Q, I’m in my early fifties and am having a total fashion crisis. I want to look fashionable but don’t want to look as if I’ve raided my 20 year old daughter’s wardrobe. Have you any words of advice?
A. Miniskirts are back in vogue. So are halter tops, skinny jeans and patterned tights.
On a 20-year-old, those items are cute and trendy. On her mother, they likely look more trashy than trendy. On her grandmother, they're simply ridiculous. It’s unfair and frustrating, but it's a fact: Outfits that look adorable, or at least forgivable, on the young, simply don't cut it on older women. The reasons why are obvious, but that doesn’t mean that you have to be condemned to adjustable waistbands, twinsets and pearls.
Looking fab over fifty is simple but there are a few rules to keep in mind. In order to maintain some shape, avoid baggy clothes at all costs. Even though the instinct is to cover it all up, the truth is that baggy adds weight and shapelessness to a look. If you still have a waistline I would adopt my mother's philosophy - wear a great looking belt and that's where the eye will fall.
Jackets without pockets, tailored shirts and shirt-dresses give shape without hugging anything too tightly, what you are looking to create is a relaxed yet elegant line. While pants are more flattering if your legs have any signs of age - a short (to the knee) skirt that shows off a great pair of legs takes the attention away from a shapeless middle.
Hide the things you don't like with simple, classic long shirts, long pants and high collars. Pastel colours are less trying for the complexion than bright shades and women beyond a certain age are usually much more beautiful in white, sky blue, soft pink, pale grey and camel rather than shades of black, navy and brown, which only tend to drain the complexion and make you look tired.
Some shades are particularly unflattering to grey hair and they are electric blue, bright orange, shocking pink and pea green, so they should be avoided. Certain fabrics are also more difficult to wear as we age and materials such as satin, rough tweeds and bulky mohair are not as flattering next to a complexion that is no longer as smooth as schoolgirls. Opt for classic shapes and styles adding interesting scarves and pashminas for extra glamour. In the evening opt for dresses that show a little décolleté but not too much. The same advice goes for the arms; little cap or bracelet length sleeves are usually the most flattering shape to go for.
There are many shops on the high street where you can find stunning clothes to suit any woman over 50. Monsoon has always produced quality clothing, with an emphasis on silk, and although their new blouse ranges are rather girly (lots of short, puffed sleeves), their jackets and dresses have great clean lines and classic prints. It's also a great place to pick up evening-wear that will work for almost any age.
And the collection Mary Portas has designed for House of Fraser is especially designed for older women who want to look fabulous rather than frumpy. If you are on the lookout for something a little more formal try Jaeger. They also produce good clean skirts and lovely knitwear (their original forte), and trousers that fit most sizes beautifully. For casual day wear the new collection from Country Casuals is just stunning and will attract all the right kind of attention - whatever your age. For great labels try Regine, Hobbs, Country Casuals and Reiss.
Ignore Fashion: So what if ruffles, feathers or studs are bang on trend? Stick to what you know will suit you - you don't want to look like mutton.
Be Modest: If you're showing off your cleavage, keep your legs covered, and visa versa. Back, boobs and legs on show is waaay too much.
Keep it Simple: Don't blow it with an OTT hairstyle or the wrong accessories. Limit yourself to one piece of bold statement jewellery then keep your bag and shoes simple.
Things to Avoid: Mini-prints that wrinkle and shrink too many ruffles, horizontal stripes and suitcase-size purses! Opt instead for comfortable, quality natural fabrics.
Don't give up wearing high heels, as they do a wonder for your figure but choose ones with a sturdier heel.
If you have varicose veins invest in a pair of opaque tights from Wolford.
As your dresses, coats and suits become simpler and pared down, invest in some classic and well-made handbags, scarves and jewellery.
If you feel you look a little pale or washed out buy a peach coloured blush as it will instantly give your face a healthy glow.
Although pure white hair can look wonderful, many older ladies would prefer a less ageing shade. If your hair has a lot of grey in it, why not considering going blonde - it will take years off your look and make you appear quite glamorous too!