Ok, we’ve all heard this saying: "Women over a certain age should never have long hair, a ‘young’ hairstyle, short skirts, blue eye shadow," and so on. If you are my age (40-something) or older, you’ve probably been haunted by these same age-Nazi comments.
Well, I’ve adopted my own saying these days: "Attitude is everything!" That goes for age, "age-appropriate" hair styles, makeup, clothing, accessories, shoes, activities, and so on. Don’t let anyone tell you that you still can’t have a lot of fun at your particular age.
Just because I am writing this article, don’t think for a moment that I haven’t wasted hours mourning my 21-year old figure and skin tone! In my heart and mind, I am still that slim 21-year old.
But think about it—we are the ones holding ourselves up to that fleeting and impossible image of ourselves back then. Concentrate on being the best you today that you can be.
What is beauty? Poets, writers and lovers have driven themselves nuts trying to define it. Outside beauty, unless you’re born lucky, is an illusion. (Think about it—if it weren’t, the makeup, hair product and fashion industry would crumble to dust.)
Inside beauty is something different. Much of it has to do with keeping your mind open to new people, ideas, and attitudes. It can be as simple as holding your head high, putting your best foot first, and looking forward eagerly to everything each day has to offer.
Who has seen movies featuring older women like Olympia Dukakis, Shirley MacLaine, and Kathryn Hepburn, and has not been struck by their charm, beauty and magnetic appeal? Look closer to home and you can always find women of a certain age who remain beautiful all their lives.
Let me describe some of the beautiful and dynamic women in my life who are positive role models for me; Peg, Glo, and Karen.
One of my very best friends, Peg, is 75, and is one of the most interesting people I know. She is British, and has typically English rose and white skin. Her hair is white, but she colors it a becoming light sunshiny blonde, wears light foundation, blush, mascara, lipstick and nail polish.
Her wardrobe consists of Sunday best dressy clothes in bright pastels, and her regular garb during the week is colorful tops and slacks, sandals and a few great accessories.
Now, she’s not trying to look 20 years younger, she simply looks good. Peg’s three dogs keep her busy, and she has many friends who love her company. What is most attractive about her is her one-of-a-kind personality, sense of humor, and her determination to live every moment in the present.
Glo, my mother, (who, by the way, is a breast cancer survivor) is 60-something, and is a lovely woman in every way. She and my dad (70-something) ballroom dance every week, do yoga nearly every day, canoe in the summers, and vacation in Maine and Quebec City, Canada each year. She has beautiful, thick brown hair she wears short in a loose curly perm. Her makeup is applied skillfully, and her face always looks bright and attractive.
Glo is slim, and the clothes she chooses are elegant, with low waistlines and swirling skirts, long tunics, and high heels. One of her main considerations for clothing choices is how well she can dance in them! Her wit and sense of humor are infectious, and she has friends both older and younger than herself, as well as those her own age. She is forward-looking, treasuring the past and prepared for the future—and living each minute in the now.
Karen, whom you know as one of the Web Masters of The Hair Boutique, is my age. Photos of her signature beautiful, long blonde hair grace different pages in the Hair Boutique. In person, she is sparkly, charming, and a raconteur who keeps you breathless with funny stories of her varied experiences in business. Recently she was at her favorite salon, getting her ends trimmed. A saleswoman from a hair product line noticed her and told her that she carried off her long hair pretty well, considering her age! (Now I ask you—is that an antiquated comment or what?)
Karen doesn’t care for wearing makeup, and is lucky enough to have great coloring on her own. Favoring lots of black, dark blue, and rose in her wardrobe and gold jewelry, she always looks great. She is one of the most hard-working and dynamic women I know, and has more energy than a six-pack of 20-year olds. Her business acumen is formidable, and she isn’t intimidated in the least by making high-level business deals or negotiating with the city’s movers and shakers.
What do these great women have in common? In looks and age they are all as different as can be. Their commonality lies in the fact that they are confident, strong, active, and believe in themselves.
Appropriate Hair Styles
What hair styles are appropriate for you? Do yourself a favor and treat yourself at least once a year to a consultation with a professional hairstylist. Do your homework on her/him the same way you would a car mechanic or tax accountant.
Do they routinely work on older women, and if so, are they cranking out dozens of blue-haired poodle cuts? Do they hurry their clients so they can style as many heads as possible in one day?
A good way to check out a stylist is to talk with those you know with hair styles you like. Then go with them when they get their hair done, and observe the stylist at work. Once you meet with a stylist, make sure that they understand that you want to make a change and that this is not simply a repeat of the same of thing you walked in with.
Tell them what you like/don’t like in a hairdo. For example, no matter what hairstyle I have, I always have bangs. I don’t like my hair off my forehead, and I don’t like it to be too short in the back.
TELL them these things! You are not only creating a new style for yourself, you are building a relationship with someone who can keep you feeling great about your hair.
