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Be Heard / General Interest / Lifestyle & Retirement

How You Look. Does It Really Matter?

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How You Look. Does It Really Matter?

Floods! No, that wasn’t a Weather Channel news alert. That’s how my friends described the too-short pants I wore for my birthday shopping spree.

As we’ve each turned 60, we’ve come up with simple ways to mark our passage into a new decade. For my celebration, I asked my friends to help me select a new wardrobe, but first, they had to help me sort through old stuff to give away.

So at my dining room table one recent Saturday, we staged our version of “What Not to Wear,” although my friends’ advice was kinder and more diplomatic than the harsh judgments delivered on reality TV.

I agreed with their consensus that I should ditch the sleeveless turtleneck that my sister Kathy got as a hand-me-down from her sister-in-law before she gave it to me. They also vetoed three out-of-shape sweaters, and confirmed my hunch that a silk blouse with billowing sleeves was about two decades too old. And the scarves I suggested as accessories? Too square — literally.

When some of my favorite pieces got the heave-ho, I reasserted my authority. Yes, the red wool pencil skirt has a tiny hole near one pocket, but my late husband Pat (gone 17 years this Thanksgiving) bought it for me, so it has sentimental value. Plus, I’m proud that I’ve lost weight and can zip it up again.

The Coldwater Creek blazer that my friend Nancy gave me (probably from her own thrift-store collection) is big in the shoulders, but that doesn’t bother me.

Our actual shopping excursion was such a treat that I might have awakened a dormant gene — the one that makes women love to shop till they drop.

My task at the store was simple: Wait in the dressing room as my friends brought me armloads of outfits to mix, match, nix and approve. I felt like queen for a day, and by the time we wrapped up my purchases, I was ready to trill “I Feel Pretty.”

Which brings me to my point. Does it matter how I look? Daniel S. Hamermesh, an economics professor at the University of Texas-Austin, is the author of the book, “Beauty Pays,” in which he recounts his research that beautiful people “are likely to be happier, earn more money, get a bank loan with a lower interest rate and marry a good-looking and highly educated spouse,” according to a wire story.

Reader Mary Ellen Heath called to chat about the story. The professor’s research might be accurate, but it’s her wish that someday “we’ll talk about the importance of intelligence” instead of beauty. You don’t have to be beautiful to be “charming and gracious and capable and smart,” she says.

My granddaughters and I heard a similar message at a “Girls World Expo” where the fashion show narrator said: “When you experiment with your style, it just matters what you think.”

And what I think is that I’m grateful to have dear friends to help me pick out cute new outfits. But I’m keeping the too-short pants. They’ll look just fine with sandals and knee socks, a trendy look in Erie, according to the fashion emcee. Come to think of it, that was my style the last time I entered my ’60s — 1969, that is.

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