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Tips from experts in the fashion industry

What women above 50 should and shouldn’t wear

By MONIQUE TODA, The Philippine STAR Published Mar 24, 2021 5:00 am

I am all for self-expression and non-judgment, especially when it comes to women. After all, I believe in women empowerment and am against any kind of shaming. I will not tolerate ageism as well.

Now that I have said that, I will park it for a moment and focus on a topic and discussion that has been in my thoughts for a few years now, a topic that I think will help guide women of age — and of my age — in terms of dressing.

The topic is “what women over 50 should or shouldn’t wear.” My dear friend Alice, who I can say is a stylish dresser, first brought this up a long time ago and it stuck.

Try as we may to stick to the clothes that best suited us in our 20s (think “retazo”-sized dresses stretched to accommodate our nubile physiques), our fashion must evolve in sync with our ever-changing bodies, developing intellect, and current lifestyles.

Wear whatever you like because you’ve earned it!  Even if others say don’t, just turn the tables and be the rule breaker or the breakthrough that you’ve always been!

I asked eight designers, stylists, artists and insiders in the fashion industry their opinions to gain some insight and tips to guide mature women. Here we go:

Henri Calayag , Hair stylist

A great haircut can frame your face seamlessly and makes your age “unguessable.” Wear the BOTY (bob of the year), which is the "boyfriend bob" — an androgynous, square bob cut that's relatively shorter than your usual summer chop but a little longer (medium length) for “wearability” purposes. Wear the BOTY with highlights and color. 

Polish up with the utilitarian look loosely away from the body. 

Discover how subtle pastels can powerfully impact your mood and psyche by wearing them. Try neutral pastel tones, sage, celadons, oatmeal, and light teal.  This can be button-down shirts, zip down, A-line, separates, and with big square folded sleeves. In my opinion, it’s not a color that's aging but what the item looks like and how you style the items in your wardrobe. 

I do agree that most pastels look good with a neutral (maybe pastel top but neutral bottom). I saw a lady once who was wearing pastel pink loose top and capri pants, a definitely "older"-looking outfit. However, a button-down shirt in the same color but with formfitting, slim white jeans and sandals would look modern and classic. I definitely don't think you should give up pastels. 

Identify your style identity. Are you Maximalist, Minimalist, Boho Luxe, Boho Chic, Utilitarian Luxe, Avant-garde, Directional? I would just stick to knowing your colors, your proportions and what flatters your body type.  At 50, we pretty much are comfortable with how we dress and carry ourselves and should not care about nudging. 

Noel Manapat, Stylist

If there’s nowhere to go, indulge and wear your jewelry (or those fancy shoes) at home. I’m sure it will bring a smile to someone.

Linen. Saunter and swirl in easy dresses that say effortless style and bring this travel weekend wardrobe to your daily wear.

Local. You’ve reached life-peg status. Use your influence to promote purposeful dressing from our local artisans and designers. They need you!

Because fit is everything, find a sewer or a tailor to alter and adjust. Sometimes, even half an inch can spell the difference between a skirt length that will spell flattery or fail.

Wear whatever you like because you’ve earned it!  Even if others say don’t, just turn the tables and be the rule breaker or the breakthrough that you’ve always been!

Ricardo Preto, Fashion designer, Rustan’s

It all depends on the attitude. You can be 20 years old and be a dull person, or be 50 and a very exciting woman. So, I like to think of women with attitude, because it changes everything.

But let us do the exercise, and enumerate the “don’ts” such as:

• Don’t use tank tops that are too skin revealing.

• Don't put on too much makeup and concealer, which gets into fine lines and wrinkles.

• Don’t go for the ultra-super-sexy look with too much cleavage and is too tight. 

Cropped pieces and cutouts can look strange. 

Hair should be very well treated, a good cut and not too long. 

But again, there are many women over 50 who can do whatever they want because they have the right attitude. If you wear the clothes and the clothes don’t wear you, that’s perfect! 

I tell women in their 50s what I tell all women: show your neck, have a good proportioned jacket and skirt, put on some lipstick, have a good haircut, and you're good to go!

Lesley Mobo, Fashion designer

Women in their 50s are a stylish group of people, so here are some of my fashion tips on how to make the most of their wardrobe: No matter what your age, dresses make everyone happy and are perfect for any occasion.  Wear dresses that define your waist — no matter how big or small — and avoid elasticated waistlines. But if you do like wearing elasticated waistbands on dresses make sure the waistband sits on the waist or at least the mid hips if you want to achieve the cool and relaxed look.

