After years of trying various trends and faffing around with ill-fitting clothes, I’ve finally found my style groove. At 57, I know what I like and how I want to look. Gone are the days when, as a magazine fashion editor, I thought I had to keep up with what was in fashion – I can remember a cheap leather pencil skirt that would spin around my thighs like a hoola hoop every time I walked from one end of the office to the other. And swapping comfy trainers for the toe-squeezing shoes kept under my desk. Now I wear what I like and hang onto my money. More attention is paid to quality and fit ( I no longer buy trousers that are just that little bit too short in the rise and put up with the crotch-bothering inconvenience) and flash-in-the-pan fashion fads are shunned in favour of feel-good clothes.
While experience and gut instinct have a part to play when putting outfits together, or buying something new, it pays to Know Your Style – to be able to sum up your signature look. Treat it as a ‘Wardrobe Pitch’. Imagine if someone asked you to describe your style and how you like to dress (in a couple of sentences). What would you say? As a journalist and author, I’ve been been asked this question numerous times and so can reel off something about Gentlewoman Style, jeans, jumpsuits and sharp jackets. I can list my style icons from Katharine Hepburn to Tilda Swinton (how good does she look at Cannes?). Plus, the labels and brands that work for me.
But I do believe that style is a work in progress, that we continue to grow and change. Which is a wonderful thing. Over the last few years, I’ve definitely become a Skirt Convert. Could be because our summers in the UK are getting warmer, or maybe it’s a bit of Devil May Care attitude kicking in. Regularly posting on That’s Not My Age and writing my column for the Telegraph has forced me to try new silhouettes and shapes and not just stick with my trademark utilitarian look. Statement skirts and chunky sandals, who’d have thought it? In my 50s, I’m open to giving clothes I’ve never considered before, a go, making an effort to be more creative with my outfits and honestly enjoying it. Of course, flat shoes and sneakers are a non-negotiable. Comfort is everything.
The menopause has not been easy ( HRT has helped), but I am much more ‘ no nonsense’ both in terms of personality and when it comes to what to wear. Faff-free all round. I know how to say ‘no’, in a polite way, I feel happier in my own skin and more confident than my younger self. It helps that my Instagram feed is full of gorgeous women over-50, such as, Kemi Telford, Linda V Wright and Jannine Newman (who sells vintage clothes at Under the Cloth); style queens who are more than just the clothes they wear. In addition, meeting numerous Creative Women for my regular series continues to be both an adventure and an education. Proof that style and substance can and do co-exist – which is also abundantly clear when I read your comments on That’s Not My Age.
I’m reminded of my interview with Lucinda Chambers, who told me that, ‘The most stylish women I know are older…one is in her eighties and the other her sixties. I think it takes time and that’s all right.’
We’re all styling it out, experimenting with our signature look and wearing what we please. Self-acceptance and feeling comfortable in our own skin (even if it is a bit wrinkly) come with the midlife territory. I’m not boasting when I say that my sixth decade has been my most stylish yet.
More statement skirts and chunky sandals, here:
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STYLE NOTES: The navy cotton shirt is an old Eileen Fisher. Stitched Masa Shibori cotton skirt was a very generous gift from Toast (it’s a beauty and almost sold out). My silver rings are from Claire Stratton. The wooden bangle is from Branch Jewellery. Chunky sandals were gifted by Grenson. The canvas bag in the second photo loaned from sustainable brand LPOL and returned.