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What not to wear when you are a woman over 50

Susan Reimer on what not to wear over 50.

"Another year, another body part to camouflage."

I am pretty sure Coco Chanel never said that, but it's my fashion statement.

The Internet is currently alive with clothing, hair and make-up advice for women of a certain age. Apparently, the outsized Baby Boom generation is making its usual noisy entrance at another party to which it hasn't been invited. The one where everyone is young, thin and hot looking.

The news is, we aren't, can't possibly be, and never will be again. So we have to obey a very long list of what not to wear if we don't want to embarrass the family.

This list is for you, by the way. I have known what not to wear since my daughter was 8. I would come downstairs dressed like what I thought was a yummy mummy, and she would say with that innocent lilt in her voice: "Oh? Is that what you decided to wear?" And I would know immediately I had to change.

(When Jessie married last fall, I gave over all decision-making to her. She chose everything, including the Spanx and the eyelashes. "Just tell me where to stand," I said.)

From what I can tell, the enemy of women over 50 isn't time, it is gravity. No matter how fit we are, our knees, armpits and cleavage will reveal our age. That means shorts, short skirts, tank tops and low-cut necklines are out.

None of the lists I perused included bathing suits, and I can only wonder, considering the body parts exposed, why not? Maybe we are just supposed to stand up to our necks in the surf.

According to the best advice out there, the three-way mirror and an expertly fitted bra are our new best friends, and our shoes and purse no longer have to match. Spend a lot of money on a well-fitting pair of jeans, but no distressed looks unless you want to look distressed.

Ditch the heels for a couple of good pairs of sling backs and flats. No thigh-high boots, if any of you were thinking about investing in a pair. (One list said something about lace-up shoes with padded insoles, and I panicked that someone had been in my closet.)

Like Nora Ephron, we all feel bad about our necks. The answer is turtlenecks, polo shirts, scarves and, get this, fanciful broaches to draw the eye away. I thought a brooch on my shoulder would make me look like a grandmother on a cruise ship, but necklaces and chains are out and another piece of jewelry has to step up.

No attention-seeking scrunchies or banana clips in your hair. Think grosgrain headbands or tortoise shell barrettes. No oversized tote bag purses and, for God's sake, no holiday sweaters.

The goal for the over-50 woman is to look classy and classic, with just a little touch of personality. A pencil skirt with a leather jacket or a crisp white shirt set off with a statement clutch or an attention-grabbing cuff bracelet. A black dress that can go from church to cocktail party with a change of shoes and accessories and a wrap dress to showcase your breasts and hips in the best possible way

Warm colors, not too much make-up or jewelry, an updated haircut, and leave the red lipstick to Taylor Swift. Doesn't seem hard, does it? Except that I own none of these items. Instead, my closet is filled with clothing that would be best served by a small fire.

The great comfort in this 50-plus dress code is the advice for men. It is a shorter list, but the forbidden clothing items illustrate that, while we women may be a bit confused, the men are ridiculous.

You shouldn't have to tell him that he can't wear a muscle T-shirt or one that says something like "Sexy Grandpa" on it. I mean, that's just creepy. No flashy neck chains, bracelets or rings, unless he wants to look like an extra from "The Sopranos."

For my part, I am just going to try to look more like Helen Mirren. And if I have any doubts, I'll send a selfie to my daughter before I leave the house.

Susan Reimer's column appears on Mondays and Thursdays. She can be reached at sreimer@baltsun.com or @SusanReimer on Twitter.com.

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