Help Older Women Look Good: Fashionistas (67-93) and Aging Mothers

NY Fashion Week 2015 Shows Style is Ageless*
Look Better, Feel Better

Women  aged 77 and 90— runway models? Here Wilma and Phyllis model at NY Fashion Week 2015.

Past posts (Fashionistas or Frumpy-Dumpies) have addressed women’s appearance over the years. Clearly older women can look very good! And why not? Life has changed for women since the olden days and NY recognized this during Fashion Week 2015 last month.

Senior Advisor R always looked in order and Senior Advisor D, at 90, still looks stylish–not runway stylish–but in style. How do they do it? It’s not the money spent–rather  it’s THE FIT and the time, energy, and desire to look good.

Runway models have countless professionals helping them look their best. Can we be their equivalent to help aging mothers/grandmothers look their best?

We can supply the time-and-energy part by helping them look through their wardrobe and by going shopping with them –at stores or on the internet. Yet there’s another important piece: “People Change, Not Much.” (See Key Thoughts at right sidebar’s bottom.) If people didn’t care about looking good when they were younger, why should this change when they’re old?

That said, there are elders whose appearance is “frumpy-dumpy;” yet their desire to look good remains. We also know when we look good we feel better and vice versa. To that end we share the following tips:

The Fit: “Thanks to Karen, I now have a wonderful alteration lady–‘a gem'” Sr. Advisor D (90) offered on the phone yesterday.  Several years ago I met one of D’s former students, who asked if I knew what D was doing. She remembered D as an outstanding honors English teacher, and said the girls in class couldn’t wait to see what she wore each day because she dressed so stylishly. Confirmation: D’s wanting to “look good” goes way back.

Similarly Sr. Advisor R was very particular about her clothes fitting well. I drove her to the dressmaker countless times over decades as she lost height and weight.  Hems were shortened; side seams were taken in. She shopped mostly through catalogs in later years and the dressmaker made certain the fit was right.

Shopping in One’s Own Closet: Often old clothes–favorites that no longer fit–can be updated. Sr. Advisor D needed a new outfit for a fancy affair last summer. After checking out the NY stores, she decided to shop in her own closet where she found a never-worn long, black skirt that she could pair with lovely top bought years ago. Both needed alterations. “She (the “gem” alteration lady) not only made them fit but, D exclaims, “steamed them so they looked like new!”

R also updated her old clothing. She did some of the easy updates herself–adding new, better and more stylish buttons to sweaters and jackets to make an outfit with old skirts. While shortening formerly long sleeves to update jackets may be expensive, it gives new life to a beloved jacket and doesn’t cost the world. R bought new tank tops in colors coordinated with a sleeved sweater or jacket and paired them with skirts for an updated look.

Many women find–and manufacturers recognize–that pants suits are easy to wear, cover imperfections especially waistlines and arms, and look good on older women (note models above); but they too need to fit. Baggy= frumpy dumpy. Too tight= imperfections accentuated.

Separates suit all figures. Tank tops, shirts, blouses, sweaters, slacks, skirts (knee length and below) often work better for older women’s figures. And a jacket, certain sweater styles, a shawl, poncho, or vest easily hide bulges and pull everything together to make a stylish outfit.

Hiding Imperfections helps elders look good. Wrinkled skin, saggy arms, big waists, large hips, no-longer firm necks, vein-showing legs, tired eyes –the list goes on. The point is… sleeves, blouses that don’t tuck it, a scarf, sun glasses, large-rim glasses–plus black or colored tights–hide a multitude of things women prefer others not see.

iris-apfelIris Apfel is no doubt more flamboyant than most aging mothers and at 94 is impressive. Her advice:  “DRESS AGE APPROPRIATE AND STAND UP STRAIGHT.  There’s nothing worse than an older woman who tries to look young. You can look smashing at any age especially if you have good posture.

“Never try to compete with younger co-workers by wearing short skirts, ruffles and tight sweaters. It won’t work.

“Glasses are an easy way to discover a whole new you. They’re also a wonderful way to circumvent tricky eye makeup if you’re not good at applying it.”  Lessons from 91-Year-Old Fashion Legend.

Sr. Advisor D, 90th birthday

Sr. Advisor D at 89

Sr. Advisor R, 101st birthday

Sr. Advisor R on 101st birthday


*New York Fashion Week Proves Style is Ageless
Iris Apfel, Inspiring fashion icon at 93
The New Face of High Fashion Has Wrinkles
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Thanks to Nextavenue for runway model photos at top and Waldina for photo of Iris Apfel. Thanks to AARP blog 3/27/13 for “Lessons from a 91-year-old Fashion Legend” (excellent article, check it out).

