You can’t put an age on style, and many of the most beautifully dressed women in the world are well into their later years. However, it’s fair to say that the approach we take to dressing in our 40s and beyond is very different to choosing outfits in our 20s, and most of us are keen to avoid pitfalls such as appearing too frumpy or looking as though we’ve tried too hard.
With that in mind, we sought the expertise of personal shopper and stylist Annabel Hodin to discover the most common wardrobe mistakes that make women look older, plus how you can ensure plenty of ‘Great outfit!’ compliments with your fashion choices….
1. Shopping for someone else
How many times have you clocked someone’s fabulous outfit and rushed out to buy something similar, without really considering whether it suits you?
‘Looking at a picture of Gisele in an outfit and then thinking, “Oh, I’ll buy that” is a surprisingly common mistake,’ says Annabel. Instead, she says, we need to focus on shopping for our own bodies and personalities, rather than copying clothes that look wonderful on someone else.
Of course, you can still take inspiration from people whose fashion sense you admire, whether it’s a celebrity or your daughter. ‘Pick out an element of the outfit you really like, whether it’s the neckline or a colour, and incorporate that into an outfit that suits your personality and shape,’ advises Annabel.
She also recommends looking at people similar to you – perhaps a friend – whose outfits you love, and picking up style influences from them.
2. Wearing cheap fabrics
As you get older, it’s all about buying fewer clothes, but focusing on quality over cheap and cheerful designs and fabrics.
‘Look for something that moves well, hangs well and doesn’t scrunch as soon as you touch it,’ says Annabel. ‘If there’s no weight to the fabric then forget it.’
To check the quality and colour of fabric, she recommends getting as close as possible to the doorway of a shop to examine the item’s appearance in the daylight, as artificial shop lighting can be misleading.
Once you’ve built up a capsule wardrobe of good-quality basics, you can play around with adding more fashionable pieces each season.
3. Trying to be too obviously on trend
Navigating catwalk trends can be a minefield at any age, but as we get older the fear of looking as though we’ve tried too hard often increases. Again, says Annabel, it’s all about choosing the accents of a trend that you like and working them into your existing wardrobe of quality basics.
‘Treat catwalk trends as inspiration, rather than something to be replicated exactly,’ says Annabel. ‘Look at the mannequins in stores; they’re often dressed to illustrate an accessible way to wear particular trends, helping you decide what to try on.’
4. Visiting every fashionable shop
Although trends vary from season to season, many shops stick to their particular aesthetic, so finding a retailer that matches your style is a great way to guarantee consistently flattering outfits.
‘Finding a store with styles you love will streamline your shopping experience and help you avoid buying outfits you regret,’ says Annabel.
5. Not thinking about proportions
Proportion is key when it comes to glamorous dressing at any age, says Annabel. On the one hand, there is getting the balance of an outfit right – so if you select an item with lots of volume for your bottom half, opt for a tight-fitting top, and vice versa.
You also need to consider what proportions work on your figure overall. For example, says Annabel, if you notice high-waisted jeans are in fashion, don’t just grab any pair. Look at them on your body and decide whether you look better with a very high waist or if jeans that stop somewhere between your naval and hipbone would be better.
If you’re not sure, take a trusted friend with you to the shops, or arrange a session with a personal shopper.
6. Trying to ‘disguise’ yourself
Too often we think that dressing well as we get older means covering all our ‘flaws’, to the point that many people end up wearing baggy, shapeless outfits that in fact don’t flatter them at all, says Annabel.
‘I don’t think masses of volume and fabric is a great idea, unless it’s really structured material,’ she says. ‘If there are parts of your body where you don’t feel comfortable with a tight fit, then choose outfits that skim over them, rather than lots of floaty, voluminous fabric, which is very ageing.’
7. Wearing the wrong underwear
‘I can’t emphasise the importance of wearing the right underwear enough,’ says Annabel. She points out that by getting a good framework on your body underneath your clothes, your outfits will look much better.
‘If you’re wearing an old, saggy bra, the distance between your chest and your hip will really be shortened,’ she says. ‘So invest in a good bra and no-VPL pants – knickers visible under your clothes is another big no-no when it comes to looking chic!’
Just like unsupportive underwear, poor posture can ruin even the most fabulous of outfits, so remember to stand up tall, says Annabel.
8. Being shy with pattern
If you’re going to wear pattern, it’s better to go bold rather than dainty, advises Annabel. ‘I think delicate patterns are too girly to wear as you get older, which has an ageing effect,’ she points out. ‘Instead take inspiration from the Italians and go for rich colours, or choose dramatic, bold prints.’
9. Go with your gut instinct
‘Never buy something if you try it on and don’t feel sure,’ says Annabel. ‘I only buy things if I put them on in the changing rooms and instantly think, “I love it”.’ The products you instinctually love are generally the ones that make you look your best, says Annabel, and anything else is likely to end up festering at the back of your wardrobe. ‘Above all, have fun with fashion – choose outfits that make you feel confident, happy and glamorous, and never try to hide away just because you’ve reached a certain age,’ she advises.
Okay, now we really want to go shopping!
From: Good Housekeeping UK