Great style is truly ageless, but the key to grown-up contemporary chic is confidence, comfort and plenty of attitude. Here’s how to express your sense of style at 50 — or any age
OLD is the new black. Fifty is the new 30. Sixty is the new 40. Or as one friend recently suggested – 70 is the new 55!
Whatever your number, age is all the rage and the over 50s are having a real fashion moment. But that doesn’t give you license to dress like you used to.
The half-century mark is no longer the matronly death knell of fashionability. Gone are the days when a woman who turned 50 was considered old – past her prime, beyond her “use-by” date, “mutton dressed as lamb”.
But age is just a number. Right? By today’s standards, 50 isn’t old. Hell, we’re just getting started! Thanks to improved health practices and advances in science and medicine, we are living healthier longer and looking younger beyond our years. Just look at Dame Helen Mirren for L’Oreal.
Any woman wondering whether her age should dictate the way she dresses should think again, says Alyson Walsh, former fashion editor and author of Style Forever.
“We have to be able to grow up,” says Lauren Hutton, who still looks amazing, gap tooth and all (above and below). “Our wrinkles are our medals of the passage of life. They are what we have been through and who we want to be.”
Consider this a sartorial manifesto of sorts. Celebrate the woman you have become, not a number. And remember, great style is truly ageless.
HOW TO LOOK FABULOUS AT 50 (or any age)
1: GET BACK TO BASICS
Every woman needs a wardrobe of proven classic basics that make for a lifetime of chic looks. The key to a truly successful wardrobe is to build a core of good quality classic basics –those “blank canvas” pieces or building blocks upon which your look and style is created. Identify the timeless essentials you need – a great white shirt (or 20!), a classic trench coat, basic white, grey marle or striped T-shirts, a little black dress (or 6), the perfect pair of denim jeans or classic black pants. Remember, they will become your wardrobe workhorses, so they’ll need to stand up to plenty of wear and tear.
2: INVEST IN YOUR WARDROBE
Always buy the best quality you can afford. You don’t have to dress head to toe in designer luxury brands to look stylish, but quality will always outlast quantity. A good investment means outlaying a moderate amount for pieces that won’t date and will last beyond one season. Choose pieces that are modern, yet timeless and ageless. Invest in structured jackets, tailored pants, cashmere knits and silk shirts. Buy less, but buy better quality.
3: BALANCE AND PROPORTION ARE KEY
Know your body, recognise what makes you feel good and dress accordingly. Are you apple, pear, hour-glass or athletic? But generally speaking, there are only two shapes you need to achieve — triangle (if your bottom half is wide, keep the top half narrow) or an inverted triangle (if your top half is wide, keep your bottom half narrow). So wide-leg pants and A-line skirts need tops that are more fitted (think of a triangle). Or loose A-line tops look better over a slim silhouette (imagine an inverted triangle).
4: ROCK THE FOUNDATIONS
When women get to a certain age our best assets seem to head south! So the key to looking fabulous is creating a smooth silhouette. Invest in undergarments: the right bra (get measured by a professional at least once a year and replace bras every 12 months) and body shapers – pieces that offer support in all the right places! No one really wants to see all the lumps and bumps – the road maps to your life.
5: BLACK IS NOT ALWAYS BEST
While it might be a favourite of the fashion pack, black, Walsh says, can look severe when you’re over 50 – especially when it’s next to your face. Instead, try the softer more complementary neutrals such as navy, soft grey, charcoal or khaki.
6: WHITE IS RIGHT!
Never underestimate the power of white! Coco Chanel didn’t champion white collars for nothing. White worn at the neck reflects light up and around the face, which is extremely flattering.
7: DON’T BE AFRAID OF COLOUR
A pop of colour creates interest and can be used to highlight your best assets, but don’t let the colour wear you. As we age our skin tone and hair colour lightens, which is generally more accepting of bright colours. So find a colour that works for you, but if you’re a little unsure, take a more softly, softly approach with a bright lipstick, a nail polish, an earring or a coloured scarf instead.
8: THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS
Fussy details such as ruffles, gathers and pleats not only draw attention, they visually add bulk. But they can also age you just as on-trend seasonal treatments will date. Instead aim for a clean, lean silhouette with modern sharp lines.
9: KEEP ABREAST OF FASHION TRENDS
You don’t have to be young to have fun with fashion, but to completely ignore what is happening is risky. You are a confident 50-year-old woman who knows what works for you, so identify what you need and try on something you normally wouldn’t. But, remember, don’t spend a fortune on on-trend pieces because they will be “so last season” in no time!
10: DON’T GET STUCK IN A STYLE RUT
Style doesn’t come with a use-by date, so recognise when it’s time for an intervention. Without the occasional refresh of clothes, hair and make-up, you can end up looking dated and older than you are. Learn to take risks – calculated ones at that – and never stop experimenting. So why not try leopard print, the neoprene coat, or those new flares? Choose change, not conformity.
11: TURNING 50 DOESN’T MEAN YOU CAN’T BE SEXY!
This is an age when you should feel your most sexy and confident. All that knowledge and experience! But being sexy is not overt; it’s subtle and strong. Great style is about confidence, so don’t buy something that won’t make you feel good. And the confidence to not care what people think only comes with age.
12: DON’T SUFFER FOR FASHION
We have graduated to middle age with honours so that means we don’t have to suffer for fashion any more. But when it comes to shoes comfort is paramount. While there is a place for heels in every woman’s wardrobe, comfort doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice on style! Borrow from the boys and step out in some oxfords, loafers or brogues. Or even some sexy embellished kitten heels!
13: KNOW THE POWER OF ACCESSORIES
Be on-trend with accessories. Generally more affordable, they can take any outfit from “whoops to wow”! A statement necklace or earrings, a brightly coloured scarf, fabulous shoes or handbag will lift any outfit. But choose your point of focus. If it’s the silver shoes, let them shine. Don’t make them compete with oversized earrings, an armful of chunky bracelets and half a dozen rings. Subtlety is the key. Remember Coco Chanel’s sage advice: Before you walk out the door, take one thing off. So don’t overdo it. Opt for just a scarf, belt and bag. Or choose either earrings, necklace or bracelets, not all three.
14: EMBRACE THE CHANGE
Keep your hair in check. A great haircut, especially if it’s a signature style, looks fab on women over 50. Going grey is great but if you’re not ready to embrace it just yet, resist the temptation to tint your hair back to its original colour. Skin tone lightens with age so your natural shade will be too dark. Aim for one shade lighter than your natural colour or have highlights to blend in the grey for a more natural look.
15: AND REMEMBER – KEEP IT SIMPLE!
A stylish woman never looks like she tried too hard. Great style is about confidence and not caring what others think. But simplicity is the key to enduring style. And remember, great style is truly ageless.
Are you feeling fabulous over 50? What are your tips to looking fabulous over 50? Who are your roles models? Would love to hear from you. Ever stylishly yours …