I am often asked what the “rules” are for dressing post fifty. The first thing to say is that we should be able to wear what we like so I really don’t think it’s appropriate to be too prescriptive. However, I know that when some women reach middle age they lose confidence in their own ability to judge what does and doesn’t suit them. Many tell me they dread looking like “mutton dressed as lamb” but also don’t want to look “frumpy” or “become invisible”.
What you wear is very much an expression of who you are. If you like something and feel great in it, wear it! If you feel that you’ve lost your way and need some guidance though, I think that the key is to focus on looking stylish. This is something we can all aspire to, whatever our age, shape or size. Many stylish women are neither particularly young nor slim nor beautiful but they do have a certain “je ne sais quoi”. There’s no absolute blueprint for style, but we can tell straight away when someone has “it” and there are certain traits which stylish women share. You may find these tips helpful:
1. Know your assets!
Accentuate the positive. Small waist? Wear a belt. Great legs? Wear a short skirt or killer heels. Fabulous smile? Wear a strong or bright lipstick. Slender wrists? Wear a striking bracelet or watch.
2. Understand your style personality
Stylish women look authentic and at-ease in their clothes because they dress to suit their “style personality”. At a style consultation, this is one of the first things we discuss. Are you, for example, a “natural” like Twiggy or more of a “creative” like Helena Bonham-Carter? Or are you a “classic” who likes an understated, co-ordinated look or perhaps a “dramatic” who likes to be noticed?
3. Avoid flashing too much flesh
As mature women, we need to be honest with ourselves about how much flesh we can show and still look stylish and attractive. Unless you’re on holiday, my advice would be to avoid exposing cleavage and thighs at the same time. Indeed, if your cleavage leaves something to be desired, why not shift attention to a well-toned back by wearing a halter neck? It’s so much sexier to leave something to the imagination.
4. Invest in good quality wardrobe staples
Versatile clothes in your best neutral colours and classic shapes which flatter your figure and won’t scream “2018”. You can always dress them up and ring the changes with colourful tops, scarves, jewellery, belts, shoes etc.
5. Don’t get stuck in a style rut
Every so often, take time to reassess your look and make sure that your hairstyle, make-up and wardrobe are still flattering to you as you are now. Can you still carry off the short skirts? Would that chin length bob actually look better a little longer so that it disguised a less-than-taut jawline? If you’re just not sure, get some professional advice.
6. Pay attention to the colours you wear
Particularly near your face.
Navy or charcoal are generally more flattering on most women than black, particularly as we get older. Don’t feel you have to hide behind dark or neutral shades though; there are a whole host of colours out there that could look wonderful on you. Invest in a colour analysis to find out which shades are most flattering to your colouring.
It becomes more important as we get older.
Whilst the young may be able to get away with a “just got out of bed” look, we grown-ups need to make a bit more of an effort. As a minimum, you should have clean shiny hair and manicured nails (This doesn’t have to mean gels and acrylics; natural, unvarnished nails are fine so long as they are clean and well-shaped). Also, few women look their best without any makeup. Trust me, even those you think have managed to pull off this feat are generally wearing at least the basics, albeit subtly applied.
8. Make sure clothes fit
Be honest with yourself, if you need a bigger size, buy it. You can always cut out the label if it offends you. There is nothing less flattering than wearing an outfit that is too tight and exposes every lump and bump. Cuts that skim rather than cling are generally your best bet. Consider getting high street purchases tailored to fit. It’s amazing what a difference adjusting the height of a hemline or putting in some darts can make to clothing. You’ll achieve the most flattering look when you choose clothes which suit your scale, proportions and body shape. If you’re not sure what these are, consider having a style consultation.
9. Accessories can make a huge difference
I’m thinking primarily of jewellery, scarves, belts, shoes and bags. Not only can they add a pop of colour but they can make an unremarkable outfit spectacular and lend a sense of cohesion to a collection of separates. Stylish women understand that accessories need to be the right size and worn in the right position on the body to highlight their best features and that “less” is often “more”, but that “none” is generally boring.
10. Don’t be a fashion victim
Stay abreast of the latest fashions and what younger women are wearing but only buy into the styles and colours which suit you and that you feel comfortable in. Slavishly embracing the season’s latest fashion fad “full on” is rarely a good idea, particularly for mature women. Truly stylish women are comfortable in their own skin and don’t obsess about looking younger. They know high heels make their legs look slimmer and longer but will only wear them up to a height they can actually walk in! They exude the confidence that comes from looking and feeling good and they wear their clothes lightly, rather than letting their clothes wear them.
By Nicola Davis
Nicola Davis is a multi-award-winning personal stylist and colour consultant offering individual colour and style consultations and group workshops.
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