Keep your skirt and dress lengths to just above or below the knee. Choose anything, easy or fun, but stick to this length.

Invest in good underwear, especially bras that are a complementary fit. Get it properly fitted to your bust size without worrying about your size.  Bra fitting as a whole is about finding styles and sizes that fit well and look great but are comfortable.

The 50s is not old but you will always have gravity to fight, so it’s important to ensure that there’s no gaping, that the cup holds comfortably, and that the band is snug against your back as this gives the majority of support.

Fitted basic trousers or leggings for everyday use are great. Go for black or dark blue colors in a lightweight and comfortable fabrication. They will always look smart and flattering.  Hugely versatile, you can wear them in many ways and they always look good with skirts, big shirts and dresses.

Avoid wearing flesh-toned colored leggings if possible; they have something of a dated look.

When clothes shopping, always keep things effortless and comfortable. You’ll be looking and feeling your best through your fashionable 50s because your confidence makes you less reliant on brands and logos to define you as a person.

Cary Santiago, Fashion designer

Don’t wear any plunging neckline or revealing cleavage. I think a woman should wear something that’s age-appropriate and that does not include showing a lot of skin. 

Platform shoes are also a no-no. It makes one look older and oftentimes, a platform shoe will mismatch with the dress. A lady would look more elegant wearing a dress with heels regardless of the length. An exception I can allow is if the dress of the lady is long and we cannot see the shoes.

Matching shoes and bags is also a no-no for me. They don’t have to necessarily match, especially on the color. It is always fascinating to mix and match.

On the other hand, I would consider wearing classic jewelry a must. A woman should wear jewelry that matches her age. That includes a diamond stud or a pearl stud — real, of course! This will add to the sophistication of the entire look.

Foremost, a woman over 50 should possess the most beautiful skin. And this starts with a beauty regimen during her younger days that includes good diet, no vices and the most positive of attitudes. Glowing skin will make the woman the most beautiful inside out, outside in!

Joey Samson, Fashion designer

Women in general should first and foremost develop self-awareness in assessing what works for them. Having this mindset gives them the ability to choose pieces that will bring out their best features without relying much on trends.

Trends are fine. However, falling victim to them is not. Women in their 50s should refrain from wearing clothes everyone else is wearing.  Stick to classics. Trends come and go but classics will always defy the test of time. 

Update a classic look by injecting bits of trend and tasteful accessories. Learn the art of restraint. Accessories should complete your look, not blind the people you're talking to. 

Accept your flaws and know how to work with them. Be comfortable in your own skin. This will help exude confidence in how you carry yourself. Clothes should never make a person. The way we dress should be a reflection of us and our state of mind. 

Lastly, go to a design professional that you can trust. Find a designer that will make an effort to know you and your body; someone who will understand and expand your vision.

Lulu Tan Gan, Fashion designer

What to avoid; steer clear of the following: 

  • Heavy makeup
  • Bad hair color, like orange
  • Body-fitted fashion
  • Too-trendy fashion
  • Too-revealing clothes

It all depends on the body type, of course, but do certain styles age you before your time? 

Sometimes we still have our fit and svelte figure, which allows us to wear tight or too-revealing fashion, but we must remember that our skin reveals our age. Do choose what you wear for the right occasion and company.

Rajo Laurel, Fashion designer

In my mind, by the time women hit their 50s, they truly are at their peak.  So here are my tips on how to empower these women:

Invest in the best. It truly is not about the quantity but the quality of your wardrobe. Think about your lifestyle and assess what truly works in your life.

Dive into a bit of color. Nothing uplifts your spirits and enhances your glow like having a rich, bright color near your face. See what happens when you wrap a coral orange scarf around you. You glow!

Give into the ease. Embrace your curves and don’t be trapped in the “size” mindset. I love a beautiful, loose silhouette. Especially given our tropical climate. Chic can only truly happen when one is comfortable.

Accessorize! I think women look amazing in statement pieces, be it a sculptural earring or stacks of personal bracelets. It’s like you are telling a story of your life and these accessories are the mementos of a life well lived and loved.

Wear what you love and like! Don’t be dictated by what people think you should wear. Life is about living. To be honest, there are truly no rules for fashion and it’s about self-expression.  Be happy and one should literally wear this on their sleeves.