50 & Fabulous From everyday to dazzling: Makeover winners get a new look

November 04, 1993|By Suzin Boddiford | Suzin Boddiford,Contributing Writer

The French novelist Victor Hugo said, "The forties are the old age of youth, while the fifties are the youth of old age."

In these kinder '90s, however, society's obsession with youth is gradually evolving. "Middle-aged" is no longer considered matronly -- as our latest make-over contest winners certainly demonstrate. A positive attitude is still the cornerstone of beauty at any age.

"When a woman reaches 50, it is time to stop and assess her changing body -- without the changes being too drastic," says Leon Hall, international style consultant and a regular contributor to "The Joan Rivers Show" "fashion police."

"It is a fact of life that as you age, everything you have goes south," he says. "So what you have to do is pick it all up and head north." He suggests "emphasizing the good and de-emphasizing the bad, but most importantly, not falling victim to what is splashed across the pages of Vogue."

"Becoming older has lost the stigma it once held. Women today have much more influence, healthier role models, and are faced with many more opportunities than ever before," says Caroline Miller, editor-in-chief of Lear's magazine. "As the population ages, fewer and fewer women are feeling apologetic about their age, and with this newfound acceptance comes a renewed attitude that influences the way we put ourselves together," she says.

It's common today to find Mom and her 20-year-old daughter reaching for the same jacket in the store. And why not? "The wonderful thing about fashion today is that there are unlimited looks that work for any age," says local image consultant Jane LaRussa. "So unless your body calls for it, don't even think about replacing those sexy heels and knee-skimming skirts for long skirts and grandma shoes. If you've got great legs, by all means show them off -- with decorum."

A well-tailored shorter skirt, worn just above the knee with a semi-opaque leg, is perfectly acceptable as you mature. If your legs aren't your best figure feature, look for a long slim skirt with a knee-high slit and wear it with shoes and stockings of the same color to create a flattering, uninterrupted line.

"Perhaps the most aging giveaway is being stuck in a style time trap," according to Virginia Sullivan, president of Image Communications International. "A lot of women unconsciously hang on to a look that reflects a point in their life that was good for them," she says. It may even be a 50-year-old woman who is still sporting the hairdo she wore as homecoming queen. "If you do not adapt your style statement to move with the times then you become like a caricature -- look at Loni Anderson and Ann Miller," says Leon Hall.

The time-trap concept goes for clothes as well. Face the facts with integrity. Stop trying to squeeze your body into a "better-sounding size." Clothes should be tailored to fit properly, and that includes undergarments. Many women never bother to follow through with proper fitting underpinning that can do wonders for the figure.

And the age-old problem of hair length as you get older needs just as much consideration as hemlines. "Women past 50 have no business with hair below their shoulders -- it's only aging," says Mr. Hall. However, there is disagreement on the length question. Lopping off all of your hair just because you're over 40 is not necessarily the answer.

After all, graying might just be nature's way of softly framing a complexion that is losing its pigment. Sticking with your gray does not automatically retire you to the "blue-haired little old lady category."

"To prevent a dull gray cast, you need to wash with a violet-based shampoo. And forget about trying anything like Grecian Formula, which contains lead that eventually builds up," says Ms. Christensen.

The problem is not about being gray, but going gray," explains Jody Byrne, president of the beauty forecasting service Trends & Sources. "When you're 2 to 25 percent gray, you fall into limbo -- neither here nor there," says Ms. Byrne. "Whereas, shiny, healthy, all-silver hair is spectacular." If you're over 25 percent gray, you need to go to a permanent color. When coloring, beware of do-it-yourself hair dye jobs, which often come out looking flat and artificial. You're better off going to a pro.

Like hair, skin thins out and changes pigment with age, too, allowing the natural production of oils to slow down, causing dryness. And makeup fades more quickly on dry skin. Frosted or pearlized eye shadows except on very dark skin will always emphasize crepiness. "Lids look smoother with neutral matte shadow, because where frost reflects, matte absorbs," says Constance Hamedi, M.A.C. Cosmetics' national technician who specializes in make-overs. "Skin often becomes sallow after 50, therefore, you should compensate with a powder blush as opposed to a creamy rouge, to prevent makeup seepage."

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