Editor’s note: This story was published in January 2012.
They're fit, they're chic and they have a vibrant outlook on life. "They" are a breed of grandmothers from Charlotte's social scene that we call Glam-mas because they're so glamorous.
Three of them - Joan Zimmerman, Dee Dixon and Liz Hilliard - share their style and fitness tips that make them role models not only to their grandchildren but a source of inspiration for women who want to live life to its fullest while looking fabulous.
And another Glam-ma, Marcia Simon, shares her expert advice on what grandmothers should look for when they shop.
She's a founder of Charlotte-based Southern Shows Inc. and grandmother to Carl, 22; Lila, 22; Alex, 20; and John, 20. Zimmerman jokes that since Lila was 8, she's been calling to say, "Grandma, we HAVE to go shopping." Now Lila loves "shopping" in Zimmerman's closet.
Style: Zimmerman says there's nothing trendy in her wardrobe. "I like things that are comfortable, simple and that I could wear all day and into the evening if I have an event, " she says. The most important thing to her is quality fabric. Her basics are skirts or pants in dark neutrals with a colorful top or jacket. She has three "spotters" at stores who know what she likes and her budget, and they call her when something comes in. "That's a time-saver and a money-saver, " she says. "And proper fit is important, so find a good seamstress."
Hair and makeup: A minimalist, she only uses simple products and doesn't believe in Botox or facelifts. "My hair has always been short, I've never had hair color, and the style is wash and go, " she says.
Fitness: Her weight is the same as when she was in school and dreamed of being a gym teacher. "I walk and I've started doing yoga to keep myself flexible, " she says.
She's publisher of Pride Magazine, which produces the annual Lowe's Pride Awards Gala this weekend, and grandmother to Victoria, 5, who calls her G Ma; and Chase, 8 months. "Victoria is opinionated about fashion and has her own style. She's given her approval for the gown I'll wear on Saturday."
Style: Dixon has always loved clothes. In school she followed trends and experimented with different looks. Now she looks for quality and what looks best on her. "I don't have any real rules; I just try to avoid extremes, " she says. "I don't want to look old-timey, but I don't want to look too young."
Hair and makeup: Dixon's distinctive hair style is what she's known for. "It's easy, I like wearing my hair off my face and it fits in with any situation whether it's a work event or going to the gym." She doesn't buy expensive makeup or products. "I think healthy skin comes from eating right and exercising, " she says.
Fitness: Dixon keeps her dress size in the single digits. "When I start feeling my clothes get tight I'll cut back on what I eat, " she says. "I take spinning classes three times a week. At home I use the treadmill and bike."
She's owner of Performance Pilates, creator of The Hilliard Studio Method and grandmother to Aubrey Elizabeth, 3 months. Around her granddaughter, Hilliard refers to herself as Gandy. Although Hilliard and her daughter wear the same clothes, they have different shoe sizes, so their joke is that they hope Aubrey Elizabeth will have the same size feet as her Gandy.
Style: Hilliard believes that the older you get the more you need to pare down the fluff. "I'm all about physicality so I like for women to show their assets, " she says. "You don't see me in layers and frills." Because she teaches classes almost every day, she wears leggings and workout tanks. She also loves designer clothes because they're investment pieces that can be worn for years. "The main thing is to feel comfortable with your body so you're not confined to a certain style or limited with what you wear."
Hair and makeup: A former model, she was always being told how she should look. "When I was free of that, I decided to wear my hair shoulder length so I can wear it up or down." For her age, she says, the less makeup you wear, the better you look. "Skin care and diet are key to glowing, natural skin."
Fitness: A personal trainer for 12 years, she also created The Hilliard Studio Method, which she describes as Pilates on steroids. She says that, along with a healthy diet, have her in the best shape of her life.
Shopping advice for older women
Marcia Simon of Paul Simon for Women has this observation about Charlotte Glam-mas: "They are gracious, kind and as good a person on the inside as they look on the outside." Her tips for updating your wardrobe:
Don't cover yourself up with baggy clothes - it makes you look dowdy. Look for clothes that give you a shape and flatter your figure.
Try to get away from black and go for bright, bold colors instead.
Keep skirts slightly above, at, or below the knee.
Don't be afraid to try something new, but look for sophisticated takes on trendy styles.
Create glamour with special dramatic accessories: a cape, a statement necklace, a gorgeous scarf or an antique brooch.