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All photographs ©Brenda Coffee, 2017
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My recent FASHIONABLE ITALIAN WOMEN OVER 50 post struck a chord with many of you. From the emails, comments on social media and the blog post, women over 50 want to look classier, like the women of Florence, but tweaked in for our more casual lifestyle. Women are also frustrated because fashion designers don’t design with us in mind, especially since we’re the ones with the money.

As one wise reader said, “American women need to have a fashion Renaissance.”

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All I’m seeing lately in magazines, on the red carpet, on the street and on Instagram is the color RED. Red is always stylish, but this season it’s all the rage.

Women tell me all the time that they can’t wear red. They say they don’t look good in red; it’s too bold; they don’t want to draw attention to themselves…  Are they right? NO! I believe red is flattering on everyone. So what’s the secret to wearing red?

The secret is wearing the right SHADE of red.

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All Photographs ©Brenda Coffee
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Florence took my breath away, especially the Florentine women over 50. They are the epitome of style and elegance. While they acknowledge some fashion trends, others they ignore. I spent five days in Florence and never once saw a Florentine woman over 50 wearing an off the shoulder or cold shoulder blouse, ripped or skinny jeans, leggings, capri pants, camel toes or flip flops. It was the American and the Asian tourists who wore trendy clothes, usually every trend at the same time.

If I’m to be brutally honest, the American women were tacky looking compared to the women of Florence.

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Everyone has a favorite classic rock song that pops up on the radio and transports you to your younger days. Mine is “Gimme Shelter” by The Rolling Stones. Those were heady times Darlings! What fun we had! Mick and those lips! Let’s leave that one for another time, shall we? Continue Reading

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ALL PHOTOGRAPHS OF BRENDA COFFEE BY MICHAEL WARING
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A few years ago my friend, Lois Joy Johnson, founding editor and beauty and fashion director of MORE magazine and now editor of AARP’s Beauty & Style DigiMag app, asked me to be in her book, The Woman’s Wakeup: How to Shake Up Your Looks, Life, and Love After 50. I was flattered and excited. Over the years Lois has worked with every top magazine, fashion brand, photographer, model, makeup artist and hairstylist. She knows more about putting together an outfit than anyone I know.

Imagine my surprise when Lois sent me the finished book, and there were 11 photos of me, plus I’m featured on page one of Chapter One.

Before I went to New York City for the photoshoot, Lois told me to bring three or four changes of clothes I felt comfortable in and the jewelry I wore all the time. She didn’t want me to go out and buy anything new for the shoot. She wanted it to be a reflection of how I dressed and who I was.

Since my mother had been a model and a buyer in couture, clothes have always been part of my life—or should I say mother’s life. I think she was disappointed I wasn’t a clotheshorse. Most of the clothes in my closet are black workout pants and t-shirts, but I have a few investment pieces. Like Lois, mother was a wizard at mixing scarves and jackets with different skirts and pants.

When I look back over the years at women like Coco Chanel, Audrey Hepburn, Jacqueline Onassis, Diane Von Furstenberg, Anita Pallenberg and Ali McGraw, the clothes they wore then are the clothes we’re wearing now. That’s because they’re classic!

Classics are the antithesis of “fast fashion.” They’ll still be “in fashion” and look great 30 years from now.

My thanks to Michael Waring for letting me use some of the photos from Lois’s book. I knew I was in great hands with Michael because he’s photographed all of Lois’s other books, including  Makeup Wakeup, Revitalizing Your Look at Any Age she did with Sandy Linter.

The clothes I’m wearing are all classics, plus they’re investment pieces. Investing in a handful of great, timeless pieces isn’t as bad as you might think. Since my 20’s, I’ve followed mother’s advice and bought one really nice piece in the fall and one in the spring. Over time, you put together a great wardrobe, plus you know you’re paying for good fabrics and workmanship.

ALL PHOTOGRAPHS OF BRENDA COFFEE BY MICHAEL WARING

In this first photo I’m wearing all Carolina Herrera. It was the first time I splurged on a really good cashmere sweater. It was worth it because it never pills, it holds its shape, and years later, it still looks brand new. The navy trousers are so well made, and I’d never owned anything like Herrera’s fox sweater. I wear it with everything from jeans to something dressier.

Until a few years ago I didn’t own much jewelry except for my wedding ring, a watch and two pairs of earrings. Since then I’ve bought a few bold necklaces like this one by Marquita Masterson, a double strand of grey glass pearls with a dark grey, glass centerpiece set in sterling silver. Lois pulled it to one side so the dark grey glass wasn’t centered under my chin or at the back of my neck. That’s the genius of a great stylist.

My berry wool dress is Chanel, one of the few things I owned, at the time, that had color. Typically I’ve been drawn to neutrals like taupe, grey and cream and of course… blue jeans! My berry shoes are Prada and have gold kitten heels, which still doesn’t make them any more comfortable for my feet. My necklace is made from hand-rolled rose petals by women in India from Urban Zen in New York City. Yes, my legs really bend like that, and no, my hand is not deformed.

I’ve mentioned this before, but my friend, Vinetta Rosin at Neiman Marcus, talked me into these Escada Leather pants. I thought I might be too old to wear leather pants, but for the last four years, I’ve worn them more than anything in my closet… except gym clothes. My sweater is Rick Owens and is cut higher in the front than the back and has slits down both sides. It’s a bit avantguarde but classic at the same time. My necklace is Christian Dior and is articulated so it folds up smaller for storage. Perhaps it’s the Texas girl in me, but I love thin soled boots with a cowboy heel. These are from Saint Laurent.

Trendy clothes and fast fashion are fun, but for the most part, I’d rather pass on a season’s worth of cutout shoulders and the color dujour in favor of one classic piece I’ll have forever.

I’m just curious, how do you feel about fast fashion?

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If you think thongs are uncomfortable and unsanitary, remember bodysuits? They’re back in style and the ultimate wedgie from stem to stern. In my 20’s, I owned a couple of bodysuits, but the snaps were soooo uncomfortable.

What sadist put those… there?

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So what is it about the style power of polka dots?

Is it that they’re flirty and feminine or maybe playful and fun? Or is it because they’re a classic print that’s been around for a long time?

Maybe it’s a combination of all of the above! Continue Reading

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Darlings! Oh how I adore an evening at the beach, sipping prosecco and sitting around a bonfire with friends. Those chilly summer nights have me pondering that fashion dilemma we all face: how to make a smooth transition into fall. Continue Reading

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Photography by Janet Rogers
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I miss What Not To Wear. During the 10 years it appeared on American television, from 2003-2013, it was easily my favorite show to watch and, yet, the hardest for me to watch. While Stacy London and Clinton Kelly were giving women makeovers, I was struggling with the world of frumpy and in a deep funk as I turned 50. Most weeks I could’ve been the woman undergoing the torment and shopping hell on the show. It only took a few episodes for me to understand the wisdom of what they were saying…

What Not To Wear wasn’t about clothes. It was about confidence and the power and strength confidence can yield.

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