Tracy Reese: Woman of Style and Substance

Got a problem area? Tracy Reese can camouflage it. For this Michigan-born designer, it’s all about flattering your positives.
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"It’s funny being a woman designer," says Tracy Reese, 44. "I’m so conscious of what really works in terms of wearing clothes. For me it’s all about solving problems. I’ll say to myself, I’d love a pair of pants that do this and this. Or I’ll say, if I had skinnier knees, I’d want to wear this." Reese implores women to consider trends carefully, look for quality and, above all else, think about what works best. "Every woman can look amazing," she says. "You have to love yourself enough to flatter all the positives."

Design Strategy: Define Your Waist

Reese insists that no matter your size, a demarcated middle is flattering. "Be careful where your waistband hits," she instructs. "If the band hits too low and creates a rollover, then avoid something fitted on top."

Whether you’re wearing a dress or pants, Reese insists that a belt lends "a little sense of power around your waist." The designer especially likes high-waisted pants. She says, "You can hide a tummy, create a slimmer middle and really lengthen the look of your frame."

Tracy Reese wool-blend trousers with velvet trim ($395, select Neiman Marcus, 888-888-4757)

Great Belt

Wear this with pants or skirts; the gold hardware makes it pop. Tracy Reese leather belt ($150, select Nordstrom stores, 800-695-8000)

Style Savvy: Buy (and Wear) a Great Dress

"As a woman who has to get up and go to work every day, I find it so much easier to put on one perfect dress than having to put together three pieces to create a look," she says. "As a designer it’s fun to say, what’s the most perfect dress I can think of today?" The key to looking good in a dress: Find a cut that works with your body (hide the negatives, flaunt the positives), and go for quality fabric and construction for an expensive look.

Tracy Reese crinkle silk georgette dress with lace ($475, Proper Topper, 202-333-6200)

Daring Details: Add Shine

The list of myths regarding metallics is a long one (for starters: They skew young, they’re hard to wear), but Reese insists none of it is true. The designer especially likes shine in a warm shade (bronze or gold) as a seasonless option for women over 40. "They’re vibrant tones, just right for dressing up," she says. Reese cautions women to limit accessories to avoid bling overload. Her trick? Keep jewelry in the same color family.

Tracy Reese cotton-polyester blend dress with sequins ($550, Black Parrot, 207-594-0138); R.J. Graziano resin silver-plated necklace ($245, 212-685-1248)

If you’re still skittish about wearing metallics, try a shoe like this t-strap, Reese’s favorite style. Tracy Reese leather t-strap pumps ($250, 212-807-0505)

Color Conscious: Find Your (Inner) Pink

Reese’s love affair with the color pink is passionate. The designer says many of the walls in her office are painted pink, and so is her desk. In fact, the color is incorporated into nearly every collection. "Sometimes the shade is azalea, sometimes rhododendron, sometimes shocking," she says. "It’s just so full of life." Think it’s not for over-40 women? In Reese’s view, pink flatters the face ("like blushing cheeks") and, when cuts are kept sleek and simple (like a sheath), is perfectly grown-up.

Tracy Reese silk-wool blend dress ($320,; Tracy Reese leather belt with brass buckle ($138, 212-807-0505); Isaac Manevitz for Ben-Amun crystal on velvet ribbon necklace ($500,

Originally published in MORE magazine, December 2008/January 2009.

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