Ask Jeanne

THE KIT Formal Looks for 50 plus


“There have been so many beautiful older women on red-carpets this year, looking as good as they did years ago. What’s the key to formal dressing for the 50something crowd in your opinion?”


I have to admit, there’s a naughty part of me that longs for yesteryear’s red carpets, when starlets and divas alike committed countless fashion crimes. We catty armchair analysts could gleefully sink our fangs into all the outrageous fodder, pouncing on all those victims and their “what-were-they-thinking” efforts. But with stylists and style information in such abundance these days, we’re living in a savvier world, and those in the limelight are more likely to hit than miss when stepping out. There are also way more options, both in terms of available designs, and attitudes about what to wear. Most importantly, there’s a universal realization that “age” is really just a number, and dressing in what suits us physically and spiritually is a much more satisfying and productive route to go than fretting about old-fashioned notions like being “age appropriate”. Sorry, but that’s the way I feel, and I’ll tell you why.


No matter what our chronological age, we all have to take long, hard looks in the mirror, and be honest about what our best physical assets are. Unless you’re in pretty impeccable shape, if you’re of a certain vintage, your favourite body parts may no longer be conventional features like your butt or your boobs or your upper arms. But if you’ve learned to love yourself—as we all MUST do in order to have the confidence necessary to be true women of style—you’ve likely learned to appreciate some of your other fabulous attributes. Maybe you’ve got great, seductive eyes. Or maybe it’s your wonderfully expressive hands. Maybe it’s your luxurious head of hair, or perhaps you’re simply proud of your posture, and the way you carry yourself. Then again, you might just be wild about the way your feet look in a drop-dead pair of shoes. It can be something that simple. Once you understand which features you want to celebrate, and which ones would be better played down, that’s half the battle. Then you’ve got to be realistic about your personality type and the “spirit” you exude. If you’re shy and demure, an attention-grabbing outfit that announces your arrival may be a bit much to carry off. Then again, if you’re adamant about making your presence felt, you probably know how to rock substantial accessories and the kinds of fancy frocks that turn heads. Comfort is key when it comes to great style—and by that I mean not only being comfortable in one’s style choices, but being comfortable in one’s own skin.


Cases in point: Tilda Swinton. While not everybody loves her often out-of-the-box approach to red carpet dressing, she’s earned the respect of the fashion crowd by marching to the beat of her own drummer and invariably making choices that not only suit her tall, slender frame, but speak volumes of her artistic sensibility. Dame Helen Mirren is another classic beauty who always wears her clothes well—they never “wear” her. She’s got a strong point of view when it comes to fashion and the way it can enhance a woman’s natural grace. Her wardrobe choices are always flattering and well-designed. And she never looks like she’s trying too hard. The same for the elegant Glen Close. And ditto for the spunky Betty White, whose energy alone lights up any room… or red carpet. It’s never about the outfit for her, but rather how she wears it. The wildly talented Meryl Streep never seems to go for the wow factor on the red carpet, but she’s consciously put herself in a league that’s “beyond fashion” with her understated looks that seem to be mostly ruled by practicality rather than panache. Linda Gray’s recent “Curse of the Grandmummy” look at the SAG awards may have been an attempt at showing how much punch a svelte 70-something can pack into a glam white gown, but I felt she came off looking like she was trying a tad too hard. In this age of HD television, showing a lot of skin doesn’t always make for a pretty picture. Enough said. Meanwhile, Madonna is always….well….Madonna. And that’s the best thing you can say about her. Or anybody for that matter. She’s a true original who works her as hard at keeping in shape as she does keeping creative and productive. I may not applaud everything she (and her stylist!) may choose, but whatever Madge puts on her back has a stamp that’s unmistakably “Miss Thing”—and that is the mark of a bonafide superstar—a genuine style icon who’s unapologetically always true to herself first and foremost. It’s a lesson we should all take to heart. And with more and more 50-plus fashion plates to look up to, the inspiration they’re providing isn’t only good for our wardrobes: It’s great for our souls.