Don't let age wither your look, says Weekend's fashion columnist
Katie Trotter: Getting older isn't the end of looking good
I've had several women write to me requesting advice for dressing stylishly in their fifth and sixth decades - women who feel a little deflated by the harsh reality that fashion is simply less interested in us after 40. I'd like to say, firstly, that I'm particularly flattered by these requests - requests from women, like you, who undoubtedly have a little more life experience than I do. I only hope I can provide you with some honest hand-to-mouth guidance through the minefield that is fashion.
Ageism in fashion is all too predictable, a grim realisation that the things we used to wear without a second thought suddenly seem, for want of a kinder word, inappropriate. Through our 20s and 30s we simply wore what we liked rather than what we thought appropriate. Although clothing for the over-40s is perhaps a neglected market if we compare it with plus-size or maternity, it is not time to hang up our boots quite yet.
We simply need to learn how to look at things with fresh eyes. When we get older, our skin tone changes. Our hair changes, both in texture and colour whether we dye it or not, so the colours that used to work for us can appear harsh and garish. When it comes to our new colour scheme, tones need to soften - taupe, soft greys, warm creams, whites and pastels will be kinder to your skin tone.
Be brutally honest about your changing shape - our waists will widen slightly, so a good tailor will be the key to transforming your wardrobe. Many older woman are concerned (often unnecessarily) about their upper arms, but find it difficult to find anything suitable and end up adding a cardigan to cover up. This isn't a good solution. Instead, think about buying a long-sleeved dress or top and having it altered so that the sleeves come to the elbow. It is a much more flattering length than full-sleeved and better for our warm climate. Look at Katharine Hepburn in her heyday - think widelegged, high-waisted trousers and a well-fitted jacket. Trousers that fit well at the bottom and hips are well worth investing in - Maria Grachvogel's magic trousers are fantastic at flattering most shapes (www.mariagrachvogel.com). Although expensive, she employs a clever cutting technique that avoids side seams and adds extra length to the leg.
Jeans are often avoided completely, in favour of skirts. This is a shame because a pair of straight legged jeans in a dark-wash are remarkably flattering. However, avoid anything boot cut as this will appear dated and will only shorten and widen the leg. When it comes to dress lengths, stick to a length that hits about a centimetre or so above the knee - anything lower is unflattering and anything higher will look a little try-too-hard. A high heel will elongate the body - around seven centimetres or eight centimetres is good, as anything higher will affect your posture.
Patterns don't have to be cast aside but, instead of bright, bold prints, try a fine polka dot or floral and pair with a nice hip-length tailored jacket. I would advise you to stick to structural pieces - dresses work better with a slight stretch.
A good quality jersey will work wonders when paired with a light linen jacket with rolled sleeves. Diane von Furstenberg, LK Bennett, Jigsaw and St. John do some wonderful evening pieces that flatter and cater for an older shape while remaining original. Remember that women in their 50s and 60s have probably never looked so good. These days we look after our bodies better than ever before, so instead of hanging up the boots you feel you have been forced into, take a step back and look at a new way to experiment and enjoy personal style.