Reader Request: Age-Appropriate Fashion

I recently received the following cry for help: “Age-appropriate fashion: Does it/should it exist, what is it, when do we accept it, and what’s a healthy balance? I am having a fashion crisis!”

I’m here for you Laur, let’s get started!

First, I’d like to say that in my book there are very few hard and fast fashion rules, one of the things that I love about fashion is that it is an expression of who you are, a creative outlet. How can art have rules?

That being said, there are definitely some basic Do’s & Don’ts to keep in mind as you grow up and your style evolves. You don’t want to look dowdy and matronly at a young age and you don’t want to dress like your daughter once you’re, you know, old enough to have a daughter. There’s a happy medium to be found, but its going to be a little different for everyone.

One of my favorite magazines of all times is Harper’s Bazaar which contains a monthly segment called Fabulous at Every Age which features clothing and accessories, as well as a fashionable style icon, for each of the age brackets. I love this idea in theory, though sometimes I think they’re a bit too rigid in their rules. Yes, shorter hemlines, innovative fashion designs and tons of color are the hallmarks of youth, but as someone in their 20’s who prefers classic, structured pieces, I’m frequently drawn to the clothing and accessories picked out for women in their 30’s and 40’s. This led me to realize, early on in my personal style evolution, that I was never going to be one of those girls who followed the trends, or what magazines suggested, to the letter. I was going to take a little of what I wanted from everything that inspired me.

And that, my dear readers, is what I recommend for you all.

When Laur, who I might add is a psychology graduate student, approached me with this question it was about more than simply fashion. Her question was based on how a person’s inner self is expressed by what they choose to wear, how that evolves over time and how that is an outward reflection of their personal development. As a long time fan of the punk/rocker uniform of skinny jeans, converse and cute T’s, she was surprised to find that more “traditional” clothing are appealing to her now as she approaches 30. While I’m not here to answer the “what does this all mean” side of this question, I can offer some tip, ideas and inspiration for entering into a new fashion realm of grown up clothes. This is a common transition for women in their 20’s 7 30’s, they’re leaving school, getting jobs, starting serious relationships… Lots of change, lots of maturing, and lots of room for growth & experimentation sartorially.

Stay in your comfort zone:

Going from Chucks & torn jeans to floral tea-length dresses in a week would probably cause most people to slip into shock. The key is to find a way to shift your style to a look with more classic undertones without losing yourself or being uncomfortable in your own clothes. Used to skinnies and tennis shoes? Try slim Capri pants with a t-shirt and ballet flats a la Jackie O. You’ll be sticking with a tried and true silhouette that you’re comfortable in and that suits your figure (Laur, for example, is slim & petite) but making it more chic and a little more grown up.

Jackie O Style

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Left: Elbow Sleeve Nautical Stripe T - $75 ($40 on sale) @ Lacoste, Center: AK Anne Klein Twill Slim Capri Pant - $30 (on sale) @ Anne Klein & Right: Buckle love ballet flats - $100 (on sale) @ Jcrew.com

Update Slowly:

A good wardrobe takes YEARS to put together (unless you have access to a trust fund and are on a first name basis with designers of course) so don’t panic if you don’t have everything that you need or want right this instant. Start by added the basics in a “you” inspired style. A blazer, a button down, good black pants, jeans etc (see Real Girls Need Real Closets & Real Girls Need Real Closets – Accessories Edition). Another good way to update your look is to add stripes, the right striped piece or accessory can add a chic touch to an outfit without making you feel completely out of your element – which something like florals could.

Aqua Horizontal Stripe Prepster Scarf - $50 @ Bloomingdale's

River Island Vertical Stripe Midi Tube Skirt - $35 ! Asos.com

French Connection Toulouse Stripe Tee - $50 @ Bloomingdale's

Remember – Age is juuust a number:

Don’t panic at the thought of having to throw away your motorcycle boots or never rocking a mini again. While you should keep your age and audience in mind while you’re shopping, there’s also no need to panic about absolutes. Where there’s will, there’s a way!

