Thinner and younger are simply a state of mind

Has it been more than 15 years since anybody carded you at the liquor store? Do sales clerks snicker at your suntan knee-highs and dirndl skirts? Is middle age waging war against your body, wounding your morale with thunder thighs and love handles?

Welcome to the fat 'n' frumpy club.


If you're tired of feeling dated and dowdy, buck up. You can drop 10 years and 10 pounds without dieting or liposuction.

Mr. Blackwell, Los Angeles' tart-tongued fashion designer and author of the infamous annual "worst-dressed list," says if you're feeling old and frumpy, it's all in your head.


"Looking young is an emotional attitude that you have toward your life, home and family. The minute you're unhappy, you've added 10 years to your face, and then your body caves in, which makes you appear heavier; but when you feel good about life and still have fantasies, you stand taller and look better," Mr. Blackwell said.

"What do I think says fat and 40? Long skirts that hit the top of the calf are terribly aging; clumsy, oversized shoulder bags on a 5-foot-4-inch woman make her look dumpy; frosted nail polish is dated; scarves on the shoulder like Oprah Winfrey used to wear are old; and then there's the woman with too many rings on her fingers.

"But the overly bleached blonde with hair to her shoulders and too much makeup is the worst. She's a bad version of Baby Jane," he snapped, with his trademark sarcasm.

Mr. Blackwell added that if a woman wants to look younger and thinner, she has to do some reorganizing and take a critical look in the mirror.

"Remember to get the right proportions for your height and weight," he suggested, "and don't try to follow the latest trend because it might make you look foolish. And then get a haircut. It's always good for uplifting your attitude, even if your husband doesn't like it. He needs to let you grow up."

The idea of sizing yourself up and retraining yourself is one that's also promoted by Jane Mannfolk, a fashion stylist who's a regular on ABC-TV's "Home."

Ms. Mannfolk thinks that one of the reasons women fight change in their appearance is because they want to belong.

"If you're around a particular group of friends who all wear purple eye shadow and long fingernails with frosted nail polish or who wear cotton dirndl skirts and carry expensive designer handbags with the brand name stamped all over it, a new way of dressing can be risky," Ms. Mannfolk explained. "Suddenly, you look more polished than them, you're attracting a new group of friends, and the old ones will often make you feel self-conscious."


"Women who are feeling depressed or lacking self-confidence because they've turned 40 or 50 should take heart because, nowadays, 40 is really more like 30 was back in the '50s," Ms. Mannfolk said. "It's OK to look youthful, as long as you don't try too hard. Remember, you're only taking off 10 years, not 20, so forget the skin-tight Lycra stirrup pants get-up with high heels and big hair."

To minimize the waistline and hips, add a classic chain belt that hangs slightly over one hip, suggested Leslie Marks, fashion director for Los Angeles' Robinson's department stores. "You can wear it over jeans, a suit or a long tunic top worn over leggings, and it takes the focus away from your waist."

For the office, Ms. Marks suggests suits in which the skirt and jacket match, to give a longer line to the body, and stresses that the jacket should be long enough to cover the hips and roomy enough so that it doesn't pull across the back. The skirt should hover at the knee cap or extend below the calf.

Christina Hahn, the personal shopper for the Promenade Mall in Woodland Hills, outside of Los Angeles, thinks the wrong color of clothing can accentuate wrinkles and add pounds.

"If you've learned what colors are the most attractive on you, you'll look your best," Ms. Hahn said, but added that a woman has to do her homework and try lots of different styles to determine what best suits her.

Still having trouble getting your new look together? All four fashion experts suggest getting professional help instead of enlisting a friend. Check out stores and malls for free personal shopper services; hire a wardrobe consultant, or simply scout the store for a saleswoman with coloring similar to yours and a look you'd like to copy. Then ask her for help.


But if she says she loves your Purple Passion iridescent nail polish, keep walking.