Thee women at a beauty parlor wearing neon

1. Neons
The electric '80s palette is back—now in bold shots of color instead of head-to-toe Day-Glo.

Elena Agostinis, 57:
The key to wearing brights like a grown-up: Try Day-Glo pinks and oranges in classic styles like a bow-tied blouse and pencil skirt (Liz Claiborne New York, $79 and $99). Hot pink looks terrific with Agostinis's gray hair (and lights up her skin). Except for beige shoes (Coye Nokes), there isn't a neutral in sight: "My work is always colorful," says Agostinis, an artist. For a more conservative look, you can wear the blouse with a black bottom, or the skirt with a simple white top. Bracelets, Vaubel for Jennifer Miller. Ring, Mimi So.

Melissa Napoleon, 26:
"I was skeptical about neon," says Napoleon, an aspiring writer. "I thought, 'Barbie colors!' But this looks cool." The hipness comes from the contrast between an intense chartreuse T-shirt (Ella Moss, $90) and fuchsia patent leather pumps (Georgina Goodman) and pink clutch (Rebecca Minkoff). We also piled on jewelry (more is more when you're young): studded cuffs (Anna Beck) and chain necklaces (Ippolita Silver, Jessica Hicks, Giles & Brother by Philip Crangi, Dannijo). Jeans, Sisley, $89.

Kersti Bowser, 44:
The lift you get from electric colors is invigorating, but you may prefer smaller doses. Grounding neons with something dark, like a black skirt (Michael Michael Kors, $80), is an understated solution for Bowser, a chef. "This orange makes me feel alive and happy," she says of the sweater, matching cowlneck (Michael Kors, $895 and $695), and shiny heels (Davis by Ruthie Davis). "I'm a visual's fun to translate that into fashion." Ring, Kenneth Jay Lane.
Three women at a phone booth wearing animal prints

2. Animal Prints
A leopard pattern runs wild in matched separates or is tamed with basic black.

Yangchen Lhamo, 34:
Call this dress (Ann Taylor, $160) the Michelle Obama shift, after the refined-yet-stylish sleeveless versions the First Lady favors. It's above the knee but not mini-length. And an animal print in black and gray is tamer than orange tiger stripes or cheetah spots—and thus more wearable, even to the office. Mix with luxuriously textured accessories: a croc-embossed belt (Terry Stack), oversize clutch (Gucci), pearl necklace (M.C.L. by Matthew Campbell Laurenza), and leather and mesh heels (Giuseppe Zanotti Design). Ring, David Yurman.

Kelley Lauren Hicks, 24:
The younger you are, the more leg you can show. In its 20-something incarnation, the shift has been drastically shortened. Worn over black leggings (American Apparel, $26) and zipped up with a leather motorcycle jacket (Etiqueta Negra, $1,200) and Jimmy Choo zebra-stripe flats, it's unexpectedly fierce. Asked if she ever thought she'd be wearing Ann Taylor, Hicks, a retail supervisor, said, "No—I'd think my mother would!" Turns out they both can. Necklace, Janis by Janis Savitt. Bag, Kooba.

Elena Agostinis, 57:
The same dress goes with a lined-to-match swing jacket (Ann Taylor, $225), which makes the outfit more age appropriate, as do the opaque tights (Hue). "Animal prints remind me of home," says Agostinis, who's originally from South Africa and describes herself as "a very extroverted dresser." Accessories in hunter green—fall's new neutral—include a lizard belt (Kara Ross) and knee-high suede boots (Manolo Blahnik). Necklace, Isharya.
Boyfriend jeans

3. Boyfriend Jeans
This year's denim is loose, cuffed, cinched, and low on the hips.

Karen Lee Grybowski, 56:
A designer-inspired tweed jacket and ruffled silk blouse (J.Crew, $325 and $88) are nicely pulled-together...a must at 50-plus. With a coordinated skirt, they might seem too prim (overmatching can be a trap). But teamed with relaxed, rolled up jeans (New York & Company, $40), they're just right. The pants' proportions are complemented by ballerina flats (Hayden-Harnett)—"I like to walk, so I need comfort," says Grybowski, a yoga instructor and model scout. Earrings, Nava Zahavi. Bangles, Yossi Harari. Belt, Kristin Kahle.

