What can I do to be more hot?
June 19, 2008 6:19 PM   Subscribe

I want to regain my "hotness". But I have limited money and time. What will have the most impact in amping up the sexy quotient, and what else should I do?

I'm not quite sure when it started to happen, but I've recently come to the realization that I"m just not as "hot" as I used to be. When I enter a room, I no longer attract looks, or when I want by, heads don't turn. I'm not sure when it happened--I just haven't been paying attention, and I suppose it's been a slow change over the years. I've been concentrating on motherhood (am a single mom), career, and find myself in my 40s, 20 lbs heavier than I used to be, and in rather frumpy clothes. Looking very much like the typical frumpy old maid. I realize that for women in their 40s, looking "hot" or sexy takes a lot more effort than it did when I was younger.
What can I do, given limited $ and time, to be more sexy? What should I tackle first, second, etc.? Things I am thinking of are: Exercise (hoping to lose about 15 lbs, but I'll need to exercise in order to get there). Getting more sexy clothes. Wearing make-up. Get my hair cut more regularly (right now, twice a year, if I'm lucky).

Assume that I have about 40 minutes a day, total, to spare to this self improvement project. Meaning, if I spend 15 minutes putting on make-up and 10 minutes doing my hair, then I only have 15 minutes to exercise, so it'll take me much longer to lose weight (if any). And if I purchase a gym membership, then that's less money for new clothes, hair cut, make-up, etc.

So, what are things I should do, and in what order, to get the most "bang" out of my time/money? Also, please be specific, if you can. If you think that better, more sexy wardrobe is the answer is the 1st priority, then please suggest specific brands or styles that I should look at. If you think that losing weight is the key, what should I do in the meantime, or after the weight loss, etc.?

Also, feel free to suggest other things that I could do. For example, if you're a heterosexual guy, what are the things that turn you on? What would want you to get to know someone better? Sorry for the ramble. Also, this is anonymous because my co-workers read this, and I don't want them to know that I'm this vain.
Thanks in advance.
posted by anonymous to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (77 answers total) 93 users marked this as a favorite
1) buy Shape magazine. Do the ab and core muscle exercises that they recommend in it every day.
2) start doing pushups - follow a 3 day a week plan similar to this.
3) cut all snacking from your diet. limit yourself to several small meals a day. drink more water.
4) while you're waiting in line or something, or at the office, take a break and practice lunges. There are, in fact, hundreds of exercises you can do while at the office or waiting somewhere that will increase your "only 40 minutes a day to betterment".
5) start doing face exercises

That will help with the weight and the looking old part but you're going to need to provide much more information for anyone to adequately tell you what kind of clothes, cuts, and fits will work with your body. Sorry girl but being totally annoymous won't help you with all different parts of this question.
posted by Stynxno at 6:35 PM on June 19, 2008 [10 favorites]

Good grooming, make-up, etc. That's the low-hanging fruit. I'm a hetero guy, and few of us would ever say that having nice hair or well-applied make-up will make a girl a lot sexier, but those things have an effect subconsciously, in my opinion.

Then, exercise. Being thinner is great, but being physically fit is also a big deal, it makes you move better, helps your posture, gives you more energy to be perky, etc.
posted by bluejayk at 6:38 PM on June 19, 2008

The thing about exercise is that it has a few benefits that are all lumped together so I'd put it top of the list. You get out of the house and meet people, you get in better shape [and feel better about yourself, whether you lose weight or not] and you might lose weight.

I don't see it as "sexy" so much as confident and self-assured and attractive. So, for example, you can get clothes that fit -- I got a few pair of slim low-waisted professional wool pants and some v-necked tops and decent jewelry and wore them instead of sort of drab skirt/sweater combos and was more confortable and looked better -- without having to dress outside of your comfort level of feel that you're tarting yourself up. Similarly if you like makeup, go ahead and find out what works for you and/or go to a makeup counter and have someone show you how to put stuff on and look your best. However, I remember being roughly your age and feeling roughly the way you do and looking at a tube of mascara and saying "well I guess I have to learn this now..." and I decided to go to the gym instead. That's what works for me. For you I think really whatever way you find to love yourself is going to work for you.

So, let's look at this in manageable chunks.
- Losing weight can be as simple as making some cooking/eating/exercising decisions and you can start by not even joinign the gym. Just adjust what you eat -- I'm sure people will have advice more than I do -- and walk 20-30 minutes per day, maybe you can do it while you'd be doing something else, walk to post office instead of driving, climb stairs instead of elevator.
- Get on the scale every morning (sucks, yes, just do it, it works) and see how that's working. If it's making you feel better, think about a gym. Doesn't have to be fancy, can be Curves or the Y, just anything that gets you into a routine, a few days a week, a half hour at a time.
- As you start to feel a little more "with it" and better generally, get some clothes that you like. These do not have to break the bank, but consider styles that look good for your body type and, most importantly that you feel good in. I'm not good with advice here
- Get a nice flattering haircut. You can do this at Supercuts or someplace. If you like color, go for some color but don't feel that you have to to look hotter or younger or hipper.
- Pay attention to how you look. It's easy to get exhausted by your life and stop paying attention and the next thing you know you're that lady at the post office in pink sweats and a Marlboro Man t-shirt. Dress yourself okay at a minimum. Wear jewlery, wear decent shoes, look put together.
- Smile. Flirt if you're comfortable with that. Show off a little. Some of being "hot" is just in your mind, not in others' minds. Walk into a room thinking "I would like to meet people; people would like to meet me" and then follow-through.

Obviously we don't know much about your situation other than what you've written but as someone who has been pretty much there and (I think) come out the other side okay, I think it's a doable prospect and a wish you luck and fun trying.
posted by jessamyn at 6:39 PM on June 19, 2008 [9 favorites]

Oh, and it sounds like you've fallen into the mistaken belief that because you're a mom, you don't have to take care of yourself or that you CAN'T take care of yourself as much as you deserve. I'm sorry but this is extremely misguided and if Tim Gunn, Carson Kresley, Stacey London and Clinton Kelly have taught me anything its that the less you focus on yourself and the more your propel this "martyr complex", the more unhappy and less able to be a good mother, humanitarian, lover, etc. Focus first on your weight, tone up, and then start tackling clothing, hair, makeup, etc. Hair can be solved with a great stylist. Makeup can be solved by going to a department store. And clothes can be solved by watching What Not to Wear and going to a major department store and hiring a personal shopper to go with you. Oh. And fall in love with your tailor. That is also key.
posted by Stynxno at 6:42 PM on June 19, 2008 [2 favorites]

Let's be frank: If you want to be hot and turn heads, lose the weight. Everything else is secondary.

It doesn't matter what you wear or how much makeup you put on, carrying extra weight is what gets you un-noticed.

A thin, cut bod always turns my head. Spend all 40 minutes in a spinning class or running with a 10 lb. dumbells in your hands.
posted by Zambrano at 6:44 PM on June 19, 2008 [4 favorites]

As far as make-up is concerned, get a good moisturizer and foundation, those can work wonders. Don't waste your time with cheap makeup. Go to a counter at a department store and they can help you pick something out that right for your skin type and skin tone. Also pick up a nice powder, blush, a neutral colored eyeshadow, mascara, and a sheer lip gloss. It sounds like a lot, but once you get in the swing of things, it will take you 10 minutes max to apply it all. Also start thinking about wearing a sunscreen to prevent further sun damage to your skin.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 6:48 PM on June 19, 2008

1. I think the number one best first step would be to get your eyebrows waxed. It's cheap ($10-15) if you go to a low rent salon or nail shop, and it makes a huge difference in opening up your face and making you look put together. (once that's done you can tweeze at them yourself to keep them up between waxings to save more money).
2. Number two is a haircut. If you're getting it done 2x a year - it's probably too long. (there are exceptions, I don't know how yours looks, and I definitely don't subscribe to any age-based long hair having rule). But it's probably too long. which brings me to....
3. What's your hair texture? If you have straight and glossy or actually curly hair - this doesn't apply... but if you've got the most common kind in America (straight-ish or wavy-ish) then your best bet is *probably* a collar bone length cut. It's versatile - you can wear it up or down - and it doesn't require frequent or "expert" cutting like a shorter look does. Again, if you have that kind of hair - that isn't curly or glossy on it's own? Blow dry it. That makes a *gigantic* difference toward looking hot instead of frumpy.
4. I'd say the *fourth* most important thing is clothes. What's your body type? (apple, pear, etc...) Where are you carrying the extra weight? that'll effect what tips people might have for pieces to look for and avoid.
5. moisturize like a fiend everytime you wash your face. put on a little blush. lip balm or gloss. mascara, if you want to. you can certainly do more with makeup - from foundation to eye shadow to whatever else... but those simple, quick things (you can do it in the bathroom after you get to work and not cut into your 40 minutes of beauty!) make a Big Difference.
6. I'd put hair color here, in 6th place. Again, it's optional - but if your goal is to look "hot" (as opposed to the more broadly defined beautiful) and more like you did years ago - than one excellent and easy way to look younger is to color your grays. this can be done quickly and inexpensively - an hour in the bathroom every six weeks or so - at about $8 a box - and you've got another Big Impact change.
posted by moxiedoll at 6:55 PM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

The first things that jump out at me are a good haircut that frames your face and a nice outfit that works with your figure. Exercise and body care are the next step but a change in hair is something that you can tackle right away and will be immediately noticeable to everyone. Plus that kind of change can be a springboard - it's like you've taken the first big step in committing to self-improvement.

