Over-40 and want to look great? Here are some tips on how to dress well over 40.
Following on from yesterday’s article, here are five more tips on dressing over 40, no matter what your size and shape.
6 Dress your silhouette
By this I mean your frame – dress your bone structure, not your weight.
Your bone structure remains the same all your life, no matter how much weight you gain or lose, and you cannot fundamentally fight it. Also remember that clothes are designed on models, who are the rarest of body types. They are ectomorphs – tall, very thin, with coathanger shoulders, long limbs and virtually no hips. Their shape is a tall oblong and very few women look like this. The rest of us are usually triangles (wider at the base than at the top) or hourglass (even top and bottom, with a well-defined waist). Always, always, always dress your silhouette first – look for the right shapes in garments before all else – only then choose the colour and pattern.
7 Keep it vertical
"Worship the unbroken vertical line" says fashion stylist Kendall Farr, and this advice is golden. Following this rule makes everyone look taller and therefore thinner. To do it, you need to do three things:
* Keep your clothing close to the body, neither skin-tight nor loose and baggy, but with a skimming fit that doesn’t add bulk to your frame.
* Keep your outfits monochrome or tonal. Wear dresses, or suits, or have the top half tonally match the bottom half (shades of blue are the easiest colour to match – most blues look well together). Don’t chop your body in half visually with contrasting tops and bottoms – if you like a contrast blouse, wear a jacket or knit that matches your lower half.
* Look for vertical details such as stripes, vertical seaming, vertical panelling, princess lines, and vertical darts. Avoid anything with horizontal detailing such as horizontal stripes, horizontal seamlines, or contrast belts, hems and cuffs.
8 Be discriminating
There are dozens of new fashion looks every year (manufacturers are in the business of selling product after all) but that doesn’t mean you have to like them, much less wear them. You are a grown-up girl, not a teenager, and you know how to control your appetite – you wouldn’t walk into a supermarket and buy every type of food on the shelf, and clothes are no different.
Evaluate every trend for its appropriateness to your lifestyle and your shape and colouring, and just ignore anything that’s not right. How do you know it’s not right? If it feels wrong, it is wrong – chances are, you won’t wear it. If other people look doubtful when you ask how you look it’s probably wrong – you won’t feel confident in it. If your partner doesn’t like it, you might get snotty, but you won’t wear it – it’s wrong enough.
One way to remain looking current but not a fashion victim is to simply give a nod to the trend rather than follow it slavishly. If heels are at four inches but you normally wear flats, try a 2-inch heel. If inch-long spiked hair is all the rage, consider having choppy layers cut into your classic bob to punk things up a little. If the fashion is minis and your legs can take it, go an inch or two above the knee.
If you’re not sure if a particular colour or fabric is for you, the safest trick is to try it in an accessory first, then build outwards from there.
9 Do I smell mutton?
Hitting middle age and having a daughter who probably ‘looks weird’ only helps to highlight your age if you’re feeling frumpy. But you are not your daughter, and you are not your mother either – you shouldn’t be dressing like either of them. Instead, focus on what you can learn from both – that sense of fun your daughter has when she dresses up to go out, that appreciation of a comfortable cut your mother always drummed into you.
Wearing the same things as your kids is generally a no-no if you’re trying to look younger, as is wearing a fashion the second time around if you wore it the first time around as an adult. All this will do is remind people of how long you’ve been on the planet. Of course you can borrow your daughter’s things if they’re things you would have bought for yourself anyway, but when in doubt, remember your other ‘rules’ – keep it simple (pass on the Minnie Haha fringed dress), keep it clean (no acid-washed jeans for you), dress your silhouette (will you really suit a baggy sack dress with shoe-string straps? No, thought not…). Basically, if she’s wearing what you wear, fine – you can wear it. But don’t wear what she wears.
The same applies to your mum, whether she’s still with us or not. Note what you admire the most and the least about her look and copy one, but not the other. You know which, unless you really need a frumpy tweed coat and a hat like a teacake….
10 Roll it over
Keep your wardrobe fluid, and keep replacing your clothes. Don’t hang onto things until you’re sick of the sight of them, no matter how much you paid for them. If you’re wearing something, then fine. If every time you put it on you know you look great, and it’s not getting threadbare and scabby, fine. But there are only so many ways to skin a cat, and if you’re standing in front of your wardrobe each morning trying to find a new way to wear that same black poloneck, chances are you’ve had your clothes too long. The only way to deal with this, sad though it may be to say goodbye to old favourites, is to get rid of them and get something new. More on parting with the things you love another time.
Tomorrow: tips 11-15