Sherrie Mathieson, style consultant


Here’s The Wear and How of Ageless Style

by Sharon Fink
St. Petersburg Times

November 2007

Here’s the wear and how of ageless style 

Fashion is geared to the young, so what’s a grownup to do? It’s all about classic, simple style. 

When Michael Vollbracht quit as lead designer of Bill Blass in May, he voiced a frustration for which thousands of women wanted to kiss him: Fashion ignores older women, he said. “It’s a world of middle-aged women now ruled by children.” 

In a landscape full of clothes aimed at the young and perfect, baby boomer women are feeling abandoned and confused. They think no one cares about their bodies and lifestyles, and they don’t understand why. 

Sherrie Mathieson, a stylist for 15 years, says that’s the No. 1 complaint she hears from women, whether they’re clients or attending one of her seminars.

Her response is that the clothes they want are out there. “But they have to know how to pick them out and understand what is appropriate,” Mathieson says.

At 61, she speaks from age as well as experience.

“I was solving these problems for myself for years,” she says. And before becoming a stylist, she spent 28 years as a costume designer for movies, TV, music videos and print.

Mathieson, who works with celebrities and regular people, has made her expertise accessible in a book, Forever Cool: How to Achieve Ageless, Youthful, and Modern Personal Style (Clarkson Potter, 256 pages, $22.95). Rereleased last month, it is full not only of tips for baby boomers on what to wear, how to wear it and where to shop for it, but before-and-after pictures of regular women, and men, illustrating what often goes wrong in their dressing and how to make it right.

“My philosophy is that (everyone) should start out with a very simple concept of classic clothes that are cut to the latest twist and nuance,” Mathieson said by phone from her Connecticut home. “In other words, a jean jacket is not a jean jacket forever; the one you bought in the ‘80s is not the same one you buy today.

“You want some sophistication to the way you dress.”

This makes finding the right clothes sound like more work that it already can be. But being an educated consumer is key to finding what you want, Mathieson said. Learn what’s out there in fashion. Don’t always interpret it literally, but look at basic trends and structures, and decide if they have the potential to work for you in designs you’re comfortable with.

  • Read fashion magazines and books.
  • Pay attention to the clothes in movies and TV shows.
  • Visit high-end department stores such as Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue, which have outposts in Tampa, even if you can’t afford to buy anything they sell. “Because then when you go to Target,” Mathieson said, “you might see something there and then say, ‘This resembles what I saw in (Saks).’ It’s trickle-down style.”

When you know what you want, Mathieson has plenty of suggestions on where to look for it.

In her book, Mathieson lists her favorite stores, Web sites and clothing lines. The stores with locations in the Tampa Bay area include Neiman (International Plaza) and Saks (WestShore Plaza), Nordstrom (International Plaza), Talbots (bay area malls and on Fourth Street N in St. Petersburg) and Brooks Brothers (Old Hyde Park Village, Tampa).

For trickle-down style, she does like Target, particularly Isaac Mizrahi’s line, along with Ann Taylor, Banana Republic and J. Crew, all of which have bay area stores.

Mathieson’s flagship designer for age-appropriate clothes is Ralph Lauren, not only for design but for offering affordable pieces at midrange department stores and in petite and plus-size lines. She also likes Calvin Klein, Michael Kors, Armani and JilSander.

A key thing to remember is that age-appropriate clothes don’t mean matronly, baggy, stuffy, styleless and blah. Mathieson favors simple, well-cut pieces that stand out because of color, texture or sophistication and that are used economically.

“You can look hip and youthful - not young, but youthful,” Mathieson said. “You can look really terrific. You just need to know how.”

Sharon Fink can be reached at (727) 893-8525 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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