— Life —

TWO SECRETS TO AMAZING STYLE OVER 50

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Have you ever bought a piece of clothing you knew was all wrong for you? I did that recently, and I don’t know what I was thinking other than the dress reminded me of another time and place. Before my life plunged off the rails, and my first husband became someone I didn’t know. My recent purchase was a full-length, burgundy sequin dress with a cowl neckline. 

It reminded me of a bronze, sequined, spaghetti strap dress with a cowl neckline I wore in my 20s.

The bronze sequined dress was a showstopper, and I brought it to the Ocean Club in the Bahamas, a favorite place we stayed every chance we got. On this trip, I wore it to a small, but elegant casino on the island that’s no longer there. It was back in the day when people still dressed for dinner and an evening at the casino. 

Shortly after we arrived, a dashing man in a tuxedo approached me and introduced himself. He was the casino manager. He kissed the back of my hand and asked if I’d like to play Baccarat, then explained I wouldn’t be playing with real money so I couldn’t win or lose anything. It sounded like fun, and I said yes.

I still have his business card, printed on thin white velum, now yellowed with age.

The Baccarat table was off to one side of the casino and cordoned off with red velvet ropes. The manager lifted the ropes and showed me to a table where the players were all European-looking men in black tuxedos—sophisticated James Bond types, or perhaps they were royalty, Swiss industrialists, or maybe assassins. For much of the evening, the casino manager stood over my shoulder and instructed me on the finer points of the game. My husband later said I’d been “eye candy,” bait to entice wealthy players to join the table. At the time, I was naive about such matters, so it never occurred to me that the casino, and my husband—who liked to put me on display—were using me for their own gratification. I just knew it was a wonderful evening.

Like my bronze, spaghetti strap sequin dress, the burgundy sequin dress I ordered last week fit perfectly, but I’d lost sight of one of the two secrets to amazing style over 50.  

  • 1. REMEMBER YOUR STYLE STATEMENT: How do you want to look in your clothes? Is it casual, conservative, you don’t want to be noticed, businesslike, or trendy? Or maybe you have a style icon. Mine has always been a cross between Lauren Hutton and Rene Russo’s character, Catherine Banning, in The Thomas Crown Affair. Her character’s style is put together, elegant, and sexy chic. My new burgundy sequin dress was all of these things.
  • 2. KNOW YOUR BODY: Are you pear-shaped or apple-shaped? What size and styles work best on you? Do you still want to highlight your arms, legs, and midriff? I no longer want to feature that much of my bare arms, and in the case of the recent, burgundy sequin dress, I told myself I’d pair it with an edgy black leather jacket, or maybe my black cashmere cardigan with a black fox collar that would cover my arms. 

But I deluded myself into thinking the dress was right for me.

Yes, it was my style statement, but I violated the second style secret: Know Your Body. A bare arm, spaghetti strap dress is no longer for me.

From the beginning, I knew I’d gone seriously off track with this purchase, but I did it anyway.

If I’d seen the dress in a retail store, I could have tried it on, for fun, and been done with it. I think that’s all I wanted. Instead, I returned it and was reminded of a great night at the Baccarat table in the Bahamas. 

Do you know your style statement and what looks good on you? Do you stick to them with the clothes you buy?

Love, Brenda

39 Comments

  • Reply Karen August 20, 2022 at 7:59 am

    Maybe that’s why I don’t have any style. I don’t buy things based on how I want to look. I just buy something because I like the color or it’s on sale. Until now I haven’t given any thought to how I want to look.. . I think you’ve given me an ah ha moment. Thank you Brenda!

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace August 20, 2022 at 2:23 pm

      Hi Karen, You made my day! Thank you! I’m glad you’ve picked up some new ideas about style. I look at the sale racks but have never had any luck and now that I shop exclusively online, I’ve discovered most brands won’t let you return final sale items. I don’t want to take the chance the piece won’t work for me and I’m stuck with it, so I don’t shop sales. xoxox, Brenda

  • Reply Jeannie C August 20, 2022 at 8:10 am

    I love your story Brenda. What a great way to give us an example of why something was wrong for you. I feel better that you may bad purchases too. I’ve bought a lot of things that don’t look good on me but I keep wearing them or they hang in my closet.

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace August 20, 2022 at 2:26 pm

      Hi Jeannie, Let’s face it! Shopping is frustrating! Period! The vast majority of the things I order online I return. I’m still scratching my head about the sequin dress. I must have been running a fever or something! LOL! xoxox, Brenda

  • Reply Tammy Carrington August 20, 2022 at 9:31 am

    I love your stories!!

