50s:  ‘I refuse to let?  someone else?  define me’

50s: ‘I refuse to let? someone else? define me’

Denise Novotny knows that, as she crests 60, there’s a tenuous balance between dressing too young – and getting stuck with grandma styles.

But she doesn’t let that box her in.

“I’ve always had a bit of a rebellious streak, so as I age, I refuse to let someone else define me,” said the 59-year-old style maven.

Indeed, over the years, the human resources consultant and life coach has been through the spectrum of styles: In her 20s she was into trendy items (it was the ’70s, after all); in her 30s, business suits; and in her 40s, a combination of the two.

Now, she says, her goal is to be comfortable but have fun, and she seeks out items that are both classic and trendy, inspired by current trends, or simply by people-watching (keeping in mind things like ease of wear, comfort, versatility and longevity).

Ultimately, she describes her style as “edgy and timeless,” and noted that, as she’s gotten older, “I have learned to shop with a lot more thought and a lot less emotion.”

It’s a keen eye she inherited from her mom. An Australia native with a flair for styling, she dressed Novotny in coordinating outfits before she could walk.

“Yes, starched and ironed,” Novotny said. “Now I’m showing my age.”

Not to mention that, as part of a military family, she had attended 10 different schools in 12 years – and quickly caught on to the importance of first impressions.

But ultimately, fashion isn’t all of it – if you take care of yourself, the styles you wear will only accentuate that, she says. To that end, she’s watchful of what she eats, she drinks a lot of water, and does regular yoga, weight training and cardio.

“That’s the foundation,” said Novotny, who lives in Cape Elizabeth.

As for hair, she keeps it simple. A good cut and a “splash of color” is her maxim – and it’s also important to have a stylist who gets to know your locks and listens to you. And don’t be afraid of gray, she stressed, as it can be beautiful as we age.

The same goes for makeup. It’s about toning down. She prefers light concealers, foundation and eye makeup. And because lips begin to fade with age, she likes tinted glosses – or, depending on the occasion, she’ll go for it with a rich, vibrant lipstick. Beyond that, a good moisturizer is essential, she said, as is a night cream and sunscreen (every day, all year long, no scrimping).

And when it comes to accessories, there are two she can’t leave home without: her black Chanel bag and gold hoop earrings.

But she’s not stingy with her style savvy. She’s happy to share it. To start, she suggests having at least one of each “basic” – that is, a skirt, a pair of pants, a dress and a good wrap, as well as a decent and versatile pair of both shoes and boots.

As for the don’ts, her message is: don’t overdo. Stay away from outfits that are too small, too big or just wrong for your body type, she advised (for instance, if you have curvier hips, keep away from full skirts); don’t expose your midriff or show too much cleavage; don’t over-process your hair.

Meanwhile, be mindful of colors and whether they accentuate or clash with your skin tone. For instance, she loves red, but she knows that an orangey-red doesn’t work with her skin, so she goes more for reds with a touch of blue.

One way to test this: Hold a swatch of the color to your face, she suggested.

And if there is a color you love that doesn’t enhance your skin tone, find it in a belt, shoes or a skirt of that color, she said, to ultimately “take it away from the face.”

In the end, “style is individual, just like each of us,” she said. “You need to create your own style and love the way you look.”

Denise Novotny

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