Old Hippie Needs Elegant Update

I have no real style. As I've aged, my style has dwindled to pretty nondescript. My husband has a high community profile job so I feel I need to dress in an elegant and sophisticated manner. However my inner desire is more like flowing hippy style that I've never really managed to pull off.

If we were both retired, I wouldn't wear a bra and would dress Bohemia at every opportunity. I feel like I need to fit the role of the college president's wife.

Especially during holiday parties and college functions. No pictures as I try to avoid them. I'm 58 yo, 5"7' and 140 lbs. Many people tell me I look much younger.

Hi there --

I hear you. So much depends on the specific college environment. When I attended a college in New York City, the look was business suits. Students came to classes from high-powered financial, legal, and executive jobs, in addition to the traditional young college students in jeans.

On the other hand, when I worked at a much larger university with a strong Agricultural and Technical component, located in a bucolic small town, many people wore clothes that were suitable for a job at Blockbuster -- khakis, light blue shirts, and navy jacket, often for both men and women.

There are some classics that span these environments: (1) The little black dress. Find good one that looks great on you and have it tailored if necessary. If you absolutely cannot wear black without looking ghostly, try a gray, brown, or some other very dark color.

Have accessories that allow you to change the look -- a beautiful scarf, debutante pearls, and colorful Bohemian-type necklace.

(2) A Chanel-jacket suit is another timeless investment that you will wear to faculty, fund-raising, and awards dinners.

(3) When you are out shopping and in the community, it is probably best to abandon blue jeans. Substitute nice twill slacks that can be worn with a variety of tunic tops, blazer jackets, and sweaters.

(4) Invest in a really good haircut and a make-up lesson if you need to update the latter.

The fact that you have started thinking about this shows that you are moving in the right direction.

Use catalogs to help you find ideas and clothing you like in your size.

Don't be afraid to make mistakes. Right now, I'm kicking myself for buying a dining room china closet that clashes with an Art Deco and bookcase set I got at auction. However, I didn't own the desk set when I bought the china closet. Plus, I didn't have such refined ideas about furniture clashing.

The same thing happens with clothing. You've outgrown your old look, and now you can have a lot of fun finding your new style. If you buy a piece or two along the way that you later regret, don't worry about it. Enjoy the process.

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