Mar 122014

In light of my recent “old” trauma (stealth pun?), I did a little research into how it is we humans so quickly assess what kind of a person we are seeing. Among the various models I found of recognition, I think feature-matching is most often employed.

Feature-matching: search for simple but characteristic features.

Undoubtedly, gray hair is a simple but characteristic feature of the elderly. What is important is styling. Unstyled hair can be very pretty; but unstyled gray hair presents a very different archetype from unstyled hair in any other color. (Actually, harsh black-dyed hair has a similar effect to gray, IMO.)

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It is not easy for me to want to make certain my hair is styled everyday, but I need to in order to feel like myself.

me, after my hair appointment today

So it made me think, “what are other simple but characteristic features?”

Perhaps this is where the importance of shoes to idiom comes in.

Mar 102014

Since reading How Do 50+ Women Become Visible? at the blog Privilege, I have been ruminating on this quote:

people are hard-wired to make sense of other people by matching them to a known visual pattern.

(Really. It keeps coming back up.) 😉 Mainly my thoughts have been colored by the question,

what known visual pattern am I representing to be suddenly getting “old” comments?20140307-171412.jpg

So I wasted my afternoon spent a little time researching the psychological principles behind perception, recognition, and grouping. And there is alot that pertains to what to wear.

Browse related books.

The quote referenced above was prefaced by a story in which the over-50 author and her daughter go shopping together and are greeted with much greater friendliness by the sales staff than she, the author, receives alone. Having myself only recently started receiving any recognition at all when shopping, I don’t know that salespeople are friendlier to young people as much as they recognize a mother-daughter pairing as a buying unit.

What follows the quote is a highly entertaining collection of style archetypes among 50-75 year-old women. What scares me most about them is how many of them are associated with doing stuff. Like, “don’t look at me and expect me to do all the work just because my hair is grey!”

Because somehow, even though it is pretty, my hair is perceived as grey; grey hair is the defining visual feature of “old”. Now I just need to figure out what the defining visual feature of “ageless platinum blonde” is 😉

In the meantime, I am seriously considering biffing all my gray, or at least the light gray tops. The principle of similarity states:

when objects look similar, people tend to group them.

Feb 272014

I jumped in the car today, turned on the radio, and – imagine that! – they were talking about the decision to color or to go gray! I will have to go back and listen to the program.

Without further ado, a stroll down memory lane.

Back when I only had the vaguest idea what a “blog” was, and for some reason thought they were only for “other” people, my sister, a writer, had a personal blog. But years before that even, she had encouraged me to start an email newsletter containing my “what to wear” ideas. She sports stylish silver hair.

Browse related books.

Consider this post hi-jacked.

Once upon a time, there was a frugal princess with prematurely gray hair. Illustrating the truth that one’s personal perception of the physical self can be quite different from what others see, FP was quite mystified when people called her things like “earthy”.

When her blonde was of a more strawberry than arctic tint (because she was worth it!), our heroine got a gig as a model. A hair model, to be precise. Thinking maybe she’d hit the big-time, what she ended up with was nothing less than a stellar haircut. For free. Ideal for her hair type and style idiom, the long layers proved to be the up and coming thing. Frugal Princess was looking very stylish indeed!

Fast forward. In the busyness of modern life, root touch-ups begin to get old. The style stays the same but, after a period of painful grow-out, the color is all natural. For some odd reason, though, long gray hair is just long gray hair, stylish layers or no.

Then the ultimate humiliation: Frugal Princess is ignored at Nordstrom.

In an unlikely turn of events, FP finds herself suddenly once again the accidental recipient of a cutting-edge haircut, this time a chin-length graduated bob. It works. In combination with stylish little glasses, she strolls into Nordstrom, t.b.d.icon no less, and strikes up a lengthy conversation with the most helpful saleslady, who proceeds to point out just what pads of carpet to stay off to avoid the old lady departments.

Preparing to leave, our once-again stylish princess sees a friend she hasn’t seen for quite awhile and proceeds to share her delight in being able to get waited on in Nordstrom. To which friend replies, “well, with your hair long, you just looked like a hippie chick”.

The moral of this story: ???

