Have you ever looked at another woman and thought ‘I’d do anything to look as stylish as her’?
There’s rarely something specific you can put your finger on, but rather a host of thoughtful touches: perhaps a rolled-up blazer sleeve that artfully shows a flash of bright blouse, a diamond necklace paired with something unexpected, such as a sweatshirt, or a classic, Breton top worn with flair.
In reality, though, it’s not any of those things. The truth is that these women have got their hands on the most important accessory of all — Complete Confidence in their clothes.
It makes them walk a little taller, speak a little more boldly and draw the eye of everyone in the room.
But the good news is that this confidence isn’t dependent on Wealth, Size or Age — and it’s not innate; you can learn it.
Which means that, even if you think you’ve lost your way when it comes to fashion, you, too, can be that woman — whatever your dress size or budget.
As a result, I know it takes only a few clever tricks and secrets to get back your style mojo.
After all, we women of a certain age are all the rage.
At last, we can find affordable, flattering designs (and yes, there’s been an explosion in dresses with sleeves) that follow the trends, but still work for the middle-aged. There’s simply no need to be confined to frumpy, basic or boring.
That’s not to say it’s easy. Women often tell me they find shopping demoralising and confusing because they don’t know what to look for, or buy armfuls of clothes and then realise nothing quite works together. They’ve lost their inspiration.
Fashion should be fun — not something to make you feel bad about yourself or your body. Nor should it be about a set of stringent rules. A decent hairstyle and well-applied make-up go a long way. Add the right clothes — a few basics and the right styles for you — pepped up with a few tricks of the trade, and every woman can look gorgeous.
Think of it as the secrets to falling back in love with shopping and, more importantly, getting the confidence that makes any woman look stylish.
BUILD YOUR BASICS
Certain items provide the basis to a brilliant wardrobe, mainly because they’re so adaptable: they’ll work for myriad occasions and outfits, so you’ll never feel you’ve ‘got nothing to wear’.
Knowing exactly what you’re looking for on your next shopping trip will also stop you from buying items just for the sake of having something new.
So, here are the 5 items no wardrobe should be without:
- A HERO JACKET
Wear for work, throw on with jeans to smarten up an outfit (roll up the sleeves for an insouciant touch) or pair with a cocktail frock to dress down a la Helen Mirren. It’ll be the hardest-working item in your wardrobe.
Because of this, it’s worth spending a little more — with tailoring, you get what you pay for. A cheap jacket is always going to look cheap. Sometimes, that’s fine, if you want something trend-driven for a year or so.
Whatever the price-tag, the fit across your shoulders is paramount and should be the first consideration.
Jacket length is down to your body shape — a blazer is excellent for most figures, but opt for a semi-fitted style if you’re curvy. A cropped, collarless, Fifties number suits petite frames and pear shapes.
- THE RIGHT TROUSERS
You can make buying trousers pain-free by doing a simple changing room routine.
First, make sure you can bend over comfortably in them (try to touch your toes). Then, check the rear view in a mirror — if the fabric sags under your buttocks, the trousers are too loose, so try a smaller size; if it’s pulling too tightly, go up a size. Finally, sit down — on the floor if you have to — to make certain they don’t dig in.
leg trousers are versatile, suit most figures and look great with an oversized shirt. Tailored, wide-leg trousers can balance out hips and lengthen the leg: these look fantastic with brogues, while heels create a long, lean line. Try wearing them with a simple, silk blouse instead of a dress for an easy evening look.
- A PERFECT FROCK
As you get older, there’s nothing like a dress for forgiving middle-age spread and making you feel confident. That said, there’s no need to swathe yourself in baggy styles.
Try a tunic dress paired with opaque tights and heels or flats, or a nipped-in shift dress with structure to hold you in: Cos and Whistles do great ones, mostly with sleeves, as does Marks and Spencer for a cheaper option.
I love it when women with curvier silhouettes wear a wrap-over dress that nips in at the waist to enhance their hourglass shape — try Hobbs and Boden for fail-safe options.
- COMFY SHOES
Comfy doesn’t have to mean ugly! I embraced ‘comfy’ shoes when I developed a foot problem in my 40s that led to wearing orthotics for a while.
You want shoes with proper support: nothing too flimsy, such as light, canvas shoes or the dreaded Ugg boot.
Mannish styles are brilliant for older women — and they are everywhere on the High Street. Try brogues, slipper-like styles or a penny loafer (again, it’s worth spending more money here — try Russell & Bromley for classics that, if cared for, will last a lifetime).
The good news is that kitten heels are also back.
- CASHMERE SWEATER
Every woman should have a grey, cashmere sweater (V-neck if you have a big bust, round neck if not), as comforting and soft as a hug, for the days you just need to put something on and go. It works with absolutely everything — just add jewellery if you want to liven it up.
In place, here’s 5 more brilliant buys to build on them:
FIRST, DETOX YOUR WARDROBE
When you want to revamp your style, it’s all too tempting just to go out and spend, but looking critically at what you already have in your wardrobe — and appraising what you like and why — is the first step to owning clothes you love and which suit you down to the ground.
So, go through every item in your wardrobe, one at a time, from your tights drawer right through to those barely worn cocktail dresses shoved at the far end of the rail.
If you find it difficult to throw things away, ask a friend to help.
