It’s not as easy to dress up now than it was in the past. You can pair tailored blazers and sporty leggings with fancy blouses with vintage denim, or romantic dresses with leather jackets. Cleavage-baring tops have been replaced by exposed shoulders. Midis can be substituted for minis. Sandals and nude pantsyhose have replaced pumps and pantyhose. We look at our closets and panic: What should we wear to the next big RSVP? Relax. It’s easier than ever to dress appropriately at 50.
1. Reunions from high school and college
This is your chance to meet up with old classmates. No one will care if your dress comes from Saks or Target. If you are wearing a designer label, or a bargain at the mall, it doesn’t matter too. You should choose a “feel-good” outfit that you love in a fun color or print that will stand out from the crowd. If someone asks Anna where she is, the answer is “She’s the one wearing leopard” or “Look out for a striped gown.”
Comfortable pull-on styles such as the RACHEL Rachel Roy Jersey Dress in Leopard ($83. macys.com) or wrap styles such as the Liz Claiborne Short Sleeve Wrap Dress in Signature Blue ($52.jcpenney.com), or the Lane Bryant Surplice Neck Side-Ruched Midi in Anthem Stripe ($48.lanebryant.com). You can dress up or down, or dress in if you want to add star power. Add fancy flats such as the A New Day Women’s Celeste Mules in Tan, Off White, or Black ($30 at target.com) to your look. A small bag will keep your cell phone, lipstick, and breath mints close by.
2. For six, a cocktail party, rehearsal dinner, or alfresco lunch
These middle-of the-road celebrations are an opportunity to show off your style and try something new. A floaty, bare-shoulder midi such as the Studio 1 Plus Short Sleeve Off-the-Shoulder Floral Mii Fit and can be worn depending on where you are at the moment. Flare Dress in Navy Ivory, $60, jcpenney.com You can also pair a statement top like the Banana Republic Balloon-Sleeve Wrap Top in Yellow Umbrella ($130, bananarepublic.gap.com, not pictured) or a dazzling duster like the LuvMeMore Heatwave Off the Shoulder Duster in Black/Forest Green ($40, shop.dia.com) with white ankle pants like the Anne Klein Straight Cropped-Leg Ankle Pants ($62, macys.com). You can wear your most bold costume jewelry, as well as a pair of fashionable slides or mules such the Calvin Klein Fire 2 Slide Sandal (pink or green) ($90, dsw.com/en/us), and get a pedicure.
3. Interview for a job
For a more confident outlook, even if you are interviewing online, try to put on a head-toe look. Your face and body language will reflect this confidence. To project power and confidence, you can’t go wrong with a neutral pants/blazer combination like the H&M Single Breasted Women’s Jacket, Taupe (35$, www2.hm.com/en_us), or the Loft Curvy Riviera Slim Pants, Forever Navy, or Black (80$, loft.com). For extra shine, frame your face with a white blouse or shirt underneath the blazer. If you are being called back for a second interview, or if the job is in fashion, retail, or public relations, a bright blazer such as the Mango Linen Blazer Suit (Red) ($120, shop.mango.com/us), or a fitted-and-flare dress such as the Livid Casey Scuba Flaredress in Navy or Black ($79), will make your face stand out. Keep the focus on your abilities and skills. Closed-toe shoes are best for desk-side interviews. A structured workbag is a must.
4. Summer weddings or elegant outdoor parties
It can be as fancy as you like, but the main issues are sweat, sunburn, and humidity. So forget about wearing anything constricting, even major shapewear, and don’t wear it. A graceful midi dress, with voluminous sleeves like the Ava & Viv Women’s Plus Size Balloon Lon Sleeve Dress in Green ($35, target.com), River Island Black Shirred Smock Midi Dress ($74, riverisland.com/us/women) or Kiyonna Plus Flirty Flounce Wrap Dress in Navy Floral Print ($98, nordstrom.com), will let air circulate, camouflage a few extra pounds and make sitting crossed-leg perspiration proof. For grassy walks, add wedge sandals such as the Journee collection Angelina Sandal in Pink or Nude ($55, dsw.com/en/us), and keep sun protection in your bag.
5. Funeral, wake, memorial, or celebration of life
You don’t have the time to wear your favourite zebra print blouse, or pastel dress, no matter how elegant. You can’t wear statement earrings, oversized sneakers and bangles with a lot of clanky bangles. The idea is to be quiet and low-key. A black skirt or pants outfit, or dark gray or navy if your wardrobe doesn’t include black, is the best choice. The right tone is set by the Viv Women’s Plus Size Ruched Bodice in Black ($25 at target.com), or the Who What Wear Women’s Elbow-Sleeve Polo Rib in Black ($37 at target.com). For funeral attendees, you may want to wear grass-proof closed-toe shoes such as the Sam Edelman Women’s Connell Slingback Flats Black ($120 at bloomingdales.com). However, be aware that some ceremonies require attendees to wear joyful or white colors.
6. For a first date
This is an insta-date world, so it’s not necessary to say “He’ll need to call me by Tuesday for Saturday.” It takes just a casual coffee or a glass of wine to tell someone you like or dislike them online or to fix up with friends. White jeans, such as the NYDJ Marilyn Straight Leg Jeans in Optic White ($119 at bloomingdales.com), always look great in summer. But it’s your top that will make you stand out. You will feel modern with a polished T-shirt such as the Caslon Stripe Long-Sleeve T–Shirt in Blue-White Char Stripe or Red–White Charm Stripe (39 USD, nordstrom.com), or a striking blouse like River Island Orange Print Shirt (67 USD, riverisland.com), or a classic tunic in a flattering color like the Stella Carakasi Tiburon Tunic Icon In Kiwi ($169, stellacarakasi). Simply style your hair and add some blush or lipstick to your face.
7. A concert
It all depends on where, when, and what it is. Bluegrass or rock concerts in the park may be interpreted as jeans. But, an orchestrated evening with Brahms, opera at a theater, or a string quartet at your local center requires more polish. There is an easy solution. A stylish white blouse, a fashionable white top. For a sophisticated finish, slip on black ballet flats such as the Esprit Women’s Narissa Ballet Flats In Black ($34 at macys.com).
8. A pool or beach party
Many women are hesitant to accept this invitation because it implies a swimsuit. It really is? Not necessarily! You can wear a cover-up like the L.L. Bean Women’s SunSmart 50+ Cover-Up in Black and White Palms (70$, llbean.com), Lands End Women’s Plus Size Cotton Jersey Embroidered Swim Cover-Up in Papaya Orange/White (32$, landsend.com). You can also wear a grey Signaturesoft Tank Midi Dress in Balsam Green (or Black) with any black one-piece. You will look stylish and you won’t feel obligated to show any more than what you choose, unless you wish.