Also check out “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely tips, information and research from top universities. respected professionals and selected publications–to help parents age well.

Aging Parents: Older Women’s Hair Revisited–with 2014 additions

Hair. A focus of women, regardless of age.
Look Good. Feel Better

Tips for appropriate cuts and gray hair, coupled with advice from medical professionals and top stylists to help women look good and age well.

I remember hearing that at one time the “wisdom” of the day for women (mostly until  the last half  of the 20th century) was that going out and buying a new hat would make ladies feel better. Hats were in style for over half of the 20th century. Can we deduce hats could hide a bad hair day, helped women look stylish, and therefore provided a psychological lift in an era when therapy was not stylish?

Minus a hat, isn’t the search for ways to make hair look good–or draw attention away from bad hair–a constant? (Actually, isn’t this true for all perceived inadequacies–be they inadequacies of body, limbs, skin, face, or hair–especially as we age?)

Internet articles to the rescue

Help! Aging Parents has written about aging women’s hair care, hair loss, hair styles, and hair enhancement quoting tricologists, MD’s and other hair experts and stylists (see RELATED below). As Time Goes By has a series of very good posts (below). In September offered “7 Secrets to the Haircut that Will Make You Look Younger” ( It was recently republished, with additional edits, in the 3/7/14 Huffington Post ( Key difference in the 2 posts is found in “Healthy Ends are Younger-Looking…” section.

An earlier HP article “Gray Hair Styling Tips,” can be found by scrolling below the 3/7/14 piece. It no doubt provides worthwhile tips for those who color their hair (eg. “shampoo once a week and just conditioner and water the other days:); yet I question whether this applies to those who have let their hair gray naturally.

Reason: Some on Mother’s side of the family have a prematurely-gray gene. We’ve had graying hair for so long. (Fun to see played out in our late-30’s at a first-ever family reunion.) I think those of us who haven’t colored our hair simply made adjustments as needed, learning what works best. For example, I question “…shampoo just once a week and just conditioner and water on the other days.” The rationale may be that it dries out the scalp (skin). The elders in my 90-year-old aunt’s assisted living facility were bathed/showered once a week for that reason. Check with a doctor if in doubt about a parent’s aging scalp (skin).

“Look good, feel better.” Isn’t it a given, regardless of age? Yet looking good takes on additional importance as parents age, slow down, see less well, hear less well, and lose many things that were previously taken for granted while acquiring wrinkles, thinning hair etc..  With good information we can be there to help.

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3/26/14 Help! Aging Parents has been nominated for 2014 “Best Blogs by Individuals” recognition and we would appreciate your vote by 4/28 if you’re on Facebook. We were honored to be judged part of a 3-way tie for first runner-up last year thanks to your votes which took us to the judging round. Click top badge at right to view a universe of helpful aging blogs and resources, even if you can’t vote on Facebook.

Changing often: “Of Current Interest” (right sidebar). Timely links to research and information from top universities, plus some fun stuff to help parents age well.

(Please note: Because I will be going between the Southwest and Northwest for several months, most likely I can post only once a week for the time being. It will be on Tuesday or a Saturday–just not both.)

Ronni Bennett’s 3-part series on her search for dealing with hair-loss.
Up Close and Personal with 7 instructive tips The More link is one of the best I’ve read, with information from dermatologists (MD’s, one a professor) that answers many questions.


Aging Mothers: A Life Changer….overheard in the Hair Salon

Sr. Advisor D

Sr. Advisor D

Meet D, our newest Sr. Advisor.  A former colleague and long-time friend, D has offered us aging insights for several years. Below she writes about a recent experience at her long-time “hair salon,” aka “hairdresser’s,” “beauty salon.” 

Regardless of name, it’s a place women go ostensibly to look better. But it’s much more than that for many older women. It’s socialization, getting out of the house, therapy of sorts. Indeed it’s one of the few patterns of younger days that can easily continue well into old age.

Where else can an older person relax and count on being listened to, being pampered, being treated well? The hair salon’s supportive atmosphere lends itself to sharing thoughts and feelings.  D takes it from here–

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“Each time you have a driver, you have to plan your trip. For instance, have him take you to the store, then to us to have your hair done, and then to meet your friends for lunch,” Karen explains.

