Thursday, May 14, 2009

Rules and how to break them

There are some rules that can’t be broken: visible panty lines or bra straps showing, for example. And there are “rules” that can. These are what I call “old school” rules. The kind your mother and grandmother may have adhered because “they” said so. While the rules concerning good taste always apply, certain others can be tossed aside. Especially if you have decided to own your style, your way.

Rule #1: Never wear white before Labor Day.

Who says? Why not? Does white look good on you? Does it work with your total outfit? Is it fall or winter weight? Then forget about “winter “ white. Wear whatever white you like. Some people look dreadful in winter white, or ivory. If it doesn’t look good then don’t wear it! But to suggest that white after Labor Day is somehow incorrect is ridiculous. White with black always looks correct, and white with a great color is a real attention-grabber. (Just try not to look like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever.) A jewel-colored cashmere sweater with white pants in winter is classic and lovely. Beige with white looks great in the fall when you pair it with smoky quartz or amber accessories or pop it with turquoise. So wear white after Labor Day. (By the way, what did this “rule” have to do with anyone who lived in the southwest or the Deep South?)

Rule #2: Always cut your hair short once you are past 40.

In my case, yes. I look awful with long hair. This has nothing to do with an arbitrary number and everything to do with one’s features. If you have the beginning of jowls, or droopy eyelids, the hair should be cut shorter and layered to bring your attention upwards. In this way the haircut acts like a facelift. If you are lucky enough to still have a nice neck and jaw line, no drooping in the eyelids then wear your hair longer. The one rule I would abide by here is to not go for the curtain of hair with the bangs. It makes you look like a Springer Spaniel. And it is aging. So get the long hair, but with some layering for interest. And of course, style.

Rule #3: Match your shoes with your bag.

Well, yeah, if you want to look like my 94 year old Aunt Ella. Aunt Ella is adorable. But she is 94. Are you 94? If not, mix it up. Black dress, black shoes, pink bag. Beige outfit, brown heels, blue bag. Jeans, red heels, zebra-print bag. You get the idea. Have some fun with this. You’ll get more wear out of your bags and shoes this way and add interest to an outfit that was becoming boring.

Rule #4: Match your lipstick with your blush.

Only if the blush is the right color for you. Blush should look natural. Unless you are posing for a black and white photo-shoot you do not need to contour and certainly contouring should not be done with pink or coral. Wear what flatters you skin-tone and is in the same color family. Having trouble here? Lean over for a minute. When you come back up you will see not only where to apply blush but what color is right for you. And lose the idea that the lipstick and blush have to match unless you are Hell-bent on looking older than your years.

Rule #5: What worked in your prime is your best look always.

No. It is not. What worked in your prime worked then. If you get stuck in a time-warp, wearing what looked good on you in high school or college or whenever you thought you looked your best in the past then you end up actually looking older. (Men, this also applies to you. I wish I had a dollar for every man I see over 50 who is sportin’ the “Modified Beatle” do, or worse yet, a Mullet.) Just remember to be age-appropriate. It’s a fine line and a good hairdresser will let you know if you’re going in the wrong direction. If you don’t believe me on this point then think back to the lady in your neighborhood who still has the Farrah wings or the one you just saw at the mall with the cut-out sides-shaved back-perm on top thing. Did you say “Man!" I wish I looked like that!” I didn’t think so.

Elizabeth Sutor is a Makeup Artist and Wardrobe Consultant. She can be reached at or 302.312.9241. Her website is

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