~by Pam Sissons
A fashion powerhouse, AARP editor and an expert on dressing after 50…meet Lois Joy Johnson!
Formerly Ladies’ Home Journal beauty and fashion editor, founding editor of More magazine and currently AARP beauty and fashion expert, Johnson has long been recognized as the go-to fashion resource for a glittering array of top models, stars, public figures, and the fashion industry elite. A 50+ gal like the rest of us, Johnson actually has answers for some of the questions we’ve been asking about dressing after 50! I highly recommend reading her new book book – you’ll be glad you did! Check out our Q & A with her:
Q. Your amazing book, The Wardrobe Wakeup: Your Guide to Looking Fabulous at Any Age is like having a healthy dose of straight talk with your most fashion-conscious friend! What – or who – inspired you to write this book?
A. Thanks Pam! Well, The Wardrobe Wakeup was my answer to all the magazines and books that say they address the 50 + demo but actually don’t. I’ve spent decades working with this powerful demo of women who are now the influential consumers and the most fascinating…but also the most ignored by the fashion industry. The women photographed and interviewed exclusively for the book are a very diverse group in age ( from 43 to 75 ), body, lifestyle, career and looks- and they are all wearing their own clothes in their own personal way. Everyone who reads the book finds at least one person who resonates with them. This was not a “makeover” book. It’s meant to celebrate women and pass on some honest advice and tips I’ve learned as a fashion editor. But hey ! I’m one of the girls too ! Like many women 50 + I left a high power daily career in NYC and transitioned not only my life but my wardrobe. I find all the issues real women our age have today- competing with and working for younger women in the workplace, dating, changes in finances and lifestyle so much more challenging than the same old babble about celebs and reality TV.
Q. You have had an amazing career, from fashion illustrator to fashion editor at Ladies Home Journal and More magazine, now beauty director at AARP and a successful author! What’s next?
A. I am always working on several big projects at once- having the flexibility to do beauty and fashion creates opportunity. I’m probably the only fashion and beauty author who has worked hands on with women 50 + on photo shoots, interviewed top designers 50+ about style ( and let’s be realistic Donna, Norma, Vera, Diane etc all are ! ) and isn’t intimidated by brown spots, crepey skin, saggy boobs, veiny legs, underarm flab, or hormonal bloat….because I’m right there with you! I hope to keep on using my skills, knowledge and experience with women 50 + in fresh ways and keep building my brand as an advocate and spokes-model for us.
Q. I actually never once organized my closet by color until I read The Wardrobe Wakeup! Any more great tips for using what we’ve got?
A. Take everything to the tailor for a rejuvenation and customized fit. All those old designer clothes we bought on sale can get a lift from a nip and tuck- remover shoulder pads on jackets and contour the waist, rise the shoulder line on sleeveless dresses, crop sleeves and length of old good coats to 3/4 length, remove waistbands on pencil skirts and dig out all your belts. Use them to shape coats and jackets for a fresh look. And get skinny flocked uniform hangars so you can toss the mashup of clunky space-taking ones and clothes-wrecking wire dry-cleaner ones!
Q. Who are some of your favorite 50+ women with a sense of fashion style that is both contemporary, timeless and worth emulating?
A. A lot of the women I see with incredible style are not famous at all- friends, colleagues, neighbors, strangers on the street. But if I had to say- Jane Birkin has nailed the casual off-duty look, Ellen Barkin has a chic look I love, Annette Bening and Lauren Hutton because you know they dress themselves.
Q. Why is it still so hard for mature women to find clothing that fits, is flattering and affordable? Is it the clothing that makes dressing after 50 so hard, or the way we see ourselves?
A. I think most designers and stores do focus on younger consumers. Fashion is a youth oriented, celebrity driven business now. It’s easy to find beautiful quality clothes, skirts that are knee-ish, sleeves on tops and dresses if you can afford pricey clothes of course. Things get trickier when it comes to that muddy mid-range and fast fashion. That’s when you have to get selective and be honest with yourself. Women 50 + do not want to just “fit in ” they want style that reflects their taste and needs. We like choice. Some of us still rock skinny jeans but other buy boyfriend jeans or cropped slim pants. Some of us love the relaxed ease of jersey dresses and layers while others prefer crisp sharp tailored jackets and structured dresses.
Q. What do you say to post-50 women who feel like their bodies are changing so much that they will never get their fashion mojo back?
A. Psyche yourself firm with shapewear- there’s no excuse for not having control biker shorts. The compression immediately makes you feel better and your clothes fit better. Cut the size labels out of everything. Get smart about nutrition- extreme dieting cause your hair to thin( who needs that ? ) and your skin to look saggy instead of juicy. Walk, get your now fashionable booty to a gym, buy a great new bra and show your shape not your cleavage ! I think there’s much more acceptance of curves and size – but you’ve got to be firm and toned to some degree. Keep your inner diva/ rockstar going with edgy boots and booties, something leather, python or metallic, trendy nail polish and bold statement jewelry too.
Q. Wardrobe budgets are extremely tight for many older women – $375 for a skirt or a blouse may be out of the question. What are your favorite “copy-cat” fashion tips or suggestions?
A. First of all The Wardrobe Wakeup has a great style-for-less guide in chapter 2 but I do always find great affordable blouses, work clothes and accessories at Zara ( zara.com), consistently fitted tees, cashmeres and flats at J. Crew in every color ( jcrew.com)- the latter is pricier but last forever.
Q. The idea of having to find a flattering bathing suit causes many older women a great deal of anxiety as summer approaches. Any tips?
A. Summer is not so challenging if you start with a salon spray tan or use a gradual self-tanner/ moisturizer as a base daily. It blurs discolorations, veins, brown spots, crepe-y skin and all the doo-dads of sun damage and age. I like all the one-shoulder one-piece suits around now. They cover your cleavage but look sensual. Go for a higher cut leg to elongate your body and slim the thighs- don’t fall into the boy short, skirtini, tankini trap- all fine on 20, 30 somethings- not for us. Have fun with color- you do not need another black tank suit. Choose a color you’d wear in a lipstick – a makeup-y coral, pink, red brightens and flatters head to toe.