What to Wear for the Rest of Your Life: Ageless Secrets of Style
Former Eileen Ford model and fashion expert Kim Johnson Gross sets the tone right up front in this self-help book designed for women of a certain age. Her willingness to jump right into what it means to grow older is demonstrated in the first paragraphs. Once her situation has been set forth, she proceeds to provide advice geared to both the physical and emotional aspects of dressing for life, placing equal emphasis on coping with physical aging and dealing with emotional challenges.
Ms. Gross uses this book as a vehicle for exploring her own transitions in midlife. The reader may be surprised at the graphic and pointed way she describes her own body and changing life circumstances. There’s no holding back on her feelings of vulnerability and the amount of courage she has had to rally in order to enter the current phase of her life.
“The Alien” is the name Ms. Gross uses to describe her expanded midsection. After reading repeated references to it, this reviewer was very curious about “the Alien” and how it looks. Fortunately, there are several video clips on the website kimjohnsongross.com that show how well she takes her own advice with positive results. The emotional aspect of dressing an aging body is presented in a rather philosophical way that centers on the need for honesty and acceptance of what is. Ms. Gross is truly a realist. As Eckhart Tolle would say, “Surrender to the now.”
What to Wear is divided into four parts—How Should I Look? What Do I Want to Wear? How Do I Look? and Clothes Meet Life—with chapters devoted to topics such as closet betrayal, the lying mirror and style mentors. Within each chapter there are sidebars containing quotes from women, famous or just everyday ladies, who range in age from 40 to 77 years young. These women are from all around the United States and have vastly differing lives and careers. In other words, there’s bound to be someone to whom the reader will relate.
The Feel-Good Closet can become a sanctuary, Ms. Gross assures. She states that by identifying clothes already hanging in your closet that qualify as feel-good items, ones that won’t betray you after you leave the house, the reader can trust that it’s possible and manageable to create a base (The Feel Good Closet) from which to launch into the rest of her life. Ms. Gross emphasizes the need for building a wardrobe filled with soft flowing fabrics and lower heeled shoes to deal with waistline creep, painful feet, and emotional challenges. This need is characterized as the result of an empty nest, divorce, or widowhood, and, of course, a changing figure. She encourages substituting one’s own positive and nurturing feelings about herself in place of the outside pressures of fads, family, and friends. There are many clever quotes and some cute hand-drawn graphics throughout the book that add a bit of humor and sparkle to an otherwise serious approach to dealing successfully with middle age and beyond.
As a columnist for In Style and More magazines, as well as a lifestyle consultant on numerous television programs, Ms. Gross has build quite a stash of trusted bits of advice from which to draw. They are well used throughout the book. The messages can become a bit repetitive, especially if the reader chooses to go through several chapters at one sitting. The little black dress, slacks, and colorful accessories are well-known basics for building a wardrobe. What is unique is how the author sets up the context in which these pieces can influence a woman’s emotions, physical appearance, and lifestyle. The integration of feelings and tactical dressing is fascinating.
There are two books in print that, in this reviewer’s opinion, may provide a complement the approach that Ms. Gross takes in offering assistance. The first is How Not to Look Old by Charla Krupp and What You Wear Can Change Your Life by Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine. After all, a girl can’t have too much help!