Feb 262014

Proverbs 20:29
The glory of young men is their strength,
but the splendor of old men is their gray hair
. (ESV)

20140226-143824.jpgThis is my hair. If the Bible casts gray hair as a good thing, should that not cause me to ponder the positive? Lately I have been getting alot of “old” comments, cashiers asking if I qualify for the over 60 discount and so on; which, of course, raises the question of coloring my hair.

Then there was an article going around Facebook about the popularity of older models. And the recent trend among younger celebrities to go silver or “graylight” (Rihanna, Kate Moss).

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So, since I have been blogging about resonance, here’s (I think) an example of a working model with hair of each:

Tint: Kristen McMenamy
I am taking tint to be a very light version of a color.

Saturated: Carmen Dell’Orefice
A pure white.

Tone: Teruko Burrell
Blended or soft-looking grey.

Shade: Roxane Gould
Contains an undertone of black.

Truthfully, I am not at all certain that I correctly identified the resonance in these photos, but clearly they demonstrate varieties of beauty in grey hair. When considering whether to color or to go gray, there seem to be alot of rules (go short, use special shampoo so it doesn’t look yellow, and so on). Sometimes rules are meant to be broken.

Feb 182014

Ok, so I have been thinking about this post, or at least the idea, for a couple weeks or more. The initiating events:

1) multiple instances of noticing ladies from across the room who look shockingly different without their (black) coat than in it. One young lady looked pretty in her colorful top and plain in her coat; one slim, perky, middle-aged gal looked like a stocky street person; and they all looked older and less vital.

2) watching the second episode of Project Runway spinoff Under the Gunn. Stunningly-beautiful, eliminated designer Amy Sim was wearing green in the workroom and looked young and vibrant; on the runway, she looked her age (53) and a little weaker. Could it have made a difference in her being chosen by a mentor? Idk.



Of course there are women who look good, even stunning, in black. But many wear it for other reasons: it’s appropriate, expected, easy, slimming, and so on. As I see aging in my mirror, it is becoming more important to me to choose good colors, especially for outerwear.

I always advocate colored coats. This time in the fashion cycle is an excellent time to add a flattering color coat and this time in the year is a great time to get a good price. Women’s outerwear on Amazon.

My “sledding coat” is purple; an intense royal purple with white zippers and gunmetal buckle, it is a shortish down puffer with belt for which I paid $10 a few years ago at thrift. This weekend, a cute young mom stopped me in the grocery store, told me how alive the color made me look, and asked if anyone had ever told me I look like Mary Louise Parker. No, no one ever has. But I will accept that and quit looking for a different down jacket. 😉

Feb 042014

I am testing the idea of posting within a theme each week. This week, I am thinking about body image.

Occasionally someone needs to state the obvious.  How ’bout me? 🙂

Getting fit does not necessarily equate to losing inches

We hear about the possibility of “bulking up” from weight-lifting or cycling or whatever, but then assume if we are exercising we will actually get smaller. There is a limit, however.

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Bone structure dictates a minimum size. For example, while I still have a bit of “fluff” around my waistband, I have finally come to realize that I will never need a smaller size pants. In fact, when the “fluff” is replaced with muscle, I made need bigger underwear. 😉

With a healthy amount of muscle and fat covering my bones – and I am working on exchanging the latter for the former – I will never be a size zero (except perhaps at Ann Taylor).

Jan 062014

Wearing a flattering color near the face can have greater impact than makeup. But how does one know what colors look good? Probably 80% of us have had a botched color analysis. Most then resort to either wearing what is in style or whatever they like.

Some time ago, Vildy linked in comments to the following idea:

Your eye colour in no way determines which Tone you fit into. Any Tone can have any eye colour.”

From the same page:

 It is about the reaction that colour causes in your skin – or to be exact, the optical illusion that occurs when two colours are placed side by side. Your skin doesn’t get older or yellower, but wearing the wrong colours, it sure looks that way to the viewer.

The point here is this:

The one criteria for a flattering color is how your skin looks next to it.

I think I buy that. If your skin is flattered by a color, I do believe it will work well with your eyes also.  And hair can be changed 😉

image.jpgThe other day I tried on two different athletic tee shirts: one charcoal heather and one neon yellow.  I am learning to look for lumpiness in the lower parts of the face when comparing colors.  Although the charcoal heather would be, I think, what the “experts” would recommend, which do you think I bought?  This neon yellow made my skin look clear and smooth, and my eyes look bright.