Clothes - I really appreciated reading The Pocket Stylist - it has great advice for types of clothing that work on different body types, and it actually does cover a real range of body types and sizes (not just paying lip service to them like a lot of fashion books do).
posted by cadge at 6:56 PM on June 19, 2008

start one at a time. best way to do anything. probably start with working out. do it for three months and then take a workout day off and buy your clothes.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:59 PM on June 19, 2008

My number 1 tip: get the best haircut and color you can afford. I once read that a good rule of thumb is to aim for the color you had as a toddler. When I hit the other side of 35, I went back to a dark blonde that was much closer to my color as a kid (as opposed to the super-bright auburn I'd been coloring it for years) and I grew out the hipster bob-with-bangs I'd been wearing for a few years too many to switch to a longer, softer style. I have an ex who saw me a couple of years ago and told me point-blank that with my new hair color/style, I looked younger at 37 than when we started dating (when I was 31).

Use good makeup that matches your skintone. A flattering all-over color that can be used as a blusher/bronzer/eyeshadow is great, too. I recently switched to Lumiere mineral makeup (you can get a ton of inexpensive samples, so you can experiment with shades without breaking the bank) and my skin looks better than ever.

Great posture, long strides, and keeping your chin up as you walk convey a sense of confidence (and therefore sexiness) to yourself and those around you.
posted by scody at 7:00 PM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

Tim Gunn, Carson Kresley, Stacey London and Clinton Kelly have taught me anything its that the less you focus on yourself and the more your propel this "martyr complex", the more unhappy and less able to be a good mother, humanitarian, lover, etc. Focus first on your weight, tone up, and then start tackling clothing, hair, makeup, etc.

Dude. Tim Gunn, Carson Kressley, Stacy London AND Clinton Kelly would all vehemently disagree with your advice that she oughtn't tackle clothing, hair and makeup until after she loses 20 lbs.
posted by moxiedoll at 7:01 PM on June 19, 2008 [2 favorites]

From my standpoint as a hetero guy, the exercise will give you way more bang for the (time/money) buck than clothing, makeup, or haircuts.

It's not just the pounds. There's something very sexy about someone who is physically fit and actually uses their body on a regular basis, regardless of their weight. Also, many forms of exercise will help improve your habitual posture and/or your grace of movement, which further adds to the hotness quotient.
posted by tdismukes at 7:07 PM on June 19, 2008

1. Obviously, exercise. It will make you stronger, will make you feel better about your body, etc. This can be a longer term thing, though.

2. Great haircut. Maybe shorter than your hair is now?

3. Makeup. (or glasses). Something around the eyes can definitely make an immediate difference. Check other questions here (click "makeup" tag to see many) for tips.

4. Clothes:
-Clothes that fit you well
-Clothes that are cut in whatever way is flattering to your figure as it is now (not just following some arbitrary conception of hotness - eg whatever Hollywood teens are wearing or something. Yeek.)

Recommended in other fashion questions:
style directions
Trinny and Susannah
What Not to Wear, the tv show (I second this!)

Cool women's clothing online
accessories (for inspiration)
some websites for looking at real-life fashions
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:11 PM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

Since you want to lose weight I would concentrate on this. Health is sexy. Exercise gives you that healthy glow and makes you feel good about yourself. Get fit for yourself, of course. Not so people will look at you when you enter a room. That's nice, but doing it for yourself is way sexier.

Being a single-mom is tough but you'll need more than 15 minutes for exercise, even if you are pressed for time and take up time applying make-up and doing hair. How long did it take you to type out this question? You can find the time. Most of us can find the time, even if you break up your exercise for two 15 minute sessions.

I would start walking daily. Walk at a brisk pace for 30 minutes to an hour each day. Give up take-out and fast food. Replace caloric drinks with water. Give up packages as much as possible. A good way about going about things is to eat three meals a day with a couple a pieces of fresh fruit for snacks. Don't be too strict on yourself. Take it slow and give up unhealthy habits gradually. For instance: drink one Coke instead of three. Stash an apple and a few high fiber crackers in your purse when you're starving so you won't be tempted to hit the fast-food.

Leslie Sansone sells walking tapes for like 14 bucks, or less, at Target and elsewhere.

This one looks great and has great reviews. It has cardio and resistance. Both are important, as well as stretching.

These are the things that are most important when looking good in my opinion:

1. Fitness

2. Hair - shiny and healthy. Get it cut if it looks outdated or damaged. I don't know the length of your hair but I love the Goody jumbo velcro rollers that have ceramic on the inside. They come four to a package and are inexpensive. Blow dry hair. Roll hair in a few big rollers at the crown. Spray with a tiny bit of hairspray, blast with dryer, unroll. Finger fluff and finish with a tiny bit of finishing creme. I love Brilliant Brunette finishing cream, even if I am more blonde than brunette. You'll look like all of the anchors on MSNBC with that big luscious hair. If your hair is short get a flattering, hip cut. Healthy hair looks best no matter what you do. Fake looking highlights or any color that doesn't occur in nature doesn't appeal to me, but it might be what you like. You should like how you look. Wear make-up and clothes that feel good and are "you".

3. Skin - pay attention to your complexion. Don't smoke. Don't drink too much. Wear sunscreen. Get yourself some inexpensive Oil of Olay, or other discount brand, according to your skin type and cleanse and moisturize. Exfoliate. Get the St. Ives apricot stuff and keep it in the shower. Don't go to bed with make-up on.

4. Clothes don't have to be expensive or "sexy hot" Sometimes inexpensive clothes can look extra cheap and tacky if they are too tight and low-cut. I would try on a ton of jeans and get a pair that looks great. Grab some V-neck t-shirts that are fitted but don't cling. I also love cardigans that have 3/4 length sleeves. They can be very sexy. Nigella Lawson wears them all the time and she is the epitome of sexy. I love a slightly pointy-toe shoe with long jeans. They make you look tall and lean. Even if you are shopping at Target, JC Penney, and Old Navy you can still look great. Look at catalogs. Copy looks.

5. Teeth - get them professionally cleaned at least once a year. Use Crest white strips. Floss.

6. Attitude. Sexiness is all about confidence.
posted by LoriFLA at 7:13 PM on June 19, 2008 [7 favorites]

Thinking about the limited money issue, I would suggest finding ways to keep your weight loss efforts as cheap as possible to allow you to focus your money on clothes, makeup, grooming, etc. Because you really could waste all your money on fitness efforts, and I don't think it's worth it, when there are so many cheap ways to exercise, cheap ways to learn about exercise, and cheap ways to get exercise equipment. I found an exercise bike on the street, and you could probably find all the exercise equipment you'll ever need at yard sales and thrift stores. Try out different things and get a feel for what sort of exercises you want to do before committing to a costly gym membership.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:14 PM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

I agree that losing weight can be simple, but it takes an extraordinary amount of effort.

What I generally go by is
1. absolutely no fast food
2. no non-diet soda
3. South Beach diet (it is healthy starvation, essentially, but it works like magic)
3a. (only so much as magic can bring the pangs of severe hunger - dieter be warned)
4. Always eat breakfast. Always eat a very light lunch (salad, chicken, etc.)
5. Do some form of body exercise every single day - running, jogging, elliptical, calisthenics, whatever. Every day, for the rest of your life.

It is a huge change. But, please believe me when I say you will never feel better about yourself, no matter what your body shape, if you 1. eat healthy every day 2. Exercise every day.

Two simple rules. A world of difficulty, and strength of will, but also a beautiful life. Good luck.
posted by plexi at 7:15 PM on June 19, 2008 [2 favorites]

or running with a 10 lb. dumbells in your hands

posted by plexi at 7:16 PM on June 19, 2008 [2 favorites]

some guys prefer women in their 40s just the way they are. some guys think 20 pounds is about just exactly what jennifer garner (i just watched juno) needs. alison janney too, but she's ok just the way she is.
posted by stubby phillips at 7:21 PM on June 19, 2008 [2 favorites]

Absolute top priority as far as I'm concerned is confidence. If losing weight or dressing up helps you get there, then so be it. But if you want guys to think you're sexy, you have to be comfortable in your own skin and let them know that you know they know it.

In other words, fake it 'til you make it, I suppose. Works for men the world over!
posted by DoctorFedora at 7:25 PM on June 19, 2008 [2 favorites]

oh, and:

I no longer attract looks

yes you do. they're just more subtle.
posted by stubby phillips at 7:27 PM on June 19, 2008 [3 favorites]

Getting your eyebrows done is a great suggestion, it'll probably make more of an immediate difference than anything else you could do.