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace August 20, 2022 at 2:28 pm

      Hello my precious friend! I sent you an email a while back and never heard from you. Wondering how M and J are doing. Please touch base when you can. Love, Brenda

  • Reply LA CONTESSA August 20, 2022 at 10:11 am

    OH this hit me a few years ago as I loved to shop the trendy stores For example ANTHROPOLOGIE!
    They had the off beat clothing made of good quality that has declined every year……..I guess MASS PRODUCTION has done that!
    I realized a few years ago that I cannot WEAR THE CLOTHING I LIKE ANYMORE!
    I AM TOO OLD.
    That was a VERY SAD DAY for me!As time has marched on more and more body parts have changed and I am self conscious about sharing them with the public!First body part that went on me were my legs at a very young age as I had inherited my mom’s varicose veins.Had surgery and injections done in ITALY and here.That just made it worse…..plus I got the RED SPIDER VEINS from these procedures!
    SO,NO more shorts and I NEVER WORE SHORT DRESSES!
    It was hard for me to find pants that were long enough back in the day!
    Then the MAXI DRESS appeared!Boy did I ADORE THAT!But am just thinking NOW A DAYS I may be TOO OLD FOR SOME OF THEM!
    Cleaning the closet there are things I have held on to for years BECAUSE I LOVE IT but will NEVER WEAR IT AGAIN!
    I am SLOWLY letting them GO!
    Shoes as well……….
    OUT OF SIGHT OUT OF MIND RIGHT?
    NOW just yesterday I had to go for a CT scan.NO METAL SO NO BRA!
    Lately I cannot find a bra that is comfortable!!
    So, I left the house with NO BRA for the FIRST TIME EVER………BOY DID I LIKE THAT!!
    I am not a BUSTY person and think maybe I can get away with it if I wear a top that has padding there………hard to explain its not an under garment!
    I THOUGHT TO MYSELF YESTERDAY………”ELIZABETH YOU ARE NOW OFFICIALLY AN OLD LADY!”
    I am even going to look at LAZY BOY CHAIRS!!!!!!!!!!
    COMFORT IS KEY THESE DAYS!
    YES,it is a LIFE CHANGING AWAKENING WHEN IT ALL STARTS TO BE A NO GO!!!
    XXX

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace August 20, 2022 at 2:35 pm

      Elizabeth, I think it’s the cost that’s driven the quality down, not the mass production. The Gap used to have the best 100% cotton t-shirts in the world, but now they’re polyester, very thin, and show every lump and bump you have. Let’s not say we’re too old!!!! Please! You sound like my high school friend who says we’re elderly! But I am done with shorts, short dresses, bare arms, and high heels. I just want strong healthy bones, good posture, eyelids that don’t prevent me from seeing, and good health! You’re beautiful and elegant, and show us different ways of dressing and accessorizing, and that’s no small thing. No more talk about being an old lady!! Love you, Brenda

      • Reply LA CONTESSA August 22, 2022 at 11:39 am

        MY SON USE TO DATE THE DAUGHTER OF THE CEO OF GAP……………
        I JUST GET A KICK OUT OF HOW SMALL THIS WORLD CAN BE!
        THANK YOU!
        BIG HUG,XXX

        • Reply 1010ParkPlace August 22, 2022 at 4:15 pm

          LOL! Since the quality of their t-shirts has gone down the drain, maybe he’s not CEO anymore. xoxox, Brenda

  • Reply Barbara August 20, 2022 at 10:24 am

    The aging thing is hard on self esteem. If I don’t look in the mirror I feel like I’m still young. And when I see myself in good light I want to dress in a sack from head to toe. You give me strength dear Brenda. Don’t ever stop. Xo, Barb

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace August 20, 2022 at 2:37 pm

      Hi Barb! How are you? I read somewhere that we look seven years younger in our own mirror, and some days I agree with that. On other days, the thought of seeing myself in someone else’s mirror is terrifying!!!! xoxox, Brenda

  • Reply Pauline August 20, 2022 at 11:03 am

    And then there’s shoes!!! I can’t wear heels anymore and I know you don’t either. Even if you’d kept the burgundy sequin dress, what shoes would you have worn? We need more attractive alternatives! Our poor mothers and grandmothers and their mothers. No wonder they all looked old and frumpy before their time.

