Advice for Seniors on Updating Your Wardrobe

Trends change, so consider ditching what you’ve always worn for a new style

Illustration by Victoria Marcelino

If you want to stay fashionable after 50, “aging rock star” isn’t a good look.

“I think there are better directions to go,” says a diplomatic Pat Lonergan, the owner of Inside Out, a Portsmouth boutique carrying the latest styles in designer clothes and accessories for men and women.
Fashion and design go hand-in-glove, especially for senior citizens. At this stage of life, expressing and presenting yourself with panache is all about putting contemporary pieces you like together, and making them look chic without being too trendy or over the top, comfortable without being messy or sloppy, and attractive without being too flashy or overtly sexy.

“You can still be edgy and have a youthful appearance to your style,” says Lonergan. “Instead of wearing all the trends on top of each other, pick one trend that really suits you and then have more classic lines around that trend. That look is sophisticated, progressive and young.”

Pulling it together can be a little more challenging for men, especially as they transition away from careers demanding conservative suits and serious shoes and now want a more casual and creative look.

Easier said than done.

“We are full-service, and our staff of professionals is here to offer advice and help,” says Jay Wolf, a fourth-generation haberdasher who purchased George’s Apparel in Manchester in March. “We’re not going to push an older fellow into a young guy’s look, but at the same time we try to keep everyone looking up to date.”

Wolf says he’s amazed by how quickly the width and style of something as straightforward as a tie will change.
“Even something from a couple of years ago can look out of date. We don’t have any ties even from last year. A men’s shirt is a shirt, until you look at it. An outdated collar makes you look too old. The collars now are down to about 2 to 2 ½ inches. Lapels have gotten smaller. Just the little things that have changed can really make a suit look outdated,” says Wolf, adding that cufflinks and tie bars, clips and pins are totally passé.

For women, it’s time to say bye-bye to the old standbys.

Anything matchy-matchy is out, and that means ditch those classic skirted suits, nix the identical fabric and texture monochromatic outfits, and veto jewelry sets of the necklace, earrings and/or bracelets. You can still wear pearls but add a contrasting necklace or two of the same length.

“Society now is more casual, even in high-powered jobs,” says Lonergan. “You can put together a look that is fashionable and stylish without having the matching skirt and jacket suit, and the single strand of pearls.

Have things that complement each other, then add layers that give your outfit more depth and dimension,” she says. “The same goes for men. Their clothing doesn’t have to be staid and boring. If you have one classic or one progressive thing, complement it and add the layers.”

When updating, don’t overlook eyewear as styles for women and men seem to change in the blink of an eye. Drugstore readers are functional but not fashionable. Choose frames for glasses and sunglasses with shapes that fit your face and flatter your features, and while picking out fabulous new eyewear — and don’t even think about keeping those chains and cords that scream “dinosaur” — why not consider a makeover for your makeup?

“You should never be wearing the same makeup look you had years ago. Absolutely not. At an older age it’s important you don’t do the same thing you’ve always done,” says Travis Soterion, the manager of Kriss Cosmetics in Manchester. “It’s all about having that natural, no makeup, makeup look but with a little pop of something to draw in the attention.”

Keep that pop subtle or you’ll draw attention for the wrong reasons. Neutral, matte colors are what’s in, so stay away from the Crayola-colored or glitter eye shadow, too bright blush and candy apple red or frosted lipsticks.

“Nothing extreme. No, no, no. And you don’t want to go all-out on your eyes and your lips at the same time,” he says. “Have one bold feature and have the rest natural. Keep the blush classic. Keep the skin smooth. That’s a huge trend for 50-plus women. You don’t want to look overdone, but you still want to draw people in. We’re all about inner beauty. Beauty is about how you feel.”

Wolf says his customers feel fantastic the moment they peer into the mirror and see the total effect of their updated, smart and with-it attire, so it isn’t the least bit difficult for them to break away from their old habits. Lonergan agrees completely.

“A lot of times the things that you would be least likely to pick out for yourself are just the things you’re going to love the best. Go outside your box once in a while. You’ll love your look,” she says.

If boutique or specialty store shopping is not your favorite or in the budget, try finding those statement and build-upon pieces at a discount retail chain or one of New Hampshire’s many consignment/resale shops.

“We’re open and welcoming to everyone. People can come in and get beautifully designed, classic, high-quality, great and stylish items without the original price tags,” says Elyssa Alfieri, owner of Lilise Designer Resale, a vintage and luxury consignment shop in Concord. “The things in our store are modern and wearable. Mixing is a great, updated look that works for everyone. I like to mix the high with the low. You can wear a top designer sweater with a pair of jeans from Target. If you’re looking for that needle in a haystack, we’re all needles, no haystack.”

After all, age really is just a number, especially when it comes to personal style.

Says Lonergan, “Staying fashionable is about how you feel and how you want to express and present yourself. You don’t need to know how to be fashionable, you just need to know who to ask. We’re here and happy to help.”

Categories: Seniors