How To Look Elegant: The Ultimate Guide for midlife women

As regular readers will know, my Marvellous Mother In Law is the epitome of chic. Always well groomed and looking fit and healthy, people often comment on how amazing she looks. You won’t be surprised when I tell you that I decided to ask her advice on how to look perennially elegant. These are the top ten tips she gave me to share with you all. So, if you want to know how to look elegant…


Keep to neutrals – cream, camel, white, pink toned beige, navy, black and nude. They all work together and so are economical. Just don’t add any primary colours to your outfit – each item of clothing should be a neutral. Monotones also work – ie a colour palette that is made up of different tints or shades of a single colour.  If you are going for the luxe look, also avoid large loud patterns. Neutrals always work well, are always chic, and they never, ever go out of fashion.


How To Look Elegant: The Ultimate Guide for midlife women
Oversize soft shirt Ice Grey Mango £59.99

Simple designs are timeless. They look the most expensive too. Good tailoring, material that hangs well, clean lines – all these elements combine to give you an instant wow factor. Co-ordinate them differently every time you wear them and you’ll maximise your cost per wear ratio. Good news is that these simple cuts don’t need to cost a fortune. For example, this luxurious looking oversized blouse from Mango.


Pointed shoes – whether flats or heels – look far more elegant than rounded or almond toes. Whether dressy or casual, pointed shoes elevate an outfit, uplifting your look. They are also rather sexy – just saying!


We all want to be a size 10 but for most of us it just ain’t going to happen!  So don’t try and squeeze into clothes that are too small for you. You’ll look more slender if you wear the right size. Remember – skim is better than cling.


Gold plated baby bee necklace by Alex Monroe. Liberty London £150

Of course there is a time and a place for colourful, loud costume jewellery. It can bring an otherwise dull outfit to life. But if you are looking for a really high end appearance, keep your jewellery simple and elegant. Choose key pieces that will complement, not overpower your outfit.


Classic Burberry Checked Scarf

If you haven’t got any – don’t panic. Entry level designer accessories are worth buying as they will really add a touch of class to whatever you are wearing. By entry level, I mean the less expensive items you will find in designer shops. Might be a narrow belt, a small silk scarf (great for tying around your neck or dangling from your handbag). Could be a pair of sunglasses. Any of these will elevate your outfit. There is, of course, some investment involved if you want to wear designer, but this can be achieved by treating yourself occasionally and really making sure the item in question is going to last you for years. ie by buying neutral colours which will complement so much of your existing wardrobe. And if you don’t fritter your money away snapping up every bargain you see without considering if you really, really need it, all those tenners quickly add up to hundreds.


A distinct benefit of being older is that many of us 50+ women have, by now, a few designer pieces in our wardrobes. Might be a fabulous leather handbag, classic watch, or a couple of pairs of eye wateringly expensive shoes. When we want to make a really good impression, these are the treasured items that we haul out again and again over the years.

In the old days we would wear as good quality as we could afford from top to toe. Nowadays we are more savvy (and, to be fair, there is more choice). Mixing designer with high street can work amazingly well. There are some fabulously inexpensive clothes around that will look very high end when paired with your best shoes and/or handbag, not forgetting one of the aforementioned entry level accessories.


How To Look Elegant: The Ultimate Guide for midlife women

By this I mean a trench coat (like the fabulous version from M&S – currently £40), camel coat, or suede or leather jacket. They just never go out of fashion. Don’t keep whatever you’ve invested in for best. MMIL says she had a change of heart about the suede coat she is wearing here – instead of it languishing in her wardrobe unworn because she was saving it ‘for a special occasion’, she now wears it everywhere – even Waitrose!

How To Look Elegant: The Ultimate Guide for midlife women
Amazing Zara faux suede coat – only £29.99

If you want to cheat, my friend Penny and I tried on the most amazing faux suede coat in Zara last week – unbelievably realistic, great shape, fabulous neutral colourways – all for under £30. And they are generously sized – I usually take a L or XL in Zara clothes, but a M fitted me perfectly. Seriously, check this one out.


Go easy on the slap: Neutral make up is a must with neutral clothes. The look is then head to toe elegance. However, there is one important exception – if you want to make a real impression – say an important meeting or a date night, wear red lipstick. Ask the make up counter assistant in your local store to  find exactly the right shade of red for you – yes, there is a hue for everyone.  Keep nail polishes natural colours, which include the softest pinks.

Hair: Remember to regularly update your hairstyle. A good cut can not only work wonders for your hair, it can take years off you and do wonders for your confidence! Goes without saying that lank dirty hair is not going to cut the mustard if you’re aiming for an elegant appearance.


All your wardrobe treasures need to be looked after. You don’t want to be let down by a missing button or stain.

Handbags kept in protective soft cotton drawstring bags

Shoes kept in shape with shoe trees

Jewellery kept in padded boxes. I clean my diamond engagement ring with my electric toothbrush dabbed with a smidgen of toothpaste. Rinse with warm water and dry – really makes your gems sparkle.

Hand finished dry cleaning for your very best clothes is worth the extra cost.

Handwash your cashmere and de-bobble it on a regular basis to keep your knitwear looking at it’s very best.

It is always worth ironing or steaming your outfit before you put it on. Creased fabric does not equal elegant.

Use a lint roller to maintain your fabrics.

It’s that easy. These ten tricks really are the key to looking elegant. Print them out and stick them on the inside of your wardrobe. You’ll be delighted you did when the compliments start coming thick and fast!