With each item, ask yourself the following questions . . .
time I wore it?Does it fit? Why haven’t I worn it?
Can I do anything to revamp it (for example, change the buttons, let it out, take it up)?
Is it worth keeping (for example, because it’s great quality or has sentimental value)?
There’s no point pledging to diet in order to fit into something or keeping something that was expensive, but can’t be salvaged.
You want to end up with a wardrobe that contains only items that fit you and which make you feel good about yourself.
You should end up with a pile of clothes to keep; a pile of rubbish for recycling (a charity shop won’t want your holey tights!); a pile for charity; a pile of things to be altered; and a pile of more valuable items to sell via eBay or a second-hand clothes shop.
Pea coats suit taller women, while belted and A-line styles will look great with curves. Choose something colourful, but don’t be tempted by white: you’ll never keep it clean.
PERFECT PAIR OF JEANS
Choose dark washes, but steer clear of bleach and rips. Denim these days is made with a far more flattering stretch, which accentuates curves.
You might think Topshop is only for young people, but they do jeans brilliantly in hundreds of styles — it really is worth venturing in.
LOVELY, BLUE SHIRT
Pick one that’s soft, not shiny, and slightly oversized. Wear it with everything.
CHIC FOREVER BRETON TOP
Petit Bateau (petit-bateau.co.uk) is my favourite place for stripey tops in a wide range of colours.
SLINKY, SILK BLOUSE
There’s nothing sexier. Here, go up a size. Keep your blouse crease-free by spritzing it with water, then ironing it with a clean pillowcase over the top.
DON’T BE SCARED OF COLOUR!
Wishy-washy pastel hues have no place in a grown woman’s wardrobe. Too insipid. Too mother-of-the-bride.
Faded denim is the nearest to a sugar-coated shade allowed.
For pastels may not kill you, but they will make you look 20 years older.
Instead, make like a Mondrian painting and wear blocks of colour. Monochrome plus a primary colour creates a powerful effect. Orange, turquoise, hot pink and emerald green also look fabulous with black and white. And even better if you’ve got grey hair.
For the brave, stick to one colour head-to-toe in different, subtle shades. Yes, you will look great.
TIPS THAT TAKE IT UP A NOTCH
Every outfit needs a showbiz item: a leather jacket, printed shirt or kimono top or fabulous shoes. Think maximum impact, minimum effort.
Every time you see picture of a celebrity or model wearing something you love, tear it out and keep it or save it into a folder on your computer.
Look at these pictures just before you go shopping, so you have the style you want fresh in your mind. It’ll inspire you to buy something out of your comfort zone that you’ll want to wear until it falls apart.
Sling the Spanx. To me, control knickers are an object of torture. Yes, they’re designed to make us look thinner.
But better to invest in quality tailoring. Experiment with what you have, try new combinations of outfits and figure out what you need before you go shopping.
Buy French lingerie — it’s expensive, but it’s the best. Experts say you should replace bras every six months, but I keep mine for at least a year.
Don’t save anything for best. It’s all about 24-hour casual glamour. This is a mixture of go-anywhere items (such as my Jaeger tuxedo jacket on the left) — part daywear, part eveningwear. Wear trainers for running around.
looking too coordinated or try-hard appears dated. Aim instead to look effortless, modern and fresh.
leopard print boots and a khaki leather handbag; a denim shirt and a sequin skirt; a cashmere sweater and leather leggings.
You’re never too old for …
They make you feel like a movie-star. I have a navy pair from Lands’ End that I love lounging in.
Perfect for nipping to the shops without make-up and hiding tired eyes. Try Linda Farrow, Cutler & Gross or Miu Miu.
My current favourite jeans are J.Crew’s ankle-length Toothpick, Eileen Fisher’s coated black and MiH Phoebe.
I’m coveting L. K. Bennett’s Simi ankle boots (£350, lkbennett.com).
My favourite is Chantecaille Sardinia (£32, net-a-porter.com), a lovely coral.
The Grown-up Guide To Looking Fabulous by Alyson Walsh is published by Hardie Grant Books on March 13, price £12.99.
THE FINAL FLOURISH
As I get older, I’ve noticed that scarves are becoming an increasingly important part of everyday life.
Anyone can wear a scarf — but having the panache to carry one off is a completely different matter.
As for jewellery, bringing on the bling is an excellent way to liven up an everyday outfit and show off a little personality.
Not only that, but a sparkly necklace reflects the light back up onto your face — a bit like having your own portable light filter!
I’m definitely at the costume end of the jewellery spectrum, and always like to pair the rough with the smooth.
I’ll wear a grey sweatshirt with a diamante party necklace; a denim shirt with Liz Taylor earrings.
ALSO : DONT FORGET YOUR RACE …., it defines you, let it show in your fashion sense
1: wear some Ankara studded gowns and tops
2: go along with those Ankara made bags and neckpiece
I did hear somebody says where and how ? Lagos island, I would say is a good place for fabric shopping if you are here in Lagos, Nigeria..
Confidence comes from finding clothes that work in real life, not just on catwalks or in glossy magazines.
When it comes to adding a flash of colour, the easiest way is to layer a beautiful, eye-catching fabric over figure-flattering wardrobe essentials.
Yours in style
Lapearl Chidinma Ogbulu for Maison la pearl