Sherrie Mathieson, style consultant


Fashion After Fifty

Susan Felt
The Arizona Republic

September 2006

by Susan Felt

Fashion after 50
Fine-tune your wardrobe to stay relevant

You’re hovering at 50. That youthful glow is either because of a hot flash or high blood pressure.

Even if you’re trim and fit, your clothes make you look like you aren’t. Clothes bulge where once they rippled, stretch where once they floated.

Hip-hugging jeans didn’t look that good on you 30 years and 20 pounds ago, and now they’re back.

Black is your only safe color.

“The age of 50 is like the witching hour,” says Sherrie Mathieson, former movie costume designer and now fashion consultant and author of Forever Cool (Thompson Peak Publishing, 2006, $22.95 paperback). “At 50, things start to happen to your body.”

Mathieson has solutions for the over-50 set who find themselves with a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear.

“Eight-five percent of the public dresses badly,” says Mathieson, 60, who lives in Scottsdale. “But at 60, it’s worse because you don’t have the physicality anymore.”

Mathieson says their look is decidedly un-hip or ridiculously youthful.

Her answer? Return to the classics as a starting point, and remember, less is more.

For men, toss the black T-shirts, black slacks and Hawaiian shirts. For women, simplify; never mix red, white and black, it’s too predictable and the color scheme too harsh. And be willing to invest in the best-quality fabric you can afford.

For everyone, pay attention.

“Observe what young girls with style do well,” Mathieson says.

To illustrate her fashion know-how for the over-50 set, Mathieson, whose celebrity costume list includes Susan Sarandon, Sela Ward, Rod Steiger, Billy Joel and Lena Horne, took Valley residents Kathleen Toon, 51, and Don Thoren, 67, on a fashion field trip.

Like many baby boomers - those folks born between 1946 and 1964 - Toon and Thoren (on the fringe of the baby boom generation) are in transition.

They were married Saturday and launched a new business,, a consulting group for individuals and organizations.

For each, this is a second marriage; they share five children and 10 grandchildren. Toon and Thoren want wardrobes that reflect their new beginning.

But like most 50- and 60-somethings, they need fashion direction.

“We don’t trust our judgment,” says Thoren, who has been consulting with corporations on training and communication issues for 30 years. “We’re not exactly sure what is considered the right clothing mix today, given business-casual policies.”

For him, it’s not an issue of looking youthful as much as appearing relevant.

“If you don’t look relevant, you don’t sound relevant,” Thoren says. “You don’t want to accentuate the age difference (by how you dress).”

For Toon and Thoren, that means weeding from their closets much of what they wear now.

A lot of hand-me-downs from family and friends hang in Toon’s closet. It’s passable, but more matronly than contemporary.

Thoren realized he hasn’t been shopping in 20 years, and most of his wardrobe, while respectable, looks tired and outdated. There were no leisure suits or Nehru jackets, but even classic tweed sports coats and shirts can fade.

Mathieson focused on two outfits for each of them: one casual and the other professional.

We’ve compiled some of her guidelines to help men and women over 50 look “ageless, youthful and modern.”

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