Your hair is only one part of many pieces to your look. Just because you’ve decided to go gray and landed on a comfortable haircut doesn’t mean you can’t have variety in your style through clothes and accessories. Going gray is the perfect time to sort through your closet, rediscover old items and add a few new ones.
Do you have the right little black dress hanging in your closet? When is it inappropriate to wear a miniskirt? How much is too much when it comes to accessorizing? Read on to find out what our resident makeover expert Kate thinks every woman should consider when making over her wardrobe and adding the finishing touches to any look.
And don’t forget to send your questions for Kate to firstname.lastname@example.org. She’ll be answering frequently asked questions at the end of this series.
In last week’s post, we talked a little about choosing what colors to wear with one’s gray hair. Do you have any recommendations when it comes to clothing styles?
Clothing styles depends on a few factors: your body type, your lifestyle and your personal style.
Just like with a face shape, you want to “balance” your body. Dressing your body involves balance and following your curves. For example, if you are more upper body dominant, then how you balance your shape would be to create more fullness in your lower half, keeping the upper area very slim and sleek. If you are more lower body dominant, then play up your upper half with fullness, like ruffles or pleats. A barrel-shaped body (fullness in mid-section) looks best in stovepipe style pants. That’s where the leg of the pant falls directly off the hip straight down to the floor. Avoid skinny jeans.
I also recommend building your wardrobe around your lifestyle. If you spend 75 percent of your time at work, then your wardrobe should be 75 percent business. If you are retired, why are you holding on to your business suits? Perhaps you’d be better off investing in great traveling pieces! Take a good look at your daily life and then at your closet. Do your clothes match the reality of your life?
Your clothing style needs to reflect the TRUE you. Who are you? Are you more authoritative, confident, angled and prefer tailored clothes, or are you approachable, curved, friendly and prefer untailored and more casual? Are you more Classic in style than Romantic? You could be a Dramatic (strong design lines and/or color)/Classic or a Romantic/Delicate. Many times when I’m working with a client in their closet, they will tell me emphatically that they are not Romantic, yet I noticed so much of their wardrobe was, in fact, Romantic. Just because you are Romantic doesn’t necessarily mean total lace and frills. A Romantic’s clothing is softly tailored to untailored, fitted dresses, curved, draped, pliable to soft and flowery fabrics. Once you discover the REAL you, you’ll find that you love everything you purchase and wear. No more buying those “mistakes”! I can also guarantee you’ll save so much time shopping when you know what works best for YOU and YOUR body.
How do you pick a top that will look good with your hairstyle and haircut?
I’m assuming that your hairstyle works for YOU and YOUR face shape. With that said, your top needs to follow the same rules. Cut, color and style should reflect YOU best. Avoid costly mistakes by buying something just because it’s on sale or looks so good on your BFF. Chances are the two of you are very different in terms of body types, natural coloring (think hair, skin and eye colors) and personalities.
What are some clothing dos and don’ts for women going gray? Are there any essential wardrobe pieces that, in your opinion, every woman ought to own?
I don’t believe in restrictions in terms of clothing styles for women going gray. For every woman, you need to dress your age. Obviously, miniskirts are typically not appropriate for women over 40 but if you’ve got the gams, I say, “Why not?” However, the style of skirt should be of a more classic styling and not something your teen daughter/granddaughter would be wearing. Naturally, each situation warrants appropriate dress. For example, even with great legs, a miniskirt is not appropriate in a conservative business situation at any age!
Again, an essential wardrobe piece is person-specific, but I think a good jacket or cardigan is one item that works well for everyone. The style would depend on your personality and body type. If you are a Classic dresser, then I’d recommend a great navy blazer that works well with a skirt or dress pants, yet looks very chic with a good pair of jeans, a nice T-shirt and sandals or heels. A Delicate style would be more inclined to have a delicate looking, very soft cardigan detailed in small rosettes and piping. These are just simple examples but I think jackets/cardigans make dressing for any situation much easier so I would suggest everyone have a favorite of their own.
Not every woman looks great in black so the “little black dress” works better if it’s in another neutral color more suiting to your gray hair, skin tone and eye color. Navy comes in many shades and is much softer on a woman with gray. If black seems to dominate you, don’t wear it. Try another neutral like navy, brown, tan, off-white/white or a toned-down brick red/burgundy.
You also mentioned accessorizing as a great way to make over one’s look. When it comes to choosing accessories, what kind of considerations should a woman make? Color, style, weight?
Accessories are an easy way to change your look from day to evening! Purchase accessories that reflect your personality and coloring. Definitely consider your size along with your personality. If you are a 5’2″ firecracker, then your accessories need to be on a smaller scale but more dramatic and bold in color and texture to match that stronger personality. A delicate, tiny pearl will just get lost on you! A cluster or knot of of small pearls might be a better choice. That doesn’t mean if you’re 5’8″ with a softer, quieter personality that you need to wear loud, dramatic statement pieces just because you are tall. Not at all! A medium to larger size pin, for example, in a simple design could be just the ticket. Because accessories tend to be less expensive than clothing items, playing with different colors and textures is an easy way to dress up your existing wardrobe.
How much is too much when accessorizing? (Is it okay to wear a scarf and a necklace? A ring and a bracelet on the same hand?)
Create a focal point somewhere on you—whether it’s a piece of clothing or an accessory. If you have to ask yourself, “Am I wearing too many accessories?” I’d have to say chances are… yes. However, balance is the key. (I know this seems like a recurring theme, but balance is very important in your overall dressing strategies.) Wearing a scarf and a necklace might be too much, but again, it all depends on how you’re wearing the scarf and what kind of necklace you have on. If you want the scarf to be your focal point, then you won’t need a necklace. Keep in mind that people will naturally look at you (remember first impressions?), so you don’t want to cause sensory overload with too many things going on in your outfit. Don’t be a distraction. Be that gray-haired beauty they want to emulate.
What are some surefire accessories a woman can invest in that will pair well with most of her wardrobe?
I always recommend to my clients that they find a great necklace, earring and bracelet set that offers many of her best colors within the design. That way she can wear one or two of the set with every piece in her wardrobe. The days of matching your earrings to your necklace are over. Mix-matched pieces that “work together” (i.e. same family of colors or texture) create more interest for an outfit. Wearing a bracelet that matches your earrings can pull a look together very easily. I’m just not a fan of wearing the exact same necklace with the matching earrings every day. Use your accessories to express yourself!
Any last thoughts/tips regarding clothing and accessories?
Don’t waste your time or money:
1. shopping in a rush,
2. shopping under pressure because the event is tomorrow, or
3. buying something just to buy something on sale.
A rule of thumb when shopping: When purchasing an item, think back to what you already have in your closet and ask yourself, “Can this item go with at least three things that I already own?” If the answer is “no,” don’t buy it. Save yourself the time, money and aggravation.
Kate Leser has always known how to pull a look together, effortlessly. As a stylist and/or makeup artist for MTV, Snapple and JCrew, Kate has an eye for clothes that fit, flatter and function as well as relate to the wearer’s personality. Kate is frequently asked to share her knowledge with corporations, associations and small businesses alike. A resident of North Carolina, her expertise has been called upon by News14 Carolina to create professional and consistent images for their anchor personalities as well as WRAL-TV and WTVD, in addition to The News & Observer, Women’s World and The Triangle Business Journal.
Kate Leser can be reached at email@example.com or 919.624.2294. Her services are offered virtually! Be sure to visit her website, themakeoverexpert.com, and sign up to receive a FREE closet cleaning guideline.