Do you love the low-key, punk look that Avril Lavigne has made famous? Try upgrading to a more refined, menswear-inspired look. Le smoking Suits, button downs, slacks, smoking flats, loafers… These can keep you in relaxed, effortless looking clothing, but allow you to express yourself in a more mature way than you can with pink hair and high tops.

http://www.fashionpeach.com/suit-yourself/

Look for inspiration in the right places:

If you’re concerned about looking like you’re trying too hard or worried your look is too “young” I would turn to the masters for inspiration. We are lucky that not all of popular and famous celebrities are teeny boppers. There are some truly talented women out there who are stunning examples of how to age well. They know how to take care of their bodies and how to dress in a stylish, modern way, without looking like they’re competing with the girls who play their daughters on the big screen. Gwyneth Paltrow, Julianne Moore, Cate Blanchet, Tilda Swinton, Annette Benning, Helen Mirren, Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep, Marisa Tomei, Uma Thurman, Susan Sarandon, Jane Fonda, Sandra Bullock… The list goes on and on. I mean, remember Jamie Lee Curtis’s little black dress in True Lies? She was 100% woman and 100% sexy. So when you’re looking for fashion inspiration, look to these beautiful ladies, not the cast of 90210, and you’ll rarely be led astray.

Jane Fonda shot by Harper's Bazaar at the amfAR Cinema Against Aids benefit

I’m not here to give you rules, just some ideas for how to approach your transformation. Should you never show mid-thigh or cleavage after a specific age? Certainly not! Jennifer Lopez’s Versace at the Grammy’s was shocking and unexpected, but we’re still talking about it all these years later so it clearly made an impact. And that’s what I want to leave you with. You want to be memorable and fashionable, you don’t want to leave people wondering what was she thinking? So find your personal style, update it and go for the occasional high-impact, statement look. And when in doubt, mix in some more timeless pieces with your regular wardrobe for a modern mix. A tailored blazer with a sequined mini and tights or a conservative suit sans blouse with statement jewelry.

Keep it interesting, keep it chic.

Don’t hesitate to reach out with other Reader Requests, I live to serve. 🙂
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Looks of the Week

 
Here are some great looks from the last week to get you into the right sartorial mindset for the week…

As you've probably picked up by now, I love mod looks. And you've also probably noticed that I'm kind of girl crushing on ERW these days. What do you get when you combine the two? Fabulousness!

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While I hate to feature a photograph of a woman smoking, I have to admit that I was really drawn to this photograph (taken by The Sartorialist in London). I like the combination of the crisp white shirt with the feminine blazer paired with the dramatic metallic jewelry. It's a very striking combination.

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As much as I adore LBDs and funky, fun cocktail dresses, I love it when the stars pull out separates for the red carpet. I like the creativity and originality of this look, and the ring, can't forget that!

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I love this look that Garance shot. The combination of the crisp white shirt dress reminiscent of summer and the kick @$$ boots for fall is very alluring.

This Look of the Day from PostGradChic on Fabsugar really caught my eye. Such a great look for fall, composed of basic separates. You really can't go wrong with pencil skirts!

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I absolutely adore Kerry Washington and have always felt a kinship with her since we both favor dresses, solid colors, clutches and statement jewelry (clearly nothing else though, since she’s a gorgeous, successful actress – but I digress). And she did not disappoint at Opera’s Ralph Lauren event. WOW.

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So... I want to be friends with Giovanna. If only for closet-sharing privileges. Seriously, if I had a choice of any closet in the world, I think I'd take hers.

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Another look I really love but could never pull off? This one!
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Links You’ll Love

Fashion:

Already stocking up on looks for next spring? Check out what the insiders have to say here. And definitely don’t forget to check out Banana Republic’s Spring 2012 collection, after the great Mad Men inspired fall collection they put together some very sweet 60’s looks for spring.

Check out how some of your favorite models dress for Halloween here. Scary. 🙂

Harper’s Bazaar tells you How to Build Your Perfect Wardrobe for Fall.

Need a glam cocktail frock or some hippie-licious accessories for fall? Look no further than TopShop!

Sneak Peek: Topshop Holiday 2011 Collection

Head over to TLo for some pretty! Love Keira, love.

Health/Fitness:

When people ask you how you are, do you respond with “busy,” “crazy, busy” or “busy, but good?” Read this. STAT.

