Tiphaine de Lussy photo via The Pool

Not wanting to blow my own trumpet, but I’d say that I’m more stylish now than I’ve ever been. 1980s bodycon – been there, done that, bought the tight Lycra T-shirt dress. Grunge-tastic jumpers with holes in – I pity the moth that tries to chew on my Bella Freud. Bad hairstyles, I’ve had a few. Mainly in my youth, when a dollop of Boot’s Country Born Gel and a spot of upside-down blow-drying ended up looking a bit A Flock Of Seagulls (Google it). It was around this time that a penchant for secondhand men’s suits and clompy leather ankle boots saw me barred from a number of nightclubs in Blackpool…

Anyhow, there have been enough questionable incarnations over the years to allow me to know what goes, outfit wise, and what doesn’t. Style is undoubtedly a work in progress. Ex-British Vogue fashion director Lucinda Chambers once told me that of all the women she knows, the most stylish “is in her eighties and the other is in her sixties. I think it [style] takes time, and that’s alright.” I couldn’t agree more – at 54, I’ve found my style groove, and it’s thanks to years of trial and error and some excellent advice I’ve picked up along the way. The Pool asked me to write about the best tips I’ve received from the women of style and substance I’ve interviewed. This is a very brief summary:

Lucinda Chambers

Forget about the wrinkles and focus on the silhouette. Linda Rodin

Being comfortable is the most important thing. Lucinda Chambers. (But looking efforless does require a bit of effort. Iris Apfel)

It’s all about a great combination: old/new, opulent/practical, charity shop/designer. Amelia Bullmore

The biggest fashion faux pas is to look in the mirror and see someone else. Iris Apfel

Shoes are the foundation of everything you do in the day so they have to fit correctly. I don’t think there’s anything sexy about being in pain. Tracey Neuls

Never pay attention to trends. If something is in fashion and I look like a horse’s ass in it then why would I buy it? Iris Apfel


Ultimately, style is a very personal thing. Admittedly, confidence comes from things other than clothes, but if your outfit fits well and makes you feel comfortable in all senses of the word, then that’s a good place to start.


Read the complete feature HERE. What’s the best style advice you’ve ever received?

50 thoughts on “The best style advice I’ve ever been given

  1. A woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life – Coco Chanel. I cut mine off and truly a weight was lifted and a new silhouette born.
    My advice is Smile and stand tall.

  2. Clever! I agree with all these brilliant women about style, but you’re right: it takes time to get there. So happy to be in my 50s right now! Love your blog and your IG gallery.

  3. At 57, I own fewer and better clothes than I ever have, and feel more “myself” every day. Thank you for your inspiration and sound advice – so much here resonates with me. My very best holiday gift last year was “Know Your Style” – my daughter waited at the New York event to get it signed by you! (PS noted a different age for you at the Pool and here – if that means a birthday, best wishes!)

  4. Best style advice I ever received? Actually I’d call it life advice, and that is – shoes never need to be ‘broken in’ but should feel comfortable on your feet from the moment you try them on. This changed my life, and cleared out my shoe closet too, and I’ve never strayed. Now I can confidently style from the bottom up, knowing I’ll be comfortable and therefore confident all day long. And yes, I do wear heels – on occasions when I know there’s be lots of opportunities to ‘take the weight off…’

  5. Sensible shoes – you feel grounded in them. And what a better feeling than that to make you walk tall. In the summer I am happiest in my Birkenstocks with fab nail varnish on my toes. (And in the winter it is Tracey Neuls all the way).

  6. I grew up with my mother’s voice very loud in my head, and even as an adult it still was way too loud. I found my style when I learned to silence it.

  7. Just be yourself. I completely agree with Lucinda Chambers that style takes time, I’ve made some awful mistakes over the years. Still a work in progress but an enjoyable one! And by the way Alyson, just read your book – it’s a wonderfully interesting and uplifting read, so thank you!

  8. And just a footnote to the above, I used to work in admin, and hated it. I left in my early 40s to do an art degree and finally found who I really was, and consequently what I really like to wear. Anything “officey” makes me run a mile, so I really do feel it’s about just being who you really are and not trying to copy someone else’s style, although of course you can be influenced and inspired.

    1. Well done Claire B. I think great style means you are happy as it shows on your face. know who you are and what you want to do as a job. If that is right clothes, and style follows suit.

  9. I reckon being barred from nightclubs in Blackpool was no bad thing. And maybe it was because you were too stylish! You’ve certainly upped my game at 70 Alyson.

