You’ve ditched the mom jeans, but there are several other ways your wardrobe might not be doing you any favors. Here are a dozen things to look out for.
You Took the Song “Paint It, Black” Literally
Black does wonders for trimming a figure and is appropriate for almost every occasion, but as women get older, their skin tends to become paler—and wearing black can create a harsh contrast that emphasizes wrinkles and calls attention to dark shadows under the chin and around the eyes. Add a bright accessory like a scarf or a statement necklace—any pop of color will lessen the washed-out effect, says Lauren Rothman, the founder of StyleAuteur.com and author of Style Bible: What to Wear to Work. She also suggests shopping for earthy neutrals—like cocoa, olive, camel or gray—which are subdued but still add contrast. Also, jewel tones are a color group that flatters most women. Here’s a way to find which works best with your skin tone.
You’re Hiding Out
If you’re trying to cover your hips, arms or stomach underneath a shapeless blazer, you’re actually making yourself look heavier, says Anita Kealey, a Custom Tailor & Designers Association master. A well-cut jacket that nips in at the waist and is shorter in length showcases the most flattering parts of your figure and creates a smooth line down your torso.
Your Skirt Length Is Moving Down, Down, Down
Just because your age is increasing doesn’t mean your hemline has to as well. A skirt that grazes close to your ankles may hide slightly saggy knees, but it also tends to make women look wider and frumpier. Rothman says to find the most flattering skirt length for your shape, look in the mirror and note the slimmest part of the area around your knee—right above, right below or in the middle—and that’s where your hemline should hit. If you want more coverage, try a form-fitting midiskirt, which comes to the middle of your calf. This is a tricky length, so use our guide to finding the right midi hemline for your height.
You’ve Got Your Bra on the Wrong Hook
“The wrong-size bra makes you look shorter, older and heavier,” says Linda “the Bra Lady” Becker, owner of Linda’s Bra Salons. The clasp should be on the loosest hook to begin with and made tighter as the bra stretches over time. “When it is on the tightest hook—that’s when you know you need a new bra,” says Becker. Since breast size fluctuates—due to weight gain, weight loss and hormonal changes—Becker suggests going for a fitting once a year and buying a new bra every six to eight months.
Your Jeans Have Too Much Stretch
Stretch denim is a gift to women who shop for both comfort and style, but erring on the side of too much comfort can lead to lumpiness. “It’s best to look for jeans with 2 percent elastic fiber,” says Rothman. On the care label, you’ll see Lycra, spandex or elastane. The right jeans will follow your silhouette, have enough stretch so that your legs won’t look as if they’re fighting to break free from your pants and, unlike denim with 4 percent or more elastic fiber, won’t sag at the tush.
Your Glasses Are Too Geek Chic
Dark, thick frames underscore wrinkles and under-eye shadows. Lawrence Zarian, style expert and spokesman for the Vision Council’s Eyecessorize fashion eyewear campaign, suggests delicate plastic frames that have a bit of sparkle or jewel embellishment. These will reflect light. Another approach? Experiment with neon colors—on the inside of glasses’ arms—which has the same brightening effect. One more thing: “Most women try to camouflage bags under their eyes or wrinkles on their face with bigger frames, but the older you get, the smaller and more delicate your frames should be,” says Zarian. Find the best frames for your face with this O guide.
You’re Wearing Jersey Fabric
“Jersey fabric doesn’t create the best shape,” says Marjon Carlos, an online personal stylist for Saks.com—in part because it’s as clingy as it is comfortable. If you love-love-love jersey, go for a draped or ruched option that grazes your curves and strategically hides any bulges. Another option: double-knitted jersey, which is a denser quality fabric that still has a bit of stretch for comfort. Or choose a slightly more tailored piece, like a sheath dress, which gives the illusion of structure but is a forgiving cut for most women.
You’re Hiding Your Neck
It seems like the easy fix: Cover as much of the neck as possible with a turtleneck, but a better choice is a V-neck or scoop neck, which draws the eye to your décolletage (so long as it doesn’t show cleavage). Collared shirts draw attention away from the neck area while giving a little more coverage. You might also choose a statement necklace that sits a little longer. “Avoid chokers,” says Rothman. Pick a style that’s at least 22 inches long.
You Shop with the Person You Love Most
Your 16-year-old may look ridiculously cute in a patterned neon dress—and there’s nothing wrong with you wanting to keep up with current trends, says Allison Berlin, a stylist and the founder of StyleMadeSimple.net. But when it comes to incorporating trendy pieces into your wardrobe, you should look for a classic style that includes some part of the trend: Try soft floral prints on a silk sleeveless blouse, save leather for a motorcycle jacket or embrace colored denim in dark shades such as hunter green and burgundy or muted pastels instead of loud hues.
You Save Shapewear for Weddings and New Year’s Eve
Slimming garments can cut years off your age by smoothing out lumps and bumps. Heather Thomson, founder of the shapewear brand Yummie by Heather Thomson, says she was horrified by the shapewear she could find after she had kids. “There’s no way my husband is seeing me in these,” she thought to herself. Now she and other designers are making more feminine and flirty pieces. While your shapewear should fit snugly, it’s important that it’s not too tight, to avoid certain health concerns. “Sizing down will not make you look thinner; it will only make you more miserable—I can’t stress this enough,” says Thomson. “You know you have the right fit when you can breathe and you’re not standing in the corner unable to move at a party.”
You’re Heaviest Below the Knees
Chunky heels and platform shoes add unnecessary heaviness to the bottom portion of your body. “Look for something more sleek and slim,” says Rothman. Stilettos are Rothman’s choice, though she suggests kitten heels for the more walking-inclined among us. Either way, she says, you can’t go wrong with a pointed toe.
You Haven’t Heard the French Rule for This Accessory
A short silk scarf tied around your neck can draw unwanted attention to the area—not to mention make you look like a ’60s airline stewardess. Instead, for a fun (and very Parisian) look, tie the scarf in a bow (or knot) around the handle of a purse in a contrasting color. One last piece of advice: Wearing a single pin or brooch on a jacket lapel can date you—since this style was trendy years ago. Instead, use the pin or brooch to fasten a cardigan.