Yes, clothes CAN put years on you – but also take them off!
LINDA KELSEY, who's just turned 60, tries anti-ageing her wardrobe
09:04 GMT, 13 September 2012
The dilemma is one that every woman over 50 knows only too well. Wear something too young and you’ll look like mutton dressed as lamb. But cross the line in the other direction and you’ll look like a super-frump decades older than your years.
But, as so few stores cater properly for the older woman, just how do you get it right
We teamed writer Linda Kelsey — who, believe it or not has just turned 60 — with Femail’s fashion expert Eliza Scarborough, who guided her through the outfits that can take years off your age . . . and the ones that can add them.
DRESS AGE 38: The red dress from Zara knocks years off Linda's age
DRESS AGE: 38
ELIZA SAYS: This figure-hugging red dress takes years off Linda’s age.
The bold colour and bodycon shape may not be for the faint-hearted but it shows off her figure while still looking chic with its knee-length hem.
Once you are over 50, there is no need to be covering up because a knock-out, well-fitted dress will have you looking youthful and glamorous.
LINDA SAYS: Eliza’s suggestion that my dress age in this is 38 set my mutton radar bleeping wildly.
Do I look as if I’m trying too hard Is it age inappropriate
But, like Eliza, I think the knee length avoids the ‘ageing hooker’ look.
It also gives me curves where there are none. My figure has always been straight up and down, but the tourniquet fabric gives me the semblance of a waist while the cutaway top emphasises my shoulders.
If you were mega curvy a la Carol Vorderman, this would work just as well.
Red gives me confidence.
And though I can barely breathe, it would be worth holding back on the canapes because I feel so good in this dress. All I need is a party invitation.
Dress, 45.99, zara.comShoes, 60, aldoshoes.com
DRESS AGE 41: But Linda didn't feel she suited the Breton top and coloured jeans
BRETON TOP AND COLOURED JEANS
DRESS AGE: 41
ELIZA SAYS: For weekend and day wear, brighten up your wardrobe by replacing denim with coloured jeans.
This burst of colour will update your outfit and keep you looking on trend — and therefore younger.
A fitted Breton top keeps the outfit relaxed and this timeless style makes Linda look anything but frumpy and, again, drops years off her dress age.
LINDA SAYS: I should feel pleased with a dress age of 41, but frankly, I feel all I need is a beret and a string of onions to complete this look.
Women of a certain age think they look cute in this kind of combo, but at 60 I’m too old for cute and, unless you are a dead ringer for the gorgeous French actress Audrey Tautou, I think you should steer clear of this so-called Breton style.
Horizontal stripes tend to make you look shapeless if you’re slim and your bosom like a shelf if you’re large-breasted.
The coloured jeans are a refreshing change from my usual denims. I’d keep the trousers, but ditch the top.
Red jeans, 22.50, marksandspencer.comStriped top, 80, jaeger.co.ukPumps, 54.95, massimodutti.com
DRESS AGE 47: Linda found this Mango jacket and Banana Republic trousers made a great work look
FITTED JACKET AND TROUSERS
DRESS AGE: 47
ELIZA SAYS: Trouser suits can be ageing, so, for a modern take on the look, why not try a pair of slim-leg trousers and a Chanel-style boucle jacket
The fitted jacket, which crops at the waist, is an ageless style. It is classically cut, but its frayed edges take away any sense of primness, instead lending a Parisian cool that can work for all ladies from 40 to 70.
LINDA SAYS: This outfit is a revelation. I’d never have thought of putting pieces together like this, but if I had an important meeting to go to I think I’d look the business in this.
Smart work wear for the older woman is tricky if you want to avoid looking like Maggie Thatcher.
When I was a magazine executive, I used to live in trouser suits, but this is a modern twist to the trousers and jacket combo.
I’ve always coveted a classic Chanel jacket and this lookalike is a snip.
The blue suede shoes have a great classic shape, but are right for now. This outfit is mature and stylish. Perfect!
Jacket, 69.99, mango.comTop, 19.50, marksandspencer.comTrousers, 55, bananarepublic.comNavy shoes, 165, russellandbromley.co.uk
DRESS AGE 58: The polo shirt and jeans aren't flattering
POLO TOP AND JEANS
DRESS AGE: 58
ELIZA SAYS: Lots of older women dress like this, but a boxy polo shirt and shapeless jeans will add inches to your silhouette.
This lazy, loose style is out of touch with fashion, so together they instantly add years to your dress age.
Linda looks as if she is wearing this outfit for comfort rather than style, which is a fashion faux pas the older woman makes when she becomes convinced style equates to looking like mutton dressed as lamb.
LINDA SAYS: The preppy look is great if you’re under 35 and look as if you’ve stepped out of a Ralph Lauren ad, but on a 60-year-old like me it should only ever be seen on the golf course.
I live in jeans and these fit well, but teamed with a shapeless top and silver strappy sandals, this combo does me no favours.
If I swapped the sandals for plimsolls, tucked in the top and looped a belt through my jeans, I might get away with it.
Pink polo top, 14.99, hm.comJeans, 39.95, gap.euSandals, 30, marksandspencer.com
DRESS AGE 68: This floral dress looks frumpy on Linda
PRINTED DRESS AND CARDIGAN
DRESS AGE: 68
ELIZA SAYS: These loose layers add pounds to your waistline and will instantly make you look dowdy.
This outfit has taken layering in the wrong direction and instead of giving Linda a nice silhouette, it adds inches — and therefore years — to her figure. The hem is too long, which drowns Linda.
LINDA SAYS: Oh dear. Plenty of women my age think this look will hide a multitude of sins, but they’re wrong, as mid-length dresses look frumpy on older women. I’ll do maxi and knee-length skirts and if my knees weren’t both chubby and wrinkly, I’d even do above the knee, too. But midi length — no! Those days are long past.
The comfy cardie over a silky floral dress is another mistake mature women make. If you’re going to go for this look, you need a pashmina as a cover-up.
As for the Mary Janes, I haven’t worn them since I was eight, when I ditched Start-rites. I shall continue to avoid them until I’m 80. This look may give me a dress age of 68, but I feel 78.
Floral dress, 179, jacques-vert.co.uk
Brown cardigan, 55, monsoon.co.uk
Shoes, 39.50, marksandspencer.com