What are the biggest fashion mistakes you see in older women?
I see two main ones: The first is to hang onto things that date you or that have outlived their purpose or usefulness. There’s nothing wrong with wearing a terrific classic piece repeatedly that makes you look great and pulls an outfit together successfully. And there’s nothing wrong with wearing an older, special, creative piece that speaks to your personality. But often older women get stuck in a rut of repetition or wear things that were fashionable 5-10 years earlier. Life changes, fashion changes, and when we embrace that change, we feel fresher. We feel like we’re moving forward and not living the past. It’s energizing!
The second biggest mistake is not understanding proportional balance. To keep it very simple, just consider this: if you’re wearing a larger piece on the top half of your body, wear something smaller or more fitted on the bottom half. And conversely, if you’re wearing something with more volume on the bottom half—such as a fuller skirt or wide-leg pants—keep the top half of your outfit more fitted. Then, pay attention to demarcation lines. Try to avoid any outfit that divides you in half, exactly, e.g., a jacket or blouse or sweater that comes to your hip bone with pants or a skirt that comes to your ankle bone. It’s a visually stagant look. You want to create something that creates visual motion. As fashion editor Diana Vreeland once explained, “the eye wants to move.” Cutting yourself in half, visually, stops that motion. Also, In my book, Shopping for the Real You, I highly recommend getting a tailoring guide for your unique body through a website called Fashion Fit Formula. That way you can make sure all the hemlines of your clothing hit at the best points for your body.
What opportunities do you see for these women when it comes to dressing with style?
Be courageous, get expert help, learn from those who do it well. A good stylist can show you how to combine things you already own and make them work in a more stylish and contemporary way. And they can also help you determine what are the “missing pieces” (items that would complete several outfits for you) and “closet orphans” (things that you are not ever going to wear even though you think you will someday find the perfect thing to go with them) that are keeping you from dressing well.
Also, if you are, like me, a bit lazy, or you don’t want an entire wardrobe revamp but maybe would like a special outfit or a few nice pieces for the coming season, I sometimes direct my readers to one or more of the subscription box companies. They ask you to fill out a questionnaire about your height, body shape, color preferences, style type, etc. and then they send you an entire outfit to either keep or send back. With many of these companies, you can determine how frequently you want a shipment.
If I were going to recommend one subscription to start, it would be Trunk Club. They are the Nordstrom service that requires no monthly commitment; you can just request a single outfit or a seasonal group of items. You keep what you like and send back the rest. The $25 styling fee is applied to whatever you keep. It’s very much like having you own professional stylist on speed dial. It’s also terrific for women who might live outside a major metropolitan area and don’t have access to larger department stores.
You wrote Shopping for the Real You: 10 Essential Steps to a Better Wardrobe for Every Woman: Fashionistas, Fashion-phobes, and the Over 50. What’s one piece of advice you give in the book for women 50+?
Know yourself. The first element of visual self-knowledge is to understand your unique coloring. The concept that we all fit into little color “boxes” (spring, summer, fall and winter) is a big mistake. Rarely are individuals, of any race, ethnicity, or culture, reflective of one seasonal color type. And although we may favor different colors as we age and our hair color changes (if you decide not to dye it) our fundamental coloring does not. I’m going to write a blog post soon about why that is.
The same is true for style. There are archetypes of style, but we are all multi-faceted. We have varying levels of different archetypes that combine to make up our unique self. I wrote an article recently about style archetypes. When you understand these fundamentals, you can hardly go wrong. I also recommend some excellent color analysts on my site, such as John Kitchener, my mentor. He works both in person near Atlanta, Georgia, and online. His two other trainees are Hella Tsaconas on the West Coast and the mother-daughter team of Brooke Mercer and Mariah Bishop in Utah.
You also have an e-book entitled She’s Got Good Jeans. Why did you write a book specific to jeans?
