The best style advice I’ve ever been given
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:
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 below:
Midlife and beyond has had a makeover. Women with a lifelong interest in fashion and popular culture continue to do their own thing and to share the outfit posts online. Yep, we’re not dead yet. We’re still styling it out, experimenting with our signature look and getting better with age. And who doesn’t look to Instagram for inspiration, these days? I’m glued to the feeds of women I admire, like: French fashion columnist Sophie Fontanel (@sophiefontanel), brand expert Sarah Rutson (@sarahrutson), beauty entrepreneur Linda Rodin (@lindaandwinks) and fashion director Caroline Issa (@carolineissa). These rather than teenage models in head-to-toe designer looks are the women I can relate to, women whose style speaks to me.
To my generation, looking good does not equate to looking younger – something that the youth-obsessed fashion industry has finally twigged. That’ll be down to the fact that in three years time, 50% of the population in the UK will be over-50 and enjoying 80% of the wealth. Kerr-ching! After years of banging on about the lack of representation, I’m embracing this sea change in attitudes. It’s brilliant to see increasing numbers of older women in the media, online and in ad campaigns. At 69, Maye Musk has just become the new face of CoverGirl cosmetics, Glenda Jackson (81) is rocking the Burberry trench – and I can’t get enough of Naomi Campbell lip-syncing to Wham! in the new H&M ad.
Looking modern, chic and effortless is the midlifer’s aim. Being comfortable is the most important thing, as Iris Apfel once told me – going on to swiftly add, ‘And I don’t mean slobby!’ Got that. I definitely pay more attention now to the quality and fit of clothes than I did in the past – I have no time for the faff factor. And grooming has become a necessity rather than an afterthought. Looking effortless does take a bit of effort. No more wonky asymmetric eyebrows, these are now threaded and dyed at Blink Brow Bar, regular haircuts are carried out by a professional rather than DIY and I’ve even started using an SPF moisturiser. As Apfel concedes, ‘It’s hard work getting to know yourself – the biggest fashion faux pas is to look in the mirror and see someone else. You need to know your faults and your assets.’ Honesty, as always, is the best policy.
Granted, I am more self-assured now than when I was younger – but largely this comes down to having more important things to worry about than crimping my hair. My signature look is sorted: the grown-up tomboy with a penchant for jeans, jumpsuits and a kick-ass jacket (or what I like to refer to as Gentlewoman Style). I’ll add a touch of casual glamour with a skinny silk scarf, vintage leopard print coat or pair of chandelier earrings; it’s always good to throw a little Keith Richards into the mix. And flat shoes and sneakers are a non-negotiable. These are the go-to pieces that I regularly pull-on-and-go. 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.
The best tips I’ve been given (so far) from some of the world’s most stylish women are as follows:
1. Go bold with colour but keep the silhouette classic
‘I love wearing colour,’ says Caroline Issa, ‘Bright fuchsia trousers or a bright red coat – but if I use unexpected colour, I go for a more timeless shape.’
2. Be yourself (don’t be a fashion victim)
‘Never pay attention to trends. If something’s in fashion and I look like a horse’s ass in it then why would I buy it?’ Iris Apfel.
3. Make the most of finishing touches
‘I always admire women with beautiful jewellery and good grooming. A well ironed shirt and good hair can make you feel decently dressed.’ Penelope Chilvers.
4. Navy blue is a flattering, grown-up hue
‘I love a beautifully cut pair of navy trousers and a navy shirt; there’s nothing nicer than navy if you want to look really chic and glamorous.’ Pandora Delevigne.
5. Go for the mismatch
‘It’s all about a great combination: old/new, charity shop/designer; things that go against each other like an opulent texture and a practical texture.’ Amelia Bullmore.
6. Find the right run-around shoes
‘The only time you’re not in shoes is when you’re in bed (hopefully). Like underwear, 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