It's no secret that many women over 50, even if we've been thin all our lives, can easily pack on a few extra post-menopausal pounds, without trying too hard. The weight can sometimes slowly creep up on us over a span of years, taking us by surprise, and before you know it . . . poof! . . . we're an "apple" (or some other fruit to which we are often compared if our bodies aren't perfect).
My body was definitely heading in that direction when I hit 50 -- having gained almost 15 completely unwanted and unnecessary pounds for no good reason except I was eating too much and moving too little -- until I caught sight of myself in a mirror one day and decided that resembling a fruit wasn't going to be in my future.
Luckily I discovered that with simple changes in what I ate and what I did, the pounds came off and while thicker than when I was 20, my waistline is actually visible again. I'm happy about that, because while my smarter lifestyle has made me healthier, more energetic and ready for what's next, I was able to get myself back to my original "shape" and as I soon discovered, it's our shape, not our size, that matters.
Another dimension to my post 50 experience is I started to accept -- even embrace -- my body for what it was now, and wanted to wear clothes that would enhance my shape, not hide it. And while I was aware of my age and, hopefully chose styles that were appropriate, I also didn't want to dress like a frump. However, I still found it hard to figure out exactly what I should be wearing. Every ad and commercial for clothes seemed to be geared to the perfect body.
The challenge also is many of us don't change our style based on our changing bodies. We still wear clothes that worked for us years ago, instead of taking a really long hard look at our bodies now. And I completely understand why: it can be daunting to embrace our bodies when we're surrounded by media messages that tell us thin is best (thin and young, better still), and when we don't always want to accept the fact that perhaps we're a little wider now in certain places. And getting good guidance isn't always easy.
Well, help is on the way.
I discovered a new book -- The Wow Factor: Insider Style Secrets for Every Body and Every Budget -- just out this week and written by Jacqui Stafford, the international style expert, QVC queen, beauty and style fashionista for gobs of magazines, and a regular on the Today Show (as well as many other TV shows).
One of my favorite tips from the book is "cut out the size label from every piece of clothing you have . . . " because, as Jacqui writes, "who cares about the size? It's the fit that counts." I had the great opportunity to meet with Jacqui (who is, according to her, a "classic Fragrance Bottle" shape) and asked her to please reveal the top secrets for looking fantastic after 50. Here's what she said,
Here's a snippet from the book, which has become my new style mantra:
So, my darlings, figure out your body shape and make that form the basis for everything you wear from now on. If there's only thing you take away from this book it's this: Forget your size--and embrace your shape.
For more tips on living your best life after 50 visit www.bestofeverythingafter50.com. Staying connected is a powerful tool! Keep me posted on how you're doing by subscribing to me on Facebook and "tweeting" me on Twitter at @BGrufferman. Check out my weekly columns on AARP and FOF, too. My next book, "The Best of Everything Guide to Your Best Body After 50 (and Beyond)" will be out in 2013!
"I started this blog in 2009 as I see no reason why we should not continue to enjoy fashion whatever age we are," writes Josephine of <a href="http://chicat50plus.blogspot.com/" target="_hplink">Chic at Any Age</a>. She hopes her blog will be "a useful resource on what works from underwear to special occasion dressing for more mature women."
<a href="http://www.mispapelicos.com/" target="_hplink">Mis Papelicos</a> is all about Sacramento, an English professor and a nutrition and diet expert in Andalucía, Spain (hence the bilingual captions). Her bi-weekly posts feature the funky and elegant ensembles she puts together, as well as other images that inspire her style.
<a href="http://www.greyfoxblog.com/" target="_hplink">Grey Fox</a> adds a male perspective to the post 50 fashion and style blog community. The site is dedicated to "a man's search for style in middle age." Recent posts include tips on "[keeping] the costs of style in control" and a roundup of stylish bald "grey foxes" in popular culture.
Don't be deterred by the name -- <a href="http://stylecrone.com/" target="_hplink">Style Crone</a> is a blog "dedicated to the older woman, in her most creative, outrageous, authentic, powerful, adventurous, funny, and proud era." Far from a crone, Judith writes, "choosing my outfits, which always included a hat, was a way to express myself creatively and as a form of meditation as I approached my day." Along with snapping pics of her outfits for her blog, she also owns a hat shop, sells vintage clothing and designs hats for chemotherapy patients.
<a href="http://www.unefemme.net/" target="_hplink">Une Femme D'Un Certain Age</a> is a blog focused on "living a stylish, adventurous, balanced [and] delicious life after 50" -- with a francophile twist. Recent posts include a review of flattering skinny jeans for post 50s by Not Your Daughter's Jeans, and a reflection on being "the boss of what our age means" style-wise (spoiler: Une Femme believes it's important not to confuse trying to pretend you're 25 with looking "current").
Blogger Susan documents her quest to find fashion post 50 in <a href="http://flattering50.blogspot.com/" target="_hplink">Flattering 50</a>. "I'm doing my thinking publicly in my blog ... in the hopes that others might join in the conversation," she writes. With posts such as "Top 10 Dress Styles for Women Over 50" and "Swimsuits over 50: Where to Shop," it's hard not to chime in.
"Hip past 50 doesn't have to refer to surgery," blogger Joni quips on her blog, <a href="http://www.walkingcolors.blogspot.com/" target="_hplink">Walking Colors</a>. Sharing photos of her outfits with an online community allows her to "unleash the side of me I've been hiding for way too many years [and] receive support and encouragement...there is definitely a camaraderie here in these blogs that we all share," she writes.
Okay, so the "girls" <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/31/fashion/kim-france-former-lucky-editor-turns-blogger.html" target="_hplink">Kim France is writing for haven't quite hit 50</a> -- but Kim herself was 48 when she left her post as editor in chief of <em>Lucky</em> magazine and turned her energies to <a href="http://www.girlofacertainage.com/" target="_hplink">Girls of a Certain Age</a>, a blog for "grown-ups who can't quite part with the notion that motorcycle boots, if styled properly, can make for a perfectly acceptable evening look." Its focus is primarily on shopping, though it also occasionally delves into pop culture.
<em>"I am a fifty-something woman, wife, professional, auntie and crazy cat lady. Though pressured by society to recede gracefully, I prefer to burst out with a love of fashion and style. We are not dead yet, so let's enjoy every sandwich and gild the lilies."</em> That pretty much sums up the aim of Patti's <a href="http://notdeadyetstyle.blogspot.com/" target="_hplink">Not Dead Yet Style</a>. Her blog also features a weekly "Visible Monday," where readers are invited to share an image of themselves sporting an "outfit, accessory, piece of jewelry, cosmetic or other adornment" that makes them feel alive and confident.
<a href="http://www.fashionafter50.com/" target="_hplink">Fashion After 50</a> features fashion advice by category (bohemian, travel clothes, fabrics you love), a "fashion archetype quiz," dos and don'ts for fashion after 50 and opportunities to buy some of the blog's featured items.
"'Growing old gracefully' is an outdated concept. We prefer 'growing old with verve.' This blog documents our efforts to live up to that motto, in photos and essays," the <a href="http://idiosyncraticfashionistas.blogspot.com/" target="_hplink">Idiosyncratic Fashionistas </a>write. Sample post: an ode to fashion journalist and muse <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/07/lagerfeld-muse-anna-piaggi-dead_n_1751812.html?utm_hp_ref=fifty&ir=Fifty" target="_hplink">Anna Piaggi, who recently passed away at the age of 81</a>, featuring photos of some of her memorable ensembles.
Follow Barbara Hannah Grufferman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/BGrufferman