Makeup doesn't have to be as complicated as it sounds. Yes, spending a half hour every day putting on eighteen levels of makeup might make you look nice, but save that for the fancy occasions. The first three things you put on will make the biggest difference anyway. What they are, of course, depends on your face, so you may need to experiment or ask someone who knows. For example, I have genetic dark circles under my eyes, so my number one item is concealer; it might be something completely different for you. Mascara, though, is almost always great. And three items of makeup shouldn't take you more than a few minutes to put on, you won't be doing complicated 60's cats-eye eyeliner every day or anything.

Nice shoes will make you feel a lot more put together, no matter what else you're wearing. And conversely, a cute outfit can be harmed by terrible shoes. They also won't change fit if you decide to lose weight, so you can invest in a pair occasionally over time. Good quality really does matter when it comes to shoes, as far as lifetime and comfort go; you don't need designer stuff but I'd stay away from Payless unless you find something amazingly comfortable. If you're short, go for a mid-heel (really high heels aren't practical for everyday), or ballet flats are always nice. These may not be your style, but here are some examples of shoes that would make me feel comfortable in my own skin: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

And have fun.
posted by you're a kitty! at 7:34 PM on June 19, 2008

Lots of great advice here. Having been there (maybe still there) in this situation, I feel for you. I can speak from personal experience that THE VERY MOST BESTEST thing I did was to get in shape. This will not only make you thinnner and more toned but it will improve your complexion and do amazing and wonderful things for your self-esteem. I am thrilled every single day at how good I feel as a result of working out and this has boosted my confidence, given me more energy and made me smile more. All of these things will make heads turn.

Get your exercise regime down pat and then focus on the other stuff (hair, makeup, clothes etc.) later.

For exercise I weight train 4x/week plus one session with a trainer and I get my cardio from biking out on the street. My diet is no-processed foods and 90% of my carbs from fruits and veggies (kinda similar to South Beach). It's really simple which makes it easy to stick to. I disagree with the idea that this requires an extraordinary effort; it's just a different lifestyle that you can adjust to if you want your life to change for the better. Accepting that this is your new lifestyle from now on will make it feel really simple.

Nthing What Not To Wear and going to the makeup counter. Also take note of what other women are wearing, especially those with similar body types.
posted by kenzi23 at 7:40 PM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

Hotness is not about being skinny or having the right clothes, it's about attitude and confidence! If you feel sexy, that's what you will project and what others will see.

And if for you, feeling good about yourself means losing some weight, then go for it. But it's not the be-all-and-end-all. You can be skinny and unsexy. And you can be curvy and sexy! Don't ever think that you can't be hot again until you lose the weight / get your hair cut / sort your makeup out. You can. (That's not to say that those things won't help, but in themselves, they won't make you hot again unless they change the way you feel, rather than just change the way you look.)

Dancing is what does it for me. It's great exercise, great fun, and also a great confidence boost - men love a woman who can move, and when I'm out dancing, I can't help but smile and flirt! It's also a good opportunity to go out and spend time with your girlfriends - which is another confidence booster.

If you can find a Burlesque class in your area, I'd recommend that as a quick "get your sexy back" - curves are an advantage, and there's nothing better for making you feel attractive!
posted by finding.perdita at 7:51 PM on June 19, 2008 [2 favorites]

If you're at all buxom, I would say that the first thing you should do is find a well-fitting bra. If you've never been professionally fitted (and no, Victoria's Secret does NOT count as a professional fitting), then I guarantee you're wearing the wrong size. I'm only in my mid-twenties, but finding bras that actually fit instead of shoving my chest into a pancake-ifying minimizer that was three sizes too small has made a HUGE difference in how I carry myself. Get thee to a Nordstrom!
posted by pluckemin at 7:52 PM on June 19, 2008 [4 favorites]

A great haircut, exercise, and moisturizer. Everything else is secondary. Clothes don't need to be "sexy," they just need to fit -- not too tight and not a tent.

(There is a certain something about shoes that go click click click that makes me walk taller, though.)
posted by desuetude at 8:02 PM on June 19, 2008

Take it slow. The first step in my opinion is a great haircut, although if your eyebrows and/or upper lip need waxing, by all means go for it.

The next time you are buying clothes for yourself, think carefully about what kinds of clothes you would like to wear. I'd rather spend more money on fewer garments that fit really well and make me feel really good than buy from the bargain bin. (But I am not by nature a hunter type; if you are, you may be able to find great-looking stuff at Filene's Basement or Target). Before you shop, read advice columns on fashion for your body type.

As for the exercise, do try working out, say, three times a week to start. There are actually good home videos out there that help you get in shape. I personally like the yoga videos by Ani Brett and Ravi Singh, but something else may appeal to you. These videos are broken down so you don't have to do the entire regimen every day. And practicing yoga genuinely makes you feel good, too.

Really, it's all about what makes you feel good. I go in for pedicures every two weeks, because I feel better about myself when I have nice pretty feet -- even if no one will see them.

Makeup? Can take about three minutes, maybe five. Apply a moisturizing foundation, a bit of powder, some blush, and a bit of lip gloss. Add another minute if you want to do something with your eyes, but it can be very easy and fast. I do agree with others that makeup counter cosmetics are worth the money. If you need to be thrifty about it, you might try getting the ladies to apply it at the department store, then go over to Sephora and buy what was recommended.

But mostly, don't stress or try to change everything all at once. The key is to make yourself feel better -- because most people really are more attractive than they think they are.

Or ... if you're super-lucky, you could get yourself on an episode on What Not to Wear, in which case you'd get a free makeover. But I wouldn't hold your breath on that one.
posted by brina at 8:22 PM on June 19, 2008

Getting your eyebrows done is a great suggestion, it'll probably make more of an immediate difference than anything else you could do.

I would wager only a small fraction of guys would back this up.

Unless you've got unibrow or some other prominent problem, eyebrows just aren't a big deal.
posted by namespan at 8:26 PM on June 19, 2008

I think women who are doing interesting things are hot. Take up a hobby if you don't have one. Photography, painting. Writing kids books. In this same line of thought, maybe you could choose an exercise program that is more interesting than Jenny Craig. Like the dancing suggestion, or a martial art or something. A good looking woman doing a treadmill is run of the mill. A good looking woman doing Judo? That's hot.
posted by extrabox at 8:32 PM on June 19, 2008 [6 favorites]

Eyelash tint. Major bang for the buck, saves on time applying and removing mascara too. My hairdresser does it for about $10. Everybody notices, but nobody's sure what it is.
posted by b33j at 8:34 PM on June 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

Nthing fitness. There's fewer things less attractive than a woman with cottage cheese arms. (Okay, maybe I'd rank overly colored hair or tattoos higher.)

A few more things to pay attention to:
Water consumption (soda should just be avoided like the plague--bad for your bones)
Sunscreen use (yep, every day!) and general skin care
Confidence in who you are

None of us are the same as we were ten, twenty years ago, and I'm quite happy with that. So maybe I don't turn the heads of the guys. The young chicks with their asses hanging out of their short shorts are welcome to get all that attention. Don't try to flirt, just be a normal person conversing, interested in what your fellow conversationalist is saying. Dress to show off your best "assets" and use makeup and hair color judiciously. Don't try to be 25 again. Been there, done that.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 8:34 PM on June 19, 2008

I vote exercise first: it gets you fit, slimmer, more toned, and confident - four kinds of hotness in one. And confidence is a huge part of sexiness. You don't need to join a gym; just invest in a good pair of sneakers and go running/jogging/walking for at least 20 minutes, 5 days a week. If you can do more, that's great, but start with a short and manageable amount of time. If you hate running, go for a bike ride, or do an aerobics tape, or whatever will get you active and be enjoyable.

After that, clothes: make sure they fit well and are not too dated. They don't have to be trendy, but they shouldn't be frumpy. Most importantly, you should feel good in your clothes.

Finally, hair/eyebrows/makeup - pick whichever makes you feel best about your appearance, and is a manageable part of your day. If a routine feels overwhelming, you won't stick to it. Maybe get a fun, short haircut that you can style with a little bit of product and not too much fuss. Maybe find a makeup routine (sunscreen, moisturizer, lips, mascara) that makes you feel great. What feature of yours do you like best? If you have great eyes, emphasize them. If you have nice hands, get a manicure. If you have nice legs, consider skirts. You get the idea.

And keep your shoulders back: slouching isn't sexy.
posted by bassjump at 8:35 PM on June 19, 2008

Hotness for me is at least 60% attitude. If not 90%. You could easily be sabotaging your hotness, or at least making yourself invisible, with a vibe like "I am a mom, I exist to care for my child" or "I am too exhausted to care about anything."

