Irene McAulay: our 90-year-old style icon
When we featured 90-year-old Irene McAulay and her daughter, fashion photographer Liz, in a special occasion style feature this summer the comments box flooded with compliments for the pair. And everyone wanted to know more about Irene. So here is the super-chic nonangenarian, back by popular demand:
Growing up in rural Northumberland, with the closest town six miles away, Irene spent most of her free time outdoors: walking and riding horses. After the Second World War, when inspired by the neat WAAF (Woman’s Auxiliary Air Force) uniform she loved wearing, Irene started to pay more attention to the cut and fit of her clothes. Back in the north east, Irene was working for the coal board when she met her husband at a dance in Newcastle; the subsequent years were taken up raising three daughters and supporting the family business. When her husband died, 10-years-ago, Irene moved down south to be near her family. Over the years her style has has become more polished and pulled-together, she invests in well-made separates and enjoys mixing and matching clothes in her favourite colour palette. Though when we chat on the phone, 90-year-old Irene admits to adding the occasional wild-card piece, ‘Sometimes I purchase an item on impulse, when I was 80 I treated myself to a beautiful black Versace dress!’
Here is Irene’s style profile:
‘I would describe my style as relaxed but tidy. I don’t like overly fussy patterns or designs and I would never wear frills or anything frou-frou. Clothes should be comfortable, good quality and made to last. I am very fortunate to be healthy and active so this is important to me. I also am a great believer in make-up. By 9 am every morning I am ready to face the world.
I’ve learned that neutrals mixed with navy are more suited to my skin tone and hair, so I tend to only buy clothes in those colours. The benefit being that everything goes together. I usually avoid man-made fibres. It was in my early ’80s that I discovered the joys of blue jeans with a little bit of stretch, they are now a mainstay in my wardrobe. I recently bought two dark denim pairs from a brand called Dream Jeans, and I usually team them with a cashmere jumper or silk shirt.
The cream trousers I’m wearing are from Mint Velvet, they are beautifully cut, fully-lined and go in the washing machine. They also have a tuxedo stripe down the side, which I like. The silver coat is from The White Company, another favourite of mine. The blue and white silk shirt is from Jaeger, bought about seven years ago – it is wonderful as it goes with cream or navy trousers and jeans. I love silk scarves, they brighten up a plain sweater. I’ve had this Hermes scarf for years, it’s my favourite, there are so many colours in it, it goes with everything.’
Photography: Liz McAulay
Our new phrase in the office, is Be More Irene…
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