PICTURE this: you see this attractive slender figure in a trendy mini skirt from the back. Suddenly she turns, and you almost have a heart attack!
Halle Berry is 42 but looks hot in whatever she wears
That's because the face doesn't go with the gear. Let's face it - we don't want to see grandmothers prancing around in figure-hugging togs and fancy boots.
But what if you're just slightly over 40 and feel you still look hot? Surely you're not expected to go around in shapeless sackcloth just because you're "more mature?" And if Western fashion dictates are anything to go, then Malaysians should come off as even more conservative. Four women share what makes fashion sense for older women.
Yeoleene Yeow, brand manager of Jimmy Choo, and former stylist and fashion editor, says there's certainly obvious changes in the way women dress compared to her mother's generation. Thirty-something Yeow, feels Malaysians are not as conservative as they used to be but it's also a matter of what's acceptable.
"Some women over 40 can't accept that they've reached that stage. At that age, one should look a lot classier. Yes, there's nothing wrong in being trendy but if mini-skirts are in, it doesn't mean you have to wear it! Mini-skirts are good up to a certain age. I would ask myself, would I want my friends to see my mother dressed like that!" clarifies Yeow.
Being fashionable isn't about following fashion blindly but tailoring it to your personal style. If a more mature person can carry off a younger look, then Yeow says she has no problems with it.
"Someone like Pamela Anderson (the actress) can get away with dressing sexily despite her age. Look at Carla Bruni (singer and wife of the French president). She can wear a pantsuit and still look feminine and sexy, and exude power. But some women follow blindly because they still have not found a style suitable for themselves," says Yeow.
Her own personal style is classic, feminine and she doesn?t like showing too much flesh. ?What you leave to the imagination is more powerful, provocative and seductive than baring flesh excessively!? she adds,
Yeoleene Yeow plans to tone down her dressing once she reaches 40
Update your look
Wirda Adnan, editor-in-chief of Glam magazine feels that society's expectations of men and women when it comes to age-dictated dressing is basically the same.
"Men's options are limited and simpler, so the need to follow trends is not so strong. But if he reaches 40, he still expected to dress a certain way. Either way, you're expected not to still dress like a teenager!" she exclaims.
Forty may be the new 30 and 50 heralded as the new 40, or so they claim in the West. But in Malaysia, some segments of society are still relatively conservative.
"It all depends where you live and the lifestyle you lead. In Kuala Lumpur, an older woman can wear a short skirt, and no one would raise an eyebrow. But try doing the same thing in a kampung! Dressing right is all about dressing according to the environment you are in, the occasion and the people you associate with."
Obviously, personal style and wearing what's suitable for your body and personality count.
"You might be in your 20s but if you have big arms and big thighs, wearing something that highlights those areas isn't attractive. If you're 50, a figure-hugging dress might fit your body but not your face and personality," Wirda opines.
In her books, there's really no right or wrong way when it comes to dressing according to your age. But there are still some norms to observe, like dressing suitably for an occasion with religious overtones, for instance.
"If you're going for a wedding, then a pair of jeans and a T-shirt, whatever your age, isn't right. Also, get updated on your dressing. I have friends who still dress like they?re in the 1980s. It might have been fine then but now, you just look weird."
Because of the nature of her job, Wirda has more options than most when it comes to office wear. When attending events, she always makes sure she is well-put-together, because of the circle of friends she mingles with. Her personal adage is own your style and know your body, but respect culture and religion while at it.
"I don't consciously plan on changing my dressing as I age. I guess I?ll know when the day comes and only because I don't feel it's right for me any more."
Winnie Loo doesn't let her age dictate how she dresses.
Know your limits
Hairstylist extraordinaire Winnie Loo exclaims she's still wearing things from Topshop at 50.
"Age is not an issue. It's a matter of whether I look great in it or not, and how it complements how I feel - which is young!" she exclaims.
It's all about having the right attribute to carry it off. It's also about presence and attitude as ?you carry the look, not the age."
And no matter how good you might look despite your age, it's hard to escape catty comments (especially from other women)! Her advice? Be confident about your style and ignore the bitchy remarks.
"How you behave is also important. And what's appropriate, for example, if you're in a corporate environment, don't dress much younger than you are as you won't be taken seriously. Men are luckier as most age well and even look distinguished with grey hair no matter what they wear."
Loo feels she can still wear hipsters even though she's in her 50s because she's in good physical shape. "I dress to please myself. As long as my body and shape don't change, I will continue to dress the same way. But it's also a matter of knowing your limit so don't dress to irritate."
Different rules apply to her own mother though. "That's because she has always been very traditional and such an abrupt change (to modern garb) would look unnatural on her," says Loo.
Traditional wear, a safe bet
Designer of Mayfair Designs and former newspaper editor Leung Thong Ping, 63, points out that unlike men, women don?' dress in "uniforms" (referring to the perennial shirt and pants).
"When you're young, there are many options but as you get older, the choices dwindle down to the same few things and it's gets harder to look nice.
"Even if society doesn't shudder, the older woman should think twice about stepping out in skimpy clothes. Why? Because ageing flesh is subprime!" (In other words, not so marketable.)
Leung feels Malaysian women generally dress according to price as they don't have the time, inclination and knowledge to better present themselves.
Leung Thong Ping, believes older women should think twice about stepping out in skimpy clothing and shouldn't settle for looking frumpy either.
It's like they're saying, 'I'm already married. I'm a mother and on a budget.' Read: why bother dressing up? So they downgrade themselves to the "Aunty look" which means anything goes, or they incorporate hand-me-downs from their teenage daughters!
"The few who take the trouble with their appearance though have worked out a look for themselves and stand out whatever their age," she says.
"A woman in her 50s told me, 'I can still wear my daughter's clothes but it doesn't look right. I guess it's the face.' She hit the nail right on the head!"
For the Malays though, Leung says their traditional baju transcends age. Personally, she prefers jeans, T-shirts and whirly skirts for travel, exercise and dance. Otherwise, it's everything Asia-inspired, a trademark look she says people associate with her label.
"What concerned me about Western wear is how it does less for you as you get older whereas Asian wear does just the opposite. You need to cut out the bells and whistles to look truly stylish, so no sequins, shiny or loud fabrics, and stick to one Chinese button on a single dress, not 20!"
Her advice to women over 40?
Watch out for colour, shape and proportion when it comes to choosing clothes. "Go Asian. It never fails," Leung says.