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace August 20, 2022 at 2:42 pm

      Pauline, Let’s not get started on shoes because I won’t stop. I’ve had problems finding shoes that fit since I was a little girl. Skinny, narrow feet. More like ice skate blades. If I’d kept the sequin dress, I would have worn short, black, suede booties, but if I wore the dress here at home, I would have been barefooted. Interesting that you make the comment about the women who came before us. Whalebone corsets, reams of petticoats and long skirts, tight, lace-up shoes, girdles, hose… No wonder they looked miserable! xoxox, Brenda

  • Reply Anonymous August 20, 2022 at 11:04 am

    Hello Brenda
    Bare arms no longer an option for me
    A no no — lovely dress though.

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace August 20, 2022 at 2:42 pm

      Me, too, but it was fun to step back in time and remember! Thank you! Brenda

  • Reply Colleen August 20, 2022 at 11:06 am

    Brenda – What a great eye candy memory! My current style icon is Jane Fonda on Grace and Frankie. I’m obsessed with blazers and dusters. A sequin blazer suits me more than a sequin dress. I think bold jewelry makes an impact as well as belts and silk scarves. Love a mix of high and low – a classic Chanel jacket with jeans.

    • Reply 1010ParkPace August 20, 2022 at 2:46 pm

      Hi Colleen!!! I’ve always loved what Jane Fonda wears, on and off screen, and funny you mention a sequin blazer because I always have my eye out for one. Let me know if you find it. And dusters… Yes!! I LOVE dusters and bold jewelry. For a long time, I didn’t like Chanel. The tweed blazers and the buttons looked too old for me, but now I recognize their beauty. I just can’t afford them. Veronica Beard has some affordable, Chanel-looking blazers that are nice, however. xoxox, Brenda

  • Reply Rosemarie August 20, 2022 at 12:53 pm

    Hi there Brenda

    Enjoyed this blog – could visualize you sitting at the casino.
    I was just saying to some of my coworkers the other evening – I work at a theatre/live entertainment – that in the past = decades ago – I used to wear a grey skirt with a slit up the front and back (we provided our own skirts) and wore 6 inch heels – sling back – made in Italy shoes – and could go up/down the stairs in balcony no problem. Well now I never work balcony due to my knees and wear sturdy laced shoes and black pants.

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace August 20, 2022 at 2:51 pm

      Rosemarie, Talk about visualization, I can imagine you in your foxie grey skirt and heels! And the stairs in most theater balconies… They terrify me! In addition to being dark, the steps are too tall and not wide enough. I’m glad you’re no longer working balconies, but I imagine you still look wonderful. xoxox, Brenda

  • Reply Barbara Bergin August 20, 2022 at 12:55 pm

    I buy things that cover my flattened ass, wiggly arms, slumped back and chubby knees…

    I remember how great Rene Russo looked in The Thomas Crown Affair. I can totally picture you rocking that style!

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace August 20, 2022 at 2:53 pm

      LOL!!!!! You’re a riot, Barbara! Can’t wait to travel with you! Thanks for the compliment. Actually, the recent dress looked good on me. I just didn’t want to always have a jacket or a sweater on. That defeats the purpose of that dress.

  • Reply Reta clyde August 20, 2022 at 2:48 pm

    I’ve discovered a great designer from Canada. Some of her stuff is a little “out there”, but she’s got some awesome pieces that I love! It’s the perfect blend of trendy and chic. I still rock the high heels, and I know that there is an expiration date in on those so I’m enjoying them while I can. BTW…the Canadian designer that I love is Kate Hewko.

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace August 20, 2022 at 2:55 pm

      Reta!!! How are you? I love seeing you here, and I have no doubt you’re still wearing heels and looking fabulous in them. Thanks for the designer name! I’ll check her out. Be well. Brenda

  • Reply bonnie sachs August 20, 2022 at 7:20 pm

    well, heels were the first thing to go…but i have a shelf way up in my closet for the ones i now just admire. once in a while, i take them down for an IG post:). i love slip dresses. mine are all from gap or zara. and only bought on sale (and returnable). i might now wear them with a tshirt under or a blouse over…not so much for jiggly arms – but i was an IDIOT and never used sunscreen and my arms are frighteningly freckled and sun blotched. (i have changed my ways now). i doubt anyone notices, but i do. hmmm. i don’t think anything is out except clingy or short. my arms and legs might be slim, but my middle – not so much:) i really do like to present myself based on how i feel that day. maybe ralph laurenesque, maybe boho johnnywas. sometimes a cowgirl! fashion is really a creative expression for me. that said, i’m a little less obsessed nowadays. ps: always a sucker for sequins! love your posts

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace August 21, 2022 at 1:07 pm

