In May he will be writing a blog for LFF with some key advice for the man in your life so that he too can €˜look fabulous forever.€™ One of the things that the immaculately dressed Grey Fox said was that "older men don€™t make enough effort with their looks." I agreed with him but would also say that older women are also often guilty of "letting themselves go".

Why bother with your appearance?

My immediate response to that would be €˜because image matters.€™ We make up our minds about other people very quickly - mostly from visual cues from their physical presentation. These snap judgements can be wrong but they still matter because others relate to us depending on that initial impression. As we age it€™s very tempting to stop taking care of your appearance especially if you are no longer working. However I would argue that taking time and trouble over your appearance affects your own mood and sense of self worth. It also vitally affects how well other people treat you.

What does your appearance signal to others?

Believe it or not another€™s appearance signals around 10-12 messages. These are the visual cues I was referring to. Assumptions include your age, age appropriateness (mutton dressed as lamb), tidiness, cleanliness, stylishness, income level, trustworthiness (yes - really!), social class, intelligence and status. So in a matter of maybe 10-15  seconds other people will respond to you and treat you according to a very complex set of ideas they have formed about you. This might seem quite alarming - until you realise that you have control over all these thing except for the date on your birth certificate.

What do you want your appearance to signal to others?

I once participated in a course which encouraged us to explore our darkest fears (sounds a bit weird but it was actually very illuminating). We had to dress up as  someone we would hate to become. I was in my forties at the time and  newly divorced and I was quite preoccupied with the fear of being old and vulnerable.  I went to an Oxfam shop and bought the kind of clothes I thought a little old woman would wear. This included a shapeless dress in a mixture of browns, a beige cardigan, some scruffy flat shoes, wrinkled tights (very Nora Batty), no makeup and some glasses. I was absolutely amazed by how differently other people treated me in my 'old lady' get up. I was either patronised or completely ignored and I felt invisible and feeble. But I leant a very powerful lesson (which was the whole point!) and that was that other people really do tend to take you at face value. So here are my ideas for 'not letting yourself go".

1. Take time and trouble over your appearance.

Don't start to think "nobody cares what I look like".

2. Look after your clothes and shoes.

Hang them on padded hangers, press them and repair them. I wash most things except those that really must be dry-cleaned. Having shoes mended greatly extends their life and keeps them looking good as does polishing them. I spray suede shoes and boots with a protecting spray and clean with a special suede brush.

3. Don't wear clothes which make you look washed out and tired.

And what€™s more we should buy it now and wear our best clothes all the time (apart that is, when Beige suits very few people, young or old. Black is draining near an older face. Wear something bright and flattering next to your face. I have been wearing fuchsia pink gloves all winter which made me feel better every day!

4. Don't wear clothes which fit badly - too loose or too tight.

I sometimes buy clothes which are (British) size 12, 14 or 16. Sometimes I am Medium, sometimes I am Large. My weight only varies a little so I do try to buy what fits me rather than what the label says.

5. When you buy something new take it home and try it on with all the other things in your wardrobe, including scarves and jewellery.

Then when you get up in the morning you can quickly choose an outfit that looks well coordinated.

6. Don't keep clothes 'for best.'

This advice was given in the blog post by Penny Kocher aka the Frugal Fashion Shopper and I so agree with her.

7. Wear make-up every day.

Makeup is transformational on an older face, restoring life, colour and health. At the very least put on some mascara, some blusher and some lipstick. I take the time and trouble to put on makeup every day of my life and would not dream of leaving the house without my 'slap' on. We have lots of video tutorials showing how to get it right.

8. Look after your hair, teeth and feet!

All will look better and last longer with appropriate ministrations from a hairdresser, a dentist and a chiropodist!

9. And finally - smile  (no grumpy old woman-act) and be pleasant and charming to everyone.

Do you agree with me or do you think as an older women you have earned the right not to bother how you look?

Photographs: Ari Seth Cohen

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