someone you don’t like (Did I just say that?)
1. Puffy coats. Puffy sleeves and poofy jackets that go straight down, with no waist definition. and stop right at the widest part of your hips. Slip one on, and bam, you’re the Michelin Man in a sleeping bag. It’s hard to know where the coat ends and you begin (especially from the back). There are dozens of coat or jacket styles that will keep you just as warm, without looking like someone needs to let the air out of you.
2. Anything that’s too tight. It’s not about what you can cram yourself into if you inhale and don’t laugh while you’re trying to zip it up. This is probably the most common mistake women make when trying to look sexier or thinner. If you have excess skin, it’s got to go somewhere. It doesn’t simply vanish when you stuff it into spandex jeans or too-small t-shirts. While it’s impressive that you’ve squeezed your size 12 body into that size 10 skirt and top, you’ve got muffin top rolling up and over the waistband, and back fat squishing out where you can’t see it (but everybody else can). Give yourself a break and buy the next size up. We won’t tell.
3. Pup tents. Anything that could be mistaken for a burka or a Snuggie. These pieces (often referred to as “one size fits all”) that are meant to hide everything you hate about your body, but also eliminates anything suggesting a shape. Giant, shapeless t-shirts. Baggie sweatpants. We tell ourselves “If nobody can see it, it’s not really there.” That only works when you’re three. Oversize, sloppy clothing makes you look like a chunky bag lady. Whatever your size, buy clothes that fit. You’ll look thinner. I promise.
4. Pants or skirt that hit mid-calf. I love cropped pants. But I also have short legs, and I’ve learned (mostly from looking at old photos of me doing this wrong) that we should avoid anything that stops at the widest part of our calves. Whether you’re wearing capris, rolled-up jeans, skirts or dresses, this will make your legs look wider and shorter. Yeah, no. Either go up an inch or two, just under the knee, or down to the tops of the ankles (which is actually kind of sexy on us older broads).
5. Printed leggings. OMG, so not only do we have women all over the country confusing leggings with pants, now they’re coming in African art, leopard prints, and large graphic designs. Yes, this is a cute (and fleeting) look on a leggy, 18-year-old swizzle stick with a firm, peach-pit butt. How this trend ever got picked by the 50+ group completely baffles me. Safari scenes do not belong stretched across a post-menopausal behind. My mother used to say, “Nobody ever looked at the back-end of a zebra and said, ‘Wow, she’s got a great ass.” Color is fine. But leave the bold prints to the kids.
6. Unnecessary add-ons. This includes extra pockets (cargo pants, anyone?), ruffles (particularly on large-breasted women), and pleats, which are, essentially, layers of extra fabric, usually around the waist and hips. One of the reasons that Mom jeans are so unflattering is that they’re made from heavy “man-denim,” with thick fabric, bulky pockets, and heavy-duty zippers, all packed around your belly and waistline. You just slipped on an extra five pounds. Lighten up (literally) with softer, lighter-weight, less “frou-frou” pieces.
7. Elasticized waistbands. I understand that these can be super comfy, but so are Pajama Jeans (and if you own these, I can’t help you). Like pleats, they’re wads of scrunched-up fabric bunched around your waistline, which can instantly obliterate any suggestion of shape. It’s even worse if they’re too tight, leaving you with visible red marks circling your waist that scream “No blood flow here.” And that’s why God invented yoga pants.
8. Baggy-on-Baggy. Sexy, slouchy sweatshirts (not to be confused with queen-sized sheets with sleeves. See #3), boyfriend jeans, long t-shirts are all trendy and look great, if you don’t combine them with other, equally oversized pieces. Slouchy sweatshirts with skinny jeans, boyfriend jeans with softly fitted t-shirts, or long, loose tops with leggings work beautifully. An oversize sweatshirt with baggy jeans is more “Can you spare some change?” than “Step aside, world. Fabulousness coming through.”
So it’s true. No matter what your age or how much you weigh, you really can wear whatever the hell makes you happy. In fashion, there are very few absolutes. But certain things will age you and certain things will make you appear bigger than you really are. Weed them out, then wear what you love, and get out there and rock your rebel self.