Masses more midlife fashion here


  1. I agree with all your wonderful MIL’s points; but I would add HAIR! If your hair ain’t right, it doesn’t matter if you’re dressed perfectly, you won’t look chic. Believe me, I know. My hair is ultra-fine – not thin, there’s plenty of it – but it’s like candyfloss when newly-washed and pancake flat within hours. I’ve spent a fortune on sprays, lotions, serums, everything, to no avail. The slightest breath of wind and I’m the Dulux dog. Not a good look! I don’t suppose you could rustle up a hair expert? Please?

    • Hi Anna. You are absolutely right about hair. Thanks for pointing that out. Like you I have fine but plentiful hair, so I really can empathise (especially about the pancake flat bit!). OK, I will start researching an article on how to handle fine hair. I will also ask MMIL to add in a sentence about hair in her How To Look Elegant post. Best wishes, Grace

  2. Rather conflicts with the Kettlewell ethos though? Each to their own but personally i prefer some colour, not to look washed out. I do think that constant neutrals are rather ageing.

    • Hi Jane. I think both colours and neutrals have their place, depending on what mood we are in, or what image we would like to portray on a particular occasion. MMIL’s article was on how to look elegant and, in her view, the surefire way to achieve this is by wearing neutrals. I can vouch that she also wears vibrant colours sometimes – particularly orange. And looks just as chic! Best wishes, Grace

  3. Marvellous mother in law is so elegant, the photos are fab.Grace it would be great if she would do a regular post or photo shoot maybe on a monthly basis. She is a really good roll model for us older ladies,keeping us on track to simple less is more elegance, style and tips. Health issue’s, healthy eating and to be honest meals or recipes and portion size for the more mature lady.
    A suggestion if I may, you could call it Monthly Marvellous Mother-in-law Memo,or something like that. Do you think Grace, she would do this for Country Wives. I hope. You don’t mind my suggestion or request but I think she would be so inspirational for us older ladies. Of course you know I adore you and Annabell and for sure you and the team are first class to inspire us.
    Poppy’s post are so stimulating I love them,I often comment on her articulate posts.
    So come on another regular post can only be good.
    So Marvellous Mother in law if you read this please consider a more regular photo shoot, tips etc.
    You home looks elegant too, tips on deco design too could be welcome. I have recently had a good de clutter as I live on my own with two adorable longhairs Chuhuahuas, Tina&Taffi.
    It was cathartic to clear out and give to Charity, I am 65 and decided I didn’t need so much ‘stuff’.
    Time for me to get ready to go Tesco, and battle with wind and rain Grrr, come back summer all is forgiven.
    Have a lovely weekend to all the Country Wives.
    Pamela from Wales x

    • What a lovely comment Pamela… thank you so much and I will definitely make sure MMIL sees it. Am always asking her to write more posts – perhaps your words will encourage her to do so! Best wishes, Grace

  4. Thank you to Marvellous Mother in Law, I just loved the article. Congrats on looking so well I am over 70 and would like any tips on diet etc on looking and feeling well. I always looked so tired and washed out!

    • Hi Nanette. Thanks so much for writing in. Will definitely make sure MMIL sees your lovely comment. I use blusher and a colourful lipstick and my face turns from bland to healthy looking instantly! Give it a try…. best wishes, Grace

  5. Loved your mother in law article! She does look so elegant. I’m sixty seven and will definitely be taking on board her suggestions about how to put together an elegant wardrobe. I would never have thought of going for pointy shoes but she’s right they look so smart and modern!

  6. I loved this article and all the other people made comments I would. I think MMIL looks gorgeous and her hair really is the key item I think. I personally wear colour, just one like red (a favourite) with neutrals like black, navy or white etc. I also think plain or very simple patterns like spots or stripes are elegant.
    Please let her do some more posts.

    • Hi June. Delighted to hear that you wear red, such a fabulous colour. This article was – for want of a better expression – a beginner’s guide to looking elegant. Follow those ten tips and you can’t go wrong. Once the basic rules have been applied, adding a bold colour or patterns like you do can also look very chic and, of course, shows off a more personal sense of style. Keep wearing that red! Best wishes, Grace

  7. Your on line magazine is so much more interesting and relevant to this 65 year old than all the usual publications on sale. The fashion articles far more realistic and useful to those of us trying to stay fashionable without trying too hard. I have tried and enjoyed several of your suggested recipes and the articles on life in general are very interesting. I look forward to reading your blog each weekend. Thank you.

  8. MML article very helpful , wish I had her hair (and figure) though, so yes please hair article for fine, always flat, hair.
    Love your website, always look forward to opening the latest version.

  9. I would definitely add ‘good hair’ to MMIL’s list. After all, you wear your hair everyday and it is probably one of the first things people notice. Worth allocating some of the budget for this! I also agree that a splash of one colour with neutrals is very chic, and like MMIL, I am very keen on orange. What a good article!

  10. I agree with most of your points but I do wonder about the neutrals advice – we are of an age that now knows what does and doesn’t suit us. We need to assert both our presence and character but also that we should by now know our style, what suits us – why should we meld into the background? Let us make our presence felt and that we have character that has been formed by our life experiences?
    Love CountryWives…..

    • Hi Gill. Totally agree with the sentiment of your comments. However this particular piece focussed on how neutrals can give us a stand out, very elegant look. I think you’ll find quite a few other articles on CountryWives where we very strongly advocate the use of colour! Best wishes, Grace

  11. I bought a scarlet trouser suit last winter having seen it in Country Wives, do like your ideas and suggestions – keep them coming….,

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