Karen C., the proprietor of Magic Touch, a hair salon in the NYC suburbs, is advising Mrs. W, a bewildered 93-year old customer who has just stopped driving. Though she has long ago moved from the area, she has kept her weekly trips to Karen and wants to continue them.

A small, homey shop, Magic Touch has a large number of elderly women clients, many of whom have come to Karen since she, an enterprising 19-year old, bought the shop over 30 years ago. Some women have moved away from the immediate area but return for their regular appointments…with Karen for their hair; and with Karenʼs sister for their nails.

Mrs. L., still driving at 92, sweeps into the shop, her entrance a signal to Karen to despatch someone to feed the parking meter that Mrs. L. consistently forgets about. But she never forgets to give a warmly personal greeting to everyone. Her golden curls have remained unruffled since her last visit.

Karenʼs father has been a fixture in the shop since his failing eyesight forced him to stop driving six years ago. A good-looking man of 74, he spends most days sitting in the reception area, chatting with visitors. Heʼs fortunate in having his days pass in the company of his daughters and the many people, young and old, who come to the shop, but he says that the evenings are difficult. A widower, he lives alone and misses going out in the evening, to dinner or to see his friends.

Another customer, Mrs. S, stopped driving three years ago, at 89. “It changes your life,” she declares as Karen trims her boyish bob. “You can’t do anything on the spur of the moment. Before, when I wanted company, I loved jumping into my car to visit the library, where I could usually count on gossip with someone I knew. Or buy something I suddenly felt like eating, rather than what I had in my refrigerator.”

After her haircut, she settles in for more conversation. “So much of an older personʼs time is given to things she has to do – for herself or the house – Itʼs important to plan every day so there’s something you enjoy doing.”  She herself enjoys reading, especially memoirs and biographies. Not novels – she craves connections with people in the real world. She has just read Hilary Clintonʼs Living History.

Mrs. G, who stopped driving last year at 88, has found another solution. “I tell my family, ʻGrandma doesnʼt want any more things from you. Give me the gift of your time, and take me out to places I want to go to. Your time is the greatest gift of all.ʼ”

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Regular appointments at the hair salon provide several keys to successful aging: getting out of the house, socializing (connections with others), and no doubt ending up looking better (and thus, feeling better). The challenge may be finding a salon like Karen’s.


VELCRO– for Aging Fashionistas and Those with Old Fingers

Pure Jill easy zip-front poncho
Soft, hooded style, side snap closures, two-way front zipper

Sr. Advisor R, during the week between her 100th birthday and her party the next weekend, couldn’t help giving me more advice when she proclaimed: “VELCRO” in much the same way as I remember “PLASTICS” in the 1960’s classic movie, “The Graduate.”

R said I had to write about the virtue of Velcro for old people.     OK!

Wearing apparel–from head to toe with buttons and hooks and eyes and buckles–is a challenge for many older people’s fingers, especially if arthritis is an issue. And shoe size–or perhaps better stated “comfortable, decent-looking shoes”– is another challenge for older feet of fashion-conscious elders.
R took one look at a catalog of easy-to-put-on clothing for older people about 5 years ago, and said it “depressed” her. I’ve written about the fact that for years R has carefully selected and purchased clothes through regular catalogues (her favorites have been posted often around holiday time) and she always looks well put-together.
Never-the-less, before I realized how good R was at catalog shopping, I’d thought about introducing the idea of using Velcro in place of buttons on some of her clothing as follows: (this was before the Velcro Button Conversion Kit and the “coins,” which I’ve not tried.)
1. –cut off button
2.–attach button to a piece of material whose color matches the clothing (or to the wrong side of velcro if the color is right). Piece should be larger than button hole.
3. –button button through its original button hole
4. –then sew that piece of matching material (or velcro) to the underside of the garment to keep button (looking buttoned) in place.
Now for the Velcro–if matching material was used initially
1.  Sew one piece where the original button was.
2.  Sew the other (corresponding) piece where the material w/ button is.
3. Repeat for each button–probably 5 total for sweaters or jackets
Check out Velcro’s iron-on Fabric Fusion Tape. Haven’t tried it, but sounds good.
Let’s not forget men’s shirts, jackets–and I came across a picture of a Velcro fly on a pair of men’s slacks.
It’s important to stitch well, using strong or doubled thread, remembering there will be pressure from pulling the Velcro apart when putting on and taking off. A dressmaker or tailor could easily do this and if it brings new life to favorite clothes that haven’t been worn because of aging fingers, it would no doubt be worth the cost.
For old fashionistas, it can make purchasing new clothing with difficult fasteners an option. (Or keep them and us on the lookout for smart clothing with zippers.) LOOK GOOD, FEEL BETTER helps everyone.
 Next Saturday’s post: Aging feet, shoes, and Velcro
Related:–one of Sr. Advisor R’s more pricey, preferred catalogues– (for above zippered poncho, jacket and more).


