Apparently it’s our knees that let us down once we turn 40. That and yellowing teeth. Dungarees and plaits are to be avoided, as are Mary Janes, plus any clothing in white or leopard print, obviously.
And don’t think that because you’re still in your 30s you can get away with wearing anything you want – according to various fashion magazines, mini skirts, leggings and tube tops are all to be discarded. Instead you should be wearing pumps, camisoles and pencil skirts. And lets not even get started on the do’s and don’ts for the over 50s…
So that’s that then. If the fashion gurus and magazines that I read in my 20s are to be believed, anyone over the age of 30 needs to seriously start thinking about age appropriate clothing. I grew up reading these magazine articles that prepared me for growing old. It was drummed into me as a young impressionable woman in the 1990s that by the time I was 40 I would be DONE. I would be a walking apple shaped woman with saggy knees, bingo wings and a wobbly bum.
And the thing is I realised last year that I HAD actually kind of fallen in to this ageist fashion trap! Since turning 40 in 2013 I’d pretty much stopped wearing anything above the knee and avoided showing my shoulders at all costs. This wasn’t necessarily a conscious decision, it had just crept up on me. New fashions made me nervous; I wasn’t sure what suited me anymore, did things make me look too mumsy or muttony – so instead I’d built a nice safe wardrobe of basic shirts, trousers and flat shoes.
But then a number of factors in my life changed. Firstly I got fit. For the first time in my life, properly fit. I can now run for my train without coughing and wheezing for the entire train journey. Even in heels (yes I wear them again now!). And secondly I stopped being told what to do by articles in magazines and started following people in real life instead. Through Instagram and Pinterest I discovered an amazing community of people with a passion for fashion, who celebrate their age and what they wear. Then I decided to join them. I took my first Selfie (I wasn’t sure about it but I posted it anyway… theres always going to be that tiny bit of self doubt that creeps in, but I just think back to photos in my 20s that I hated at the time, but now look back on and love).
And now theres this blog. For the first time in years I feel happy with who I am and what I wear. Its taken me a good 20 years to get here but I can honestly say I’ve never felt better.
There are three points I want to make in this post.
1 Firstly, I realise now it’s not a question of WHAT you wear but more a question of HOW you wear it. Take the Leopard Print Fashion Rule for example. One of my favourite coats is a fake fur by Malene Birger. History dictates that as I am now 43 I should be donating it to the local charity shop and investing in something more ‘suitable’. But I won’t! Leopard print can be styled a la Bet Lynch or a la Carine Roitfeld/ SJP/ Kate Moss etc. Style it in the right way and it looks fabulous, regardless of age.
I’m not sure anyone can really get away with mixing satin leopard print, lace, blingy gold jewellery and a peroxide up do, but that leads me on to my next point… confidence.
2 Confidence. Ok so Bet Lynch may not have had the best style, but she did have bags of attitude and confidence. If you wear your clothes with panache, it shows. Beyonce doesn’t have supermodel legs, but she absolutely nails it in her leotards and high heels. She just wouldn’t be the same in a safe midi skirt and a nice pair of pumps. Self confidence is a must in order to carry off an outfit. So how do we build our self confidence? Point 3….
3 How to have self confidence is the million dollar question and there are probably a million different ways to address it. We’re a complex race, us humans! I’ve sat on the beach in Spain watching local ladies strut around in thongs, whilst other ladies with exactly the same figure cover up in one pieces and kaftans. Its all in the mind. My own self confidence came from improving my body shape and working out which clothes actually suit me, and which to avoid.
Magazines have been banging on for years about apples, pears and hourglasses. I am still not completely sure if I’m an apple, pillar (hang on, whats a pillar anyway…??), mostly I feel more of a courgette, but what I do know is I only started to get to grips with what styles of clothes suit me after I started working out at the age of 41. Prior to that I HATED any form of exercise and well… just didn’t do it really. I tried a couple of personal trainers who were fantastic, but they didn’t change my mind: working out was hard and I hated feeling out of breath and sweaty. But I literally woke up one day and felt differently. I can’t quite work out what happened. If I could bottle it in to a miracle pill and sell it, I’d be a wealthy lady.
I booked into combat classes, started boxing with my trainer, joined a bootcamp and a swimming club, bought some hand weights and a mini trampoline. Still no idea why, but I just couldn’t get enough of exercise. Friends commented that I looked well and I realised my clothes were feeling a bit roomy. The ultimate test came when I went shopping for a new bikini – and for the first time in YEARS felt pleasantly surprised by the reflection in the mirror. I don’t have abs of steel or endless legs, but by losing a few kg and toning up I began to pay more attention to myself. This led to increased confidence and a wardrobe update; I bought short shorts, vest tops, above the knee dresses. I even bought dungarees!
I was talking to my husband about all of this and it occurred to me that men do not have the same fashion dilemmas. There are no articles advising them to avoid waistcoats post 40. Or to stick with comfy soft soled shoes after 50. A man can wear a vest on holiday whatever his age. Are women so out of touch with how to dress that we need a one-size-fits-all solution to dressing by decades?
I don’t think so. I think we are all capable of dressing to look fantastic. I want to share a short list of the AMAZING bloggers and instagrammers I have come across in their 40s, 50s and beyond who love fashion and know how to kill it. This has given me so much joy and also much inspiration for my own wardrobe. I love clothes and fashion, I love finding looks that really work for me. And most of all, I have realised that I love my knees!
A few of the bloggers I love:
Please feel free to add more in the comments!