Thanks to Maggie Cox – former journalist, fashion retailer and author of It’s Never Too Late To Look Great! – for her views and tips on stylish clothes for over fifties. Just turned 80, she has a quirky take on what young-at-heart-oldies can, and should, wear. She encourages mature women to have fun with how we dress – to push our boundaries to a more adventurous style.
I am fascinated by this warning that comes out of nowhere when grey hairs appear. It means DO NOT pretend to be a teenager, or even a forty something, when your wrinkles get deeper and moisturiser doesn’t seem to be working. The implication? You are no longer young, just accept it!
So, when we reach a certain age, do we have to have a complete change of gear (pun intended)? Do we have to learn to love black and navy, give up purple hats, exotic dresses – and that fashion standard, the leopard print? Should we muttons now be banned from frolicking (arthritis permitting)?
It’s the age-old “appropriate dressing for your age” conundrum.
“What on earth does she think she looks like showing her knees at her age?” “Does she really think fuchsia (electric blue / bright orange) suits her now?” “Fishnets and high heels! That really is going too far!”
But we young oldies do have a real problem about what to wear. Should we hunker down – look for simple frocks and straightforward cardigans in not-in-your-face colours? Or can we just carry on as we were in our forties and fifties?
You might even find yourself thinking “How much can I get away with?” And this is for sure not what we should be thinking! “Getting away with” sounds as if we are intending to be naughty or irresponsible if we dare to wear anything young or zany.
So, what’s the answer?
We should be focusing on what suits us and helps us look attractive. I’m not suggesting that it is easy, but it is do-able if you take some time to be creative.
For a long time, I have had a particular take on fashion. I have always tried to look “different.” And this, as you can well imagine, can lead to the odd disaster (or two or three).
I once turned up for a pub lunch wearing a cerise coloured, tulip-shaped coat. The onlookers were clearly trying not to look. I had just bought it and thought it looked great. My husband had tried to dissuade me!
And I remember a frilly boho frock that I wore for a garden afternoon party, which turned out to be more of a smart cocktail do, or whatever they call them nowadays. The other women were in smart slinky dresses and jackets (admittedly quite a time ago). I didn’t stay long.
I like funky shapes, bright colours, and mixing and matching different patterns and textures. And my inclination has always been to go for something unusual, or to put unusual things together. But having entered the decade of the very big O I have had to think long and hard about this one. And I have come to this conclusion:
Don’t try to change your main idea of how you want to look. Just do less of it in one outfit.
If you always liked to look frilly and feminine, don’t go head to toe in ruffles. There are lots of very frilly frocks out there. Stick to a ruffle-around-the-neck blouse (Me+Em), or a frilly skirt just peeping out beneath a simple tunic dress (Gudrun Sjoden). Too many frills can make you look like a haggard teenager. But tempered down, gives a hint of youthful vigour.
If you love bright colours – add one piece to your outfit. You don’t have to totally shimmer in blue, as you once used to.
Relaxing on holiday, I have put a muted t-shirt and wrap over deep-pink, linen, wide-legged trousers.
And short dresses, minis or less, can still be worn if you call them tunics and wear them over long skirts or trousers. This red mini dress, a few years old from Kitri, is worn over a long, black ankle length skirt to make a grown-up outfit.
If you have always liked a bit of drama, you could put an oversized, patterned scarf over a plain coat, or dress. Here I am wearing a cream, full length puffa coat (a few years old) with a chunky, large scarf in shades of brown and beige.
You’ll see that all the pictures also show how to use colour. That’s something I’d like to talk about in later articles.
My aim is to push the boundaries a little further for us young oldies, in favour of making fun contemporary fashion acceptable for us all. We should be able to take advantage of the amazing ranges of fabrics, colours and styles we can now get in shops and online – whatever age we are.
You can follow Maggie on Instagram: #nevertoolatetolookgreat and/or Twitter: @maggie9cox
Now that we’re all using the internet more frequently, the vast amount of choice can be a bit overwhelming and take up a lot of your time. Whether you are casually browsing for stylish clothes for over fifties, hunting for trendy clothes for your 60s or need some inspiration on clothes for older women, we can help. We do the research for you, finding stylish clothes and accessories that are flattering for the older body shape and give you a sense of wellbeing and confidence. More style-led articles can be read here.