Good news, the solutions are free. Bad news, the changes are a bit harder to effect. :)

* Have fun. Happiness, smiling, humor, laughter are physically pleasurable -- let others associate you with that.
* Be happy, kind, and at peace. Ever noticed how people who are angry or bitter don't look beautiful for more than the first 2 seconds? Being stressed out, extremely busy, or starved for time or sleep, are very bad.
* Be emotionally (and sexually) awake and available. People who listen and who notice others are hot. People who are wrapped up in their own internal drama are not. Everyone around you is an emotional and sexual being.
* Be comfortable in your body. Enjoy your body. Don't subconciously try to hide it. Fully occupy the space you take up.

I hate to give a practical suggestion, because what can I tell you about what will make you more "at peace?" But one concrete idea -- a good yoga class could help with all of these. It can get you in shape and also help you feel calmer and less frazzled. (By good, I mean you should work your way up to Vinyasa or Ashtanga level II-III, but in a discipline that also incorporates some time for breathing and centering. I also actually did find Bikram good for this, though it wasn't calming at all.) A video would be the frugal option, but going to a studio can help by putting you in a new environment.
posted by salvia at 8:44 PM on June 19, 2008 [5 favorites]


All of this advice is crap (except on preview that from Salvia). No offense to all of their sage advice. It's all good stuff, but it's not what YOU need.

You don't like you, and you're buying into what you think others think you should be.

You know what will make you hot and attractive again? YOU will. YOU and your mindset. Be happy and comfortable with yourself. At this point you're not. To be blunt, you don't like yourself. Find a way to like yourself again... that may come from 'making yourself hot' again, but I've learned that it will come from finding some comfort in YOU and accepting who YOU are.

Accepting who you are may include getting in better shape, but sweetheart until YOU love YOU it doesn't matter how good you look... until you are comfortable with yourself you'll only find yourself as being a shallow individual. Love yourself first and get over the physical hangups of life. You'll find a LOT of people interested in you after you learn how to love yourself for who you are.

Yes I'm gay, and I probably can't relate to the 'straight' mentality, but you have it SOOO wrong. It's not about making yourself 'hot'. It's about how you view yourself. If you love yourself, they will follow. Also, not everyone of quality is hung up on 'hotness'. You may find a better lover who is more into 'you' and who you are as a person than one who is into your physical appearance. Love yourself first, be the best you can be, and let the lovers come to you.
posted by matty at 8:50 PM on June 19, 2008 [20 favorites]

Running around with your kid is ideal exercise. Failing that, jogging is free. Go with a group, it's safer, more fun, and you'll make new friends who will like you and make you feel better about yourself. Also, yoga is great for a long list of reasons, and very cheap as exercise goes. No equipment is required beyond maybe a mat and maybe a wooden block or large book to help with stretches, and sweat pants and T-shirt that you already own.

We have a tendency to become more like the people we hang out with. Yoga classes are ridiculously full of very sexy women. I never realized this or I would have taken it up years ago instead of just last month. :) Admittedly, unflattering comparison is a potential issue, but far less so in the fairly dark (assuming they teach in dim light, mine does), and very focussed environment of a yoga class. By halfway through, yours is the only body you'll notice. It's a lot harder exercise than it looks.

You're only 20lb heavier than you were in your 20's? That's way less than average, and indicates that you're probably judging yourself way too harshly (as people tend to do). Many women your age would want to lose upwards of 80 lb to get back to college weight. As you get fitter and more toned, your weight will reduce less than what you think it should, as your fat shrinks and muscles grow. Measurements, and how you look in the mirror, matter more than weight. Exercise matters more than diet. Genetics matter more than exercise. With that weight-gain profile over 20 years and a kid, unless you're four feet tall, genetics are definitely on your side.

Hair is much less of an issue for men than women think it is. Same goes for clothes: being fit and toned with a pretty smile will do more for you, as far as men are concerned, than a million-dollar wardrobe. The reason to care about these is for you, not us. If you feel you look good, and behave accordingly, you look far better. Being happier with yourself does a lot towards this. Getting fitter will make you happier with yourself.

How to spend hardly any money on clothes and still look good: go op-shopping! That's worth a whole discussion in itself. In summary, "looks like" is the key. Get clothes that "look like" the height of fashion, and you will be highly fashionable.

Find places to meet men where you get to have conversations. If you're just seeing each other across a supermarket, there's a pretty good chance they're writing you off (30's-40's, with a kid in tow) as married, rather than as unattractive. You're aware you're single; do you look single? Even if they spot the lack of ring, a lot of men will just assume that an unsmiling single mother is a bitter divorcee, and even if they like her looks, not bother talking to her. Sorry. :( Actually smile at men you find attractive, or at least, interesting. This is another reason to meet under circumstances where you can converse, it gives you more opportunity to smile and flirt. Example: try just randomly talking to a guy in the food court at lunchtime. Delay 10-15 minutes before you go to lunch, so it's crowded. Pick a busy food court. Get your own lunch. Scope out the crowd while you wait in line. Most people sit one to a table, as a rule. Find a decent-looking guy who's on his own, one who, assuming he were OK as a person, you wouldn't mind dating. If you're nervous about this, pick an older guy, casually but nicely dressed, with a wedding ring, to start with. Ask, "Mind if I sit here?" He will be startled, but unless he's a total jerk, won't mind. He'll probably expect you to eat your lunch in silence, but that's not because he doesn't want to talk to you. He's conditioned, culturally, to expect you not to want to talk to him. So, start a conversation. "What are you eating?" "Is it any good?" And so on. Expect nothing from this except a bit of conversation, one person to another. Unless he's really interested, and you are as well, keep it fairly short. Do this every couple of days for a few weeks; the idea is to become friendlier, to be more approachable. If you see a guy you had a reasonably friendly conversation with, say hi and ask to join him again. Make new friends.

It may not be that you're that much less attractive any more, it might be just that your social networks aren't bringing you into contact with new men any more.

Men on the average do prefer to date women younger than themselves. That's our natural target group: all else being equal, they're prettier than our peers, and we're richer than their peers, and these two factors drive a lot (not all) of the male-female mating dance. While we may be willing to date older women, we're much less likely to initiate it of our own accord. We often assume she'll want an older man in any case; our part-time shelf-stacking job and our beat-up junker car are unlikely to impress her. Thus you will have no problem picking up a college boy, or early-30's guy, if you want to, but you'll need to be much more active about making your intentions clear than you would have when you were his age or younger. Picking up with discretion and grace is a skill that many women who were very attractive in their teens and 20's never actually learned, because they never needed to. But it's not difficult, really; the primary important factors are to get him alone, and make him think you never, ever do that: he is special. :) Being asked out by a woman is comparatively rare for most men, and if he likes you at all, will be a huge ego boost.

Good luck! :)
posted by aeschenkarnos at 9:24 PM on June 19, 2008

I just want to interject to say that I think a lot of guys are going to say things like an eyebrow wax, make-up, hair colour etc. aren't things they notice, because they don't understand them, which is fine. When they're done well, they shouldn't notice, they should just make you look better, and I guarantee many of them will notice a woman who takes care of smaller-seeming points of grooming like this than women who let these points go.

Phyiscal fitness should be your first priority, no doubt at all. Attitude is everything, and being a curious, engaging, interesting person counts for a lot. That said, I would absolutely agree with having your eyebrows shaped, and the best hair cut and colour you can afford. Once done, you don't need to talk about them, it's just between you and your team of professionals. An eyebrow wax will give your whole face a lift, and open up your appearance. A great cut and colour, with your features in consideration, will make you appear to be younger, guaranteed.

I would also buy quality concealer and foundation. I use YSL's Touche Eclat under my eyes and a Chanel foundation - people always say I have great skin, as it doesn't really look made up. To me cheaper make-up just doesn't have that formulation that can really look great with minimal coverage. Aim to make your make-up dewy and fresh, not thick and powdery. Young women have plump, dewy skin, not taut, lifted or powdery skin. Wear a lightly coloured lip gloss, a cream blush which makes your cheeks look moist, and keep eye make-up neutral and designed to enhance your eyes - the best people at this I think are Bobbi Brown, which you can see at a glance at their counters - the range is full of soft, natural browns and taupes. Fashion make-up looks like you see at M.A.C. are for young girls and models.

Young women also have whiter teeth and shape in their dentition in the front. Worn teeth at the front, where they teeth are all the same length is a definite sign of ageing, and can be easily (but perhaps not cheaply) fixed. An occasional manicure, pedicure and leg wax, with home maintenance at home will also help.

When you chose clothes, make sure they fit you perfectly. Nothing baggy or slouchy, and avoid track suits and that kind of fabric. Sloppy. I'll definitely second the poster above who said that a tailor should be your friend.

AND... Find a fantastic pair of dark denim jeans in a modern style which make your ass look absolutely great (not unfortunate looking, abdomen-enhancing Mom jeans!)
posted by lottie at 9:37 PM on June 19, 2008 [12 favorites]

I think Salvia's advice to be comfortable in your own body is completely correct.

