08/11/2013 07:58 am ET Updated Oct 11, 2013

How To Dress At Work: A Guide To Fashion Over Fifty


I have finally figured out, at this late stage in life, how to dress. These are the essentials:

  • Cultivate a personal style. By the time you've reached your fifties, you should have a sense of what works for you and what does not. Go with that. But don't let your style get mired in the past. Don't be like one of those people still sporting tie-dye, a few generations after Woodstock or football shoulders after Ronald Reagan . . . or yellow power ties when their moment is long gone.
  • Keep up to date. Read GQ or Vogue, at least occasionally. Make certain you've got at least one outfit that fits with both your personal style and this year's fashions, and wear it for important meetings.
  • Eschew passing fads. If teenagers are wearing it, you should not. Also, when items that were stylish in your youth, such as bell bottoms, micro-minis, or leisure suits return, as they inevitably do, shun them. If you were old enough to wear it the first time around, you're too old to wear it now. Similarly, under no circumstances should you display your midriff.
  • Pay attention to belts, shoes, watches, and other accessories, and keep them up-to-date.
  • Your briefcase or handbag is an important part of your image. Make certain it reflects your success.
  • Remember that clothes, like batteries, eventually run out of juice, which means that even classic items need to be replaced from time to time. That navy blue blazer may look, to your eyes, as fresh as the day you bought it back in the era of George Bush the First. To everyone else, it looks tired. And that microscopic little spot you think no one notices? Think again.
  • Quality counts. Buy the best clothing you can afford.
  • When in doubt, seek professional help. Every department store has personal shoppers who are more than willing to spend time with you.

Copyright © Robert L. Dilenschneider, author of 50 Plus!: Critical Career Decisions for the Rest of Your Life from which this piece was excerpted.

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