Whenever I hear from a potential client over the age of 35, it’s almost a sure thing that she’ll want to know how she can dress fashionably without looking like she’s either in denial or Florida-bound. I know from experience that there are a lot of clothes out there that fall between saucy twentysomething and dowdy old crone. The problem is that the burden falls on the consumer to find and edit these looks–advertising and magazines tend to highlight styles that look best on those ladies who are still heedlessly enjoying the flower of their youth (as well they should).

I think I’ll save this story from the Times as a helpful guide, even though in the typical Newspeak of style advice it suggests that anything goes, except when it doesn’t. (Which is, frankly, sometimes as specific as you can be when trying to give advice to a theoretical group of people with diverse personal styles, body types, and issues). It even addresses Michelle Obama’s right to bare arms. 

On the other hand, Cathy Horyn recently wrote about the fine line between fashionable irony and looking like a ragdoll as time takes its toll. Patricia Field and Vivienne Westwood have an excuse–it’s part of the dress code. But for the rest of us, there’s a fine line between quirky and crazy cat lady. Clean lines and proper fit become bigger concerns.

Confused? Of course you are. Some women grow frustrated enough with fashion to bag it entirely as they get older, but others find ways to work with their changing bodies. About a year ago I met a woman who had to at least be in her 60s. She wore a slim, black biker-style jacket made of some shiny, vinyl-like material that made an striking contrast with her snow-white hair. She didn’t look like she was trying to look young–it simply looked right. When I am an old woman, I shall wear a biker jacket.