How to age-proof your wardrobe
Mutton dressed as lamb? Dont do it! Alyson Walsh explains the pitfalls to avoid
Coco Chanel once said that what makes a woman look old is trying desperately to look young. And she was right. No one wants to go down the dreaded mutton dressed as lamb route - need we mention Madonna and the training bra incident – or, heaven forbid, take a turn in the opposite direction and look like mutton dressed as mutton.
Feeling happy with the way you look means finding the right balance. Choose figure-flattering clothes, embrace the changes that come with age, and develop a personal style that works for you.
We’ve come up with the All About You expert guide to age-proofing your wardrobe, to help you look eternally chic and feel confident - whatever decade you’re in.
How to achieve ageless style: 5 rules to follow
1. Show off your best bits
This doesn’t mean letting it all hang out – remember what Chanel said! Instead, draw attention to a part of your body you are confident with – legs, bust, hips? And use this to make the most of your assets. Think Helen Mirren on the red carpet, showing off an amazing décolletage in a scoop neck frock (with sleeves) and attention-grabbing necklace.
Toned upper arms? Then make like Michelle Obama and let the world know about it.
If you’re blessed with great pins make the most of a classic just-above-the-knee skirt and heels. As fashion commentator Caryn Franklin points out, ‘None of us have such an urgent need to be revealing yards of flesh. Great legs doesn't mean wearing thigh high minis with bare legs ... it means picking a fitted skirt that allows you to show what great shape you are in, and when worn with good looking hosiery and a great pair of shoes does the same job!’
See our top picks to show off your best bits here
2. Remember clothes can take years off
Recent research by online retailer isme found that wearing the right clothes can make you look younger. Caryn Franklin worked with the brand on this project and says,‘ This confirms what I have always known: that clothes are a very powerful beauty aid, and when women make clever clothing choices they are more youthful and full of vitality in the eyes of others. The best and most effective way to shed years and shine is to dress well.’
This is what 54-year-old model Ines de la Fressange, in her Parisian Chic style guide, calls ‘Fashion Botox’ and it’s all about having fun, not getting stuck in a rut, and dressing to suit your body shape.
We recommend choosing timeless essentials like a classic shift dress or this season’s must-have trouser suit, and then adding something personal - a pair of statement earrings or a vintage scarf - to perk up this simple silhouette and add individuality.
3. Find the right fit
Clothes that fit properly flatter the figure. So it’s really worth setting aside the time to track them down. Focal points for frocks are the shoulders, waist and hips, and as well as finding the correct inside leg length - trousers should fit perfectly at the waist, hips and rise (crotch). For further information check our Need to Know guide. And don’t forget to consider alterations if you’ve had a weight change.
Take the ‘buy less, buy better’ approach and invest wisely in clothes that are elegant and modern and made to last. ‘Buy the best you can!’ advises Carolyn Langenhoff, personal shopping manager at Fenwick, ‘Less expensive fabrics won’t last and lose their shape more quickly. A designer label is almost always a better cut, and your clothes will look good if the fabric and cut is of a high standard.’
Finding the right clothes can also help to boost confidence and lift the spirit. ‘Choose classic garments that are shaped with gentle tailoring to give a youthful silhouette,’ recommends Caryn Franklin, ‘Well-made, well-designed clothes that create definition and enhance our appearance can also empower us to feel good about who we are. When a woman is confident and radiant she is always beautiful.’
See our top picks for figure-flattering fashion here
4. Update your wardrobe
‘Keep an eye on next season’s trends, while investing in those styles that work for your own shape,’ says Carolyn Langenhoff, personal shopping manager at Fenwick, ‘Look for ‘stylish’ over ‘edgy’ clothes. Regularly review your wardrobe, keeping it up to date and in good order. If uncertain, seek professional advice.’
Being aware of all the latest shapes, styles and colours, and subtly adding small elements to your everyday wardrobe is the way to look contemporary and chic. This season the military trend is well worth investing in. The khaki jacket (or coat) has become a perennial fashion favourite that just keeps on giving. Team with slim black pants or a pencil skirt and go from smart daywear to off-duty chic faster than you can say Private Benjamin.
Timeless go-to pieces like a ‘little red dress’ or a pair of cigarette pants can easily be updated with accessories advises Caryn Franklin, ‘On-trend pieces such as bags, shoes, belts and statement jewellery are a great way to bring an up-to-the-minute trend into your wardrobe and re-invigorate your look. Have fun with all the latest trends, but on your terms.’
See top style choices for updating your wardrobe here
5. Be colour confident
Experimenting with colours and fabrics – look out for rich berry and purple shades and sumptuous brocades this autumn – can enhance the skin tone, and highlight the eyes and hair. ‘Avoid washed out or drab colours all over your body - instead make a colour statement,’ advises Franklin, ‘ It’s not about how much colour you wear, but how confidently you place it. A rich-coloured scarf draped over a neutral jacket will do wonders.’
Langenhoff recommends seeking professional advice on seasonal colours, though often simply holding a garment up to your face in daylight (by the shop doorway without setting off the security alarm!) can indicate whether the tone is going to light up your complexion and look fab, not drab.
Work with colour – see our fashion buys here