Healthy tips from the Victoria’s Secret ladies here. Are you drinking enough? Water, that is…

Are Gut Bacteria in Charge? As someone with IBS, my answer is a resounding YES, but I’ll let you decide for yourself…

4 Secrets To Never Getting Sick – Just in time for fall!

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Workwear

Here are a few quick shots of some work outfits that I’ve thrown together over the past few weeks. Apologies in advance for my atrocious photography skills, taking pictures of yourself is one of those things you don’t realize the difficulty of until you attempt it. And fail. 🙂 I promise better pictures as soon as my new roommate moves to San Francisco though (he’ll looooove helping with that). 

Patterns and brights are a great way to spice up a dull Wednesday. Sometimes I wear silver with this dress, but I haven’t been able to get enough of my vintage gold jewelry these days so I stacked up mix n’ match bracelets.

 

 

 

This midi length looks great with T-straps, it creates a sort of modern twist on a retro army nurse

 

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Want to Achieve Gym Goddess Status?

A friend of mine, and one of the original MCLV readers & supporters, came to me with a request a few weeks ago. Could I provide her with some pointers for how to spend her gym time so that she’d be getting the best results? In the past six months she visited a nutritionist to assist with digestive issues, changed her eating habits and, with her husband, began eating a primarily plant-based diet. As she is working on stabilizing her diet, she also wants to start working on getting back into fighting shape after a brief hiatus from the gym.

With her blessing, I’m going to do a short series on her progress and how well she’s been doing with her new regime, which is easily adaptable for most beginners.

*Note: As Liz did, please talk to your doctor before beginning a new fitness routine.

Day 1:

      10 minute elliptical warm up (level 7/incline 7 minimum)

      3 rounds:

  •             5 push-ups (on knees if necessary)
  •             10 sit-ups (chin up to ceiling)
  •             20 seconds plank
  •             25 jumping jacks (clap at the top)

      5 minute stationary bike warm-down

      Stretching

The purpose of this workout was to gauge Liz’s capabilities and determine how far she could be pushed. She was enthusiastic, worked really hard and by round 3 she was starting to get tired, which is perfect.

Day 2:

10 minute cardio warm up – elliptical (level 7/incline 7 minimum)

  • 20 crunchies
  • 20 bicycles
  • 20 leg lifts

5 minutes cardio – stair master (a fast pace, but not exhausting)

  • 20 crunchies
  • 20 bicycles
  • 20 leg lifts

5 minutes cardio – stationary bike (a fast pace, but not exhausting)

  • 20 crunchies
  • 20 bicycles
  • 20 leg lifts

10 minute cardio warm down – elliptical

Of the three workouts the first week this was the one that made Liz the most sore, it also made it clear that we needed to do some serious core exercises to give her the basic strength that she needs to stabilize herself during other workouts. For example, you need to have a certain level of strength through your core before things like heavy overhead weights or kettlebell swings are attempted so that back injuries don’t occur.

Day 3

10 minute cardio warm up (a fast pace – you shouldn’t be able to carry on a conversation well) 

5 rounds:

  • 10 squat jumps
  • 10 lunges (each leg)
  • 10 mountain climbers (each leg)

10 minute cardio warm down

The first week we stuck with just the three small workouts so that the introduction would be fairly painless and so that Liz wouldn’t be too sore to work even harder the next week.

Something to keep in mind when you begin a new workout regime is spacing your workouts and incorporating rest days in order to stave off exhaustion or overuse of muscle groups. See The Fitnessista’s take on Rest Days here, FitSugar’s advice here and Fitbie’s moderation suggestions here.

Also, please remember the importance of stretching to keep yourself limber and uninjured, see David Kirsch’s take here. Interested in some safety tips for beginners? Please check out Sparkpeople.com.

Stay tuned for week #2!

Disclaimer: I am not a trainer nor do I have any certifications associated with physical fitness, I’m just an enthusiast who has worked out alone or with coaches & trainers since the age of 6. I am lucky enough to have access to a handful of blogs, websites and trainers to answer my questions though, including the talented Gina at The Fitnessista and my boyfriend who is a certified CrossFit instructor. The workouts above and the ones to come are recommendations based on a specific individual’s needs and abilities, they should not be followed blindly or attempted without the consent of a doctor.

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