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The New Shell Game

Tortoiseshell eyewear, which first caught on nearly a century ago, thanks to silent-film star Harold Lloyd, is back on fashion's hot list, and now the material is showing up in all kinds of accessories, from footwear to jewelry. Of course, it's no longer actual tortoiseshell, which was banned in 1973 to protect the tortoise. Now the distinctive shell pattern — a warm mix of brown, black and amber — is replicated in resin or plastic. But it's important to update this look — especially if you’re over 50, since old-fashioned tortoiseshell pieces tend to age the wearer. And the way to do that is to make a big statement. EYEWEAR: Horn-rimmed glasses and sunglasses are timeless, so it's hard to go wrong. For a contemporary look, however, pick frames that are bold and oversized (like the styles here and here) or ultra-modern. You'll look instantly like a serious architect, and what could be more chic? SHOES: Avoid tortoiseshell pumps, which are too ladylike. Opt instead for an oxford, which will go perfectly with jeans or leggings. JEWELRY: Stay away from chain-link necklaces, which are a bit too conventional (unless you find an offbeat vintage piece). A tortoiseshell watch is a cooler alternative. Or you might go for a ring. And in place of an old-fashioned compact, go for a tortoiseshell iPhone case. This gives you the best of both worlds: classic and contemporary. — Lola Ehrlich and John Birmingham

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