My Super Stylish Friend Penny Kocher

I have a real treat for you today in the form of my good friend Penny Kocher, aka The Frugal Fashion Blogger. I met Penny in the very earliest days of LFF on Twitter. We decided to meet up for an exhibition at the V&A and got on like a house on fire. Penny is a very special, quite quirky and original person, so I do hope you enjoy her fashion and style story.

“Hi, my name is Penny and I have been retired for many years now. I am 77, married (next year we will celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary) and I have two children and three grandchildren. A very long time ago I was a nurse then I stopped working to have my children. I got back to work after taking a degree in the days when you were given a grant, can you imagine?! I graduated at the age of 40 and forged a new career in social policy, research, and development. I specialised in focus group methodology and evaluating older people’s services. 

Having lived in a number of places including London and Brighton I now live in Lewes and am loving it as it is a small town packed with history and cultural activities. 

My main occupation, apart from the usual social life one has, plus grandparent duties and helping to run a local film society, is that I love to write. I am about to embark, again, on some family history stories, as in not quite a memoir, but nearly. 

I also have a blog where I call myself Frugalfashionshopper. I started this blog over 10 years ago, when I began experimenting with my style but didn’t have the cash to do that. I found that charity shops have some amazing items of clothing and that I was quite good at spotting the type of clothes I was after. I also have a very strong belief that no matter what age you are you can embrace any style and make it your own. Above all, I feel we older women need not follow any instructions or advice from fashion journalists on what older people should wear and I like to encourage older women to own their ‘look’ which is what my blog aspires to do. However, over the years the blog has moved far more into observations about women, life and ageing. 

How would you describe your style?

My style is very eclectic as I have an image of myself that is different to my everyday reality, when most mornings I sit at my desk to write wearing either leggings or my jeans with a simple top and/or woollen sweater if the temperature demands more cover.

The thing is, in my head, I am aiming to be edgy with a hint of goth and biker chic and I’d really like to look like that but often fail!

Actually, I think that autumn and winter clothes when I wear jackets and coats are the best times of the year for clothes as this is the way to show the world who you are, so I have four winter jackets and many more winter coats, all but one bought from charity shops.

Btw, I’m not interested in shoes or handbags, but I do have 37 hats.

With the outer wear sorted, underneath I usually like to wear either skinny black jeans or a smart straight skirt just at the knee or below. 

I find the summer rather more challenging in my aim to be stylish and while the hotter weather demands something floaty and loose, I have come to dislike the voluminous dresses that seem ubiquitous these days. I do however love my white denim jacket and have learnt to love the colour white, more about that later.

How would you describe your lifestyle? 

My lifestyle is busy! You’ve heard the expression, ‘how on earth did I have time to work’, that’s me to a T! But the essence of that is when you retire, this is the time of your life because you can now develop those parts you had no time for before.  For me I began to take courses and to cut a long story short, I developed my writing gene which runs in the paternal side of my family. I now write two blogs and have plans to write something that has been on the back burner for quite a time. And, then there is the local film society that I set up with my husband. We ran this for 5 years, had a 5-year break but are once again helping to run it and are at the centre of maintaining this cultural activity in a small town near Brighton. It’s very exciting as we are constantly watching films, putting films forward, networking with people and other similar organisations to ours and continuing to develop a side of one’s cultural life that you had no idea could be so rewarding.

I also love visiting art galleries and exhibitions and generally anything to do with ‘looking’. And btw, I include looking at anything to do with fashion as part of this ‘looking’. I also have grandma duties, a good social life, and don’t forget the importance of keeping fit which I do through keeping my steps up, stretching and resistance exercises every day and Pilates.

Has your style changed over the years or do you still like the same colours/shapes/styles as you have always done?

Oh gosh, how my style has changed! I have been influenced by many designers and styles including Mary Quant and that wonderful Biba store which I mooched around but hardly ever bought anything as I was just there for the ambience!  That was the downfall, I think, of Biba. But I’ve worn mini-skirts and maxi skirts and was at one time quite the hippy. But very much influenced by my work environment throughout my 40s and up to retirement when I turned 60, I wore predominantly suits and silk shirts, with always jeans to relax in and on weekends. In fact, when I retired, because I felt I had the freedom to wear what I liked, ironically, I wore jeans the entire time, so much so that I had an epiphany and thought hey, woman, get out of that rut and into more glamorous clothes! Why? Because it’s now or never! 

However, did I have the cash to experiment and buy what I had in mind? No. So off I went to charity shops and that began my current life now, which is extolling the virtue of looking for, buying, and wearing pre-loved clothes. And wow, have I found some bargains! I have some very strict criteria though: the first is to look, and to look again, second is be prepared to walk out empty handed, third is to know your area and where the good charity shops are, and finally, never be seduced by a ‘bargain’ as you want to find quality clothes that fit you well. I’m sure you know that it is a win-win as you can find wonderful clothes at amazing prices, but you are also giving money to a charity and that is such a win for them. 

So I experimented a great deal and I ended up with a huge wardrobe of exotic charity shop skirts and jackets and could honestly say I was half-way to that biker/rock chick look I aspired to be. But I don’t know about you, but Covid got in the way of wearing my amazing skirts and outfits (I mean, who could get out and about anyway) and in those years and even afterwards, I somehow lost my way. Fortunately, I’ve found my way back and I seem to have come full circle as I’ve now decided that I look good in my jeans, especially the skinny ones. 

