Do you ever feel invisible when it comes to fashion? Like the only women you see are teenaged models, celebrities and the token silver haired senior model? Cindy Crawford at 50 doesn’t count. It’s middle-aged (gah! that term pains me) women like me of average height and weight who are nowhere to be found.
A lot of women stop me when I’m shopping to ask for advice. Or they’ll reach out via Instagram looking for style help. They’re not searching for a radical makeover – they just want to look like better versions of their self – and there are few options to look for advice. No one wants to look like her daughter, or God forbid, a retread from a past era. So where do you look for tips? I despise those magazine features that suggest runway styles for 20s to 70s. I never relate to any of that. I figure by the time you turn 40, most women know what they like. All that is needed are constant tweaks to keep it interesting and current as your body changes. Here are five of my favourite tips to answer the most common questions:
“My body has changed so much. What size should I wear?” Ignore the number on the label. My Mum refused to try on clothes if the size on the label was bigger than one she normally wore. Who cares? I can wear anything from a size 8 to a size 12 – every brand fits differently. Work with a personal stylist (a free service) who can help you determine the best brands to fit your body type.
“Nothing fits anymore!” Are you stuck in a past decade when you preferred a certain style? It may be time to break up with tight short dresses and skinny jeans. Silhouettes change so you may not be used to a fuller sleeve, narrower jacket or wide leg trousers. Get help picking the right silhouette and then work with a tailor for a perfect fit. Men tend to get every suit tailored while most women expect to buy something off the rack and wear it immediately. But if your clothes don’t fit properly – whether they’re too small and tight, or oversized and sloppy – you’ll look ten pounds heavier. For jackets, focus on the shoulders and sleeves. I rarely fasten my jacket but it should still skim my body and flatter my shape. I almost always have to get sleeves shortened to accommodate my short arms. Get sleeves professionally tailored rather than just rolling them up – it looks sharper. Trousers usually don’t fit my waist which is out of proportion to my hips. To help slim my bum, I prefer a cut that falls straight from my hips.
“I prefer black – it’s easy.” True, I love it too but it’s also kind of depressing to wear 24/7. When I started in the fashion industry in the Eighties, black was the only tone that serious business players wore. Anything else – other than maybe grey or beige – was frowned up as not cool. Trouble is, all black can be very ageing as it drains colour from your skin. When I wear all-black, I mix textures like this outfit above. The lace skirt softens the tailored black blazer. And I always add a contrasting scarf. A belt creates curves. Today, I wear more colour and pattern than ever. A vivid shade makes my skin glow and look younger. If you’re intimidated by colour, start by playing with accessories like scarves and simple t-shirts.
“I stick to basics that I can mix and match a lot.” All basics in your wardrobe is so boring. Now is the time in your life to really express who you have become. Getting there was long hard work so why not highlight your personality. I invest in extraordinary pieces, like statement toppers by Belgian designer Dries van Noten. Yes, they’re expensive but beautifully made and are so unusual that they become timeless. I can style them different ways each season. I added this gold graphic design to my closet this fall. I wear it with jeans and heels at night. For work, I’ll add navy trousers, silver sneakers and a scarf. In the summer, I’ll throw it on over a long black jersey dress and flats. I expect to be wearing this one for years to come.
“I’m completely confused by beauty trends so I’m sticking to my signature look.” A lot of women cling to the hair style and cosmetics that worked YEARS ago. It feels safe and comfortable but nothing looks old faster than a 20 year old hair style and makeup palette. Start by with an appointment with a makeup artist at a department store beauty counter. Ask them to give you a fresh look from their perspective (not yours). If you hate the results, you can always wash it off. Next, go to a new hair salon for a consultation. I chopped my hair into an asymmetric bob four years ago. I’m bored of it now so am growing it out – not sure what I’ll do next. Beauty tip: I avoid sparkly face powders which settle into my fine lines and make me look ancient.
The key to all of this is – don’t get stuck in a rut. There’s a difference between having a signature look – you’ve earned one by the time you reach 40 – and being stuck in the past.