BY CARMEN HUBBARD
True story. I shopped for bargains at a preppy store with a nautical name, enjoying the silence as I hunt for deals. The silence was broken when two women browsed the sales racks as they complained about being hard to fit. One lady pulled a cute, red cap-sleeve cashmere sweater from the sales rack and asked if her friend liked it. The friend’s response: “I like it but it looks too big for me. I wear an extra small.”
The last statement is what caught my ear. If that didn’t take the cake, the woman who held the sweater chimed, “Oh yeah, these sizes run big on me. I need an extra small, too.” There was nothing athletic or skinny about the friends. They were average in height and weight and far from 20-something, unlike the models in the store’s catalog. Their bosoms had begun to succumb to gravity and their hips showed signs of middle-age spread — a physique that needs amble tailoring.
I was more puzzled than amused their comments. Did they really think they were fooling people by blurting their dress size? If age is nothing but a number, why doesn’t the same apply to size when shopping for clothes?
Fashion experts recommend trying on clothing that fits best and is the most comfortable. Not all designers size their apparel equally.
For example, a size 12 dress from a budget manufacturer might be labeled an 8 by a more expensive designer, which is called “vanity sizing,” according to merchandising and textile experts.
Surprisingly, there’s really no such thing as a brand that runs “true-to-size,” said Tammy Kinley, an associate professor at the University of North Texas School of Merchandising and Hospitality Management. “Any manufacturer can pick whatever measurements they want and attach a number to it.”
Now that you know size doesn’t have to dampen your style, fashion experts give advice on how to dress age-appropriate at 50.
Fashion celebrity stylist/designer June Ambrose, author of Effortless Style, says boatneck tops, lower scoop necks that expose the collarbone and button-down shirts with the second button undone can be sexier than showing cleavage.
“You want to be noticed and complimented without being compromised,” Ambrose said. “Things that give the illusion of a 16-year-old body under a well-draped garment will keep the male admirers wondering and wanting.”
Being 50 and fabulous, women evolve from sexy to sophisticated with cotton and cashmere separates and mix sporty with dressy.
“Remember, fit and attitude play a big part,” Ambrose added.
Fashion and style guru Charla Krupp said wardrobes need to be readjusted as you get older.
“There is such a thing as clothes that are too young, and then clothes that are too aging,” she said in a previous interview. “You want clothes that are totally right and age appropriate, and make you look young, hip and powerful. It’s also a matter of getting rid of things in your closet that really date you.”
Krupp is the author of the best-selling book “HOW NOT TO LOOK OLD: Fast and Effortless Ways to Look Ten Years Younger, Ten Pounds Lighter, Ten Times Better.”
As important as looking stylish is, the same goes for wearing shapewear and foundation garments.
“I love shapewear! I wear it every single day. If you want to look thinner than you really are, just slip on a pair of bike shorts. They really hold everything in, and they won’t give you visible panty lines — VPLs,” Krupp said. “It gives you a sense of control and competence to wear shapewear underpieces, and they’re not like your mother’s girdles that are so tough to wear. They’re actually really comfortable; there’s a lot of Lycra in them.”
So remember, dress your age, not your shoe size!