Fashion and Color Help Needed - Seriously!

I’m in an “icky” stage - a bit over 40, middle is beginning to thicken, complexion is more mottled than smooth and I’m beginning to realize my old habit of throwing anything on just isn’t working for me anymore.

I’ve googled the net to death trying to come up with some examples of classic but casual dressing for my 5’7", 148lb frame and I’m coming up with nothing but high fashion or teeny bopper stuff. I have shoulder length, "assisted"ash blond hair, with brown eyes and brows, and my complexion used to be ivory, but is now a ruddy reddish with a few age spots.

I work in a very, very casual atmosphere (I can wear shorts, jeans, even pajama bottoms if I wanted to!) that gets no walk in traffic at all. But I yearn for the “put together” classic casual look that I keep missing somehow.

Any advice? Websites to share? Colors to recommend? Styles flattering with a long, lean figure with thicker waist?

This is NOT a frivolous question - I just don’t know where to look for advice and appreciate any input.


Black never goes out of style.
Also: I’ve noticed, at 37, the same problem with my complexion (which is everything you can expect for a redhead). I cannot stress enough how much I LOVE my esthetician.

Lands End
Eddie Bauer

Both have websites and retail stores that have casual clothes for real people (not stick thin models). I believe that Lands End’s website even has an interactive feature that lets you build a model of yourself and “try on” the clothes to see what it could look like. Last time I checked, they also gave suggestions for styles for each figure type. Plus their return policy is very generous.

As for skin, I’d go to the cosmetic counters at department stores. Those people are always eager to give tips.

I second Lands’ End, and I find the classic sweater-and-skirt combo is chic, simple, comfortable and easy to mix-and-match. Very simple straight or A-line skirt, to the knee or just below; with a twinset or short-sleeved cotton sweater. Dress it up with pearls and pumps; or dress down with sandals. You’ll never look over- or under-dressed in this, and it’s pretty flattering, too. And Land’s End has some gorgeous sweater colors.

I will third Lands’ End. One look I see a lot of are pleated trousers, a casual short sleeve shirt and and contrasting jacket or blazer. You can dress this up or down, depending on your situation. The trousers will keep you long and lean, and the blazer will hide any little bulges. Chadwicks also has lots of twinsets, and the prices are pretty good.

You may want to look for the book Color Me Beautiful. This was a big fad back in the '80s, but I think it’s still in stores. If not, I’m sure you could find a used copy on Amazon. Some people went overboard on defining themselves as a season. But the truth is, some colors really look better on you than others, and this is a concrete way to get started. Also, once you pick a season, almost all your clothes will go together really well. Sit down with the book, pick your season, and pull out the Lands End catalog. That will get you off to a great start!

For color palattes, try here. Harriet is right, this was all the rage in the 80’s. I had a consultation, and something they did that you could easily do, is go to a scarf counter and “try on” the different colors of scarves. See which color family best suits your coloring. I would assume that you could do well with browns, reds and greens, and stay away from tans, beige and pinks.

Watch some episodes of “What Not To Wear,” the British version with Trinny and Susannah. I’ve never seen the American version, so I don’t know how that one is. They usually do people of about your approximate age/shape (middle age-ish, with a middle to contend with), so I’m sure that you could get all kinds of ideas from them. The only thing I can remember off the top of my head is:

If you have big boobs, and a big waist, wear a fitted shirt to give you more shape. Nothing tent-like at all.

Oh, and no tapered pants. They make your ass look huge!

Definite agreement on the Lands End. Their clothes are classic, well made, and reasonably priced.

And a not-so-well-known reason to shop with them if your measurements aren’t quite the standard sizes for whatever reason: They will alter clothing to ANY dimensions you specify. Seriously. I know one woman, a dwarf, who even got pants tailored by them to her 14" inseam. (Granted, they telephoned to verify the information, which certainly wasn’t unreasonable!) But nevertheless, it’s useful for those of us who find the standard sizing never QUITE fits right to know that their alteration policy really does hold true no matter what.

Also, a good cosmetics update might be in order to help even out the mottled complexion. While I work at home so don’t put on makeup every day, when I do dress up I feel much better knowing that I can make my skin look as nice as it did naturally when I was younger.

You gals are great! So far I’ve learned

  • I’m Autumn in coloring
  • I should create a longer, slimmer look with either the same color (or same color family) top and bottom OR
  • a longer length shirt/top to skim the hips rather than stop at my waist.
  • Nothing big and flowy - which I confess to currently wearing to disguise my middle - no wonder I’ve begun to look frumpy!

I also finally took my measurements - ACK! 41-35-40. I’m thicker in the middle than I realized! All those miscarriages apparently took their toll (It couldn’t possibly be the Chips A Hoy, now could it?)

In order to fit my waist, most pants are way too big in the rear and thighs, which only make me look larger! So I need to

  • stick to flat fronted pants with small or no pockets
  • stick with slimmer fitting pants in the butt and thighs

Now, how to pull all of this together without looking like my mother or my daughter? Stylish but not too young, stylish without resembling my mother or grandmother??

I’m 41, I’m not dead. I want to look nice for Mr. Adoptamom (who frankly tells me I’m sexy in a flannel nighty - he’s so easy to please that he almost helped me in my fashion faux paus). Recently thought, he’s mentioned that certain slacks and such aren’t as flattering as they could be and I didn’t have a clue how to fix that!