Check out “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely information and research from top universities and respected professionals, plus practical information–to help parents age well.****



5 Tips No One Tells You About Aging

This Huffington Post article “5 Tips…” is cleverly written; clearly aimed at women  younger than most of our parents. Yet, cleverness aside, some aspects of these tips about physical changes and looking good apply to those much older, if my senior advisors are any indication.

My older-women take on 4 of the tips from the HP + one from Sr. Advisor R (99) concern:

  1. Eyebrows and eyelashes
  2. Temporary hair coloring (thinning hair not mentioned)
  3. Changing feet
  4. Reality-based shopping
  5. + Finger Nails

Eyes and hair can make people look attractive–or not. Can’t this be a vicious cycle affecting how others interact with them–especially semi-strangers (store employees, receptionists, even doctors and dentists initially)? I’ve watched semi-strangers’ reaction to Sr. Advisor R over the years. They are impressed and heartened, sometimes comparing her to their parents, sometimes wondering how she does it; always respectful (never dismissive).

As noted in prior posts, R is always in order–hair and eye make-up perfect–before she’d step one foot outside the house. It’s pride.

If people never had pride in their appearance when young, they no doubt won’t have it in old age. On the other hand, when once-good-looking parents start to become careless about their looks, they’re probably beginning to lose interest. Is “look good, feel better” tied to emotional health and probably to physical well-being down the line? If so, isn’t  it in everyone’s best interest to support looking good?

Now 3 weeks away from her 100th birthday, her eyelashes and eyebrows have indeed lessened. Even at her age she uses a “good eyeliner” (L’Oreal) and Lancome mascara and adds color to her eyebrows when going out.  Yet she says “recently they’ve (eyelashes) suddenly grown a little; but I’d look like little Orphan Annie if I didn’t use eye make-up.” And her mirror–“a must have”– enables her do her eye makeup as well as see the back of her head to make sure her hair looks good front and back.

It takes a lot of patience for R’s thinning hair to be just the way she wants it, and it has been a challenge for several decades. Her red hair has faded over the years–goes well with her complexion. R has never colored her hair nor used the temporary hair color that prevents people’s roots from looking unkempt (Huffington post link above has details.) She’s a fan of Toppik for covering the balding spots.

Easy Spirit® "Cloverly" Velcro Hiking SandalR is many inches shorter than she was as a girl (wonder if our generation’s taking calcium will make this less of a problem) and feet do change, do get wider. R finds Easy Spirit sandals with velcro solve the problem for her in warm months, and says in earlier days (before velcro in adult shoes) she sometimes needed to buy 2 pairs of shoes a size apart to take care of the problem of one foot being wider than the other.

On a personal note, until a bit over a year ago I was able to wear any shoes in my size and sometimes needed to break them in before they felt good…but good they always felt, eventually (just as the article points out). I no longer do that. HP got that tip right.

CVS Natural Vitamin E Oil 30000 IULastly, Sr. Advisor supplies the finger nail tip. Saying finger nails break more easily, become less strong, crack vertically, and get ridges as people age, she recently started putting Vitamin E oil (bottle about $7.95 at CVS)  on her nails and finds it has helped strengthen them.

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If we’re immersed in health issues with aging parents, the above tips could seem frivolous. Nevertheless, these tips give us a “heads up” for what’s ahead and offer some practical help so older and old women continue to age well.

Related: Older Women’s Thinning Hair: Styles and Instructive Links

New: “Of Current Interest”(right sidebar). Links to timely information and research from top universities about cancer, dementia, Parkinson’s, plus some fun stuff–to help parents age well.

Thinning Hair: More Solutions to Hide Scalp–for Aging Parents (and Us)

Looking good=feeling better… and has to help parents age well

Realizing there’s no proven and approved, relatively simple way to regrow hair, the search goes on. If FDA-approved Latisse (it thickens eyelashes), can be made to do the same for the hair on our head, there will be a predictable stampede to the drug stores. As of now, however, we continue to wait and search for a miracle product.