But a part of that is having a haircut that is basically flattering, and wearing clothes that fit and emphasize your best parts, and so on -- you feel good, and then you want to look good to match.

Best bang for the buck? Haircut first (and go on a regular schedule); then get bras and underwear that don't just kind of fit but really really fit; then get a few good basic pieces of clothes (jeans, sweaters, t-shirts) that are flattering and are of decent quality; and then begin the "healthy-izing" project -- eating well, building some exercise into your day, etc.

Speaking for myself and a lot of men I know, 20 pounds over is not a dealbreaker, but being down on yourself and having no confidence is. Be happy with who you are, and where you are in life, and you are 90% of the way there.
posted by Forktine at 9:43 PM on June 19, 2008

how about investing it with your child or children?

How about not assuming that a woman who wants to spend 40 minutes out of every 24 hours on herself isn't neglecting her kids or is otherwise an inadequate mother?
posted by scody at 10:24 PM on June 19, 2008 [34 favorites]

Exercise for girls and exercise for guys is different. Guys exercise because broad shoulders are sexy, so we are doing it to get bigger. Girls exercise because it burns calories, so they get to "cheat" more in their eating. If you just adjust your diet to take in fewer calories than you're burning, you can lose weight without having to exercise, saving you that 40 minutes in the process.

Magazines are a big no. I don't know about girl's "glamour" tips, but for guys magazines (men's health, fitness, etc), from the modeling perspective, the magazine finds a good looking model, sends them a routine, and then publishes pictures of them doing the routine saying "this is what you do to look like this!" It is probably the first time the model has ever done the routine. If girl magazines are anything similar, they are just trying to sell you bullshit, so don't bite.

Other than that, I would agree with what is posted here. Spend your 40 minutes a day worrying about teeth, hair, and skin, and whenever confronted with eating/drinking, remain extremely vigilant about what you put into your body.
posted by GooseOnTheLoose at 10:36 PM on June 19, 2008

When I enter a room, I no longer attract looks, or when I want by, heads don't turn.

find myself in my 40s

There's your problem.

No one wants to hear it, but, y'know, ain't nothing you can do at this point to attract the looks you got 20 years ago. Invest your 40 minutes a day in meditation.
posted by bricoleur at 10:43 PM on June 19, 2008

You're beautiful.
posted by senterstyle at 11:00 PM on June 19, 2008 [2 favorites]

Depending on how old your kids are, you might try to engage in some cool physical activity with them, which perhaps would help with the time issue since you're accomplishing two important things at once--time with your kids and exercise for yourself. Also, you're setting a good example for them as far as keeping active, and the increase in energy will be a cool side effect.

I read somewhere before that the best way to get in shape is to follow a three-year-old around and do everything he/she does.
posted by troybob at 11:07 PM on June 19, 2008

Hmm.. the best low-effort/high-reward ways to increase 'hotness', as defined by the average Western male? There has been a ton of great advice here.

I'm a beach girl, on a budget. First, I don't know a guy who doesn't prefer the 'natural' look. Anthropologically, hot = desirable to 'reproduce' with. What communicates this?

1. Youth
2. Symmetry
2. Health
3. Happiness

(Beautycheck has a lot to say about this)

1. Everyone gets so focused on looking young, but IMO youth is mainly when it's easiest to be healthy/symmetrical/happy. Youth=
*Larger eyes. It echoes that 'babyface' look. An EYELASH CURLER and a natural looking mascara are your best friends. I'm an evangelist on this - nobody believe the huge impact it makes. Brush through mascara with a eyelash comb, or nab free spoolies at Sephora.
*Waist/hip ratio. This is a universal subconscious cue to men; the 20 pounds isn't as important as where that weight is distributed. Don't hide your waist under big tees. Do what you can to fight bloating. (plenty of water/fiber/potassium rich veggies, lower carbs/salt.) There's a popular diet called the Abs diet; it looks good but I can't personally vouch for it.
*Eye Candy. Emphasize your favorite body feature (t*ts, ass, legs, whatev), bonus points if it looks almost perfectly innocent. Guys like to imagine.

2. Given your 'hottie' past, you probably already have great genes, no sweat here.

3. IMO by far the most important 'hotness' trait. Totally agree with LoriFLA and Lottie's advice.
Health =
*Shiny hair: John Freida makes a clear glaze treatment that I really like. Bangs can make you looks much younger too. And a lot of guys don't like hair that's too short.
*Clear skin: Great 'glow' combos: AmLactin alpha-hydroxy lotion followed by Neutrogena Copper serum. Or, homemade vitamin C serum (google; it's cheap). Or, Neutrogena Illuminating pads followed by Olay micro-sculpting cream. The goal is the exfoliate that top layer and get some plumping/antioxidant ingredients in there. Then, glowy flushed cheeks, glossy lips.
*Bright teeth. Takes years off and makes you far more likely to smile. HIGHLY recommended. Target whitestrips work great too.
*Clear eyes. See your doctor if you need to get any allergies under control. Freeze some damp green/black tea bags. The cold & caffeine get rid of puffiness.
*Fit body: Nthing everyone who says walking. Its cheap, and gas isn't, so walking to the grocery store or wherever kills two birds with one stone. Leg lifts (while you're in line, or off a stair ledge) build that curvy little calf muscle... If you are pale, a bit of self-tanner can be sliming and healthy looking. I like Aveeno Continuous Radiance because it's light, natural, and foolproof.

4. Humans are social creatures. Perceived hierarchy counts. And everyone fears rejection. Happy, friendly, but a little mysterious is a good mantra.

Other ideas:
* MakeupAlley is a trove of knowledge; they have a "best values" review section, and tons of home beauty recipes/recommendations too.
* Track your food on The Daily Plate. Easy peasy.
* Studies suggest perfume makes women appear thinner and more attractive; splurge on one you love if you can.
* I personally feel much better with mani/pedi/tweeze/wax/hair trim/highlights... but don't go overboard cause men are often oblivious to subtleties.

I know this all seems very superficial, but my mom has been slowly making herself over since the death of my stepfather. She spent many years as his caretaker and lost herself in the process. To see her blossom and regain her spirit is really inspiring, everyone deserves to feel good about themselves. You don't have to justify that to anyone.
posted by for_serious at 11:43 PM on June 19, 2008 [6 favorites]

The way I see it, you can attack this two different ways. Way #1: you want to look "sexy" so that people notice you. Way #2: you want the confidence you used to have (and get from the validation of people checking you out) back.

Way #1 is super easy--just get those tits lifted into a decent bra, stuff them into lots of low cut tops. Take all of the advice about flattering cuts etc, but make sure you are showing off what you've got. Paint your nails. Wear obvious makeup (eye liner, lipstick, etc). Wear heels. These are all cultural signals that you are a sexy lady to be noticed. No need to lose 20 pounds, even.

Way #2: this one takes more than a trip to the store for femme stuff. It will involve things like getting in shape to feel good (and not paying attention to your weight). I'm not a big fan of exercise that requires a lot of equipment, so for me it's basic things like running/walking, push ups, situps, squats. If you have limited time, you could jump rope for cardio. Maybe get back in touch with whatever sense of style you used to rock or finding a new look you dig (brands are so erratic, I can't think of any I like consistently) and yeah, basic grooming does help (maybe for you that is eyebrows, nails, etc or maybe it's just a good haircut (say you want something cute that won't require a lot of time to style).
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 12:17 AM on June 20, 2008

You will never look 20 again. You will never look 30 again. Heads are turning towards younger women. But you can look good for your age if you age gracefully. Get some exercise and watch what you eat, take up an outdoors activity for 40 minutes a day, lose some weight (attractive = fit, strong, comfortable, natural), but don't end up one of those hideously scrawny older women who have dieted themselves down to well-dressed scarecrows.

Meanwhile, dress your age and size. Don't wear what kids wear or you'll just invite the comparisons between your naturally older body and their hot young bodies. Don't wear sizes you wish you could still fit into, because a fat bum squeezed into overtight clothes is much worse than a fat bum in clothes that fit. Find some attractive normal women about your age (not one-in-a-million genetic freaks you saw on TV) whose looks you'd like to copy. Do they wear certain clothes and avoid others? What colors, what fit, what brands? Talk to them, find out where they shop and what they look for. You want concrete advice about which shops in your town sell the stuff you need and have the best salespeople.

Don't try to compensate for your age by overdoing the makeup. Caked-on makeup, especially in combination with too-young clothes, will make you clownish or whorish or something in between. The best makeup is the makeup no one realizes you're wearing. And keep priorities straight -- keep your skin smooth and maybe have hair removed, and then you'll be starting with a good canvas for any slight painting you want to do.
posted by pracowity at 12:33 AM on June 20, 2008

Yeah, sure, love yourself. That's fine and dandy.

Be comfortable in your own skin. Great advice. Sagely, even.

You know, if there's one thing you never hear these days, it's people telling other people that they need to love themselves more. Go buy yourself a bouquet of flowers and take your bad self out for a night on the town. Let yourself order yourself the lobster.

