The last time Doris Cosley, a school librarian from Bellevue and mother of three, spent an entire day primping, pampering and polishing...

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The last time Doris Cosley, a school librarian from Bellevue and mother of three, spent an entire day primping, pampering and polishing, it was 1980 and The Seattle Times’ Style section was giving the impish brunette a new look for her 50th birthday. Twenty-six years later, Cosley, now a retired grandmother of four, is ready for a makeover redux, this time to celebrate her 76th year.

With a few more wrinkles and a quarter-century of tales under her belt, Cosley isn’t concerned about micromanaging her new look.

“I’ll trust whatever they tell me to do, so long as I don’t end up looking like a Q-tip” — Cosley’s shorthand for the curly-topped white-haired ‘do sported by so many ladies her age. “And, tell them I’d like to look like I’m 30.”

The makeup artist at Capitol Hill’s High Maintenance Skin Care effuses about her client’s already youthful visage, which she credits partly to her creamy complexion and partly to the fact that “she’s such a neat old lady.”

Turns out that’s a pretty good description for Cosley, who, since her last encounter with an eyelash crimper in 1980, has survived breast cancer, divorced her husband, traveled around the world five times over, won the prestigious Fulbright Scholarship, and subsequently spent four months in Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Tanzania studying African folklore.

Over the past five years, the globetrotting septuagenarian has sipped mare’s milk in a yurt in Mongolia, stood on the border of Iraq in Eastern Turkey, traveled by bus through South America and tramped around Kazakhstan, Borat’s homeland.

By traveling on the cheap, “sitting on the floor and acting silly” with people from around the world, Cosley has learned to be more open-minded about other people’s perspectives, she says.

Tips from the experts


Style: Opting for clothing in vibrant, rich jewel tones instead of pastels can be flattering for complexions that mute with age. For an aging neck, try donning a knit, silk or hand-printed scarf for an accessory that multitasks.

Source: Annie Gavzner, owner and designer of Seattle-based clothing line Endless Knot Art and the Seattle boutique Endless Knot (2300 First Ave., Seattle; 206-448-0355).

Hair: A ‘do that pulls hair away from the face will minimize the appearance of wrinkles. Dandelion-headed ladies should avoid products with artificial colors as they tend to make white strands look yellow over time.

Source: Sinclair Malcolm and Laura Anderson, co-owners of Halo Salon (1919 Third Ave., Seattle; 206-256-0715).

Skin: Periodic anti-aging facials help regenerate skin cells and are wonderfully relaxing. For at-home skincare, choose products that contain anti-oxidants, alpha hydroxy acids and collagen.

Source: Naomi Lewis, owner of High Maintenance Skin Care (1706 Bellevue Ave., Seattle; 206-322-6939).

Makeup: Wrinkles collect the wax, dyes and preservatives in normal makeup, so use mineral-based makeup foundations and powders instead. To draw the face upward and reduce the appearance of hooded eyes, line (or dye) eyebrows and apply eye makeup only to the outer half of each eye.

Source: Kristie Stoffel, makeup artist at High Maintenance Skin Care

“When I was younger, I used to see everything in black or white, right or wrong. Now I realize that sometimes it’s more complicated and the best we can do is to be as open to everything as we can, meet as many people as possible and try to be positive about one thing every day,” Cosley explains, admitting that the tough times have tested her resolve.

In the years since her last makeover, Cosley has undergone radiology for breast cancer (an episode she shrugs off), lost feeling in her writing hand as the result of a surgery that was complicated by that bout with cancer and been forced to re-learn, at the age of 70, how to dress herself, sign her name and chop an onion.

“I cried a lot at first. Sometimes it was really hard to be positive, but you have to pick yourself up,” says Cosley, who credits her children and friends for their support.

Halfway through her session at Halo Salon, Cosley’s perspective and optimism are put to the test. Misunderstanding the hairstylists’ jargon — a “violet-based” color isn’t violet, it simply means it’s from the cooler color spectrum — the unflappable Cosley becomes convinced the stylist is dyeing her hair purple, but she doesn’t freak out. When the misunderstanding is sorted out later, Cosley shrugs then laughs. “I was thinking, ‘Purple?’ Well, that’s a little weird, but I guess I did ask for a new look!”

For a gal who describes her existing beauty regimen as “soap, water and total neglect” and who plans to jet off to Hong Kong next month, Cosley isn’t sure she’ll be able to maintain all the powdering and curling necessary for the full effect of her new look. But, that’s fine with her. When this “neat old lady” is 101, she’ll be just about ready for Makeover Round Three. Only next time she expects a tattoo.

Haley Edwards: 206-464-2745 or hedwards@seattletimes.com