Stylist/author Sherrie Mathieson offers fashion tips for boomers in “Steal This Style”
Connecticut Post, by staff writer Beth Cooney
May 2009Stylist/author Sherrie Mathieson offers fashion tips to boomers in 'Steal This Style"
'Steal This Style' author offers fashion tips to boomers and their kids
By Beth Cooney
Updated: 05/21/2009 06:54:07 PM EDT
Stylist Sherrie Mathieson has some advice for fashion-challenged baby boomers: Raid your daughter's closet. Borrow her denim jacket, her cashmere cardigans and maybe a chunky necklace to make things pop.
Daughters, likewise, need a style inheritance from their moms advises Mathieson, a Ridgefield-based costumer to the stars. The smart ones will get a handle on mom's stash of designer bags; borrow her leather driving mocs and her classic trench coat. (If the fit is impeccable, of course).
Mathieson, who has dressed and costumed celebrities for film and television for decades, has taken the role of dressing a challenged community of new clients; baby boomers such as herself.
Women, she says, who are sometimes desperately in need of a style "compass." She is also there to counsel the daughters and nieces who, in turn, may be lacking a stylish mentor.
"Style has run amok," she said. "All you have to do is go to the airport or the mall and see what people are wearing to know that we've lost our way."
In "Steal This Style," her latest book, Mathieson worked with multiple teams of mostly mothers and daughters (the majority from Fairfield County) teaching them how to borrow the best of each other's look in age-appropriate ways.
Let's be clear about one thing, Mathieson instructs, as she leafs through her book of make-overs; the two-year project that resulted in the book was a mission to change lives and closets not a singular, transformational
moment for the purpose of creating some great before and after pictures.
Her quest is to upgrade what she considers a tragic reliance on baggy sweatshirts and clunky sneakers as multi-generational wardrobe staples.
"I take this work and this book very seriously," said Mathieson, who at the age of 23 is the youngest person ever accepted as a costume design member of the United Scenic Artists. She has dressed celebrities including Susan Sarandon and Brooke Shields.
"There has become in this country, a tremendous confusion about what the word casual means. It should not mean sloppy. It should also not create this idea that to look good at a certain age you need to be dressy. Sporty makes you look younger. We just need to learn how to get sporty right."
Hence, the largest section of "Steal This Style" is devoted to tips on developing a winning casual look.
"The big question is how do you look casual and look great? You don't have to be sweatshirted out to be comfortable." And if you insist on that look, Mathieson says, "There are sweatshirts and sweatshirts. There are T-shirts and T-shirts. You should seek out good fit in casual style. A wonderful fitting pair of jeans is going to make a huge difference in your look compared to a pair of sloppy ones."
On a day she had just returned home on an early-bird flight from a national book and speaking tour, Mathieson was wearing a pair of Seven for All Mankind bootcut jeans, a bright orange three-quarter sleeve Ralph Lauren polo and sporting her signature oversized Rolex wristwatch. The look epitomized the "classic with a twist" style she advocates for women of a certain age.
"I love the look you see on Lauren Hutton in the recent J. Crew catalogs. I also think Martha Stewart tends to look pretty good, although sometimes she matches a bit too much with her studio set, but that's deliberate. The idea is that these classic looks can translate very well for a lot of ages and each demographic can interpret them in their own way."
If that sounds a tad boring, Mathieson gets it. "But trust me, I'm a costume. No one has experimented on their look more than me. I've made plenty of mistakes dressing myself."
If she has one tip for women older than 50, it's this: "Stay out of stores that cater to boomers." (She names a few, but insists she cannot trash the stores publicly) "You know who they are if you are shopping in them; shapeless clothes. It is instant old and it has to stop."
While she implores people to read her book ("If you just look at the pictures, you won't get the lessons I'm trying to teach"), Mathieson did offer some wardrobe tips she considers universal.
"¢ Appropriate is a function of age and physique. "If you are 50, but look 40 you can get away with more, but not too much. You don't want to show every lump and bump to the world."
"¢ Wear a statement watch. "I like something oversized and good quality. It's instant style." Avoid too much bling. If you can not afford a designer piece, Mathieson says she's found watches by Michael Kors and Timex that created the desired effect.
"¢ The older you are, the more important fabric quality becomes.
"¢ Cashmere T-shirts are a great way to elevate the casual wardrobe of the young and old.
"¢ Too much of anything is a don't. "Too much cleavage, jewelry, make-up, hairspray and jewelry is aging. As a woman ages she needs to look more natural.
"¢ If you have trouble figuring out what's right, Mathieson suggests you visit an "error free" shopping zone. The collections of J.Crew and Ralph Lauren tend to translate well for a lot of ages.
"¢ Be careful about indulging your fashion memories. Mathieson, for example, calls tie-die on post-collegiate women, "wishful thinking," especially if those women have grown daughters. "Right now the '80s are big again and I wouldn't suggest going there. The '50s are better because the trends were more classic. The '70s were good for flared-leg pants and wedges. They were practical and fun.
"¢ Simple jewelry (delicate chain necklaces) tends to get lost on older women. More prominent pieces; maybe a collection of African beads strung together or a strand of Sea Island pearls make more of a statement.
"¢ If you are younger raid mom's closet for Chanel bags, statement jewels and vintage items. "They can elevate younger and less expensive clothes."