Do some research first about facial shapes. The next time you get ready to wash your face at night, pull your hair back and take a good look at your facial shape. Is it round? Sort of squarish? Long? Oval? Now don’t hark back on the good old days when there wasn’t a double chin or shadows under your eyes (I speak in absolute empathy here—I have them both!); that was then, this is now.
There are many books out there that can help you with hairdos for your particular facial shape, and you may want to refer to some of them. What do you consider your best feature(s)? Play them up! If you’ve been wearing your hair long all your life and are tired of it, try a new look.
Many salons offer an imaging service that will show you how you look in different hair styles. But if you’ve been wearing that long hair all your life and love it, it’s your hair and your business!
Many famous women have worn the same ‘do all their lives, and it is their own personal signature. No one would think of coming up to Kathryn Hepburn and saying, "You know, Katie, you really ought to try a nice pixie cut."
Now—let’s stop right here and talk about how the media, the fashion industry, and advertising all have helped us create negative self-images. In this country, we are inundated with constant images of youthful, lithe models, with lovely taut skin and perfect features. (More power to those golden ones, and may they enjoy their looks as long as possible!) But it’s a fact that a very small percentage of our total population is drop-dead gorgeous. If the beauty image in this country is ever going to change, it’s up to us to initiate it.
Before the makeup, don’t forget the moisturizer and sunscreen—even in winter. No matter where you live, using a good sunscreen each day is essential. Many types of skin cancer (and wrinkles!) can easily be avoided by this inexpensive solution. Always wear some on your face and neck, and don’t forget your arms and hands. Remember, it’s never to late to start a good facial care routine.
As part of the once a year maintenance, treat yourself to a makeup makeover. When I go for one, I try to always find a makeup consultant who is around my age. No offense to those consultants 30 and younger, but let’s face it: they generally don’t have the same kinds of issues that we do.
In general, it’s a good idea to go for matte finish products rather than shiny ones for blush and eye shadow. I don’t know what shape your eyelids are in, but there are enough folds in mine to make a shiny shadow look like crackle-glaze.
What colors do you generally wear? You can get makeup to compliment the tones you wear the most. If you’ve always worn lots of makeup, you might consider trying less. If you’ve always just used lipstick and a dab of powder on your nose, you might try using other things as well.
Try as many different looks as you like. Take a friend (an honest one!) with you. Often it’s easy to let the sales pitch overrule your pocketbook and your good sense.
Accessories - I am known to family and friends as the Jewelry Queen. I’ve often quoted that great line of Olympia Dukakis’s from Steel Magnolias: "The only difference between us and the animal kingdom is our ability to accessorize."
My own personal style requires lots of jewelry. I even wear earrings in the tub and to bed. I just can’t stand not to have some bauble on! My biggest weakness is pearls, and over the years I’ve collected pounds of them. And I wear them all (sometimes all at once)!
Do you have a gorgeous peacock-colored silk scarf a friend brought you from France? A diamond tennis bracelet your kids chipped in for? Dangly jade earrings you bought on a whim when you visited Hawaii? WHAT ARE YOU SAVING THEM FOR? (If you’re thinking, ‘why, for a special occasion, of course!’, I’ll slap you.)
What makes an occasion special? I suggest we make every day special! Wear your jade earrings with your jeans when you pop into the store for a quart of milk! Slip on the tennis bracelet before you go to the library! Throw that scarf over your jacket as you drive off to meet a friend! Not only will you get compliments, but you’ll feel glitzy inside, which will make you all the more attractive outside.
The saddest thing I ever heard was a woman who cleaned out her grandmother’s bureau after the grandmother’s death, and found some lovely jewelry, scarves and gloves, all of which were still in their original packing. These were gifts given her over many years by her husband, family and friends, and she loved them—but never had a "suitable" occasion to wear them. Now it was too late.
When family or friends say something derogatory about your hairstyle, makeup or your new turquoise platform shoes, often it’s because they are unhappy with themselves. It can have very little to do with you. They may want desperately to make the positive changes you’ve made, and for whatever reason, don’t. So don’t take those comments to heart. Believe in yourself!
An old adage in the theatre is ‘If you believe it, they (the audience) will, too.’ In these, our most *wonderful years of life, we are what we believe we are. No matter what age or shape you’re in, stand straighter, smile more, open your mind to possibilities, take in the beauty all around you, and seek out those who may need your light.
Never think for a moment that you don’t have your own kind of beauty. In fact, all the experiences we’ve lived through, whether happy or sad, have shaped us into the women we are today.
Have you ever seen a diamond in rough form? It’s a pretty dull, homely rock. But let an expert remove its rough edges and imperfections, and carve it into shape—and the sparkle will take your breath away.
So it is with us. All our life-changing experiences force different facets in the person we are, and the one we will become. It’s up to us to make those facets work for us.
*Why are these wonderful years? For many of us, our children are grown and gone. Husbands, if we have them, have hung with us, or have left us for younger women, and we are free now.
Friends are more available (their kids are gone, too!), and retirement from work, whether it’s coming or you’re already in it, is an opportunity to do what you want, for a change!
If you have comments or questions on this article you can email Jane.