Please, keep those suggestion coming! Particularly in the clothing styles and evening out my facial skintone without looking like a clown.

Thanks again!!

As far as the make up goes, see if there is a Bare Escentuals boutique near you and go in for a make over. I love the stuff and you don’t look like you have make up caked on. Also, the better stores, such as Nordstrom, have associates who can help you pull together the right look.

A green under-makeup concealer (camoflauge, not a layer of spackle type concealer) will even out the ruddy tones in your skin.

Our over-all coloring tends to lighten ‘with’ our haircolor as we age. Even out your color and go light with accents to prevent clownface. Careful use of contouring can help hide the onset of the dreaded jowls…(what jowls? I don’t have jowls, whadda ya think I am, a bulldog??) even if they aren’t there yet, they will come.

A good consultation with an expert is a wonderful idea. Do not feel compelled to buy the lot of what they use, unless you’re planning on knocking off a bank first. Take notes.

Yes. it’s hard to go wrong with black. I wear black a lot. I’m colorblind, so black is the only color that I can wear that I’m sure doesn’t clash with anything else.

Khaki is a good casual, yet put-together color. And I bet you’d look good in olive greens with rusty or coral accents. Boot cut is better than straight-leg if you have a bit of a butt. Also, if you haven’t had a hair stylist look at it lately, see what they think about slightly shaping your hair a bit. Also, highlights have really helped me. Eve mentioned twin sets. They are very versatile. Also, a long skirt cut on the bias would look cute on you.

Hello there…

One recommendation is The Gap.

…they carry classic styles (khakis, blouses, tee shirts, etc.) that will never go out.

Ditto with the boot cuts on pants/jeans. Very flattering on most women.

Ditto with basic black. Black goes well with everything and keeps you up to date.

Eddie Bauer has awesome styles that are classic as well.
(Again Gap carries these styles as well. Perhaps some Old Navy things would work-- they sometimes carry classic things-- great sale racks as well.)
Ann Taylor is good as well. Too expensive sometimes, but they have great sale racks.

Good luck!

Just to add my 2 cents. I agree with boot cut pants. Look for things that help you look like you have a waist by having something more broad at the shoulder going inward to your waist and then out again down to your feet.
Also, Physicians Formula makeup has the green correction cosmetics. I know that Target carries them, at least in the Washington DC area. They have both a powder and a cream foundation like stuff that I use and it really helps cover the redness.
Also, have you thought of trying to get onto “A Makeover Story” on TLC? That could be really fun if you have a friend or SO to do it with you. Go to and click on TLC to find the website for the show :slight_smile:

For evening out skin blemishes, this is something I recently learned so disregard if this is “like, Duh!” obvious to you.

Concealers should only be used for under your eyes to eliminate the dark circles/shades. They’re usually a shade lighter than your skin and thick.

For other blemishes, use only a thin foundation that’s the color of your skin. Thick foundations will make you look like a clown and may sink into your wrinkles and make them more prominent. Who wants that?!! You don’t need to use it all over, either. I dab in spots and blend blend blend. I like Clinique & Bobby Brown cosmetics, but it’s spendy!

If you’re strongly an autumn, then you may need to ignore the advice about black. By the strictest definition of the color seasons, only winters should wear black, but I think that’s going overboard. I’m a summer and wear black well as long as it’s not right up against my face. Some autumns look good in reasonable amounts of black, too. But you’ll probably be happiest with browns and khakis as your neutrals.

No matter what size you are, “big and flowy” doesn’t help. (Neither does too tight - I don’t mean just exercise-wear tight, I mean ten pounds of sausage in a five pound casing tight.) Well-fitting clothes flatter any body type, but there are tricks to make clothes even more flattering.

I’ll recommend a great book: Looking Good by Nancy Nix-Rice. It’s available through Amazon, and you may find it in fabric stores, too. (One chapter is about sewing clothes for your wardrobe - the rest assumes you’ll be buying ready-to-wear.) The book is a step-by-step manual to show you how to choose clothes that flatter your body and assemble a wardrobe that works rather than a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear. It also has a bit about make-up and colors. Many of the illustrations are dated now but the basic advice remains sound.

Oh, and about putting on foundation: the trick to preventing the painted-clown look is to use a cosmetic sponge (very cheap at the drug store) and dampen it. This allows you to put on a very thin layer, just enough to cover blemishes without hiding the natural color of your face. And with foundation, it’s vital to choose the right color, or it’ll look bizarre. Don’t just put a dot on the back of your hand, rub it on your jawline, and take your time to decide.

Good luck and have fun with this!

Wow - great information - thanks!

I wanted to share a book I picked up at the library last night,40 over 40 . I checked out the book to help pull together all of the wonderful advice you’ve all offered so far. I’ve never laughed so hard at a book and taken notes at the same time! Anyone else who is in the same fashion tugboat as I am will truly enjoy this book!

For my birthday last year, one of my daughters arranged for me to have a makeover at one of the department store beauty counters. Frankly, I think the makeup artist was too young to appreciate the laugh lines I’ve earned, the sun spots I haven’t, and the softer, casual professional image I was after. I left looking like a clown with big white rings around my eyes, sort of like a racoon in reverse! I’m going to try to find someone to demonstrate some of your cosmetic suggestions soon!

This journey is not over - please keep those excellent suggestions coming :smiley: