Reaching the half century mark can be daunting in many ways and none less so that when it comes to your wardrobe. Choosing what to wear if you’re 50 or over can be a challenge. I myself reached that milestone 18 months ago, so I’m part of the ‘over 50’s’ club too.
If you’re 50 or over, some of this might ring true for you:
- you feel that you’ve ‘lost your way’ when it comes to how you dress
- your body shape has changed, and you no longer know how to dress to flatter your new shape
- you can’t find shops that appear to be targeted for your age group and no longer get pleasure from clothes shopping
- you feel invisible
- your lifestyle has changed meaning that you have a wardrobe full of clothes you no longer wear
- you don’t want to look 18 but neither do you want to look like ‘mutton dressed as lamb’!
Losing your style mojo can zap your confidence. As getting dressed is something that you do each and every day, it can really affect how you feel about yourself.
I absolutely love helping people to regain their style mojo by creating a wardrobe full of clothes they love. So, here are my top tips on how to choose what to wear:
1. Dress for YOU
You may have changed over the years. Perhaps, like me, you were once the shy girl at school who wouldn’t say boo to a goose, and now love nothing more than to be surrounded by people. Or maybe you have changed career, having once been suited and booted in an office, but now find yourself working from home in a far more casual environment. Or the opposite, maybe you’re rising through the ranks and are now in a more senior position. Maybe you have dedicated time to raising a family who have now flown the nest and so you spend your days enjoying exercise classes, volunteering, caring for someone or working on a part time basis.
Whatever you do and however you spend your time, your clothes should tell people about who you are. If you work, think about your personal brand – how you would like to be thought of – and make sure your clothes do the talking. And more generally, choose clothes that you feel totally comfortable in when you’re just being you. Don’t try to copy the way a friend dresses or choose something just because you’ve seen it on a mannequin, choose things that express what’s on the inside, who you really are.
What you wear should definitely not be a case of ‘fake news’, to coin a term used so prolifically at the moment.
2. Wear clothes that suit your style personality
We all have likes and dislikes when it comes to clothes. I love bold colours, patterns and clothes with quirky details, for example, but you might be someone who enjoys a neutral colour palette, prefers a minimalist look and likes to wear block colours.
I love costume jewellery and am a bit ‘matchy matchy’, liking my outfits to look co-ordinated. Whereas you may be someone who prefers scarves to jewellery or no accessories at all. Or you might love a really creative look with mis-matched patterns and textures, for example. Whilst comfort is important, it isn’t my by-word (which you’ll know if you’ve seen the heels I wear!). For you, however, comfort may absolutely be a top priority and you may prefer to feel things before you buy them.
Expressing your style personality through your clothes is so important. So here are a list of words that you can reflect on to see if you can describe your ideal style:
Try to just choose 3-5 words that really reflect your style personality and use them to determine what to buy and what to wear. You can also use them to decide what to keep and what to donate if you’re editing your wardrobe. If an item doesn’t tick your style personality boxes, don’t keep/buy it!
3. Wear figure flattering clothes
It’s very common for our bodies to change shape as we age. Your weight can go up and down, and if you’re peri-menopausal or have been through the menopause, it’s very likely that you will have filled out a bit at your waistline.
When you’ve been used to dressing a certain way and been comfortable picking up the same sorts of styles in the knowledge that they work for you, it can be quite disconcerting to realise that your shape has changed and that what used to be your staple ‘go to’ items suddenly aren’t as flattering.
The good news is that, as with any new skill, learning to dress a new body shape may take time but it is definitely doable. To work out your body shape you simply need to stand in front of a mirror and firstly work out if your shoulders and hips are in alignment, or if one is wider than the other, and secondly if you have an indented waist or not. This will give you your basic body shape:-
Click the video link (picture) below and you can hear me & my fellow Stylist friend Beth, talk through how to work out your body shape in one of our Style Mojo videos. There are follow-on videos in which we share top tips for dressing each shape too.
Or click here for written top tips on how to dress each shape – Body Shape Flattery.
It’s not quite as straightforward as just knowing your shape, as your body proportions (how short/long your are in your torso versus your legs and where your natural waistline sits), height and scale (bone structure) all play an important part too. As do the specifics like your bust size, shape of your shoulders, how you feel about your upper arms, thighs, knees and so the list goes on.
Here’s just a quick example to show you how much difference something as simple as a neckline can make:
If it feels a bit daunting trying to get to grips with all of your body characteristics, instead simply think about where you would like the eye to be drawn. If you like your top half then choose tops in eye catching styles, colours, patterns and textures, for example. Or if you have great legs then maybe wear tighter fitting styles of trousers, or skirts that are shorter or with an asymmetric hemline or in a lighter/brighter colour to your top, so that the eye is drawn downwards.
If you want definitive guidance then a style consultation will give you all the answers! We’ll put all the pieces of the style jigsaw together for you so that you know exactly which styles, cuts and fabrics to choose from tops, dresses, skirts, trousers etc., right down to which shoes to wear with which outfits.
4. Wear Colour!
As we get older it’s tempting to hide away in bland neutral colours, but this can make you feel invisible. Adding colour to your wardrobe can honestly make a world of difference – colours have the power to make you look healthy and vibrant, and yes even younger(!), but they can also make you look washed out and ill.
If you’ve had your colours analysed a while ago, you might be feeling that they seem to be working less well now than before. You could well be right. If your hair colour or skin tone has changed your colour palette could have done too. Jamie Lee Curtis has embraced her grey hair colour and now suits a cooler palette.
I’d highly recommend a colour consultation so that you can be sure that you’re wearing your most flattering colours. You’ll receive your Colour Fan full of colours in the depth, undertone and clarity to suit your individual colouring. If you’re going to buy clothes anyway, then why not make sure that they’re in a colour that makes you look and feel good?
5. Choose quality over quantity
I’d be the first one to tell you that it’s perfectly possible to have a wardrobe full of clothes that don’t cost the earth. I don’t dress head-to-toe in designer clothes and love nothing more than to buy pre-loved clothes and those in the sales! However, it is equally fair to say that there are times when it makes good sense to think ‘quality over quantity’ and investing more money in the things that you wear most often, than you may have done to date. Not only are there very good environmental reasons for buying things to last, but you will find that good quality items in most cases fit better and hence give a more flattering silhouette. Their construction is more robust, they are made from better quality fabrics, they are perhaps lined etc, and hence they will also have longevity in your wardrobe.
Jeans are a good example of this – brands like Salsa or NYJD for example, have clever technology in them to hold everything in place, so not only are they good quality but they’re also very flattering. Yes there are good copycat examples on the High Street, but they often don’t wash as well and lose their shape more quickly. So if you spend a lot of your time in jeans, I’d advocate spending money on them.
When it comes to fabrics, you might find that the thicker ponte fabric is more flattering than say a thin jersey material which shows every lump and bump.
Swimwear is a another good example. I know it’s not something that you wear every day, but it is a holiday staple. If you want shape enhancing, comfortable, breathable, cup-sized styles that really hold their shape, you will often find that paying a bit more money pays dividends. I don’t think I’ve yet heard a client be disappointed in a Miracle Swimsuit, for example.
So making the trade off between quality and quantity is a smart move. We’ve all often got too many clothes, so developing a capsule wardrobe approach (see 7 below) will mean you really don’t need that many clothes anyway, so it won’t mean spending more money on your clothes, it’ll instead mean spending more wisely. Think cost per wear.
6. Choose ‘YOUR style’ over fast fashion
A bit like the quality over quantity argument, I always recommend that you choose clothes in the styles YOU like and that flatter you, and not because they’re the latest fashion. Yes, looking current will stop you from feeling frumpy and outdated, but that doesn’t mean that you need to invest in each and every trend. In many cases, the latest trends are just re-worked versions of previous trends, so it’s totally possible to look current by shopping your own wardrobe! Florals, animal prints, stripes and checks always seem to make an appearance in seasonal collections, don’t they?
So keep an eye on fashion, embrace it and have fun with it if it’s something you really enjoy, but otherwise work out your own style formula and just update your looks in your own way by giving a nod to a trend rather than slavishly copying it.
It’s probably worth mentioning here that there are some trends and styles that I think are best avoided once you’re over 50. If you’re anything like me, my days of wearing crop tops with my tummy on show and very short mini skirts are long behind me. I’ll leave those to my teenage daughter! Whilst I’m not suggesting that we need to cover up head-to-toe, showing too much flesh can be unflattering.
7. Develop a capsule wardrobe
I wax lyrical about the concept of capsule wardrobes – wardrobe(s) which contain fewer clothes but from which you can create multiple mix and match outfit options. It makes the task of getting dressed each day so much easier. You don’t have to limit yourself to just one capsule if you’re someone who likes to keep things compartmentalised and/or you like a lot of choice. You can have a work capsule, a home capsule, an occassional/going out, a holiday capsule, seasonal capsules etc.
You simply need to choose a colour scheme and then buy/wear things that have one or more of those colours in. I often recommend choosing 2 neutral colours, particularly for the basics like a jacket or items you wear on your bottom half, and then 2 accent colours. It could be a wardrobe made from all neutral colours if that is more you though, or just one neutral colour and three accents as the smart casual work wardrobe example below shows.
There are many more outfits I could have made from this selection too, but it goes to show how you can make your wardrobe really work for you. There is no need to have wardrobes full of clothes that you don’t wear! Which leads me nicely onto tip number 8…
8. Edit your wardrobe
There is little point in keeping clothes in your wardrobe that you don’t wear or are unlikely to wear again. It just adds to the feelings of overwhelm and frustration when you open your wardrobe, look at hanger upon hanger of clothes and proclaim that you have nothing to wear!
Take time now to really think about what you enjoy wearing and what you often think about but then discard. Keep the things that work for you or that you can repair/upcycle/pair with something else and donate the rest. Someone will be very happy to receive the clothes that you no longer want you can be sure. Here are some tips on how to declutter your wardrobe.
9. Don’t keep items ‘for best’
So many people have clothes in their wardrobes that they are saving ‘for best’. Yes, by all means keep the very dressy items for dressier ocassions, but move tops, trousers, skirts or dresses that have seen their day as clothes you only wear when you’re going out, into your regular wardrobe. Wear a dressy top with your jeans for a less dressy night out, or dress down a smarter pair of trousers by wearing them with a jumper or casual top. Start wearing your clothes and enjoying the confidence that comes with wearing things you feel good in.
10 Give compliments
We are often really poor at giving and receiving compliments and yet we know how lovely it feels when someone pays us a compliment. If your wardrobe has been getting you down, then chances are others feel the same way. So if you see someone that looks good, why not make their day and tell them! Let’s celebrate our age, and the wisdom that comes with having learnt from the mistakes we’ve made along the way, and help each other to feel good.
Above all, enjoy wearing clothes that feel right for YOU.