Twenty-five years of fashion and beauty reporting have sent a lot of books, systems and sources my way. some have stuck, proving themselves useful time and again.
Here are my all-star guides to choosing and styling clothes and looking younger through skin care and makeup. they can save you years of buying clothes that don’t really work and beauty products that cost more than they’re worth.
Color analysis remains the single best wardrobing tool I know because its originator, Gerrie Pinckney, spent years revising it, producing in 1994 a system far more sophisticated, inclusive and easy to use than the first. It comes now in a checkbook form of colors you can easily flip open when shopping.
Buying within your proper color family coordinates your wardrobe automatically with items that make you look younger and more vibrant. The older we get, the more important this becomes, since it grows harder to look good in colors that don’t suit us.
It’s a coincidence that the revised system called Fashion Academy is now owned by a native Memphian, Carolyn Bendall, an image consultant trained by Pinckney. Bendall also directs the makeovers that appear in this newspaper one Sunday a month. You can contact Fashion Academy at 901-872-8980.
Even without analysis, it’s a big help to know on which side of the great color divide you fall: whether you are most flattered by cool colors, such as silver, pink, stark white, black, or warm colors, such as gold, orange, cream and brown. (A relatively small group of people can wear well some shades in both families.) If you have no idea, your jewelry can be a clue. Most people (not all) gravitate toward silver, a cool tone, or gold, a warm tone, because it looks better on them. If you’re not sure which is more flattering, ask a friend.
Smart dressing begins with identifying your figure type, and the best book I know to do that and learn to dress for it is designer Bradley Bayou’s “The Science of Sexy” (Gotham Books: $31.35). (It doesn’t really have much to do with sexiness.) Bayou shows you how to use measurements to determine your figure shape and lays out the silhouettes that best suit you in detailed drawings and packaged information that he calls “dressing rooms.” The book is unusual because dressing rooms are created not only for your figure type but also your height and weight. Bayou feels a tall, plus-size “triangle,” (a woman whose bust or shoulders are wider than her hips) for example, does not wear exactly the same thing as a slender petite one. It’s true that the advice will boil down to about four packed pages just for you. But they’re golden. And you may enjoy helping others find their dressings rooms.
“Forever Cool” by Sherrie Mathieson, (Clarkson Potter: $9.18 paperback) will forever remain a top guide to stylish dressing for women and men 50 and older. Initially turned down by publishers, Mathieson had to self-publish the first edition to prove it had a market. Publishing houses, largely filled with young editors, simply couldn’t believe a 50-plus woman was not ready to throw herself upon the funeral pyre of fashion. The book, done in makeover format, is fun to read, and Mathieson’s ensembles are built around classic good taste.
Visit Mathieson’s blog, sherriemathieson.com/sherries-blog, to catch her spot reviews of ensembles being worn today.
The best all-around source I known for the layperson on skin care is cosmeticscop.com, the website of consumer reporter Paula Begoun.
You may try to read what she reads, publications like the International Journal of Biological Macromolecules or Photochemistry and Photobiology, or you can let her do it for you. She cites chapter and verse that support her information.
Click on the “learn” tab. You’ll find information like resinoids and retinol, what they are and why you should care. Begoun reviews many products, but you can save yourself time and just buy from her own line, Paula’s choice. her makeup colors are not especially exciting, but the skin care products are state-of-the-art and reasonably priced.
In recent years, the publishing industry finally began to address the beauty needs of older women. This leads us to a relative newcomer on the block, a book published only last year but one I believe will be around a while.
“Makeup Wakeup: Revitalizing Your look at Any Age” (Running Press, $23) is a comprehensive beauty book giving honest advice on what can be done with makeup and what will require a trip to the medi-spa or plastic surgeon.
For example, forget trying to cover under-eye bags with makeup. that works only for photos, say authors Lois Joy Johnson, a founding editor of More magazine, and makeup artist Sandy Linter. Bags require surgery. You can, however, give your face a nonsurgical lift with blush applied not on the apple of the cheek, but high on the ridge of the cheekbone.
Your spirits may rise too at the close-up photos of older celebrities who contribute their observations. Patti Hansen, now 56, and Cheryl Tiegs, 64, still look beautiful.