Leslie Maxie

Photo: Michael Edwards

New Status
Leslie Maxie
45, consumer marketing executive Morristown, New Jersey

Before: "I've always dressed conservatively," says Maxie. "But I don't feel that way."

Backstory
After her divorce in 2003, Maxie focused on raising her children. But last year the kids—now teens—won scholarships to boarding school. "The empty nest came four years sooner than I expected," says Maxie, who has since joined match.com.

Why She Was Ready for a Change
"I dressed older than my age," she says. "My girlfriends would tell me not to wear a turtleneck on a date—but I have!"

Her New Look
A bold lemon Zero + Maria Cornejo dress skims her curves—and shows a little leg—without making Maxie feel overexposed. "This makes me feel like a woman—I love the color!" says Maxie.

What You Can Learn
Forget the old rule about no long hair after 40: "Hair should move and be sexy, especially if you're back on the market," says celebrity hairstylist Ted Gibson, who gave Maxie extensions.

Dress, Zero + Maria Cornejo, Net-a-Porter.com, $795. Earrings, Chloe+Isabel, $48, ChloeandIsabel.com. Cuff, Sibilia, $134, Sibilia-Accs.com. Shoes, Colin Stuart for Victoria's Secret, $78, VictoriasSecret.com.
Jennifer Bonner

Photo: Michael Edwards

New Body
Jennifer Bonner
39, accountant, Camas, Washington

Before: Bonner at more than 300 pounds. "I didn't feel feminine for a very long time," she says.

Backstory
Bonner weighed 334 pounds when she decided to join her husband on the Medifast weight loss plan, eating five packaged meals, one portion of lean protein, and three vegetable servings a day. "I lost 13 pounds the first week, and by the second week I was hooked," says Bonner, who now weighs 140 pounds and is training for the Portland marathon.

Why She Was Ready for a Change
"When I was heavy, I never tried anything on, because a tent is a tent," she says. "When I lost the weight, I still dressed the same, even though my body was radically different."

Her New Look
A tangerine dress shows off Bonner's new svelte shape without being skintight; allover ruching keeps wobbly bits covered. A chic haircut by Gibson draws attention to Bonner's gorgeous eyes. "I assumed I couldn't carry off an outfit like this. But this dress makes me feel confident," says Bonner.

What You Can Learn
"If you've recently lost weight, wrap tops are flattering and draw attention to newly emerging cheekbones and collarbones," says O creative director Adam Glassman. Choose three-quarter-length sleeves if you're not comfortable with sleeveless; Empire-waist styles are also forgiving.

Dress, Nue by Shani, $280, edressme.com. Earrings, Nava Zahavi, $1,450, Fragments, NYC, 212-334-9588. Bangles, Melinda Maria and Robindira Unsworth, starting at $85, Robindira.com. Ring, Lisa Freede Jewelry, $98, LisaFreede.com. Shoes, Ralph Lauren Collection, $595, RalphLaurenCollection.com.
Marie Williamson

Photo: Michael Edwards

New City
Marie Williamson
38, special events designer New York City

Before: "I'm very preppy and conservative," says Williamson. "I like pink and green."

Backstory
Williamson has lived in the Philly suburbs almost her entire life. But the growing special events firm she owns with her sisters made moving to New York a necessity.

Why She was Ready for a Change
"My style was very Lilly Pulitzer," she says. "I needed to look chic without losing my personality."

Her New Look
Much to her relief, Williamson doesn't have to wear head-to-toe black. Sleek pieces in a muted color palette make her seem taller (she's 5'2"). "My new look translates to the big city, but it's still me. And I love the hair!" says Williamson.

What You Can Learn "Avoid ruffles, poufs, and bows," says Glassman. As for her hairstyle, Gibson adds: "Swingy layers are fresher than a matronly bob—the cut is supercool yet manageable."

Top, Tibi, $242, 212-226-5852. Skirt, Diane von Furstenberg, $275, 646-486-4800. Earrings, Marlyn Schiff, $34, MarlynSchiff.com. Necklace, Deborah Grivas Designs, $155, DeborahGrivasDesigns.com. Bangles, Kara by Kara Ross, $220, Neiman Marcus, 800-365-7989. Shoes, Enzo Angiolini, $99, Bloomingdale's, 800-555-7467.
Lynnette Nicholas

Photo: Michael Edwards

New Responsibilities
Lynnette Nicholas
28, middle school teacher New York City

Before: "Leggings and flowy tops have been my uniform for the past few years," says Nicholas.

Backstory
Nicholas took a two-year hiatus after her daughter, Jayla, was born in 2009. "Before I had a baby, I never thought I'd stay home," she says. "But it was the more affordable option for my husband and me."

Why She was Ready for a Change
With Jayla in preschool, Nicholas was ready to work again. "Teachers are in front of young people every day—we need to look our best."

Her New Look
A pencil skirt, dotted top, and pink blazer are polished without stifling her creative style. Lighter haircolor warms Nicholas's complexion. "I'm very artsy and bohemian. I like that this outfit is pulled together but still has a bright color," says Nicholas.

What You Can Learn
Don't be afraid to break up a suit: Pair the jacket with khakis or top the skirt with a printed button-down. "That way you won't look too matchy," says Glassman.

Skirt, South, $87, Very.com. Top, Tory Burch, $350, ToryBurch.com. Blazer, Banana Republic, $130, BananaRepublic.com. Earrings, Melanie Auld, $210, MelanieAuldDesigns.com. Necklace, Sonyarenée Jewelry, $48, SonyaRenee.com. Cuff, Sibilia, $158, Sibilia-Accs.com. Shoes, Kenneth Cole New York, $168, KennethCole.com for stores.
Umber Ahmad

Photo: Michael Edwards

New Career
Umber Ahmad
39, television producer, bakery owner New York City

Before: "I owned a couple of things that were not black—and I think they were pajamas," says Ahmad.

Backstory
"My suits were almost always black," says Ahmad, who used to work as a Wall Street banker. Now her projects include developing and hosting a children's TV show and mobile app about global food, and opening a bakery.

Why She was Ready for a Change
"I wanted to dress more creatively," she says. "If you want people to follow you on an adventure, a black suit's not going to cut it."

Her New Look
A colorful button- down is fun and kid-appropriate; teal jeans are a fresh alternative to regular denim, says Glassman. "I would never have combined these pieces, but by the end of the day I was dancing in this outfit!" says Ahmad.

What You Can Learn
"Experiment with color and prints, but stick to silhouettes that flatter you," says Glassman. "Layered jewelry is another great way to personalize your look."

Shirt, DKNY, $169, DKNY.com. Jeans, JAG, $79, JAGJean.com. Earrings, Meghna Designs, $250, MeghnaDesigns.com. Bracelets, Bounkit, $344 with code OPRAH, Bounkit.com. Ring, SKU Jewelry, $348, MaxandChloe.com. Shoes, Charles David, $185, 310-659-7110.

Next: What to wear when you've gone up or down a size

NEXT STORY

Next Story

Comment

LONG FORM
ONE WORD