Sherrie Mathieson, style consultant


Redefining Fashion After Fifty

Osprey News Network Life

May 2007

 Dress your age, not your pant size.

Yes, that means you. If you’re pushing 50 and wearing skin-tight jeans or a mini skirt, go change. While you’re at it, toss out the dreadful Christmas sweater, long floral skirts, oversized bomber jacket and anything with glitter, sparkles or cutesy sayings.

And ditch the pastel jogging suit and frosted lipstick too. Please. New York fashion guru and author Sherri Mathieson is out to eliminate garish fashion crimes, and point middle-aged women and men in the direction of the change room, real fast, for a quick change and a strong dose of fashion sense.

“You need to clean up your act as you get older - you’re not getting prettier or more handsome so you’ve got to compensate with youthful personal style,” says Mathieson, a very hip 61-year-old style consultant who cringes at the two biggest female fashion faux pas: Dressing dowdy or provocatively.

She wants to teach fellow boomers how to stay fashionable after 50 by following the principles for classic, youthful, yet age-appropriate modern style - basically of being “Forever Cool” (Thompson Peak Publishing).  

“People confuse classicism and refinement with being boring, but they’re so wrong.”

Too many mature people are caught in a fashion time warp, borrowing looks from the younger generation and looking like they’re trying too hard to stay forever young, says Mathieson, whose 28-year career in high fashion styling and costume design has had her working with stars such as Brooke Shields, Billy Joel, Susan Sarandon and Gregory Peck to executives from Fortune 500 companies.

Because everything is geared to a youthful market, “stores are overflowing with badly made, gaudy styles that defy good taste,” she says. “As we age, it can be difficult to find appropriate, comfortable, practical and chic clothing amongst these toxic fashion trends.”

Fashion health is essential. Even if you’ve maintained the weight you were in high school, don’t dress like you’re still there. Like it or not, says Mathieson, personal appearance impacts how others see you: “Dress like an attractive, successful and modern individual and that will be the message you convey.”

Suit up adulthood - “less is more. It’s time to be subtler and more refined,” adds Mathieson, whose colourful book, “Forever Cool: How to Achieve Ageless, Youthful and Modern Personal Style”, offers a fashionable feast full of dos and don’ts, replete with before and afters of real-people models, to illustrate how to dress in ways that are stylish, practical and utterly cool.

She explores what she calls “cross-generational dressing” by pairing mothers and daughters (as well as father/sons) side-by-side, and illustrating ways to borrow looks from current trends and younger generations in order to demonstrate appropriately youthful appearance.

“The hallmarks of youthful style are its imaginative combinations and its unpredictability - the mix of modern and classic styles that have endured the test of time,” she says. “Remember when revisiting past styles, as with current trends, to not adopt the look as a whole, but be selective.”

Bottom line: Keep it simple and classic. Forget fashion, go for style - fashion is fleeting, transitory; style endures. “It’s all about style - finding it, refining it and embracing it - and keeping it relevant to your age,” says Mathieson, who recommends a few youthful accessories, including quality shoes, bags, shawls and jewelry, in order to add spark and interest to classics.

Shoot for the best quality, not quantity: “If budget is a concern, wait for those terrific sales,” says Mathieson, whose favourite stores to shop include J. Crew, the Gap, Banana Republic and Target. She adds: “I believe that looking better is about looking natural and that aging gracefully is the only way to go.” Forget the face lift, she stresses: “You can look your best through personal style alone - no amount of plastic surgery or visits to the hairdressers have the same impact.”

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