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Over 50? These are ten styles you’re wearing which make you look old

by Jack
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Green cardigan, £89, marksandspencer.com

There are basically four fashion ages, starting in your ‘Love It, Don’t Care What It Looks Like On Me’ teenage years.

The second age is ‘I Love It But Should I?’ During this phase, you’ll discover whether you’re more in the ‘Must Look On Trend’ or the ‘Just Want To Look Gorgeous’ camp. It’s the longest fashion phase and you bend more one way than the other until you finally find the place where you’re most comfortable.

The third age is ‘Does my bum look big in this?’ It’s not like you’ve never considered whether your bum looks big before, but now it’s your first consideration and if anything else looks big and makes my legs look shorter. You still care a lot about fashion, but more about how you look.

And finally there is the fourth phase – the one we are in now – where the overriding priority is Not Looking Our Age. In this phase you are still fashion conscious, body conscious, beauty conscious, susceptible to the odd crazy purchase, but it all starts with trying not to look our age or older.

And the secret to not looking our age is ultimately not about buying certain clothes and accessories as much as getting to know the avoidable aging traps (AAT) and making sure you don’t fall into them.

There are some things you take for granted that in your 50s you have to reconsider, e.g. your bra size. There are clothes you own that seem innocent and useful that may need to be discarded precisely because harmless and useful are getting old. And there are surefire solutions you need to put on the Wear Less list – navy tailoring, believe it or not.

The good news is that fixing most aging traps doesn’t involve spending money

Still wearing black

Maybe you’ve seen the picture of Helen Mirren in a pink dress that had a triangular keyhole without showing any cleavage (tick).

A black dress would have been predictable, and an AAT. Strong color and a bold cut beat the subtle options, and her hair was suitably smooth (cross); her earrings were the size of gull eggs (tick) and her lipstick was the same shade of pink (tick).

Green cardigan, £89, marksandspencer.com

Green cardigan, £89, marksandspencer.com

She looked 78 at 58. Personally, I couldn’t tell you what any of the women I had dinner with the other night were wearing (blackish, dark clothes) except for a seventies in a pink cardigan – looked . dazzling among people young enough to be her children.

I followed suit and bought an M&S cardigan in green.

Being too tasteful

A gray or navy jacket with a white shirt and straight jeans looks great on your 20-year-old daughter, but you might look a little underwhelming.

(Stealth wealth dressing is not the older woman’s friend, even the wealthy.) Wear a red-striped shirt instead; tie a patterned silk square around the neck. If you have a fun fur necktie, now wear it with tailoring, ditto snake print or leopard accessories.

Wear your wider jeans. Bring out your larger earrings. And forget about pretty prints: go bold or abstract or go home.

Maxi dress, DKK 195, kitristudio.com

Maxi dress, DKK 195, kitristudio.com

Maxi dress, DKK 195, kitristudio.com

A larger floral print in bright colors (no faded pastels), strong stripes, bolder stains are the secret to avoiding looking just too old for your pretty dress, while a pop of color near your face will do more for your complexion than any anti-ageing cream .

Skips a salon to blow drying

The two most common aging traps are a) for done hair and b) for undone hair.

Admittedly, this is a tricky area, but shiny, well-colored, well-groomed hair is the foundation of looking good for your age, and you need to spend about 80 percent more time on it than you did 20 years ago.

The natural look you wore in your 30s is messy in your 50s and tired after 60. An Elnett blow dryer is just as old, but a slightly messy blow dry… bingo!

And try some Philip Kingsley Finishing Touch Polishing Serum (£12, marksandspencer.com) for a last-minute shine.

Sleeveless (unless you have arms)

You’ll often find a nice fit and flare dress that happens to be sleeveless and you might even try it on, hoping for a miracle or consider wearing it with a cardigan, but stop right there!

If you’re not prepared to show your arms, don’t buy sleeveless, and (sorry to bring this home to my attention) ill-fitting arms are at the top of the AAT chart.

Monica Lewinsky, 50, wearing Moya linen two piece, £298, thereformation.com

Monica Lewinsky, 50, wearing Moya linen two piece, £298, thereformation.com

Monica Lewinsky, 50, wearing Moya linen two piece, £298, thereformation.com

Midi dress, £199, hobbs.com

Midi dress, £199, hobbs.com

Midi dress, £199, hobbs.com

If you have amazing arms, this counts as an extraordinary attribute for your age and you should show them off when you can.

See Monica Lewinsky in the new Reformation campaign red two-piece. Would it have had such an impact with sleeves or on a younger woman? Absolutely not on both counts.