      Hi Bonnie! Great to see you here! Heels were the first thing to go for me as well. I always wondered why women of a certain age never wore heels. Now I know. We lose the fat pads on the bottom of our feet and it’s painful walking on bones. Clothes are fun and can be shorthand for how we’re feeling that day, and sequins… What is it about sequins that catches our fancy? I’m glad you like my blog posts, Bonnie! Thank you. xoxox, Brenda

  • Reply Belinda Boyles August 20, 2022 at 9:23 pm

    Well, the heels are gone, diabetes has left me with horrible neuropathy so even though I’m only 61, I can’t wear most shoes now. Boots and tennis shoes are mostly out because of the bad swelling in my left ankle from lymph node problems caused by abdominal surgery complications in my late 30s. It all started to catch up to me over the last 8-10 years along with the back pain and the really bad knees. Now I have trouble climbing the stairs in my 2 story home and I swear, when I retire to Mexico in a couple more years, it will be a home on ONE LEVEL only. It truly sucks to get old, hair thinning, pain in all the joints, back hip and knee problems etc. But it is better than the alternative. I’ve managed to survive Covid TWICE, once in early 2022 when I was out of work for 5 weeks and thought I would die, and recently for an additional 40 days when I lost all taste and smell and all foods and even water were texturally impossible to consume. Lost 20 lbs and look really thin in the face, just wish it had come off my stomach instead – ha. But we soldier on. I am grateful every day for my career, my friends, my pets, and the Love of My Life. I wear younger looking fashionable clothing, lots of edgy styles and black, and lots of kimonos and a few pairs of flat ankle strap sandals that still allow me to walk. Now, if I could only find something that would restore my hair, for real…

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace August 21, 2022 at 1:19 pm

      Belinda! I’m sorry to hear you have so many aches and pains. Getting older can be challenging. Perhaps you might spend some time each day meditating on the image of a healthy you. I’m always surprised by how meditation helps my physical and mental status. Since you have several health problems, does the place you’re retiring to in Mexico have great doctors and health care, and will you be living in a safe part of the country? These are real concerns when thinking about moving to Mexico. Pounds around the middle… I’ve discovered if I don’t eat carbs, sugar, or alcohol, the midriff melts away, but that’s a huge commitment, I know. And hair… LOL!!! Don’t get me started! I’ve discovered some great products that do a wonderful job of making it look like I have more hair. I’ve made myself a note to do a blog post on that. Thanks for sharing! I wish you all good things, Brenda

  • Reply Sarah London August 21, 2022 at 4:10 am

    Timely reminder. I do lean towards the “feeling” clothes bring, which, alas, no longer suit or serve me anymore. I now house those I have in the “archive” section of my closet, hoping a daughter or granddaughter “feels” the need to wear them sometime…

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace August 21, 2022 at 1:25 pm

      Lovely to see you here, Sarah! You’re right about the feeling we get from the clothes we wear. In particular, we gain confidence and feel better if we’re wearing something that makes us look good. Except for the dress and shoes I wore when I married James, I’ve never kept or had the closet space to hang on to clothes I loved. My neighborhood Goodwill loves me though. Thanks, again, for stopping by! I hope to see you again. Brenda

  • Reply Heidi August 21, 2022 at 9:02 pm

    Hi Brenda,
    This gave me something to think about. I realize I am dressing for the image I want to convey! I am proud of my body now, more than ever before. I’m 64 and I feel pretty darn good about my body! I may not be the thinnest I’ve ever been, but I’m in the best shape, and I like my arms! I wear sleeveless frequently now. It’s yoga that made the difference for me. Plus, I don’t really care what the “rules” are or what other peoples’ opinions are of me. That’s very freeing! It’s not my responsibility to look the way someone else thinks I should look!!
    That said, I know what looks best on me and what I’m comfortable wearing. I stick to my favorite fabrics, cuts, styles. I’m not a fancy dresser but I do have fun with my clothes! I think I have my own style and feel confident about what I wear.
    I’ve only once worn a sequined dress, I loved it so much! Wish I had a reason to own one now!
    Xo Heidi

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace August 22, 2022 at 4:13 pm

      Hi Heidi, Have sequins, but no place to go! That’s me! It sounds like you’re doing everything right. Your body’s in great shape, and you don’t care what the rules are! Neither do I. I rarely wear what the rest of the group is, and that’s okay with me. You’ve identified your style, and what looks good on you. That’s key. Brava, Heidi! Brenda

  • Reply Mary August 22, 2022 at 11:02 am

    My first time on your blog. I enjoyed it very much. Definitely identified with much of it. Funny how a body can morph so much. I can still fit into clothes from years ago. HOWEVER they don’t look the same. I’m a big fan of Anthropologie. It’s also my daughter’s go to store. When I visit her in Southern California one of her first comments is “let’s do an anthro run”. Still wear heels tho nothing over 3″. And yes my eye is also drawn to sequins but they never come home with me. Look forward to more stories

