Elders: Personal style at 80

We recently attended my MIL's 80th birthday party, a mid-afternoon garden party for two dozen family and friends.

Besides enjoying a warm, affectionate fete, I learned a few things for the journey ahead.
Notes to myself, if I make it to 80:

1. Though long in the tooth, do not be gray in the tooth! Whether they are yours or created for you, mak
e sure your teeth are are a somewhat whitish, even shade. Snaggly, stained teeth take the whole face down. I spotted some cosmetic dental opportunities amid those a generation younger. Spend here; it's worth it.

2. Avoid perms. They look tight, fussy, and do no favours to thin or fragile hair.

3. Keep (or acquire) a bit of glamour. A lot is fascinating, if you can carry it off.

My MIL, Monique, looked elegant in a mauve Moroccan-patterned tunic and white linen pants with a mauve pinstripe. An artist, she has keen colour sense and dresses to flatter her figure.
She wore the perfect shade of lipstick, eye makeup and a pale, glossy manicure.

Her BIL Bernard arrived with his companion, Claire. There's a type of Québéciose woman renowned for their flashy, full-on glamour; this look is called "chromée" (chromed), shown here in a shot of singer Marie-Chantale Toupin, who looks very much like a young Claire.

At around 80, this ravishing lady wore a leather blazer, leather pants and booties, all in
deep raspberry. Her impeccable pink manicure drew attention to five huge rings. And gold galore! Several chains dripped charms, thick hoop earrings: the Costa del Sol meets Montréal. Needless to say, she stood out. I thought she was fabulous!

She may have seemed heavily dressed for the third week of June, but the day was cool and overcast, and older folks chill easily.

4.Though your shape has shifted, but don't forsake pants with waists or tops with darts. Abandon dressing in unremitting neutrals.

SIL's mother wore a charming ruffly white peasant skirt, just below knee-length, with a big link necklace over a black, yellow and white flower-printed tee; she looked festive and current.

SIL, in her plain white blouse and black capris, with no jewelry, looked carelessly-dressed in comparison.
Colour, even if only the third colour in a black and white tee, lifts skin tone.

5. If colouring your hair, go pro.

I'd better start an annuity for a good colourist. Expert highlights, lowlights or bayalage really earn the price.

One of my MIL's artist friends, Colombe, wore a hot pink cotton shirt over white slacks. Her discreetly-highlighted blonde French twist brought out her cornflower blue eyes.

MIL is strawberry blonde; I'm guessing it's a home job. Well-placed light highlights near the face would make a good colour even better.
The glamourous Claire's upswept hair was about four shades of honeyed blonde, an effect that Scarlett Johannson would envy. SIL's mother is a light brown with a few highlights near the face. Come to think of it, no one was gray except the men.

6. Just move, any way you can.

Claire wa
lks, gardens and stays flexible with yoga-like stretches. You can see the results in her posture. Le Duc's aunt Béa walks up to five miles most days. Other elder friends attend strength training classes to keep up bone density. Exercise is far more valuable than creams or most pills.

7. Do not worry about wrinkles
in your elder years, because at 80, you will have a radiating burst no matter how many facials you got.

So what? The children who helped put them there will be making speeches brimming with love, and your eyes will fill with tears.
No one counted the wrinkles, only the blessings.

8. Wear beautiful fabrics.

I was stuck by the ready smiles and abundant laughter amid MIL's friends and family.
'Inner beauty' is real, but don't give up on the outer.

When MIL opened Béatrice's gift of an Italian shawl in pearl gray with heliotrope flowers, the exquisite swath wrapped her in glowing luxury. How spot-on Germaine Greer was, when she wrote that older women look their best in beautiful fabrics!

If this post is way too early for you, I hope it assists your choices for your elders. There is beauty to every age, but it takes effort and attention, especially as one copes with the inevitable physical challenges of the eighth decade.

PS. Note to those who gave advice re her gift: We wanted to give a joint gift of a trip, but the sibs did not agree. Le Duc and I gave MIL a pair of coral double drops set in 18k yellow gold. Not only did she love them, but every women there eyed them enviously.


mette said…
A nice post. The woman on picture 2 is so elegant, wonderful grey hair. Thanks for the good advice.
Rebecca said…
I love this post! At this point in my life, I am beginning to take very seriously the need to maintain our ability to move.

