Am I too old to wear the biggest fashion trends? At 53 I think I'm too old not to do it. We keep hearing about middle-aged women becoming “invisible,” that society wants us to slip into a gunny sack and please sit at home and watch TV while we politely await death. Butas actress Michelle Yeoh saidat the Oscars: "Ladies, never let anyone tell you that you've passed your prime." So I think now is the time to lean more towards fashion. In fact, I really credit my interest in trends and my love of dressing everyday for keeping my emotion visible.
Yes, my husband quite likes my more experimental outfits (like my rainbow striped jumpsuit), but my Instagram followers laugh with me when I post the hashtag #clothesmyhusbandhates. "It's... a choice," my teenage daughter says flatly as I leave the house, shirt cuffs trimmed with feathers. I'm braver than her because she's in that confident phase where standing out in any way is considered a worse fate than death.
Clothing used to be a lot more important in my working life when I was an editor for women's magazines - most notably Glamor and The Mail on Sunday's You. My outfits were regularly judged at parties, front row at fashion shows or just in the office. Each outfit felt like another audition for my job, so it was important to look like I knew trends.
I don't feel that pressure anymore, but turns out I still love getting dressed every day. It's important to me that as I get older I never look like I've given up. Two of my favorite women in fashion are Trinny Woodall, 59, and the former model and Instagrammer, in her 70sLinda Wright. They have very different styles but share an inspirational take on aging glamorously and boldly.
However, none of us want to look like we're denying our age. I would hate for anyone to think I'm trying desperately to look younger. So these days I'm looking for the quiet, sophisticated ways to nod to the big trends. Which is absolutely doable.
The idea of "snippets" usually makes me sick. I have seen many horrors on the high street - dresses with massive slits on the hips or on the stomach.
On the catwalk of the British brand Poster Girl, I saw a black column dress with a cut-out circle that exposed the model's entire stomach. I don't want to see my middle-aged bare belly, so why would I inflict it on anyone else?
But it's a matter of interpretation and this theme is such a subtle nod to a trend I like. A modest blow to the collarbone will not traumatize anyone. It's just the right touch to add some flair to this sensible tartan skirt and boots. You can even wear a bra with it.
I texted a picture of this to my husband, who said, "Why don't you ever wear that in real life?" Praises from Caesar.
They may have been the stars of runway shows lately, from Chloé to Chanel, but I still can't look at a pair of cowboy boots without that awful Billy Ray Cyrus song, Achy Breaky Heart, looping in my head. I also have the confidence to know I'm not sexy. Never been. And I've really only seen sexy women taking off cowboy boots.
Women like FKA Twigs and Emily Ratajkowski who pair theirs with sleek, youthful pins and microscopic skirts. So I'm a bit scared that this could be my favorite of all these looks. It just hadn't occurred to me that cowboy boots could look polished like I think they would go with this Palmer Harding dress. There's no skin showing, and yet I don't feel dowdy because the look is really thought through. The duck egg blue detail on the boot and the shades of blue through the tweed jacket match the color of the dress beautifully. This feels confident and modern and I love it.
Preppy the Prada way
Left: Prada Right: Jo wears: £95 poplin shirtWith nothing underneath; Cashmere jumper, £290,Ethel; Leather skirt, £249.99,Mango; wool socks, £18,Falcon; Leather shoes, £249,Pretty ballet flats; Ami Paris-Tasche, £910,far-fetched
I'm channeling the Miuccia Prada vibe here. When the iconic fashion designer seems to be bowing shyly at the end of her Prada or Miu Miu shows, she's usually sporting a pleated midi skirt combined with preppy details like knitwear and shoes and socks. More recently, at Miu Miu, she's introduced a punky take on preppy, featuring barely-there pleated skirts paired with college-kid knits.
I'm torn because I basically like it. But I also totally understand why the photographer's smile disappeared when he saw this and he just said, "Oh. It's a bit frumpy.” Midi skirts are tricky enough to pull off without adding a bulky sock. No, the only older woman who can pull this off is Ms. Prada because she is Ms. Prada. I think you need a young face and body to create that librarian vibe with some sexy irony. I just look like an aging librarian.
Still, I love this mango leather skirt so much I bought it. I wear it with a white shirt and strappy sandals.
Subtle vs full silver
Left: Dolce & Gabbana Right: Jo wears: Knit top, £150Antwerp Essentials; Wollblazer, £510,Totem; jeans, from a selection,Zara; shoes, £35.99,Zara; silver plated earrings, £180,Aeyde; silver chain, £540,All Blues; bag, £330,Bring them
I love metallics and am never afraid to throw one in at any time of the day or night. Sequins for Sainsbury's? In any case. But oh my god, this current silver trend has really been fueled by bacofoil lately, hasn't it? Gucci, Versace, Chanel - together they seem to have made the Smash advertising robots their muses. So I was pleasantly surprised and relieved when I found these jeans at Zara. They have some nice full-metal shimmer here and there, but there's no risk of them looking oven-ready. In fact, this whole look is chic simplicity at its best.
Blazer sizing is the most fashionable way of tailoring right now, and with the added bonus of emphasizing the skinny jeans to create a flattering effect.
To be honest, I'll probably never wear these heels in real life. I like to wear this outfit every day of the week but with sneakers or pointy flats.
Upscale cargo pants
I can't imagine why anyone would ever feel too old for cargo pants. Perhaps because it's one of those trends, some of us can say we've seen it for the first time. In the '00s, they were the look for every sexy pop group from All Saints to Destiny's Child. But these youngsters didn't invent them.
Cargo pants are medieval magic - often loose in the waist, which is wonderful for us menopausal types who get a little fatter at 5pm.
And they are so versatile. They can indulge their utilitarian roots by day—wear them loose and casual with chunky boots and cozy knitwear—and they'll go slightly glamor by night: add a silk shirt, a strappy heel, and roll them up to a touch of ankle reveal.
These from Totem are to die for. The drawstring at the ankle allows you to wear them wide or narrow. The cotton's silky finish means no one will think you've plucked them off your teenage daughter's floor. This sleek, neutral look would have been a no-brainer for my runway show days.
Low-rise, wide-leg louche pants
Left: Victoria Beckham Right: Jo wears: Merino wool top, £90,A day of March; Hose, £ 59,99,Zara; B boots, £595,Neu; Cashmere blend coat, £880,Bring them; bag, £385,Bring them; Prada sunglasses, £376,sunglass hut; earrings, £125,Byalona
In theory, I like the idea of low-waist pants. Oddly enough, I'm in the minority among my friends who like high-waist pants. (It's that "fat at 5 p.m." thing again: If I dare eat even one breadstick, I'll be miserable until I get home and unbutton the button.)
The challenge of the low-waist trend has nothing to do with your age, it has everything to do with your body shape. At a slim size 10, these are the only pair I could find that would push up to my waistline - but only if I really sucked in and held my breath. If you're the one middle-aged woman who has kept her youthful snake-hips, then these are for you - although I'm more inclined to just buy a larger size of low-waist pants and then have them altered.
This is a timeless, sophisticated look, but the easy-going, almost-drowsy vibe is a nice, quirky update—not to mention a subtle way of showing that you might be older but still know what's up in fashion goes.