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace August 22, 2022 at 4:07 pm

      Mary! Delighted you’ve stopped by. I hope you’ve subscribed as I have lots of exciting things planned. You’ve hit on something that’s so true: While we may be the same size, clothes look different on us now. Have you read any of Dr. Barbara Bergin’s blogs here on 1010ParkPlace? She’s been doing a series about how our bodies change, and I think she’s given insight into that question. Your daughter’s in southern California. Where are you? Years ago I had surgery to remove a blood clot from the sole of my right foot that was caused by ill-fitting cowboy boots. In the process, the surgeon injured some nerves. Since then, I’ve not been able to place weight on the ball of my foot, so even 3-inch heels cause me pain. Thank you, again, for leaving me a comment. I look forward to seeing you here again! Brenda

  • Reply Cindy Graf August 22, 2022 at 11:21 pm

    Dear Brenda
    Thank you so much for reminding me that knowing what’s right for you is so important. I think I sometimes feel stagnant in my style choices and other times I’ve learned to accept that chasing “fashion” is futile. Knowing your body is paramount. So, when I look a people who have iconic style like Iris, with her giant bold glasses and look at me jewelry and wish I had the confidence to wear things like that I know in my heart it would never be me. I know wearing a great black turtleneck cashmere sweater and tailored camel trousers with one great piece of jewelry is the style I’m most comfortable in. It feels like me. I suppose feeling “like me “ is my mantra when it comes to dressing these days. I no longer need the wow factor I’m so happy to be described as well put together . Perhaps that makes me sound boring but I’m at peace with that . By the way my friend I think you’d look stunning in that dress.
    Much love
    Cindy

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace August 23, 2022 at 10:27 am

      Hi Cindy! Love seeing you here!! A.) You’re not boring, and B.), you know your style and are smart enough to realize you’re not Iris Apfel but you’re able to like and appreciate her style. It’s so tempting, especially if we’re on Instagram, to chase what’s hot and trendy. I’ll admit to doing that, but like you, it’s just not me. Sometimes clothes wear us and are more like costumes, and you and I can’t do that. A black turtleneck cashmere sweater, tailored camel trousers, and a great necklace are anything but boring! Your classic, well-dressed, put-together look will never go out of style. Thanks for the compliment, and yes, the burgundy sequin dress looked fabulous on me, but it’s a little too much for my current style. Hope you’re having a great week! xoxox, Brenda

  • Reply Michele August 23, 2022 at 9:00 pm

    Hi Brenda – this was a very timely blog post as I had recently gone through my closet trying on some special occasion outfits for some upcoming events and it was quite sobering! Dresses that I wore just 2 or 3 years ago were a no-go as they were too clingy, or too short or sleeveless and made me feel self conscious. I am now at the age (68) where I want to look put together and cute but can leave the trying to be sexy and young behind me. I remember those days of wearing whatever I wanted and feeling good about my body – but now having lots of cute jackets and sweaters to cover bare arms or jewelry to cover the chest area help me feel better. One of the things I was telling my good friend just today was how ironic that when I was young I always wanted larger breasts and I was small enough to go without a bra. Now I wear a minimizer or sports bra that compresses everything so my clothes look better! I think the lesson is to be thankful for each day we are here and to cut ourselves some slack. I put on makeup every day even if I’m not going anywhere and still love a good excuse to dress up. I may be 68 but I still feel like I’m in my 40s (in my head at least) and I plan on making every day count!

    • Reply Brenda Coffee August 25, 2022 at 1:12 pm

      I love your comment, Michele, and I think in our heads, we will always feel like our younger selves. We may be wiser and more experienced, but we’re still playful and see ourselves as that younger woman, even at 68, 78, and 88. I agree it’s a big mental adjustment when clothes no longer look the same on us as they did a few years ago, and the bigger breasts…. !!!! There isn’t a week that goes by that I don’t want a breast reduction. I was happy with my 34Bs. Yes, I’ve had 10 breast cancer surgeries, and neither breast is mine, but they’ve both gotten bigger since the surgery!!! Smaller breasts would make the biggest difference in my youthful appearance and how I feel about myself in clothes, but like you, I’m thankful I’m still here. Here’s to still being here! xoxox, Brenda

  • Reply Andrea August 28, 2022 at 10:48 am

    Good advice. Just discovered your blog. Excited to read more but great two tips to start with. I’ve never had much style, so I’m trying to get some now that I’ve got a little more time.

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