Style Evolution: How to Create Ageless Personal Style in Your 40s and Beyond


The author of the successful The Pocket Stylist follows up with a book that addresses the specific fashion needs of the over-forty crowd

Even though women in their forties, fifties, sixties, and beyond have never looked better, healthier, or younger, their fashion needs have changed. Unless you have the body and lifestyle of an eighteen-year-old, shopping probably isn’t much fun anymore. The fashion industry seems to have turned its back on women who are forty and older, ...

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The author of the successful The Pocket Stylist follows up with a book that addresses the specific fashion needs of the over-forty crowd

Even though women in their forties, fifties, sixties, and beyond have never looked better, healthier, or younger, their fashion needs have changed. Unless you have the body and lifestyle of an eighteen-year-old, shopping probably isn’t much fun anymore. The fashion industry seems to have turned its back on women who are forty and older, churning out collections that have nothing to do with careers or sophisticated living. Kendall Farr to the rescue! With Style Evolution, she shows readers how to create a hip, ageless, individual sense of personal style without feeding into the culture’s deep obsession with looking “young.”

Naming names, Farr shares the results of her extensive analysis of designers and brands —from high-end to budget-conscious—best-suited for women over forty. She also delivers ideas that suit every budget, from high-end lines to good buys. Packed with more than one hundred full-color illustrations, Style Evolution guides readers through discovering their own style profiles, with six basic shapes designed to match realistic body types. Farr also puts the spotlight on trends, illustrating the ageless approach to wearing what’s “new.” An ageless shopping checklist and thorough details on accessories (from bags to shoes to eyewear) complete the book.

With hundreds of tips that bestow grace and class, Farr leads the way for the woman who is ready for her wardrobe to catch up with the rest of her life.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

In her first book, Reed-the style director for Grazia, a weekly UK fashion magazine, and a seasoned fashion journalist-incorporates all the great elements of many books in this genre: bright, bold images, a fun, informative tone, and tips most women can apply to their own wardrobes. Peppered with pictures of celebrity fashionistas like Sarah Jessica Parker, Style Clinic is as fabulous as the personal style it promotes. In Style Evolution, stylist and former fashion editor Farr narrows her focus to helping women in their forties and older create lasting personal style. This follow-up to The Pocket Stylist targets specific styles and body types, relying on enduring designs, fits, and clothing lines to teach readers how to avoid trends and build wardrobes to meet the changing physical and lifestyle needs of middle age. Farr even names individual designers and stores most appropriate for women over 40. This original approach makes for an educational though text-heavy guide. Readers may be put off by this denseness and by the illustrations, which are vague and do not have the appeal of the photographs in Style Clinic. Both are recommended for larger public libraries where similar titles circulate well.
—Meagan P. Storey

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781592404216
  • Publisher: Gotham
  • Publication date: 4/7/2009
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 263,579
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

A top New York stylist, Kendall Farr has dressed many celebrities, including Halle Berry, Uma Thurman, Angelina Jolie, Joan Allen, Andie McDowell, Julianne Moore, Sigourney Weaver, and Diane Sawyer. She has also served as a design consultant for a number of fashion labels. Farr is the author of The Pocket Stylist (Gotham Books, 2004) and has written columns for Glamour and O, The Oprah Magazine. She lives in Brooklyn.

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Read an Excerpt


What does it mean to have reached middle age in a time of celebrity adulation, youth obsession, stripper culture, and the Real Housewives franchise? For starters, it means you are likely to be confused and frustrated when you shop for new clothes—at a time when your personal style has never been more important. Dressing well and looking current and grown–up in middle age is not only a vital reflection of self–regard but of the attitude we wish to project to the world.

A woman's 20s are about style surfing, chasing trends for provocation and outrage, and for experimenting with as many personas as possible. Her 30s are for growing up and into her fashion identity along with developing an eye for silhouette and quality. Her 40s are a kind of staging decade for a new approach to her style that will wear well in the years ahead. Many women have an epiphany (or a full–blown crisis) when they recognize that styles they've worn since their 20s and 30s have run their course and simply don't look right anymore. If by 40 you find yourself asking, "How am I supposed to look now?" if you are unsure when shopping for new things or ambivalent about buying new clothes because you are stuck in a style rut, don't worry about it. It happens to almost every woman at this point in the journey (even fashion stylists).