Paste-it underwear

Refresh your underwear drawer or – to put it another way – sort out your VPL (Visible Pants Line) and your VBB (Visible Bra Bulge). VBB is about a too tight fit.

Try on bras in a place where you can be measured (Marks & Spencer).

VPL is easily solved by swapping loose cotton for techno fabric (the secret is not bigger pants, but a seamless, slimmer fit).

Underwear 3pk, £16, marksandspencer.com

Underwear 3pk, £16, marksandspencer.com

Underwear 3pk, £16, marksandspencer.com

I swear by Marks & Spencer’s Body range Flexifit Modal high-waist shorts (£16 for a pack of three, marksandspencer.com) for what it’s worth.

Everyone needs to revisit their post-50 size underwear, not only because a proper fit makes all your clothes look better, but because a bad fit is much aging. A bad bra can make you look like a sack of potatoes; a good bra improves your posture.

Not wearing sunglasses

The big mystery is why—when sunglasses can cover your puffy morning eyes, add a frisson of movie-star glamour, are the only designer item we can almost afford and then wear for nine months of the year—women don’t take sunglasses more seriously.

Sunglasses are sophisticated, hide, deliver great price per wear value and completes your look like a hat once could have done.

Even better, these days they aren’t dating so much as finding a new role. We all have old sunglasses tucked away in a drawer.

As long as they’re not wraparounds, take them out and put them on; think glamor all the way and never ever wear them on your head. Aging.

To keep things for the best

Keeping things as good as possible is a classic AAT. You don’t have to wear your best wedding dress to work from now on, but you might want to think about taking out your leopard print coat and wearing it to death, because a bit of leopard is an age-defying season – and it was big on the Dior Autumn 2024 catwalk .

The same applies to jewellery. Large pearls on hoop earrings or a large chain are still in the works.

Earrings, £55, jigsaw-online.com

Earrings, £55, jigsaw-online.com

Earrings, £55, jigsaw-online.com

A chunky earring will do a lot more for you these days than a faintly glittering stud.

And a large brooch is a great way to create plain tailoring. Take a look at Jigsaw’s bold sculptural necklaces and earrings.

Jewelry doesn’t have to be big, but the days of the dainty gold chain are over, and it suits us. Delicate everything disappears at 50-plus.

Dress cute

A little drummer boy jacket is fine, but not the matching tailored culottes. A hint of a frill on a collar, but not a full white Puritan crescent or a giant blonde frill. Knowing your cute limit means checking your wardrobe for the following and putting them in the charity shop:

  • Bows on anything (a big dramatic bow might work, a pretty bow might not)
  • Delicate floral prints
  • Peter Pan Collars
  • Pearl buttons
  • Decorative vests
  • Short puffed sleeves
  • Pedal pushers. They are back, avoid them.
Shirt, £199, lkbennett.com

Shirt, £199, lkbennett.com

Shirt, £199, lkbennett.com

Adidas Originals Gazelle (£85, size.co.uk)

Adidas Originals Gazelle (£85, size.co.uk)

Adidas Originals Gazelle (£85, size.co.uk)

Not aware of shoe trends

The right shoes can be all the fashion boost you need.

If you happen to have some gold strappy sandals hanging around, they’re just the thing to revive your old jumpsuit or wear with trousers or a midi skirt.

Silver straps also work. And keep wearing your sneakers, but make sure they’re the right ones: Adidas Sambas or Adidas Originals Gazelle (DKK 850, size.dk) in mixed bright colors. Anything but plain white.

Hides your waist

Fashion has loosened up and a little roominess is the difference between looking modern and relaxed and left behind. Say no to tightness and yes to definition. Get used to showing a bit of waist, whether it’s French (half) tucking your shirt into the waistband or wearing a high-waisted ribbed top with a skirt.

Jumper, £60, and skirt, £85, boden.co.uk

Jumper, £60, and skirt, £85, boden.co.uk

Jumper, £60, and skirt, £85, boden.co.uk

Things to take to the charity shop now

  • Crochet. If you happen to have any, let go.
  • Your ‘nobody’s looking’ jeans. Why not wear the ones that make you look good?
  • Large linen shirts
  • Jersey wrap dresses
  • Floppy black pants (unless for travel)
  • Small tailored jackets. Keep your larger double-rowed and cropped edge-to-edge
  • The black biker jacket. From now on, leather is pale or brown and suede
  • Slim fit, slim lapel jackets
  • Cover track boots

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