Kelley Lauren Hicks, 24:
Boyfriend jeans save money—whether you "borrow" from a guy, buy them secondhand, or find a bargain like this Old Navy pair ($35). "These are cute and roomy," says Hicks, who isn't a fan of tight pants. Pulling them in with a belt (Belgo Lux) keeps the fullness under control, and there's a dashing street-fashion feeling to the Sgt. Pepper–style military jacket (Alice + Olivia, $550), messenger bag (Treesje), and multistrapped shoes (Bottega Veneta). Tank, American Apparel, $17.

Maiysha, 31:
"My generation is lucky," says this singer-songwriter (Grammy nominated for her single "Wanna Be"). "Those Sex and the City women showed that turning 30 is no big whoop." Jeans (J Brand, $275) and a dressy sweatshirt (Elizabeth and James, $465) combine comfort and glamour. The cuffed jeans look best rolled to above the ankle, where the calf is narrowest; boots (Brian Atwood) will fill the gap. Earrings, Kimberly McDonald. Bracelet, Badgley Mischka. Bag, Chanel.
Studded jackets

4. Studs
This decorative element shows its metal on a blazer, boots, and handbags.

Melissa Napoleon, 26:
A fitted jacket (Express, $128)—slightly shaped, and touched with silver on lapels, pockets, and cuffs—shows that metallic trim can play as elegant or edgy. For clubbing or shopping, Napoleon wears it with a tank (C&C California, $68), black leather leggings (Vince, $895), and studded accessories (cuff, Samantha Wills; bag, Diane von Furstenberg; boots, Manolo Blahnik). The multistrand, mixed-media chain necklace (Notify) is one of fall's most popular trends.

Leigh Carlson, 56:
A semitough trend like studs is tricky to pull off in your 50s, but this same Express jacket is beautifully tailored, not too severe (Carlson, an actress, likes its classic, unboxy cut). All three accompanying pieces—sweater (Martin + Osa, $70), knit pencil skirt (Talbots, $139), and leather boots (Pedro Garcia) are the same rich teal blue (a monochromatic strategy that guarantees a long, lean line). A dramatic scarf (Me & Kashmiere) puts flattering color next to her face. Tights, Wolford.

Yangchen Lhamo, 34:
Many of this season's best ideas are reinventions of '80s favorites. Take the jumpsuit: This cropped-leg, high-waisted version (French Connection, $215) has a minimalist chic that makes the jacket feel more subdued. Lhamo, a nanny who plans to study nursing, is originally from Tibet. With her all-black accessories—glossy belt (Hobo International), jeweled bag (Marc Jacobs), and open-toe ankle boots (BCBG Max Azria)—she looks like a true New Yorker. Hoops, Lana Jewelry.
Slouchy blazers

5. The Slouchy Jacket
Soft and roomy, it gives your look a menswear edge.

Karen Lee Grybowski, 56: Instead of following fads to the letter, adapt them to your age: The jacket of this tuxedo-style suit is generously cut, while the pants are narrow (Tommy Hilfiger, $298 and $228). "I'd wear this!" says Grybowski, who loves neutral colors and silver jewelry—not to mention silver shoes (Stuart Weitzman). Layered chains (Roxanne Assoulin for Lee Angel, Gemma Redux, and Marie Chavez) look ladylike, not rock 'n' roll, with the well-bred pantsuit. The clutch (Adriana Castro) adds a touch of color. Tank, Gap, $15.

Melissa Napoleon, 26:
A loose blazer gives you freedom of, you can throw it over a glittery minidress (Madison Marcus, $548) or wear it with old jeans. Just roll and scrunch the sleeves on this sharp cutaway blazer (Elizabeth and James, $395) and you're set. "The big jacket balances the girliness of the dress," says Napoleon. "It's masculine and feminine in one outfit." Bare legs and short boots (Bruno Frisoni) look modern. Necklaces, Dannijo. Clutch, Foley + Corinna.

Maiysha, 31:
"I've never been much of a suit girl, but this jacket makes me feel sexy and polished," says Maiysha. The oversize olive blazer (Ali Ro, $325), cinched with a funky multibuckle belt (Devi Kroell), emphasizes Maiysha's waist ("the smallest part of my body"). The reasonably short hemline on her sleek dress (J.Crew, $168) is perfect for 30-somethings. Tiger's eye beads, M.C.L. by Matthew Campbell Laurenza. Bag, Bottega Veneta. Watch, Tissot. Shoes, Rock & Republic.

More fashion advice: Are tunics in or out?


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