Don't dismiss a style completely; keep parts best suited for your shape.
KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS
ST. LOUIS -- Flowers bloomed, colors burst into brilliance and silhouettes hugged and flared on runways for spring.
You liked them, or at least a part of what you saw, but you aren't sure if your body can -- or will -- cooperate.
It's a well-known fact that most of the poppy spring looks are geared toward the 30-and-under crowd. But that doesn't mean a mature woman has to wear dusters and tunics the rest of her life.
Relax. Be realistic, then pick and choose.
Carol Moellenhoff, a sales associate for Cache at West County Center in St. Louis, says she often hears reticent customers wondering if they should purchase certain pieces -- mostly due to their age. "They'll say, 'I'm too old' and 'I don't want to look like I'm trying to dress like my daughter,"' Moellenhoff says.
But she works with them and gingerly offers suggestions if something doesn't quite work.
Moellenhoff, who personifies cool at age 66, says shopping for clothing is all about one's sensibilities. "If you're young at heart, you're going to shop here," she says, adding that quite a few of her clients are 60 and older.
But age isn't the only barrier that keeps many older women from plucking some stylish looks from the racks. Many stores carry only smaller sizes, which in some part, is the case for Cache.
"We stop at a size 12," Moellenhoff says. So, the woman who does shop there, she says, wants to be trendy and fashion-forward. "You work hard to keep it, so you're going to want to dress it nice," she reasons.
Mary Beth Barutio, who is sixtysomething, used to be professional model. Today, she is the admissions director for Barbizon Modeling Center in Clayton, Mo. But she doesn't mind rekindling the modeling flame to help women see how they can add a bit of realism to what they see on the runways.
She also has very strong opinions about her clothing.
"I don't like low-riders," says Barutio, who prefers to wear pants with a natural or high waist. She doesn't do sleeveless, either. "I refuse to wear that," she says emphatically. "You get all of this underarm jiggle."
And while she's not adverse to color, she prefers to wear black and "accessorize with bright colors."
Pick and choose
Barutio worked with us to translate three designer looks into more wearable ensembles for the mature crowd. One outfit, a skirted ensemble from the Luca Luca Spring 2005 collection, brought an immediate reaction. "I like the skirt, but I wouldn't wear the top," she says. "Maybe I'd wear a black tank top with the sweater, but I wouldn't wear strapless. I like things more covered."
Nikki Douglas, co-manager of the J.Jill store at West County Center, advises women like Barutio and others not to dismiss a style completely. "Look at it and take pieces out of it that you like and adapt it for your own," she suggests.
This might mean pairing a trendy top with a bottom that is more modest but better suited for your body type, she says.
One of the store's pieces that has been particularly popular is a short, red-and-white tweed jacket with oversize buttons. "I have gals in their twenties, sixties, seventies [wearing it]. It's one of those pieces you can wear with dress slacks or with jeans," she adds. "There are always different ways to wear things."
Nancy Nix-Rice, personal fashion adviser for Lord & amp; Taylor at West County Center, agrees. She says most people are hyper-critical about themselves. "They're camouflaging things they don't have to," she contends. "Exposure of the upper arms has taken over from hips and thighs as the No. 1 thing that we hear women complaining about their bodies."
After considering one's own size and sensibilities, Nix-Rice says there are practical concerns for the mature woman to factor in when shopping. "People's coloring softens with age," she says. "Our eye color becomes less intense. Our skin becomes paler, and the overall brightness and contrast becomes more subdued."
Thus, Nix-Rice says some high-contrast color combinations can be "too overpowering" for the mature woman. "If colors get too bright and strong, it's unflattering," she says, suggesting that instead of the brightest turquoise, older women might want to mix softer aquas and other muted colors into their wardrobes.
Body changes impact choices, too. As we age, Nix-Rice says, "our spine compacts, and it diminishes the distance between the waistline and the shoulder line. We become more short-waisted."
This can be remedied a bit, she says, by paying closer attention to posture and selecting clothing that isn't too closely fitted.
A good bra, she says, is also critical. "It's really important to keep the bustline higher. By doing this, you take pounds and years off," she says.
Nix-Rice, who owns her own image consulting business First Impressions, is also a huge advocate of removable shoulder pads.
"As we mature, everything is being pulled downward," she says. But by adding small shoulder pads, "It's immediately more youthful and lets a sleeve fall over the arm instead of hugging it."
Whatever your style, Nix-Rice sings the same song as the others: Explore your possibilities. "Try something you haven't before. It might be darling," she says. "Don't assume that you can't because your birth certificate says a particular year."