Hey, who's that on the phone? No company this evening, sugar! Tonight someone got themselves a hot date with their hard, steamy self at 8 PM, and you know how jealous you can get. You can wear that saucy dress you know you like so much... except you think it's about two sizes larger than you'd like it to be.

Which brings me to my point: your first priority should be to exercise. Because in the end, how you look matters, no matter what anyone might say to the contrary, no matter how much it hurts, or how unfair it is, how arbitrary it is... the fact is, even you care how you look. And you know what? You're right! So if you're all intent on taking everyone's advice to love yourself then you should go and make yourself happy and lose the extra weight.

Also... a haircut? Shoes? Make-up? A friggin' eyebrow waxing? Some of you people give us far more powers of perception than we normally come equipped with--at least on the base models. The characteristics that will get a (heterosexual) guy's head to turn are, in rough descending order:
  1. nudity
  2. thinness
  3. ...after that it's all just fetish--some guys' heads will turn for big breasts, or long legs, or long hair, or short hair, or red hair, or slutty make-up, or no make-up, or a mousy disposition, or a confident strut that says spank me... It all varies after those first two.

posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:13 AM on June 20, 2008

As a 40-something-year-old straight man, I'll say this: matty and everybody else telling you that the key is attitude and confidence is spot on. You're not going to regain the boobs, butt, belly and skin you had 20 years ago, but that's OK - instead, you can have the sureness of attitude and confidence that you lacked then. That's hot...

Of course, the trick is in learning how to project those attributes - you don't grow up without either developing them or learning to fake them, but you need to learn how to project them effortlessly so they're obvious at a glance. And if losing a few kilos, or getting a haircut, or choosing the right clothes can help get you started on that, then by all means do them. But those things are aids, confidence boosters, not the solution.
posted by Pinback at 2:37 AM on June 20, 2008 [2 favorites]

Well, heads don't generally turn for women over 40. That's the brutal reality: it's called "growing old". But I think it'ws worth keeping oneself in shape, whether or not the heads turn. You're bound to increase your chances of having sex, if that is what you seek, and there are other benefits to health, self-esteem, the perception of you by others.

1. Diet (the only real way to lose weight; curiously you don't mention it)
2. Exercise (a flabby body is not a turn on)
3. Smile & "attitude" & grooming & wardrobe: but without (1) and (2), whatever well-wishers may say, you won't be "hot" again.
posted by londongeezer at 5:12 AM on June 20, 2008

Since most everything has already been addressed:

Get a decent blowdryer. This will make all the difference in the world.
posted by shownomercy at 6:07 AM on June 20, 2008

I'm in my twenties, but my friends and I sometimes feel this way too. We always say that we need a "sprucing." This just means a little tune-up that really does more for your confidence than anything. A sprucing can be the combination of any two things: like a haircut and a new pair of shoes, or new lipgloss and a new pair of jeans, or new earrings and and a new dress. The important thing is that you treat yourself to two new things, which feels like much more of a treat than one. You'd be amazed how much good this does.
posted by jrichards at 6:32 AM on June 20, 2008

I have to go with the exercise too. This will not only help you look good, but will help you feel good too. And it doesn't have to cost you any money: go for a walk or a bike ride.
posted by All.star at 6:34 AM on June 20, 2008

but don't end up one of those hideously scrawny older women who have dieted themselves down to well-dressed scarecrows.

I second that. Excercize and watch your diet to get healthy and feel better, but not to lose weight.

And all the hetero men on here saying eyebrows don't matter do not know what they're talking about.
posted by footnote at 6:37 AM on June 20, 2008

If you're just starting out on exercise, consider joining a couch-to-5K training program. Based on what friends of various sizes* have said, it's a great experience: you have the motivation built in both financially and socially, you'll meet other people who will be supportive and probably have ideas to share, and it ends with an accomplishment that you'll be able to talk about with pride.

*Remember, the better goal isn't to be thinner, it's to be fitter.
posted by kittyprecious at 6:38 AM on June 20, 2008

As many others have said in this thread, sexiness to a large extent comes from in between your ears. If there's something you can do that you know makes you feel sexy, do it, and that will make you be sexy.

As to exercise: It's certainly a good thing, and worth pursuing even if you make yourself sexier than you can stand with makeup and and a haircut. But as others have said, don't budget 15 minutes a day to that. Budget 45 minutes three times a week. To really get the benefits, you need to have a sustained effort.
posted by adamrice at 7:06 AM on June 20, 2008

Just a quick scan of the responses and my eyes are about to roll out of my head. Carrying 20 extra lbs. will NOT make you someone who is incapable of turning heads. As someone who is obese, it's just what strikes another person's fancy.

I'm not saying that you shouldn't lose the weight if it makes you unhappy - I just don't think it's a cureall.

If you dress frumpy - learn to dress the body that you have in this moment. Just because you're a Mom doesn't mean that you can't be stylish. A pair of jeans that fits you well and a simple knit top can make you look polished without really having to think too hard about what you're wearing.

Lastly, don't underestimate the power of confidence. If you feel good about yourself, that's the kind of energy that will surround you and people will respond to that.
posted by heartquake at 7:14 AM on June 20, 2008

Be braver about starting conversations with guys (also mentioned above by aeschenkarnos). There's a lot of sweet touchy-feely stuff in this thread about boosting your own confidence, which is all well and good, but I know a lot of confident, unattractive people. I also know plenty of otherwise attractive women who are obviously making a big show of acting confident, and that makes them less attractive.

What the OP obviously wants is to be approachable, and as far as that goes, a little vulnerability might help more than a lot of put-on confidence. (Yes, I know the goal is genuine confidence, but you can only generate so much of that on purpose.)

For guys, the main barrier to approaching women is the risk of rejection. You can remove this barrier by sending signals that rejection is unlikely. A smile, a look that "accidentally" lingers a bit longer than you meant it to, a question about the book he's reading or the gadget he's fiddling with, a compliment on his outfit, a question about when the train is coming, etc. In short, an indicator that you aren't sitting there thinking "I hope nobody hits on me."

Just because guys on the street don't look at you as much as girls in their 20s doesn't mean they don't think you're hot. It just means you're not getting the first, obvious, often involuntary looks.

However, the truth is that a lot of girls who are getting those looks aren't going to be approached that often by worthwhile guys, because the guys are intimidated and figure that the girls have plenty of options and couldn't possibly be interested in them.

You can get a much better barometer of your own true hotness quotient by putting yourself in situations in which it's actually going to be evaluated by guys who realize that you might be interested. That inherently makes you more interesting, because, for most of us, the girls we look at on the street and think "damn, she's hot" about, are not really within reach. (Or, at least, they don't seem to be.)
posted by bingo at 7:38 AM on June 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

forget the exercise, the haircut and the makeup.. look happy, happiness is sexy.
posted by anto1ne at 8:10 AM on June 20, 2008

Gok Wan's TV show How to Look Good Naked could be inspiring for you. I don't know how easy it would be for you to watch in the States, but there are some clips on the web.
posted by tomcooke at 8:26 AM on June 20, 2008

Also... a haircut? Shoes? Make-up? A friggin' eyebrow waxing? Some of you people give us far more powers of perception than we normally come equipped with--at least on the base models.

Trust me, we're not endowing your gender with any powers of perception. I keed! We know that you don't notice eyebrow shaping. The point is that we all have to look at ourselves in the mirror every day, and the happier we are with what we see and how we feel, the easier it is to stand up straight and project confidence.
posted by desuetude at 8:29 AM on June 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Before I start, I want to echo the thoughts of others above, being self-confident and self-assured and okay with who you are is ultimately what makes you feel sexy. That being said, here's my advice:

Only a few people above hit on what I believe to be an important aspect of hotness: posture. Slouching is almost always not attractive and the degree of unattractiveness is compounded by any extra weight (read: flab) in the midsection. A strong core and back will help. Think long, vertical neck. This affects your walk, your stance and how you sit. Your upper body won't be hanging or drooping over your midsection. Take a second to think about that. Stomachs get compacted and push outward, accentuating any already undesired flab. This is a huge problem. Standing upright stretches out your abdomen vertically, flattening it out, and significantly improves the midsection's appearance. So, it's suffice to say that improvements in posture will make a huge difference in how people perceive you, especially guys.

The problem, however, is that it's quite difficult to correct years of poor posture. I have no experience with yoga, but believe that sort of stretching is something that may help. Also, I mentioned back and core strength will help with your presentation. I'm not talking about a bulging back or an eight-pack, but you'll most likely need to use weights. Using weights will also help in achieving firmness all over. Or, how must people refer to it, being tone. That's a good thing, but not a requirement. It's the job of the muscles in the back to counteract the chest, and the forward slouch. They pull your frame back, creating the desired shoulders back, chest out/up, long neck look.

