Dressing Your Midlife Middle

You can diet and exercise with a starlet’s fanatic zeal — or you can find the right clothes and just fake a waistline. Here, how to excel in middle management.
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Have you checked out the season’s hottest heels? They’re the fashion equivalent of forbidden fruit: glossy, candy-colored, and seriously tempting. The catch is that the heels are too high: five, six, seven inches — the kind of towering heights that make podiatrists rich.

To help you find chic shoes you can actually wear, I tested all the latest styles. In the Connecticut suburbs, Laurette Kittle, an artist (shoe size 8 1/2 or 9); Suzanne Frank, a charity event planner (9 narrow); and I (size 6 1/2 ) teamed up to try on 30 pairs of shoes. In New York City, I tested 30 more with fashion coach Susan Sommers (another 9 narrow), founder of DressZing; and Kim Isaacsohn (size 8), president of Clever Carriage, her own handbag line.

Five outspoken shoe mavens, and yet we all awarded top honors to the same two brands: Aerosoles and Taryn Rose. Read on for details.

Graphic Wrap Dress

No waist? Cinch this dress tight, and voila! The front crisscross also creates a nice V-neck, drawing attention upward. Note to big-busted women: A camisole or thin tee underneath will keep you from feeling overexposed.

Allegra Hicks silk jersey dress (allegrahicks.com)

Cropped Jacket

The lines are clean, with nothing constricted or tight around the tummy. Consider layering this with a thin, ribbed sweater — and don’t tuck that in (it’s cooler if it shows underneath).

Jeffrey Monteiro silk-viscose-wool blend jacket with mohair grosgrain trim (Satine, 323-655-2142)

Tunic Top

Find one like this: cut just wide enough in the middle that it still flatters, while disguising what lies beneath. Flattering to all, but FYI to petites: Watch the hem. (If it’s longer than hip length, the tunic will wear you.)

Tory Burch silk georgette top ($295, toryburch.com)

Pants and Flowy Top

With a top this floaty (and concealing), keep your pants simple and tailored. Low-rise pants are best (less fabric around your middle). If arms are an issue for you, consider a three-quarter-length sleeve for your blouse.

Missoni silk top (212-517-9339); Nili Lotan wool wide-leg pants (Diane T., 718-923-5777)

High Heels

Tip: Wear pants with pumps or boots. Go for the highest heel you can stand.

Banana Republic ostrich leather pumps (bananarepublic.com)

Monochrome Outfit

Stick with one dark shade all the way to your shoes. Go for a long, lean, continuous line of color (black or, right now, forest green).

Moschino satin top with pleated front (Butch Blum, 206-622-5760) and nylon-wool blend skirt (moschino.com)

Dark Tights

Tip: Dark tights (forest green is fresh for fall) present a slimmer leg.

DKNY tights (nordstrom.com)

Empire A-Line Dress

This swingy style creates a faux middle…while glossing over the real one. Just zip it up and you’re good to go. I have three of these, including the one at left, all by Lisa Perry, and they are super-flattering and travel well. Perfect length: the top of your knee.

Lisa Perry double knit wool jersey dress (lisaperrystyle.com)


Tip: A single piece of shapewear can take off 10 pounds.

TC Fine Intimates high-waist shapewear bike shorts (barenecessities.com)

Originally published in MORE magazine, November 2008.

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