  10. Gosh every single one of those is a gem! I must be doing OK because they’re all words I live by, mind you I am 50 now so it’s probably that time. And yep, tube skirts, fingerless lace gloves & the perm were all my fashion bloopers 😉

    1. Mine was double denim (Stonewashed) and also a particularly dodgy bright yellow, ankle length knitted tube skirt I couldn’t walk in, partnered with a baseball jacket – although I am sure that a saw a photo of Rhiannah in something similar recently!

  11. I’m in love with Linda Rodin and her gorgeous poodle. She always nails it, and her hair is my favourite on the Internet.
    My wardrobe is a lot more cohesive since I have been mixing up investment/charity/old/new – which is quite weird really.
    May I say that I’ve copied quite a few of your looks Alyson and have felt great in all of them.

  12. I love the double entrendre of “forget about the wrinkles and focus on the silhouette”! My mother always said, “just be yourself” and that works both for our inner and outer worlds.

  13. My Mom – a talented seamstress – always said “check the rear view”. You want to make sure your outfit looks good and fits well from all angles. It’s good life advice as well.

    1. The very best feature of my house, in my opinion, is my mirrored closet doors in my bathroom. If I open both doors part way, it creates a 3-way mirror and I have a clear view of my whole backside! Invaluable for doing the back of my hair, checking for panty line, and so on. Don’t know how I’d ever get along without it!

  14. Two bits of advice that have helped me: ‘Spend any spare money on your hair.’ True: you can have the most fabulous wardrobe but it’s no good if your hair’s a mess.’ And: ‘Buy the best accessories you can afford.’ Also true: quality accessories can lift inexpensive clothes; cheap accessories will kill the most costly.

  15. So much to love in this post. I would also add it’s not about finding your style definitively, it’s about changing your style when you/and/or your life change, we evolve. No more working for others, and no young children means I have time, money, freedom and available brain space to dress for me. Hooray for that!

  16. If I had the money I would dress completely different than I do now. Not expensive designer things but I would look for one of a kind fabrics and designs from all over the world, linens, silk, cotton, wool. But I’m stuck with local mass produced things and some designer deciding this is how the average 58 yr woman wants to dress. Not! The last image I want to present is nice, conservative, sensible, etc. So I make the best of what I have to work with, mix it up, take something classic and throw in something unexpected, or just wear all black with a great shoe. I imagine there are a whole lot of women like me walking around in outfits that don’t match who they really are.

    1. Maybe it’s time to take up sewing! You get to combine the fabrics you love with the shapes you want. It’s pretty gratifying!

    2. Lulu, what would your ideal way of dressing look like? There are all sorts of alternatives to mass produced fashion and not all are expensive, “expensive” being relative of course. I’ve had good luck finding interesting clothing at thrift stores, online retailers, Etsy etc. Plus there are options for well-made basics that can be dressed up with a great show. It takes some digging and admittedly I’ve logged plenty of hours of research time, and I’m still working on getting the wardrobe I want.

  17. Here’s one that is fundamental but worth saying anyway; always but always check yourself out in a full length mirror, and doesn’t hurt to check out the back view, full length using a hand held mirror. It’s the only way to see if you got the proportions right.

  18. Such great advice. Love that comment about the rear view…for both clothing and hair. And stand up straight. And smile. Oh, why don’t I just repeat what everyone else has said? Ha.

  19. I still remember sitting in a cafe with my Mum, she would have been in her late 50’s, and she was looking at a woman who was dressed in quite a Bohemian style ( it was Hampstead ) and Mum said ” I’d love to dress like that “. You could have knocked me down with a feather, my Mum lived in tweed skirts and little jumpers. I answered ” you should , then ” but of course she never did. My point is, wear what you love and be d*****d.
    But it’s not always easy to have the nerve.I live in a place which is jumping in the summer,and anything goes, but in winter the local women are incredibly conservative, and show no inspiration whatever, with a few exceptions. So I have to summon up the courage to wear things that wouldn’t even get a glance elsewhere, but here ….. But after the first outing, I’ve owned the outfit and I feel fine.
    Agree with all the above comments, especially the importance of great accessories, standing up tall, and checking your rear view !

    1. Remember what your mum said and think about all the women who are wishing they had the confidence to dress like you do.

  20. The best advice I’ve heard came from an interview on NPR. The interviewee suggested that a person should wear the clothes, not the clothes wear the person and the focus is on an over all impression rather than on the individual pieces a person wears.

