Spiegel reality dressing contest behind the scenes winners Suzi Gerichs Lisa Belkov Snyder Wendy Bettes

The five fabulous winners of Spiegel's Reality Dressing contest strike a pose in New York City. Photo courtesy of Spiegel

StyleList went behind the scenes of a special photo shoot for Spiegel, the long-standing women's clothing catalog and e-tailer. Five winners of Spiegel's Reality Dressing contest laughed and posed as they played models for a day.

Each woman represented a decade, aged from 20s on up. They had all sorts of body types -- short, tall, curvy, thin -- but everyone shared a giddy excitement at being professionally styled and photographed. Contest partner Fantastic Sams Hair Salons chipped in with their company's best hairdresser.

Spiegel and Fantastic Sams put out the call to women of all ages, with the prize of doing a photo shoot for the company's March 2011 catalog. Contestants submitted photos and short statements about why they consider themselves fabulous; the public then voted for candidates on Facebook.

Geralynn Madonna, Spiegel's president and CEO, told StyleList she was impressed by the confident, high-energy tone of the winning entries. "Every one of them was a busy working mom or career woman," she said. "They know who they are."

Each woman dressed in one of Spiegel's signature styles, ranging from ruffled romantic pieces to the sequin-sparked "relaxed glamour" selection.

The clothing stylists balanced spring trends with classic pieces that look sharp at any age. Versatile jackets took the fore: a safari jacket; a flattering cascade-front jacket; and a hybrid of the two styles.

There were plenty of choices in Spiegel's go-to, stretchy ponte knit -- a favorite of all the models. "There's absolutely nothing else on the planet that works better than ponte knit," raved Lisa Belkov Snyder, a 40-something sports radio personality from Denver, CO. "The girlfriend blazer, the boyfriend blazer, the pants, the pencil skirt, the swing cape, I'm all over it!"

While getting their hair and makeup done, the women recalled their contest experiences. Suzi Gerichs, a 53-year-old newlywed from Louisville, KY, pointed to her husband and laughed, "he got me into this! He egged me on."

Wendy Bettes was in her Crescent, IA farm office when she got the email saying she'd won for the 30s group. "I read it once, then I read it again... it was like winning the lottery!"

Everyone was keen to pick up beauty advice as the stylists buzzed around.

Lindsey Volkman, Fantastic Sams' hairstylist of the year, reminded the models to pay attention to how their hair changes over the years. Since hair's texture and thickness can change with age, she urges people to vary their products along the way. (Check out StyleList's new Hair Age series for more tips.)

Makeup artist Donna Fumoso fixated on clean, natural-looking skin and rich, smoky browns for the eyes. "This fresh look translates across any age," she explains.

"Look at Ginger [Strain, in her 60s]. I put the same things on her face that I put on a 20-year-old and she looks beautiful. If you get the key things right, you can use them across the board."

Wendy Bettes Spiegel reality dressing contest behind the scenes

Wendy Bettes trades farm gear for a sophisticated slash-pattern dress. Photo courtesy of Spiegel

Here we share five great tips from the afternoon.

Scrunch your sleeves with hair elastics.
Stylist's trick! For casual but no-slip sleeves, snap a hair elastic or rubber band just below each elbow, then pull the fabric to cover the band and scrunch it.

Pull yourself out of a color rut.
You can significantly freshen your look by adding an unexpected color to both your clothes and your makeup. Try something you might not think of as "your" shade, like a citrus yellow if you're fair-skinned. Hit a makeup counter and have a professional introduce you to a new hue. It could be a small investment with a big impact.

Size up your proportions honestly but neutrally.
Fashion stylist Ray Oliveira believes that the key to dressing well is to assess your body's shape, candidly but without negative judgment. "Know your body first. Know your proportions," he emphasizes. "That's the first thing to learn -- then you learn the tricks!"

Once you know your proportions, you can strike a visual balance. "Maybe you have a long waist; then you find ways to make your legs look longer," he explains. Gloria Lau, for instance, learned that since she's petite, she should avoid carrying a large handbag, which makes her look smaller.

Keep your skin looking as natural as possible.
Fumoso is a stickler for fresh-looking skin at every age. "The most important thing for everyday wear is that even if you wear foundation, you want it to look like it's your skin. You don't want to have a mask on," she told StyleList. (A recent study shows that she's far from alone in this opinion.)

Even if you're not wearing any other makeup, she says, dab a bit of blush on your cheeks for a healthy glow. She's also a big fan of the Korres tinted moisturizer, complimenting its sheer texture.

Do the talc test when buying foundation.
When trying foundation, Fumoso recommends that you dab it on different parts of your skin, like your wrist and your chin. "If you see that it's going into the pores, it has too much talc in it," she warns. "Pores are bigger on your chin. If [foundation] goes in there, don't buy it!"

For another insider's look, read about a StyleList writer's experience modeling in the Reality Dressing shoot!