And Help! Aging Parents continues its mission to help aging parents (and us) feel good about our hair. Today’s topic: topical products: Rogaine, MoniMay, and Toppik.

A friend of many years had a prescription for Rogaine when it first came on the market and was only available by prescription. In those days she said she applied Rogaine twice a day….and it was “really a bother;” but she was intent on stopping her hair “fall-out” and encouraging new growth. She was in her early 50’s then, and willing to put up with “the bother.”

She hasn’t used Rogaine in years, she said recently upon questioning (we’d discussed it a lot when she began)– but did use it over a period of years. Her hair didn’t noticeably fall out after she quit using Rogaine; although she said it may have reverted to the amount of hair she had when she first began with Rogaine.

She told me her daughter (mid-40’s) suggested a new product, MoniMay, to her a few months ago. It was developed by a hair colorist, for her mother who ultimately died from skin cancer that began on her head. Thus, SPF 15 has been added to the product. (See video in above link.) Based on the high SPF numbers we are now encouraged to use, I wonder about the effectiveness of SPF 15.  But with or without SPF at any strength, my friend has begun using MoniMay and seems satisfied. (If worried about sun because of balding or thinning hair, a hat is no doubt the best protection.)

Sr. Advisor, R told me about Toppik earlier this year. She even bought me a small container (which I have yet to try). Since she could never find a suitable wig, she decided she’d try Toppik. (See Demonstration video. The results look great.) At age 99, R’s hair is fine and has thinned over many decades to the point she says Toppik is the best “concealer” she has found–at least for her. Isn’t it amazing she still cares!

Check links. If any one of these products hides thinning areas, makes hair look fuller and is within one’s capabilities, it would seem to be worth a try….. and might even make a nice little gift as we try to help parents age well.

Rogaine for men
Rogaine for women

Older Women’s Thinning Hair, Instructive Links, and Styles for Women 60+

Ever feel like you’re wearing 2 hats? One gaining information for yourself and one gaining information to help parents age well? From boomers to aging parents (mothers) the information in these first 3 links will be useful. Professionals explain probably all there is for a layperson to know about hair. the facts about female pattern baldness from the US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. Here is a thorough explanation of hair loss with options for improving the situation, thanks to Michigan dermatologist Marcy Street. Read about Latisse–very interesting, for those who aren’t familiar with it.

Most products claiming to restore hair–don’t. And one that seems to at least stop the loss, must be applied every day (period) or there’s a reversal. Latisse, on the other hand, may be the one that will earn the manufacturer zillions of dollars by restoring hair on balding heads like it does on eyelashes. I’ve seen the results on 2 women’s eyelashes–were they ever thick! One was a nurse’s eyelashes in a major hospital’s outstanding wound care center where we took Sr. Advisor, R for her infected wound last November. Couldn’t help noticing the eyelashes; had to mention it. Nurse was delighted and said it was Latisse. Then a friend invited us to informal dinner at her home in Arizona. Hadn’t seen her–or her eyelashes–in a year. She was only too happy to talk about Latisse.

Note: Researchers testing eye drops for treating glaucoma, in the 1990s, noticed that patients were growing longer, thicker lashes. The company began development of a product that contained the same active ingredient but could be used for cosmetic purposes; Latisse became available in 2009. “examines some of the major factors affecting the health and appearance of your hair and what to do about them, including hands-on tips from the pros,” according to the article. I can’t improve on that summary. It’s worth reading–to be certain you’re well-informed.
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The links below are for fun, really. For some, seeing how good these 60+-year-old women look will be heartening. Below: a few slide shows with brief comments.

Here we see film industry women with various–including thinning– hair types and styles. Sally Field, Helen Mirren, Glenn Close and 2 others

Andrea Mitchell (at 65) begins this slide show of 6 blondes, followed by Diane Sawyer (at 66), Dona Mills (71),  Joanna Lumley (at 66), Judith Light (at 64) and Martha Stewart (at 71) .

They’re saying bangs hide wrinkles. Here actress Frances Fisher (now 61–don’t know anyone’s age in these photos) leads off this group of 5, followed by Patricia Richardson (now 62), Paula Deen the only nonactress, but can she cook! (now 66), Susan Blakely (now 64) and Susan Sarondon (now 66)

In addition, as time permits, link to the slide shows for short, medium and long hair on women over 60.

Check out “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely tips, information and research from top universities and respected professionals–to help parents age well.
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