Category Archives: Cargo Pants

There was a time when the fashion world stopped spinning and juddered to a halt for women in their 40s and beyond – a door creaking shut, leaving us stranded on the other side, left alone with comfortable clothes and the thrilling option of perhaps wearing a jaunty brooch.
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But it’s now 2016 and times have changed. These days, the fashion offering for grown-up women is extensive, inclusive and often brilliant. If you want to wear skinny jeans and ankle boots, backless tops and clingy frocks, well then, go right ahead. Mercifully, the rules are different. But there are still rules.
As the writer Quentin Crisp once remarked: ‘Fashion is what you adopt when you don’t know who you are.’ Once you’ve got a handle on that, once you’ve spent enough time with yourself to know what’s what, something altogether more interesting emerges: a graduation towards a sense of style rather than an urgent need to trend hop and binge shop.
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1. PICK A PALETTE
Through a process of trial and deduction, perhaps over a glass of Merlot with friends, discover – if you haven’t already – a key neutral to suit your complexion and colouring, and act as a base layer.
For me, it’s dove grey. Yours might be stone or ivory or navy or charcoal or chocolate brown. Once you have your key tone, that’s your anchor. Ensure the rest of your wardrobe is on friendly terms with your bedrock colour. Dove grey, for example, gets along fine with darker greys, navy, camel, khaki and pale pink, but is likely to pick a fight with yellow, red and vivid green.
2. BEWARE ANIMALS
There comes a point in every woman’s life when she really ought to leave leopard-print alone, stop pussying about with it and move on.
Someone, I’m afraid, needs to get this across to Kate Moss – she looks increasingly like Barbara Windsor lodged behind the bar at the Queen Vic. It goes without saying that mixed animal prints are a no-no. And tight mixed animal prints? You’ll look like you’ve had a fight in an ark in the dark. Post-30, best steer clear.
Similarly, avoid leather. I made the error of wearing it recently and spent an entire evening looking like I was auditioning for a Suzi Quatro tribute band. Leather is tough. In every sense of the word. In these mid-life decades, we all need something a sight softer. Like cashmere.
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3. IGNORE TREND ‘BURPS’
By this I mean the gassy little hiccups that dance around in the ether looking to catch the attention of hungry fashion editors and passing peach-faced youth. As a rule, they’re quirky and cute and suit only people who need ID to be served in a pub.
My list might include peplums, Peter Pan collars, chubby fake fur jackets and jazzy hosiery. At a certain age, these things should be surrendered, allowed to sail off over the horizon, like pretty little paper boats.
The same goes for pinafores, culottes, capes, clogs, fishnets, plaits, sparkly eye-shadow and strapless dresses. Ditch the lot.
As American author P.J O’Rourke once said: ‘Never wear anything that panics the cat.’ Wise words, particularly as we roll towards our mid-life and beyond.
4. FIND YOUR SIGNATURE
Once found, remain resolute and faithful to it, even as style whirlwinds whip by, tugging at your lapels.
Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of American Vogue, has (as you might expect) this approach nailed: she only ever wears one style of shoe (a strappy, nude Manolo Blahnik mid-heel, a stealth shoe that probably makes no noise as it walks); and she only ever has her nails painted a pale, neutral pink.
No navy nail varnish, no orange Shellac to make her toenails look as if they’ve been dipped in marmalade. There’s something ineffably chic about knowing yourself, finding your schtick and sticking to the script.
5. BUY NEW JEANS EVERY YEAR
This is a basic investment, not a treat; the shape and structure of your jeans will act as a calling card for your entire wardrobe.
Getting their silhouette, colour and look right is precisely what will mark you out as a woman of style and substance rather than a dozy dear who has lost track of time and can’t remember where she put her specs.
If in doubt, consult your daughter – or someone else’s daughter if necessary. Right now, she’ll probably tell you that you want a pair of high-waisted slender jeans in an inky indigo blue.
Listen. Try. Buy.
6. THE JOY OF SCARVES
A word on accessories. As I entered my 40s, I discovered the perfect pleasure of scarves.
Until then, they had been just another occasional add-on, alongside fishnets and sparkly eye-shadow (see number 3, left).
But now, scarves have become a mainstay of my wardrobe.
I think it has to do with maturity – on the whole, scarves are an acquired taste; like anchovies and great tailoring, they’re something one comes to later in life. But now I rely on their lustrous, decorative beauty.
They have the added and distinct advantage of camouflaging a neck – the first place, alas, that your years will gather together and proclaim themselves to the world.
The second place? Eyes. Invest in some statement sunglasses and wear them just a little bit too often.
7. NEVER SKIMP ON SKIMPIES
You may think you’re past the point of a bra refit, a bit like the moment a car stops being old and starts being vintage – but your body changes significantly over time, and your chest is liable to want to head inexorably south. A decent bra in the correct size will do wonders for your line, length and look.
Don’t skimp on your skimpies. Not ever.
8. UNDERSTAND TRUE VALUE OF QUALITY
This is a matter of basic maths. The cost of one expensive investment item divided by the number of times you actually wear it gives you its true value – an equation that becomes all the more important as the years trickle by and trend burps start to look increasingly bizarre.
It applies to shoes, handbags, coats, knitwear, lingerie, jewellery and suitcases.
The best approach is to shop smart – look out for internet sales, sign up for newsletters, know your favourite five labels and keep half an eye on what’s coming up online, cultivate a relationship with the manager of a shop that stocks your kind of heaven.
Spend more on fewer things – a gorgeous coat, say, rather than four pairs of leggings, two cheap sweaters and a cocktail ring. Each season, buy Just One Piece. Then love it to bits and wear it to everything.
For me, this winter, it was a suede trench coat in a muted khaki colour (works with dove grey, see number 1). Oh, and a Sardinian woven shopping bag, which is dramatic and fabulous enough to knock all other accessories out of the picture.
OK. So . . . just Two Pieces.
9. INVEST IN YOUR HAIR
if you are going to spend money, lavish it on your hair. Great colour and a fab cut will always steal away the years.
Head for the right salon and you can drop a decade in less time than it takes to thumb through an issue of Vogue.
As you age, you might consider lightening your hair by a shade or two. Yes, it’s a bind and, yes, it costs – as writer Nora Ephron rightly put it: ‘The amount of maintenance involving hair is genuinely overwhelming. Sometimes I think that not having to worry about your hair any more is the secret upside of death.’ Agreed.
But, to coin a phrase, it’s worth it.
Equally, take care of your precious purchases. Having invested time and cash in finding them, do look after them.
Hand wash. Dry clean. Roll, don’t fold, for travel. Soft hangers. Cloth bags for lovely shoes. It’s just what grown-ups do.
10. THE MAGIC FORMULA
Another key equation worth noting as you age is that the length of your skirt and the height of your heel should both be in inverse proportion to the plunge of your neckline. So the shorter the skirt; the higher the neckline and vice versa.
The whole basis for age-appropriate dressing relies on this simple inverse proportion formula. It can be extended, for example, thus: saucy zip down the back of your dress? Lovely!
But don’t also reveal an abundance of naked clavicle.