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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 Leser thinks every woman should consider when making over her wardrobe and adding the finishing touches to any look.
Kate’s recommendations when it comes to clothing styles:
Clothing styles depend 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 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.
Kate’s advice on picking 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.
Kate’s list of dos and don’ts for women going gray.
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 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 with 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.
What Kate thinks about accessories
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 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.
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.
Kate recommendations surefire accessories
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!
Kate’s 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.
One of our favorite products is swatch books by color consultant Jill Kirsh, filled with pieces of fabric of all the best shades of every color, chosen especially to complement gray hair:
- With the right shades of color, you don’t even need makeup!
- All the right shades of color in a swatch book for you!
- Shop in your closet or shop in the store–this swatch book makes shopping so easy!
- Save time and save money while looking great every day!