Somewhere around age 35 or 40, many women start giving up on fashion. It becomes less a form of entertainment and expression and more a source of frustration, aggravation and even sadness over lost youth.
In the six years Valerie Ragaza-Miao has been operating her boutique, Valerie Joseph, she’s heard all the laments, and she isn’t buying any of them. So rather than listening to women complain about what they can’t wear, she tries to show them what they can wear. To drive home the point, she’s launching “Stylicious,” a series of monthly contests to celebrate individual style for girls and women of all ages. The first will take place at 2 p.m. Saturday on Ala Moana Center’s Centerstage, as part of the mall’s spring Shop A Le‘a event. Ten finalists ranging from ages 9 to 66, who entered at the store, will vie for the honor of being named the first Valerie Joseph “It Girl” of the month. Each finalist will receive a $100 prize package, and the winner, chosen by audience support, will receive an additional launch-edition $500 prize package including a $100 Valerie Joseph gift certificate, glamour and hair makeup session, fashion photo shoot and more.
Among Saturday’s finalists are Georgette Maghsoudi, a stylish 64-year-old grandmother, and Autumn Matsuwaki, a 35-year-old mother of two, whose trendy, sexy style re-emerged only after she managed to lose some of her mommy weight.
Maghsoudi said she’s never understood why some older women seem to be resigned to dress like stereotypical old ladies, in drab, shapeless shifts, while complaining about what they can’t wear or how designers create only for the young.
“I go shopping in a lot of different places, and they’ll look at me coming out of the dressing room and say, ‘That looks great on you, but I could never wear that, I’m too old.’ So I ask, ‘How old are you?li’ and they tell me, ‘I’m 55.’
“Well, I tell them, ‘I’m going to be 65, so if I can wear it, so can you.’
“Then they tell me, ‘It’s your bone structure,’ but I tell them fashion has nothing to do with size or shape or how old you are. You just have to love it and own up to it and go out and try things on.”
To convince them, she said she often encourages the women to try on the same thing she’s wearing. “Ninety percent of the time, they buy it because it makes them look 10 years younger,” she said.
MATSUWAKI SAID she always loved fashion, and taught modeling at Susan Page Modeling before becoming a mom with a 7-year-old girl and 5-year-old boy. When she hit 176 pounds, on a 5-foot-2 frame, T-shirts and shorts became her uniform.
“I got out of fashion because I didn’t feel good about myself,” she said.
Her circumstance isn’t unusual for anyone her age, and she’s seen the same trajectory in her friends’ lives.
“After you get married and have children, you let yourself go, you get comfortable and so involved with being a mother and wife that you lose your sense of individuality. The last thing on your mind is fashion or taking care of yourself.”
When her children were old enough to go to school, she had the breathing room to return to the gym again, deciding, “I still want to be attractive to my husband.”
Although he had never complained about her weight, she said that after she lost 22 pounds, he admitted he had been “getting worried.”
“I wasn’t mad, because I’d already lost the weight,” she said.
Suddenly in need of a new wardrobe, she’s been making up for lost time, snatching up form-fitting dresses in bright, jewel colors. It’s so different from her T-shirt-and-shorts days that now when she goes out, her husband worriedly asks, “Where do you think you’re going dressed up like that?”
He’s also taken to the gym to keep up with her, and the other side benefit, she said, is that they go out on dates much more frequently.
THE VALERIE Joseph boutique is known for its colorful, eclectic selection of trendy garments, and Ragaza-Miao said it’s often tough convincing people to try color or prints. She’s been there herself.
“When I opened the store, I was a denim person. Like a lot of people, I wore black and denim.”
At the time, dresses were coming into vogue, so she had to work at changing her style to look the part of the fashion-forward entrepreneur.
She said she wants to show people how to look beyond their self-imposed limitations. Joseph has trained her staff to work with four body types — apple, pear, rectangle and hourglass — and four skin/hair tones. She’s also come up with four color palettes designated as contrast (bright jewel tones), light-bright (sherbet colors), gentle (Easter-like pastels) and muted (beiges, tans and creams).
“Once people know how to work with their body type and skin coloring, they see the difference and can apply it whenever they go shopping. Then trying on clothes becomes more fun because they’re choosing things that work for them,” she said.
“I had one person who only wore muted colors when she should be wearing color. So we started with a camisole just for a pop of color. Now she’s wearing a lot more color and always looks for V-necklines to elongate her neck.”
MAGHSOUDI SAID she’s rewarded for her choices every time she goes out walking. She said it’s not unusual to hear 10 compliments a day on her clothing, accessories or jewelry, a high-low mix of costume and precious pieces. She said she doesn’t know why she turned out so different from her sister. “She won’t even color her hair,” Maghsoudi said.
Growing up, she said she admired Sophia Lorena and Audrey Hepburn, and her sister thought that was weird combination of voluptuous and pristine.
I said, “That’s what it’s all about, people should get to know both sides of their personality.
“Maybe some people just have to see people their own age who are doing it. You can make yourself fashionable if you like fashion and believe in it, and that’s the bottom line.”
Enter monthly Stylicious contests, for an opportunity to win $100 prize packages, by sending a photo demonstrating personal style to firstname.lastname@example.org.