Which colours are you drawn to and how important is colour when choosing your clothes? Has this changed over time?

I have never had my ‘colours’ done, and won’t, as I think you should experiment and try out many different colours, although one should know instinctively what not to wear, which for me are the darker blues, navy and purple, they kill my face and my look stone dead. Instead, I love clothes in brown, green, red, yellow and orange. I have two coats in the latter colours, and they do look good in the dull, grey winters of the UK.

I always look good in black and have recently come to love white, which goes well with my white hair. 

Do you have favourite brands or shops and which are they? 

In a charity shop, I will always look for a good label, but my aim is not to buy clothes from High Street shops, nor do I buy from designers online, apart from the two I cite below.  As usual, I am constantly researching and looking at styles, and very occasionally I have thought, oh yes, and I do buy something, and you know what, I often regret buying these items as if you make a mistake, a £10 skirt can be returned to a charity shop, but a mistake that has cost £100, and you are out of time….. Yes, twice I’ve done that and am determined never to do that again. 

I do, however, like two ethical brands, Hush and Thought and these I follow and get the ubiquitous daily alerts. I have bought the occasional item from these brands and have never regretted them as both aspire to make everything they sell ethical and sustainable. 

What are your criteria for choosing something new to add to your wardrobe?

I believe we all have far too many clothes, me included, and I am trying and mostly succeeding in culling my wardrobe. I really want to rid myself of clutter and that includes the clothes I wear or in fact, don’t wear. However, I do take note if there are new trends or new looks, as I think, while it is good to not follow fashion and stick to one’s style, I do not want myself or others to look dull or as if you’ve been wearing the same old thing year after year. 

So, my latest thing is to not add something new to my wardrobe!  Instead, one could say, how can I update my look with my wardrobe with what I have already got? I mean possibly buy a new scarf or, is there one I haven’t worn for some time? In fact, I think we need to question ourselves about this constant buying of clothes especially if we understand the process of making them. For instance, my love of jeans needs to be tempered with the knowledge that it takes shed loads of water to make one pair. So, if I do get a new pair this season, it must be from a brand that uses less water. It’s tricky but necessary these days, I think.

What is your approach to ‘dressing up’ if invited to a special event?

What special event?  I don’t go anywhere that could get called a special event! But I do go to art galleries, and I always dress up a little for these occasions and I dress up when I go to meet my friends for coffee or lunch. And I am shortly going to meet two blogger friends, one I have met before, Gail from Is This Mutton, and one who is over from Tasmania and is touring Europe. This is Jill from GrownUpGlamour and I am so excited to be meeting her as she is my role model for clothes because she is extraordinarily stylish. So, to meet her and Gail I will wear a long khaki tulle skirt (this cost £3), a (faux) leather jacket, and black boots with a crazy hat. Oh, why not I think, let’s make a statement and not apologise for myself and my fantasies about how I’d like to live and moreover be seen. 

Tell us about your hair, makeup and accessories

I still have a good head of thick hair thanks to my Scottish genes, but recently had a melt-down as I had some layers put in. I am adjusting to these and it’s just about ok now, I think!

I like very bold costume jewellery and I am a great lover of Joy Fox’s jewellery.  Joy is a Brightonian maker who specialises in button jewellery.  

And, yes, makeup, I never go without it, ever. If I do, you will know I am ill.

I do wear many different brands of makeup, one of which, naturally is Tricia’s Look Fabulous Forever brand, which I love and use a lot. By the way, I never wear lipstick, it’s just a thing for me, so it’s eye makeup and lots of it, which I still wear at the age of 77, and will until I push up the daisies! And it’s always Look Fabulous Forever eye makeup. I think the No Shimmer Eye Shade Trios are lovely. I particularly like the Warm Brown Trio, which I wear in the winter or for evenings (I like a smokey eye) and the Soft Greens for summer. I also love the Lithe Lash Mascara and the Soft Eyeliners and have the Dark Brown and the Forest Green. I also think that Tricia’s makeup brushes are second to none, and I always use those when putting on my makeup. 

My Top Tips for Looking Stylish

As I am 77 now and occasionally think, oh wow, in three years I will be 80 - how on earth did that happen?!  As for being stylish and interesting in these older years, I’d say, first and foremost, never listen to any advice from younger journalists, in fact I do think things are better as you rarely hear or read the words, ‘age-appropriate wear’. And yet most fashion shots are on incredibly young models or middle-aged photo-shopped models (I’m looking at you Vogue) or we are forever hearing that Helen Mirren is our role model, which is very boring. Instead, first and foremost, we have to be ourselves.  

If I have any tips (and this is not advice) I’d say, keep moving, do the exercises, walk, stretch, do resistance work. It doesn’t matter what type of exercise but just move, every, single, day. 

Then it’s prepare the face before any makeup, use exfoliators and masks regularly, LFF does these. Makeup needs a good foundation, and I don’t mean the coloured stuff you put on your face. 

I’d also say, keep abreast of the news and don’t turn away from it, yes really, even in these desperate days, be aware. Join in with a group where you can discuss the critically important issues that are affecting us all, and especially our grandchildren. 

And finally, have fun with your clothes and makeup, wear that outrageous item, that lovely dress, those shoes, that hat, go on, you’ll look wonderful.” 

Tricia x

Watch Our Latest Video...

A Makeup Look For Women Over 50

Sally demonstrates a beautiful makeup look for women over the age of 50. Using Look Fabulous Forever's best selling products Sally tells you some of her top tips for makeup application post menopause... 

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