How to work the revival trends

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With the 80s and 90s revivals upon us, there are many pitfalls for the unwary fashionista.

Paris 2010It’s all gone quite quiet on the fashion front since the recent shows, but I have been thinking about the new 80s and 90s revivals and about how they could be a real trap for women over 40.

For some of us, me included, the 80s was our heyday, but we’d better be wary of the extremes that this trend will undoubtedly bring (see left for clashing prints, cropped, baggy pants, wrapped waists et al), or all we’ll be doing is reminding everyone of quite how long we’ve been on the planet. Fashion was fun when we had great skin and youth on our side, but it has to work harder for us now and although there are many trends I’m sure we’ll all avoid (ripped jeans, holey clothes, exposed bras), there are others that could easily trip us up. The 90s are a safer era – fashion was considerably more grown-up – but it could still catch you out.

Faux pas – things to avoid

1 Wearing anything you’ve kept from ‘then’. Secretly, I suspect that many of us have, hanging around in the wardrobe, some outfit in which we felt at our gorgeous best. But wearing it now – even assuming you can still get into it – is just not a good idea. Pass these garments on to your daughters or nieces, who’ll be delighted to have a real-life ‘vintage’ garment from the era. The new 80s trend will look subtley different, if only because fabric technology has moved on so far and few of us will want to go back to the stiffness of 80s shoulderpads or the lack of stretch in everyday garments (thank God for Lycra). Meanwhile, are you seriously ever going to a rave again?

Lily Allen2 Over-egging it. When you’re greeted by a whole bunch of familiar-looking outfits in the shops, that bring with them that sense of recognition, it’s time to beware. Young is something we were, not something we are. Youthful – now there’s another thing. You can be youthful at any age, which is more to do with fitness and state of mind than looks. But the purple drapy catsuits cut down to the navel are best left for the likes of Lily Allen, who can look great in them at 20-whatever-she-is. 

3 Hot, hot colours. Seriously, I’d be wary here. A lot of us loved these colours in the 80s – me included (with what fondness do I remember a screaming pink wool flannel coat, worn with purple trousers – ah…). A flash of colour in a scarf, a lining, a shoe or bag is fabulous and can really lift an outfit, but many of the hard, artificial colours that we’re seeing again have a very blue cast that can look unattractive against an older skin. If you have black or grey hair, you can probably get away with those magenta pinks and peacock blues, but if your colouring is more even and you have brown, red or blonde hair, look for slightly softer, more natural shades, or keep it to accessories. Meanwhile, there’s also a strong trend for camel and black – a good combination for most women.

4 Shiny fabrics. Give it a miss, love. Matt fabrics are the over-40s-babe’s bestest bestest friend.

5 Draping. Most of us, with the passage of time, look better in a bit of sleek tailoring than in anything draped. The 80s really went to town with draping, and you can see it again – big sleeves, pleated waists, etc. I would be very careful about this. Especially avoid the mid-calf-length pleated skirt, which turns any woman into a gran, and the wide, wide, ruched sleeve that adds pounds to your torso.

Good things

Ungaro1 A bit of a shoulder pad. A bit, note. A hint. A little bit of lift. Just enough to balance your hips and not more. The best on the runway were from Ungaro but even these were a bit wide.

Celine2 A higher-waisted jean or trouser. A slightly dropped waist looks best on most women because it lengthens your torso slightly, and that makes you look thinner, but a higher waist is more comfortable for many women to actually wear. You can have the best of both worlds by wearing a higher-waisted jean or trouser with a t-shirt or blouse cut to high-hip length worn outside it.

3 Bodies. Provided you get the type with poppers at the crotch, or loose enough to pull out of the way while you’re on the loo, a body gives you coverage, warmth, a sleek line and the sure knowledge that you won’t be revealing any unintentional glimpses of skin or – God forbid – muffin top. Put it on and forget about it.

Dior4 Sexy underwear. One area where mid-life women can really go to town is lingerie – wear what the hell you like: no-one (with exceptions) is going to know. Dior’s underwear was really meant to be worn as outerwear, but a bit of transparency never went amiss on an older woman in any case, as Sophia Loren very well knows. If you want a low-cut, v-back or sleeveless dress, a chiffon or lace layer is always welcome, giving a hint without putting too much on the plate.

5 Minimalism. Whatever your style of life, whether it’s blue jeans and t-shirts or black pencil skirts and crisp white blouses, a clean, minimal look is something that any woman can wear. Sleek hair, well-applied makeup, simple lines – it’s easy. Visit for inspiration.  



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