Below are a few exercises you could consider for back strength, I won't go into ab strength because you should be able to find that data anywhere. But remember, don't just go through the motions when doing crunches or lifting, be 100% sure you're muscles are doing the work. Even if that means you can only do 5 crunches during your first workout. I guarantee you'll be able to do more the next time. Use at your own discretion:

If you can do one pull-up, and find a place at home to do it (door jam, basketball hoop, etc. as long as it supports your weight and you can get movement), you can avoid the gym. Pull-ups will help with arm strength and back strength => posture improvement. Try to use your back to pull you up. If you can't do a pull-up, then you could just hold the chin-up position. First warm-up by holding your chin above the bar (or whatever you're using) for a couple seconds, then try to double that, then get back up there and hold it for as long as possible. Write down the time. 3-5 days later do it again and this time beat your previous time. Repeat. The same kind of process goes for pull-ups as well if you're capable.

Bent over rows are another great way to strengthen your back, and even better for your posture than the chin-ups above. The goal of these is to pull weight towards your body, the same kind of movement that will teach your muscles to hold your frame correctly. The best way for a beginner to do these would be with a machine or dumbbells. The problem is that these both require money. So you could start with gallons of water instead. It's cheap and also will give you an idea of how much you can lift if you decide to buy dumbbells. Fill up two milk cartons with water and that's 10 pounds each. I'd start with them a quarter full first for this exercise to warm-up. Then go half full. You want your back parallel to the floor for this exercise. Follow the guidelines here or here. Make sure you use your back to pull the weight and your arms towards yourself. This really strengthens the muscles along the spine. As always, rest a few days before doing these two exercises again and when you come back always make progress. Either add more weight or do more repetitions. So make sure you log all of your data.

The key to strength is progression. Muscles need a reason to get grow/get stronger. Oh yeah, you're going to feel sore. Muscles get stronger when you rest. So make sure you're taking enough days off in between weight-lifting workouts. Do your cardio and stretching (yoga) more often than weight training.

Check out this link for all back exercises(along with video demonstration)that you could consider. This link also includes stretches you could use for the back.

Also, here is a map of the female body that will allow you to focus on what works for specific muscles.

Again, I cannot say this enough can I, the back pulls your body upright, vertical. A vertical body vertically stretches out your midsection. A vertically stretched midsection looks thinner from all angles. Yes, the fat is spread over the muscles the same, but your muscles aren't all squashed together. That means the fat isn't all squashed together in a bulge. If you don't belive me then when you get home try a little experiment. Stand in your underwear in front of the mirror. Check out all the angles, and adjust your posture in every way possible. Just experiment with it for a while.

I am not a trainer, but would suggest checking out a trainer at a gym if you're serious, as I am just a guy on the internet. Be sure to tell her your goals, and be honest. Back and core strength for posture, less fat, increase in overall attractiveness.
posted by trueluk at 8:44 AM on June 20, 2008 [5 favorites]

Be confident above all else. Looks can only get you so far if you have a timid personality. People with confident personalities can get much further even if they don't have the looks. I see many people who dress nice and have the beauty of youth but they are so socially inept that they could never be seen as hot.
posted by JJ86 at 8:45 AM on June 20, 2008

Adding my input as a 31 year old male who's head does turn involuntarily for people in the 25-45 age range. I vote to dump the makeup idea. If you're cute, makeup covers up the cuteness and makes one more average. Since your request is to regain your hotness, I'll assume that you're at least somewhat cute. My experience is that past 24, guys are looking for girls who are a bit lower maintenence, and huge amounts of makeup does not say low maintenance. But this might be something that's more specific to me instead of the general population. I dislike makeup; even when ms. nobeagle just wears a bit of eye liner. But if you do do makeup, less is more. Less is more. Less is more. It's kinda hard to say that enough. Don't do anything silly like fake eye lashes or drawn on eye brows. People will have a double-take to look, but the giggling won't make it a good thing.

Clothes are a really subjective thing. I wouldn't suggest putting a lot of money into it, but next time you do get something, aim for something more flattering. Showing cleavage is just mean (I.E. what you seem to be aiming for) to a guy hoping to maintain eye contact. A better cut will get the head's swiveling from a distance too. Avoid mom jeans and otherwise you should be good beneath the waist.

Exercise I think is key. Most guys at 30+ are lustful for bodies that aren't the "ideal" (read: starved) that MSM tries to push on us. We're ok with having to look a bit to see your ribs. I assume a 40 year old waif is a cougar with so many psyochological problems that one wouldn't even want to make eye contract less she start stalking. Even the non-cougar 40 year old waifs that I've known have still had enough confidence problems that in the words of lolcats everywhere, "Do not want!" Exercise will make you feel better, which will boost your confidence, which will help with your posture and gait which will help to turn the heads. Just don't overdo the weight loss. One last point, is that women past about 35 and a size 6 or lower seem to experience accelerated aging.

I want to re-emphasize, that confidence, and the way you carry your body are big ways to turn heads.

Hair cut? Grow it past the shoulders. Nothing says, "I have people clinging to me so often I don't want to be touched ever, and I've become an entirely non-sexual beaing" than a single mom with short hair. There's a girl at work 2 years younger than me, fit and she's got a really cute face. But she's got this horrid short hair style, and that just dissolves any attraction in me towards her. If you're going 6 months between styling/cutting, then it's not that short, but to grab at a guy's buried instincts that make him turn his head is to have long, healthy hair.

If you're going to colour, if you have something far from your natural colour, you'll have to do it more frequently. Take that into account. On reflection, I don't think that my head's ever been turned by a girl with 1inch plus of roots baring non-natural colors (and by non-natural, I mean stop sign red, or electric blue as opposed to 50 year old lady burgandy).
posted by nobeagle at 9:48 AM on June 20, 2008

In order of priority:

1) Nthing the eyebrows.
2) Hair cut
3) Clothes that fit!
4) Eat right and exercise a little bit, for the health benefits (= glowing skin)

Lose the weight if you want to, but if I was put together well, I got as many looks at 200 pounds as I get now that I'm fit.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:14 AM on June 20, 2008

Most guys at 30+ are lustful for bodies that aren't the "ideal" (read: starved) that MSM tries to push on us.

This is a line.

Dude. Tim Gunn, Carson Kressley, Stacy London AND Clinton Kelly would all vehemently disagree with your advice that she oughtn't tackle clothing, hair and makeup until after she loses 20 lbs.

I will wager two months salary those men are gay.
posted by Zambrano at 10:20 AM on June 20, 2008

Gunn, Kressley, & Kelly are gay men. London is a woman, and I don't know if she's gay or straight.

(So I think you're onto something, there.)
posted by small_ruminant at 10:29 AM on June 20, 2008

I vote to dump the makeup idea. [...] huge amounts of makeup does not say low maintenance.

Wearing any makeup does not equal wearing "huge amounts" of makeup. Believe me, you see women ALL THE TIME who are wearing makeup, and you don't realize it -- because they are wearing the right shades with subtle application. Just because you may not consciously notice it ("Wow! That attractive woman over there certainly is wearing a flattering shade of blush! And her foundation matches her peachy undertones perfectly!") doesn't mean that it's not there.

This is the key to good grooming. When it's done right, it doesn't call attention to itself; it calls attention to the person.
posted by scody at 10:41 AM on June 20, 2008 [5 favorites]

If nothing else, this thread should show you that what passes for "hot" is as varied as the observer.

Beauty, truly, is in the eye of the beholder.

All the "cut your hair off" comments really struck me as odd, and I think most of them are from females. That may show a fundamental disconnect in what women think is "hot" vs men.

Hair color is pretty much down to preference. It divides about the way you would think in polls I have seen. But long hair is consistently rated as more attractive by men than short... something like 95% in the last one I bothered to look at (which was probably in a women's magazine at one of my offices, so consider the source). But, even anecdotal evidence seems to say men strongly prefer longer hair.

On elderly women, it could be that a short bob is simply better, but 40 is a long damn way from elderly. Don't cut all your hair off. No shorter than shoulder length. "Boy" haircuts on women are NOT attractive, except for a tiny sliver of men where it approaches a fetish.

I say the same about thinness. When you're 19, yeah, it's pretty important to be thin, because most 19 year old boys want a girl straight out of their Abercrombie catalog. At 40, most men have had enough sex to realize that rolling around with a sack of bones is not the only way to have good sex, despite what the media tells you. In fact, a too-skinny girl can be more of a detriment than a too-heavy girl.

My general rule is that a woman should look like a woman from a distance. In other words, long hair, and some kind of curves. You can be "small" but still be curvy and feminine.

I'm not that into 14 year old boys, so I don't want girls that look like that -- skin and bones and hair up around their ears. Others mileage may vary, of course, but for the most part, most mature men are going to want their woman with a little meat on them.

How much "a little meat" means varies greatly from man to man, but honestly, few mature men want, or expect, stickfigures.

As Sir-Mix-A-Lot so eloquently puts it: "36-24-36? Only if she's 5'3" "

For the most part, men like women. Look like a woman. A little makeup. Girly clothes. Curves. Long hair. Painted fingernails/toenails. Nothing fancy. Most guys aren't fancy.