  21. Really interesting comments. Ironically it was when I left a corporate job a a few years ago and returned to acting that I got a grip on my own style. I wore clothes appropriate to my public sector corporate role for years, (which gobbled up all my budget) then had the opportunity to shift my personal wardrobe to what I want to look like. Now when I’m working I’m consciously dressed as “someone else” and I’m really aware of the impact of clothes on how you feel, walk, project.. It’s also fun to be dressed by other people in the clothes they have chosen for a character and experience outfits/hairstyles that I wouldn’t dream of wearing in real life.
    I’m also now really clear about whether or not my bum looks gargantuan in peach viscose…………

  22. Best advice I’ve been given: SMILE. Next to that: Posture! Both free! Both make a HUGE difference. See me on Facebook, smiling with braces, at 64!

  23. Feet, teeth, hair – in that order. If those three are ok, the rest will follow. Nothing is more ageing than hideous and unkempt feet that make you limp, broken teeth and crazy hair. You can take care of the first by yourself but, in the name of any gods going, get professional help with the other two. Oh – and stand up straight.

  24. To stand tall using least effort, relax then just lift your sternum (breastbone), but not exaggeratedly. Takes awhile to remember but the simplicity helps adherence and is kind to the neck.

  25. I’d been wearing black, gray and white for years and had said a loud I was bored with my clothes. My bestie said, “try a little color.”. I went out and bought a blue shirt with navy pinstripes and was thrilled with the effect. I’ve been adding a new shade every couple of years and have been surprised and delighted ever since that gem of advice.

  26. Foundational advice, Alyson. Thank you for all of it. And thanks to all the commenters who had some pretty great advice, too. Such a smart room!

  27. I agree with many of these comments. Being well groomed adds to confidence so do your makeup and tend your hair. Standing straight helps. I see Theresa May with humped back even though she wears good quality well fitted clothing and good jewellery. I have some heavy silver chain jewellery: bracelet and necklace and are put off wearing these because I don’t want to emulate her look. Get to know ones own best silhouette and colours and shift these somewhat with the prevailing style. As Alyson writes in her book lay things out try out different combinations of things one has hanging in the wardrobe. Mix patterns if it works tonally. Try mismatching not safe colour combinations. That’s the way to a modern look. I find online pictures of good experimental clothes and the same in magazines helps me to style my outfits in unexpected ways. Finally dress for oneself !

  28. Yes! I could not agree more with these pieces of advice! I’ll follow trends that I love, but skip trends that I think are just awful. And I love mixing high end with high street. My favorite outfits come from this type of styling.

  29. I always think that we’ll fitting underwear makes such a difference to an outfit. Work from the underneath out. A good bra and good hair.

  30. Love the comments. Finding your personal style is so liberating! I struggled for years – always wanting to be a vision of chic and harring off in every direction in pursuit. When I look to the things I buy on repeat I had my answer. Now I understand the importance of my everyday essentials being *great*. The pleasure of the everyday. Good cashmere sweaters. Leather skirts etc. wonderful cut, wonderful fabrics. Done.

  31. And let’s not forget the fabulous Coco Chanel with her wise words on style. Go rock your style ladies!!
    A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous.
    Fashion fades, only style remains the same.
    Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman.
    Fashion is made to become unfashionable
    A woman with good shoes is never ugly.

  32. I realised some time ago that others only really notice your jackets/coats and shoes/bags so that’s what I spend my money on! Looking after your shoes/boots is essential grooming and always noticed.
    I have some coats which I have had for many years – not necessarily expensive ones – and which still receive comments as they are so eye-catching. I have a 12 year old £40 Next raincoat which continually attracts compliments from strangers and has been my best buy price-per-wear ever . A fitted jacket always makes you feel properly pulled together and what you wear underneath doesn’t matter quite so much (although a good bra is crucial too…)
    When I worked in an office environment I usually wore a little black dress (or skirt with a white top) and rang the changes with different jackets and a selection of colourful cashmere cardigans. I also use patterned scarves to pick up colours and mix my look without much effort. Don’t think I ever wore the same outfit twice although the basics were always the same.
    Now I’m mostly a “lady of leisure” for everyday wear my new “uniform” is either dark denim jeans or black skinny trousers and boots but again on top wear the same selection of cardigans/jackets. Funnily enough one of the main things I miss about work is wearing a skirt and heels so I love the chance to dress up these days.
    Thanks for kicking off the discussion – always good to read different perspectives!

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