Wednesday, October 7, 2009

How To Dress With Style, Without Looking Trendy

One of the better benefits of turning the big 4-oh is our new found confidence and sophistication we have rightly earned. Through the trials and tribulations of life, we’ve lived long enough to know what we want and who we are. We’re smart and sassy and want to invest well in ourselves but without having to submit to a fashion trend.

While I want to stay stylish, I definitely don’t feel I have to be fashionable anymore. I want to find clothes that fit, that make me look well put together, but I’m certainly not ready to dress like my mother nor do I want to wear clothes that I have to stuff myself into. And I definitely am not embracing the trends (hello neon, padded shoulders and leggings) that I wore back in high school. I know there are plenty of chic options out there.

I asked style expert and author of Style Rx: Dressing The Body You Have To Create The Body You Want, Bridgette Raes, how women in their 40s can take the trends today and make them suitable for us.

“It’s all in the accents,” Bridgette said. “It’s the best way to go after a trend and how to finish your look.”

Style expert and author Bridgette Raes:

Bridgette said while it is essential to keep the core of your outfit classic, accessories are the key to keeping your look fresh and up-to-date. One of the ways to incorporate fall’s trends into your wardrobe is by adding a little accent piece. For example, a green-hued necklace or cuff bracelet with rock n’ roll flair, a fun, colorful jacket or a pair of nude shoes can easily be added and take a blah look and make it fresh and exciting.

“What I’ve found is women tend to get dressed 75% of the way,” Bridgette said. “Who’s not bored with black pants and a colored top. Don’t forget to add personality and finish it.”

Bridgette refers to this style, or lack of, as a chicken outfit. “Chicken in pot of boiling water is only as good as what you do to it,” she said. “Most women get dressed like a chicken, bland, and don’t add any flavor.”

To avoid this, a woman can add some spice to her look by changing the component she adds to her base outfit. She can wear an interesting shoe, add a pop of color or don unusual jewelry versus wear the uniform of black pant suit and a string of pearls.

“It’s the best way to liven up an outfit and it’s the one place where we don’t have to worry about fit,” Bridgette said.

It is also the one place that’s all about you and adding your personality to the outfit.

“What is great about accessories is they can make an outfit look five different ways, saving you money and what is going to separate you from everyone else,” Bridgette said.

To pick the best accessories, Bridgette said to think about what colors are in your wardrobe and find colors that work with it. When in doubt, the stylist said to go green. “Green is a colored neutral, meaning it goes with every color” she said. Other style solutions to create interest for classic dressing include metallic and nude shoes, leopard prints and fishnet stockings.

The leopard print on these classic ballet flats from Lauren Ralph Lauren adds chic style when wearing either jeans or pants.

I love the tailored shaping of this jacket from Nanette Lepore. Plus the forest green plaid can be worn with jeans and black pants and a great pair of boots.

This whimsical skull necklace with white sapphires by Wendy Brandes adds the right amount of rock 'n roll edginess to any look.

The rich green hue on this leather satchel from Valentino will add interest to all your great classics.

These nude pumps from Kate Spade are so versatile and will look great with any outfit.
“If you’re wearing black pants, go for an interesting shoe,” Bridgette said. “It’s a much more elegant look and can elevate the look of black pants from the cubicle to the corner office.”

One of the key differences to dressing your age is achieving a look that is youthful, but not young. “If she dresses too young, she looks older,” Bridgette said. “If she is wearing a short, tight skirt, leggings or a tight top, she’s going to look older. If you modify the look so it is youthful, you’ll actually look younger.”

At this point in our lives, we have really hit our stride. While there are so many things that are more important than clothing, we still want to look good. We have reached a point where we want to put ourselves front and center, and that shouldn’t be about clothing. We need to emphasize this in our style, and to separate ourselves from our younger sisters. We are women who are seasoned and one of the best ways is by dressing for ourselves. It’s a real confidence booster.

It almost seems silly to worry if something is trendy or to wonder if you’re wearing something right. This is your life and it’s looking good.

More importantly, I think it is wise to invest in really good classic pieces that you can mix and match and build off it.

According to Bridgette, a good classic wardrobe should include the following: A good pair of basic pants in neutral shades, including black, brown, camel, olive and charcoal, a few great blazers, that have some personality, that you can wear as an outerwear piece in the spring and fall and as a jacket in the winter. She also says one good “go to” dress that is basic. It doesn’t necessarily have to be black, but a neutral shade is smart because the look can change easily with an outfit change. She also mentions you should have in your classic closet good basic knit tops that be be worn as layering pieces in basic colors. Other items your closet needs is one good handbag, preferably in a camel shade that can be worn with either black or brown shades, one pair of tall boots that can be worn with skirts or pants, in either black or brown and one good scarf, pashmina in size, that be be worn as a wrap when it’s cold.


  1. This is great advice, and for women of any age. P.S. Target sells flats just like the Ralph Lauren leopard print ones pictured above!

  2. Nice story and good tips. But according to Bridgette, I have all these essentials, does that mean I should stop shopping? No!

  3. I recognize that Juana Skull by Miss Wendy B!

  4. Thanks for including me. And I firmly believe leopard goes with every color.