This is also a time of physical and mental transition for women and many complain that once they reach a certain age they feel invisible. Your personal style is one important way to stay visible and relevant, yet you may start to hate shopping because so few clothes in your favorite stores seem designed with you in mind.

In every fashion season designers invoke many of the same tired muses: the ingenue, the schoolgirl (or schoolboy), the sexy secretary, the debutante, and the dissipated socialite. Gorgeous, malnourished teenagers wearing the world's most expensive clothes (many silly, frilly, and utterly out of touch with reality) are meant to fuel our middleaged aspirational appetites. Designers know this works. While the desire for luxury goods is at a fever pitch, so is female body anxiety (the incidence of eating disorders among midlife women is on the rise).

If you've succumbed from time to time to the images in fashion magazines and celebrity rags, you are far from alone. Unless you live in the extreme remove of an ashram or a space pod, these images are unavoidable, they are everywhere, and no woman is entirely immune to them.

We are an unprecedented group, we baby boomers. While some of us were hippies and others of us were yuppies, we all share a rejection of traditional notions of middle age. That most of us don't dress like our mothers is well documented. That we dress to please ourselves is also well known by researchers. I read recently that to reach "us"—meaning to harness our staggering spending power—the approach should be "psycho–graphic" rather than demographic. Yet retailers struggle to pin down what we want because our psychology is represented variously in a female tribe with diverse notions of self–adornment, self–improvement, and what it means to dress appropriately for one's age.

You may well ask: "Exactly what does age–appropriate dressing mean anymore? I'm 50, but I feel 30 and I want to look young." This is an important question and one your stylist thinks about with every shopping trip for her advertising gigs, for her clients (those between 40 and 60), and for herself! Your stylist is also a woman of a certain age.

For the past several years, the design direction for affordable clothes has offered a few specific choices—none of them acceptable, in my opinion.

First, the '90s world of basics: a dreary landscape of unremarkable tees, twinsets, boxy jackets, bootcut stretch pants and washed denim jeans, A–line, pencil, or the token "flirty" bias–cut skirts. An "update" of these basics spawned something far worse: moderate and bridge lines trying to create "young" looks for midlife bodies by borrowing details from news–making lines like Marc by Marc Jacobs or Chloé, to absurd affect. The same matronly and boxy shapes were tarted–up with a row of Sgt. Pepper buttons here or a ruffle and a beaded appliqué there. Why? Because we brand–literate (and fed–up) over–40s had run screaming to the racks of the contemporary department looking for current styling and fit, novelty, and youthful details. We ended up with too many low–rise jeans, velour tracksuits, faux vintage, and baby–doll looks.

While there may no longer be any tried–and–true rules or prescriptions for dressing appropriately (at any age), for us there should be.

Ladies, some stuff simply doesn't work anymore. There is a whole world of choice that exists between the blanched monotony of basics and the soft–porn style seen on The Real Housewives of Orange County. Especially now, when you have never known more or had more personal gravitas, it is essential to cultivate a new perspective if you feel stuck. It's time to choose the clothes that will keep your look evolving in an inspiring and individualistic way. By 40, you have lived and learned, and the last thing you want to do is dress unremarkably or in styles so incongruously young that you appear to be at war with yourself.

There is young and there is youthful. And while youthful infuses a look with an ageless and timeless charm, verve, and a dose of nerve, young is where most middle–aged women run off the rails. And let's be frank, ladies, our culture assesses women—especially midlife women—by a brutal set of standards every day. While "mutton–dressed–as–lamb" is commonly lobbed at the woman faking it in a blouse–length dress from Forever 21, when was the last time you heard a 50ish man dressed in cargo shorts and a wallet chain from Abercrombie described as "beef–jerky–dressed–as–calf"? Exactly.

I am here to show you how your wardrobe can keep pace with the rest of your life. So before we begin our work together, I'll ask you to keep this in mind: This is not a revolution. There will be no waging war on your closet or your body. This is an evolution: a slow and steady way to intelligently reevaluate your style one piece at a time. Let's begin your style evolution…

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