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.