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The Top Fashion Items for Older Women This Summer

There’s something here for every body type and budget.

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Collage of various fashion items mentioned in copy
Ethel Staff
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If you’re anything like me, an invitation to a summer soiree sends you into a minor tizzy. What does “summer cocktail attire” mean? Is black banned?

If the party is outdoors are we supposed to trade our high heels for sneakers so our stilettos don’t sink into the host’s lawn? Whether attending a backyard graduation party; a glamorous garden party or a sophisticated evening wedding, mastering the art of summer party dressing means looking and feeling your best. Here are some tips on making your grand entrance.

(And for all party-wear purchases, there's always Postmark for lower prices on both new and secondhand styles.)

— If the invite leaves you scratching your head about what to wear, ask the host for additional information. Find out whether the event is inside or out and what kind of terrain you’ll be tackling. Having once forgotten to do this I learned the hard way that a pair of Stuart Weitzman heels was no match for a cow paddy — yes a cow paddy — I had to traipse through to get to the site of a summer wedding ceremony. 

— For a garden party, a floaty caftan, a mid-calf fancy dress or even a pair of wide-legged trousers paired with a silk blouse might fit the bill. For a formal wedding, check to see if guests are expected to really go in black tie and to wear full-length gowns. Or, would it be appropriate to wear a cocktail-length sheath? Those floaty pants and a stand-out top may also be appropriate. Comfort is as important as style! Especially knowing there will be dancing the night away.

— Before you head out shopping, check your closet. For a barbecue why not step up your usual jeans game with a lovely full skirt paired with a T-shirt or white button-down shirt? For something a little more formal, those slip dresses from the 90s are popular again. If you don’t have a slip dress in your closet, check out H&M’s midi-length Open-back Satin Dress or The Gap’s Satin Midi Slip Dress. The Washable Stretch Silk Tank Midi Dress from Quince is a bit pricier but features wider straps and a higher neckline.

— Boost the glamour with a shrug, pashmina or textured wrap — which are good choices to keep on hand regardless of what you’re wearing, as the weather turns cooler at night. My favorites are The Lost River Knit Tie-Front Shrug, which comes in a crayon-box-worth of colors; Ann Taylor’s  Shimmer Shrug Dress Cardigan; or Calvin Klein’s Women’s Solid Satin-Feel Pashmina Scarf

— If you're buying something new to wear make sure it's both comfortable and elegant, and something you'll want to wear more than once. Flowy maxi dresses and airy tunics are perfect choices. Check out Sunnow's Tiered Silhouette with Flutter Sleeves Maxi Dress and/or Generic's Printed Lounge Wear Calf Length Silk Crepe Kaftan Tunic Dress, which sports a head-turning geometric pattern on an off-white background. And check out this great pick, pricey through timeless party wear — Sam Edelman's Rose Embroidery Sleeveless A-Line Dress that hits just below the knee.

— I have a large collection of sundresses that I’ve amassed over the years. The quintessential summer staple, sundresses are versatile, effortless and eternally chic. Choose a style that flatters you — whether a classic A-line, wrap dress or one of those breezy slip dresses. Steve Madden’s Amira Tiered Cotton Midi Dress has earned a place in my collection. Other good choices: H&M’s Long Wrap Dress in a bold black and white pattern and Flying Tomato’s green and orange off-the-shoulder Where I Want To Be Twill Midi Dress.

— If you never wear dresses, how about a chic tuxedo or a great pair of linen pants?  A guest at even the most formal wedding will look super sophisticated in a high-style pantsuit — my French sister-in-law’s choice. (Although I still don’t think she should have chosen a white pantsuit to wear to my wedding — but that’s another story.) Zara’s Co-Ord Set Satin Tuxedo Jacket Pants paired with a sleek black satin blazer or Allingentle’s 3-piece women’s black tuxedo are both superb choices — plus the Allingentle tux gives you the option of ditching the jacket and wearing just the vest and pants, a super modern look this year. J Crew’s Wide-leg Essential Pant in Linen comes in a range of sizes and colors and looks sophisticated while offering an easy-relaxed fit.

— When my 32-year-old daughter had four weddings to go to last summer with the same group of friends attending them all, she opted to rent four different outfits. Nuuly, Nova Octo and the ever-popular Rent the Runway each offer dozens of selections.

— Accessorize! Elevate your look with an eye-catching accessory. Committed to wearing black? That’s okay too.  But why not add a pop of color or metallics with bold jewelry pieces? Oversize earrings from the 80s are popular again; so are chunky bracelets; as well as those statement necklaces worn by the likes of Countess LuAnn from The New York Housewives, which are playful and “in.” Ettika and Kendra Scott both offer lots of chunky choices or check out “chunky necklaces” (earrings or bracelets) on Etsy.

— As for shoes, being able to walk without teetering, let alone dance, is key: Gap's Strappy Sandals are great. So are JCPenney's Unisa Kimmy Wedge Sandals and Avarcas USA's Classic Silver Metal espadrilles which are all available in this summer's hot color — silver.

— Finally, no matter what you choose to wear, here are my “Three S Rules for Summer Dressing:” No Spanx, no Stilettos, no Second-Guessing.  Be comfortable, be confident and remember that you’re beautiful. The belle of the ball. Your job now is to simply enjoy!  

What's your go-to outfit come summer? Let us know what you love to wear in the comments below.

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