Mostly, if you are confident and seem available and approachable, you'll probably start getting all the looks you can handle.
posted by Ynoxas at 11:00 AM on June 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

All the "cut your hair off" comments really struck me as odd, and I think most of them are from females. That may show a fundamental disconnect in what women think is "hot" vs men.

I don't think anyone said "cut your hair off." Getting a good (i.e, flattering) haircut/style is not the same as getting a short haircut/style.
posted by scody at 11:16 AM on June 20, 2008

Getting a good haircut doesn't mean "cut your hair off."

On elderly women, it could be that a short bob is simply better, but 40 is a long damn way from elderly. Don't cut all your hair off. No shorter than shoulder length. "Boy" haircuts on women are NOT attractive, except for a tiny sliver of men where it approaches a fetish.

A lot of men do prefer long hair on women. But the entire statement quoted above is a bizarre generalization. No wonder women find "what is hot" a confusing prospect.
posted by desuetude at 11:38 AM on June 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

desuetude: I think that women find what's hot confusing because they look too closely and listen to hetero women *way* too much. If one doesn't have a monobrow, waxing won't do anything for a guy's perception. When you turn someone's head, it's not because they notice that you took the effort to curl your eyelashes, it's generally because they saw you walk by around a distance of 10-30 feet away. One can't tell eye color at that distance, much less details about eye brows and eye lashes.

The only thing that waxed eyebrows might do is to help in the self-confidence department. And self-confidence shows up in posture, which is visble at a distance. Long hair and curves are also noticeable at a distance.

Zambrano: a line? pshaw, 'cause I'm really hoping to pick up a 3rd for ms. nobeagle and myself on metafilter. In fact, my inbox is full of women willing to drop their lives to move in with us and the kids. Makeup hating aspies are the new black. Oh, as one of the things that I hate about makeup is the smell, applicants should wear no perfume, or demeter if they need *something*.

Going back to the serious side, it's definitely not a line with myself. Tastes change, or one gets socially ostracized. In highschool, 22 year olds were waiting for death, and 140 lbs was only acceptable on a 5'10" 3 mile a day swimmer. As I've grown older and more experienced, I've seen women who've turned my head who've been as old as 45ish and also who've been up to about 210ish.

There's an exacquaintence who's still locked in high school mode. Has a job in a mall so he can stare at all the teeny bopper flesh, and thinks women 2/3 his age are too old to be unattractive. Definitely an exacquaintence.

Note that I didn't say that men in 30's look *only* at non-msm-pushed bodies.
posted by nobeagle at 12:09 PM on June 20, 2008

nobeagle, that was a somewhat rhetorical comment based on Ynoxas's assertions that his (and all the dudes he knows) preferences are somehow so universal as to push everyone else's preferences into "fetish" territory.

Self-confidence comes from, um, the self, and amplifies those outward signs of said confidence (like posture.) The small, attainable, subtle stuff that is not meant to be specifically remarkable to the menfolk let alone from a distance can be a good way to kickstart your attitude.

Anonymous asked for ways "to get the most "bang" out of my time/money." Making your eyes more noticeable (to yourself!) by spending ten bucks and ten minutes once every few months for an eyebrow wax is pretty great bang for your buck, which is why so many women suggested it.
posted by desuetude at 12:31 PM on June 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Eyebrow waxing before and after. One more.
posted by Evangeline at 12:38 PM on June 20, 2008 [3 favorites]

That may show a fundamental disconnect in what women think is "hot" vs men.

Agreed. It looks like most of the guys here are suggesting things that will make the OP actually look hot to a guy, thus causing him to turn his head--as the question specifically asked for--while most of the women here are suggesting things to make the OP feel better about themselves, because what really turns a guy's head is a girl with confidence. Because it's confidence--not the cleavage/mini-skirt/belly button/long hair--that turns our heads.


Look, I'm not saying the feel-good stuff isn't helpful advice, but if you're primarily concerned with looking hot (key word: looking), you need to get seriously fit. Because the 22 year-olds out there have the benefit of youth and skinny hips without even trying.

And ditto what was said above regarding hair. Long hair = youthfulness. Short hair = I have babies that scream all night and the last thing I want to do is worry about my stupid hair. Note: there are notable exceptions to this rule, but keep in mind those women would be head turners even if they shaved their heads.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:40 PM on June 20, 2008

Nthing eyebrows. When they're done, people don't notice the eyebrows specifically, but they notice something. The first time I got them done, I had three weeks of compliments but no one was able to pick the brows, they just asked whether I'd got new glasses, done something to my hair, just thought I looked different and better.

Don't do them yourself!
posted by mooza at 5:21 AM on June 21, 2008

I just want to give anonymous a hug. Some of the stuff in this thread makes it kind of depressing to be a woman over 40. Your first priority? Embrace who and where you are right now - there's no list of things you have to 'improve' before you're permitted to feel sexy and hot.

It's hard as hell to be a single parent, so I recommend taking your forty minutes a day to do something that makes you feel fabulous and nurtured - whatever that means to you! You're just as hot as you've ever been, (I would argue hotter, experience is an advantage) even if you do express it differently than your 22 year old self would.

And those heads that aren't turning? Those aren't the ones you're looking for...
posted by Space Kitty at 6:21 PM on June 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

And terms of practical, 'what do I do now?' advice - the single best thing I've ever done for my appearance is to buy clothes that fit the body I have right now, not the body I imagine I'd have if actually went to the gym. Good luck and have fun!
posted by Space Kitty at 6:50 PM on June 21, 2008

Take a few tips from Parisian women, who always look fabulous:

Wear simple, tailored pants and skirts, blouses, jackets, and thin sweaters with clean lines, in neutral colors. Make sure that the clothes fit your body - not too tight and not too loose. Limit bright colors and patterns to accessories, like scarves, belts, purses.

Always wear nice shoes - they don't have to be high heels, but they should be in good condition, good quality leather, with nice details but not too fussy. Don't wear athletic shoes with professional clothing. Don't wear shorts, ever.

For fall and winter, invest in a black calf-length trench coat that is not too bulky, and a nice pair of knee-length boots with a slight heel.

Don't wear lots of makeup, just enough concealer to hide flaws and a tiny bit of blush or bronzer for a healthy glow. Don't get a haircut with lots of layers and highlights. You want uncomplicated hair that is shiny and healthy looking. Don't wear clothes that are too young or too old for you. Don't get a crazy manicure with long, hot pink nails. Natural is better.

Don't ever wear sweatshirts or sweatpants, even if Juicy Couture tells you they're awesome. Avoid bulky sweaters unless it's the dead of winter and you're shoveling snow.

Jeans are perfectly fine to wear, but not too tight, not too baggy - skip the stonewash and distressed looks and go for a clean, dark denim. Dress them up a bit with feminine shoes or boots and a jacket.

These tips are probably all things that men won't specifically notice, but they will notice that you always look great - effortlessly pulled-together, natural and un-fussy but you obviously care about your appearance. This kind of confidence is very sexy.
posted by jenbeee at 5:57 PM on June 23, 2008 [9 favorites]

I just want to interject to say that I think a lot of guys are going to say things like an eyebrow wax, make-up, hair colour etc. aren't things they notice, because they don't understand them

I wouldn't ever completely discount the idea that subtle and skillful art can fall below the radar of conscious appreciation. And yeah, men are highly capable of being unobservant to any number of things.

But of the details of women's appearances? Specifically, the details of the appearance of women they find attractive?

Not so much. Except perhaps under the influence of alcohol, I'd guess the average state here is somewhere between fine student and hyperobservant. Probably to a degree that would make most women nervous. Hell, it does make many women nervous. And it would make them more nervous if fewer men weren't smart enough to keep their mouth shut and more of them practiced articulating the particulars.

Not to harp on eyebrows, but I'm going to harp on eyebrows. I've looked pretty closely at eyebrows over a dozen close relationships. I've noticed stuff ranging from bushy-for-a-gal, to waaay overpicked, to obviously groomed and fine, to vulnerable-to-strange-wild-hairs-despite-decent-grooming, to pleasingly natural. I suppose it's possible there's some unplumbed depths of eyebrow subtlety that I have yet to fathom, and that "pleasingly natural" was simply such an excellent job but I didn't notice, but I doubt it, and more importantly, in none of these cases did any of these eyebrow states pose a real consideration about whether I actually wanted the woman or not. And while it's never best to underestimate the variability of signals that can catch particular individuals, I'm pretty sure there are so many above eyebrows that for at least two standard deviations, it doesn't matter.

Now, if it makes a woman feel better, no worries. Nothing wrong with a little grooming to your own aesthetics, and I believe in the idea that these little touches (and the affirmation from other people who like them) provide a personal confidence boost that has secondary effects, like people have said. But I think people should be skeptical about the idea that when it comes to sexual attraction, people don't notice what they like.
posted by namespan at 11:53 AM on July 10, 2008

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