Oh, if only I could afford to have my hair professionally chromed! Alas, for now I'll have to make due with this natural sheen. ;)
materfamilias said…
Great post! We sat next to the most gorgeous older woman at a cafe in Paris and she struck up a conversation beginning with some frustration with the service. When she lamented never having learned English and envied our second language, she remarked that at 87 it was too late for her. We had a hard time believing she was that age and not because she had no wrinkles. There was an ample supply, certainly, but her elegant grooming, tasteful yet vibrant makeup, and her sophisticated sense of self combined with her interest in the world around her conveyed an energy that belied her (stunning!) white hair. I love these kind of role models -- taken for granted in your survey of the elders in your family, but perhaps worth underlining, is that they all have interests, abilities, and experiences that ensure they always bring something to the table, conversation-wise -- I think that's an important element of aging well also.
Duchesse said…
Rebeca: My goal for myself is, move it any way I can for an hour each day.

materfamilias: Not sure about the conversation because everything is in such rapid French I tune out after awhile. They certainly have a lot to say.

metscan: She is gray; however among my relatives and their friends not one woman (and they are up to their 80s) is. Some women will not go gray now that it is possible to keep colour.
Great post - an 80 year old with no wrinkles is just scary.

I think great personal style defies age.
Anonymous said…
Duchesse, this is such a great post. It sounds like the most wonderful party full of magnificent woman! I shall take all your advice to heart. I can't believe how 'over' it I feel at 40, so to hear of these wonderful 80 year olds is so inspiring.
I love what Materfamilias said too " elegant grooming, tasteful yet vibrant makeup, and her sophisticated sense of self combined with her interest in the world around her conveyed an energy that belied her (stunning!) white hair. " I would be honoured if that even partly described me now!
Cheryl said…
Lovely post. I have printed it, and at age 54, I will read it regularly to remind myself. I do have one question. Is there an online site to find such lovely Italian shawls?
Thank you for your wonderful blog.
Duchesse said…
New England Girl: I have not yet found an online source for silk/wool blend shawls like hers, which was bought by her SIL on a recent trip to Italy. There are two reputable eBay sellers who offer beautiful shawls in fine wool or silk, and cotton: Heritage Trading and From Silk Road.
Imogen, NO wrinkles whatsoever at 80 could only mean multiple facelifts, but people's skin varies tremendously in its crinkliness. I'm in my 50s and have practically no wrinkles (wish I were as slim as I was in my 20s, on the other hand). My mum is in her 90s and does not have long to live, but has no deep wrinkles. Sagging, yes, but not the network of deep wrinkles one sees on many old people.

It is good to read this post, though also sad, as obviously many seniors can't afford beautiful fabrics and other lovely things.
Maggie said…
A really interesting and insightful post. My aunt who will be 93 next month is one of those ladies. And a "friend of a friend" will be 98 soon and is also one of those ladies. Both have good personal health, but have endured much sadness with the health of those they loved. Each is still involved with fashion, good grooming, and has plenty of spirit and life. Funny how neither has let their hair go grey, nor do they have many wrinkles. And they would never leave the house without putting on their lipstick!
dana said…
I wonder what the term is for painted, overdone lady in each region? Some of them aren't too flattering. But seems as if the result/effect is mostly the same.

I keep noticing two things about jewelry: 1. It's a terrific way to accessorize when it's hot out! and 2. It's something the old can carry off much better than the young.
Duchesse said…
lagatta: I had an aunt who lived to nearly 102 and you may not believe it but she had virtually no wrinkles, Some sagging, yes, but none of the meat-cleaver lines her mother had. It's genetic. If you have that, it is a gift!

dana: Maybe 'old trout'? Though Claire was certainly dressed and made up, far more glamourously than most 80 year olds, I would call her exotic, not overdone. As my DH said, "That should not work, but on her, it does."

Cybill: I think there will be more and more women like this, as we advance in years.

Maggie: Women like this inspire me, I do believe sociability is the key- being able to get out and around or at least receiving friends.
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