(I thought my tranquil color was more “yellow pear”, but maybe those light flecks are actually this intense hue.) Browse related books.

Next time I am sorting through my closet, I am going to try this color-draping hack again. Let me know if you try it; it may not work until you reach a certain age 😉

Jan 012014

Health – physical, mental, emotional, and etc. – is arguably the greatest contributing factor to both happiness and appearance.  When I was in this week for my semi-annual teeth cleaning, the hygienist made the comment that how we take care of ourselves in our 50s determines our quality of life in our 80s.  I am 50 now. Thanks to Sonicare and oil pulling, I should still have teeth!

During 2013 I took a number of healthy steps in other areas, including joining the YMCA.  Some Most of those moves I could not have foreseen a year ago.

While in Hawaii, I read The God-Shaped Brain: How Changing Your View of God Transforms Your Life. Written by a Christian psychiatrist, it offers a refreshing paradigm from which to view our relationship with God, as well as alot of brain science. For 2014, I hope to grow in brain health. To that end, I am looking for ways to incorporate helping others (aka altruism) into the fabric of my life.

What is one aspect of your own health you would like to improve in 2014?

Aug 242011

People considering plastic surgery often have to deal with negative reactions, whether direct disapproval or people whispering behind their backs. Much like people who wear excessive makeup, or who clearly spend hours fixing their hair, or even people who use suffocating amounts of perfume; people who undergo plastic surgery are often though of as somewhat vain or contrived. This simply is not the case all of the time. The following few paragraphs will demonstrate how plastic surgery can be used in subtle, helpful, or even reconstructive ways that do not indicate vanity.

Perhaps the most “controversial” form of plastic surgery, at least with regard to perceived vanity, is breast augmentation. However, as detailed on related websites like, this type of surgery is not meant only for enlarging breasts; many women simply use it to maintain their familiar figure. For example, following a pregnancy, or even just from aging, many women find that their breasts change.  It can certainly be contested that maintaining the body shape one is accustomed to is not complete vanity.  Additionally, breast augmentation can even be used to reconstruct a breast or breasts following complications from a battle with breast cancer, a consideration unfortunately faced by many women today.

It is also quite common for people to look into erasing or lessening wrinkles via plastic surgery.  This could be considered simply an effort to keep up appearances, rather than an attempt to change what one looks like or enhance one’s beauty. Through methods such as collagen injections and minor lifts, wrinkles can essentially be stretched and flattened so that the surface of the skin remains smooth. Now, of course, there are limits at which this surgery can appear to be a bit obvious or unnecessary… for example, an 80 year old person with perfectly flat and smooth skin does not look natural, and could be considered, perhaps, a bit vain or even somewhat in denial.

These have been just a few examples to help us to think through whether plastic surgery is always artifice. It’s always good to think these things through, rather than just react based on the expected perceptions of others.  There are additional examples as well: slight liposuction for people who try and struggle to lose weight due to aging or pregnancy, or lifts and tummy tucks for people who have unflattering excess skin following a drastic or sudden weight loss, etc. 

Under what circumstances would you consider plastic surgery?

Sep 142010

Along with what seems like record numbers of my peers (and children!), I am formally a college student.  Classes begin next week.

This past spring, in my single quarter as student at a local community college, I studiously dressed as myself-as-student.  My goal was social.  For the first three to four weeks of classes, I carefully put together outfits from the leisure lifestyle segment which reflected my personality.  After that, I eased up only a little, occasionally throwing in a blazer or a heel with trouser jeans.  Ultimately, I found this strategy to be very effective:  I was received as well as I have ever been.  Somehow the other students picked up quickly and accurately what kind of a person I was and interacted with me accordingly.

My uniform template for Fall 2010, at least in theory:

dark skinny jeans + cotton tee + structured sweatshirt or leather jacket + 3 mile shoes

A word about book bags:  most people my age use a rolling backpack; my daughter has forbidden me from doing so.  No worries.  I picked up a decent-looking, light gray backpack (for $19.99 at the Eddie Outlet).  I will not be hauling a computer in it.

Happy Back to School!