Well, I practically live in jeans when I’m just hanging around the house. (I recently read that Iris Apfel, the 96-year-old style icon who is known for stylish outfits and layers of ethnic jewelry, wears jeans and a tee shirt at home most days!) And at 5’1” with my body shape, it has been a constant struggle to find jeans that fit. So, I did a lot of research about the elements that go into making jeans, and I looked at and tried on over a hundred pair. I divided up the book into sections for each body shape, offering links to manufacturers and retailers that provide jeans for those shapes. And my wonderful illustrator, Sue Tait Porcaro, demonstrated how to style them based on the different body shapes.
You provide private wardrobe consultations. How do you approach these sessions?
I go to my clients’ homes, if they are local, but increasingly I am doing on-line consultations via Zoom or Skype, internationally. My clients give me an idea about their goals. Then I ask about their lifestyle, what they feel they need and what they just want, and any “aspirational” pieces or outfits they have been thinking about for a specific event or in some cases, a change of lifestyle, such as a retirement wardrobe. Then we do a quick analysis of their coloring and style archetype combinations before we start looking at individual pieces of clothing. They either try on pieces or just hold them up for me to see. Both methods work well.
By the end of the session, we have mapped out complete outfits and identified missing pieces they might need to add; I have them take pictures of entire outfits we have put together. Then I write up a summary and send it to the client. In that summary I often include links to some of the items they might be lacking or in need of to complete an outfit. It’s very rewarding work.
What’s next for you?
I just launched a free video series entitled: “Shopping for the Real You: Expert Edition.” We will have 21 experts on board for 15- to 20-minute interviews each, sharing their knowledge and inspiration about fashion, beauty, style, wellness and lifestyle. They are mostly women over 50 and 60. The series runs through September 20, 2019 and will be replayed for an entire week at the conclusion. This is the link to watch those videos. And then, I’m working on a private online style coaching program and a video tutorial series.
What other resources do you recommend for older women seeking to improve their personal style?
Inspiration is everywhere. There are some excellent YouTube channels that share great tips about style and fashion. One of my favorite is Justine LeConte, a young French designer, who has a wealth of information about everything from how to pick the right glasses to the right hairstyle for your face shape, to picking the right coat or jacket, etc. She’s terrific.
I also get inspiration from Instagram. There are so many wonderful young fashionistas from whom we older women can borrow some ideas. They can give us fresh ideas about how to wear some of the newer trends. But there are also many Instagram accounts featuring women of our age in the public eye: Isabella Rosellini, Helen Mirren, Halle Berry, Michelle Yeoh, Rita Moreno, etc. Those women work with some of the best stylists in the world and, except for a rare red-carpet blunder, they usually look terrific.
Finally, check out Pinterest. I update my own Pinterest style and color pages frequently and they can give you lots of ideas about entire outfits for each style and color type and combination.
Connect with Andrea Pflaumer
Free class: “Lazy Person’s Guide to a Perfect Wardrobe”
Shopping for the Real You: 10 Essential Steps to a Better Wardrobe for Every Woman: Fashionistas, Fashion-phobes, and the Over 50
She’s Got Good Jeans
Andrea Pflaumer is the author of the Amazon best-selling book, Shopping for the Real You: 10 Essential Steps to a Better Wardrobe for Every Woman: Fashionistas, Fashion-phobes, and the Over 50. It is the only book based on the Personal Style Counselors (PSC) system of color and style analysis that has provided guidance for more than 25,000 men and women worldwide. She is currently working on the sequel with PSC Director John Kitchener. Her new e-book, She’s Got Good Jeans is a guide about how to shop for and where to find the perfect jeans for your body and budget.
Andrea is the host of two video summits: Vital Vivacious, and Visible after 50, and Shopping for the Real You: Expert Edition. For 19 years she has written about fashion, style and culture for local and national publications and guest blogs for numerous websites including her own.
Her YouTube channel features interviews with fashion, beauty, and lifestyle experts and tips about understanding and incorporating your style and color archetype. She is the author of free Highbrow course, The Lazy Person’s Guide to a Perfect Wardrobe.