Beauty & Fashion

How to wear trends over 50

As women over 50, we’re often advised to avoid fashion trends. Or, “if you wore it the first time around, don’t wear it the second time.” I think that’s an oversimplification, and so much depends on the “trend,” and your style preferences and personality.

I’d begun writing a long-ish post on trends, when I read this one from my friend Alison at Wardrobe Oxygen. She says a lot of what I was going to say, so go read hers, and instead I’ll just add some of my own thoughts below.

What is a trend, anyway?

These days, I think there are two kinds of style/fashion trends. First are the here-today-gone-tomorrow pseudo-trends that (now) often get their start on TikTok or other social media. Think “mob wife,” “eclectic grandpa,” or the non-trend trend, “coastal grandmother.” These are mostly manufactured for the sake of clicks and engagement. You can get whiplash trying to keep up.

Then there are the slower-brewing, longer-lived, real world style trends that determine to a great degree what silhouettes and colors are available at any given time. Think wider leg pants, oversized blazers, anything red, etc. These latter, slower trends are what I’m more interested in, as they can be an opportunities to find a better selection of styles or colors we’d want to wear anyway. For example, I’ve been adding pieces in chocolate and dark browns while they’re on trend, as they’re good neutrals for me and not always widely available. As well as shorter jackets.

Worrying about whether something we love is “in or out” is pointless. As is worrying about whether a trend or any other style is age appropriate. (As my friend Karen says, “is it YOU appropriate?”)

I’m going to say yes, conditionally. If you’re perfectly happy with everything in your wardrobe, and it suits your style and lifestyle, then trends will probably not be on your radar. But if you’re updating or refreshing your wardrobe, it’s good to be aware of general style directions, so you’ll know what you can expect to find when shopping.

Sometimes you may need to wait out a season (or a few) to find those Just Right pieces. (As I mentioned, I’ve been snapping up browns and a few Spring greens over the last several months.) Those of you who have been frustrated by cropped styles will find the pendulum is swinging back to longer lengths. And I’m starting to see some movement away from the dominance of oversized everything, as many recent collections have featured more tailored pieces.

At the same time, trends are not as overarching as they once were. And you can often find a broad range of silhouettes and styles offered concurrently. So I don’t think trends have the power to determine what we’ll want to wear that they did even just a few decades ago.

How to wear something “trendy” over 50 (without looking like you’re trying too hard)

Susan B. wears a leopard print sweater jacket, brown knit pants, gold oxfords, and carries a dark brown DeMellier New York tote.
Leopard prints may be “trending” again, but to me they’re perennials! I’m wearing a Small in the cardigan.

Here’s the thing: if a piece suits your coloring, lifestyle, and style personality, it’s probably not going to stand out as “trendy” when viewed as part of a whole. (Again, is it “you” appropriate?) I think if you’re wearing something primarily because it’s on trend, or wearing too many obviously trendy pieces at once, that’s when the disconnect occurs.

So don’t be afraid to try something new, IF it appeals to you. Today’s trend can be tomorrow’s “timeless,” if it’s aligned with your personal style.

What I’m reading…

Chanel daywear from late 1920's

After seeing my post from the Gabrielle Chanel: Fashion Manifesto exhibition in London last year, my friend Greetje from No Fear of Fashion sent me this biography of Chanel:

I’m just a little over 1/3 in, and think it’s good reading so far. There’s a lot of cultural and historical context, and even though the author delves into her relationships (family, friends, business associates, lovers), it’s not overly salacious or sensational.

(Just a note: I’ll be interested to read how this author deals with the controversies of her WWII years. So far it’s a fascinating, but not fawning biography.)

One thing that strikes me (especially in relation to the discussion of trends) is the radical shift in fashion that occurred within the first two or three decades of the 20th century. It was a complete sea change, the magnitude of which we haven’t seen since, IMO*. And Chanel was one of a handful of designers at the forefront of that.

Also, it’s interesting to note that until the last few decades, a handful of designers (mostly in Paris) determined what was being made and sold. What was “fashionable.” (Think Miranda Priestly’s famous “Cerulean” monologue from Devil Wears Prada….)

And it strikes me that much of what Chanel was designing in the 1920’s was her era’s equivalent of athleisure. Much more tailored and formal than today’s version, for sure, but still, clothing designed for movement and comfort, in practical fabrics. What do you think?

*Though the 1960’s may have come close with the casualization and relaxation of fashion rules.

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