Tuesday, January 22, 2013

How to Look Grownup

The late Charla Krupp, with whom I had the pleasure of working at Glamour magazine, wrote a book titled "How Not to Look Old". It addresses many of our fears with helpful tips for avoiding the "old lady" traps of elastic pants and forty-year-old hairstyles. It's a great wake-up read if you've been caught dozing.

Although dressing too young (skirts too short, boots too tall) is a sure way to look old, there are some things I think are worth being grown up for:

Grownups can dress luxe. Velvets and silks and brocades and all the luxurious variations therein look truly smart on grownups. There is no chance you are playing dress up; you have the savvy to pull off the riches you have earned. The whole idea of a "theater coat" would have looked like a joke in my thirties. Now I have one and love it. And I wear it to the theater.

Your theater coat can be by Rei Kawakubo

Grownups are trendsetters. Not every fashion fad trickles up from the young. The most tasteful designers out there (Ralph Rucci, Oscar de la Renta, Ralph Lauren, Carolina Herrera) are not designing for club kids. Avant garde geniuses such as Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto need to be worn by a confident woman who can speak for herself without saying a word. 

Grownups are groomed. Remember when you were nine and could spend a whole afternoon taking a bubble bath and giving yourself My Little Manicure? I'm not saying you have that much free time now, but there just might be more of it. You may be working less or having less family to take care of. You may have finally realized the nice things you do for yourself are an investment worth making.

Grownups can wear makeup. And should. You owe it to your public to put on your best face, or at least one they will recognize. Beauty fades, but sometimes all it needs is a slick of lip gloss and a flick of mascara. Not long ago red nails were considered old fashioned. After a few years of rainbow manicures + neon + glitter, a simple red manicure looks— well— sophisticated.

Grownups have more to choose from. You've spent a substantial number of years amassing clothes. Hopefully you've made a few wise investments— fabulous pants that flatter or statement baubles that are pure fun. All those great pieces work with new finds to create outfits reflecting who you are.

Grownups have learned a few lessons. You know teetering around a party on heels that hurt does nothing for your evening. You've experimented with puce and know it's not your color. You've adopted many persona over time and have whittled it down to a manageable few. The trick is to learn the lessons and still be open. Fashion life is not about reaching the summit and staying there. It's about climbing the mountain and seeing where else you can go.

It's what's on the other side that counts

Grownups keep it real... If you hate fake fur (and I have to say I do) decide if it's worth the flak to wear the real thing. Have you reached the point where you'd rather have a tiny real diamond that a fake giant zirconium? Don't care about diamonds at all? Fine! I'm still going to insist on a real leather handbag...

...or make it fearlessly fake. I love plastic in all its colorful permutations and wash-and-wear wonder fabrics. What I don't like is plastic imitating leather or polyester imitating silk. Exception: "real" patent leather vs. ordinary patent leather. I know there's a difference, but it doesn't seem worth the $$.

Is there a patent on style?


  1. I love this article! Thank you for articulating what I'm starting to discover as I move through my mid-40s.

  2. Bravo! You're discovering this way before I ever did. I think you young 'uns (chuckle chuckle) will be setting the standards going forward for what we baby boomers are just now finding out.

  3. Excellent post! Thank you!!! I am so tired of being treated like I'm invisible. I hate it when someone calls me honey, just because I've got grey hair! I might just print this post and laminate it and wear it around my neck as a necklace!!