Style is such an elusive quality - don’t you agree? We recognise it instantly when we see it, but nailing precisely what constitutes style is almost impossible. So, in a spirit of exploration, I thought I’d seek out some truly stylish women for an occasional series of personal style stories which I hope you will find interesting and inspirational. I’ve been moved to do this because of the dearth of such inspiration for us older women in those places where we might expect to find it; namely fashion articles in magazines or fashion magazines themselves.
We may occasionally see the odd very tall, pin-thin grey haired model in a fashion spread but her inclusion tends to make me feel despair rather than delight, mainly because I just can’t identify with such (role) models.
So, let me introduce you to Josephine, my super stylish friend. Josephine is the first to admit that she is neither very tall nor pin thin, but she does have a tremendous eye for what works on her apple body shape. And, more importantly in these straightened times, she doesn’t have limitless funds when it comes to buying clothes, which means that she has to be especially resourceful and creative when it comes to looking good.
Josephine's Top Style Tips:
1. Take an Interest in Clothes
“I have always loved clothes and in fact studied fashion when I left school. I’d describe my style as individual and eclectic by which I mean that I long ago gave up trying to be a ‘dedicated follower of fashion’ as the song goes! The older I got the more comfortable I became with my own ‘individual’ style. There was a time in my career in the beauty industry when ‘image’ was everything as were ‘labels’. Now I dress much more for comfort, for me, to be eclectic means not adopting any one style but mixing styles, colours, fabrics and of course accessories.”
Dress: Kit and Kaboodle; Jacket: Charity Shop; Leggings: TK Maxx; Silver Trainers: Fitflop (birthday present); Sunglasses £3 in a chemist in Bexhill. Navy Bag: Ebay
2. Know Your Body
“I’d describe my body as short and round with a generous bust. My weight is all around my middle so I am careful to avoid anything fitted. As I’m only five foot two inches tall I also avoid big prints, opting for plain colours, polka dots or stripes. I like using layers to create length and can get away with leggings as I don’t carry weight on my legs.”
Dress: Cape Town Boutique 10 years ago, dyed purple with Dylon and crinkled by Josephine this year; Scarf: Charity shop; Leggings: TK Maxx. Shoes: Bought in Lidl 8-10 years ago for £5
3. Buy Less, Buy Versatile
“Having spent WAY too much on clothes, shoes and accessories when I was younger, I am generally much more cautious these days. I try to avoid impulse buys. If I do buy something new it has to be versatile enough to be worn with at least three other items that I already have. With navy and grey as my basics, my clothes are well coordinated to work together.”
4. Forget Fashion
“It’s become easier to shop for clothes as I have aged as I no longer try to follow fashion, but now know exactly what suits me.”
Trousers: Tesco this year £12, Shirt: ‘Habits’ Cape Town10 years old, Jacket: Oxfam (Country Casual) bought for £10 as part of a suit, Shoes: As before Fitflops, Jewellery: Ropes of assorted pearls and showstopper Sapphire and Diamond brooch - charity shop find
5. Know Where to Shop
“‘Kit and Kaboodle’ is my favourite online shop where I always check-out their ‘sale’ items first! To be honest I’m no longer a ‘shopper’. I rarely look around fashion departments though I do love a good charity shop. Supermarkets are great for the basics, leggings and t-shirts. I lived In South Africa for many years and have a collection of ‘classics’ from ‘Habits’ my favourite shop in Cape Town, they are dateless and timeless and can be dressed up and down year after year.” Another Cape Town company sells wonderful cotton and I had a white shirtdress that I’ve worn for years. I say ‘had’ as it was looking ‘tired’ this year, so I dyed it purple! I suspect a few of my other summer cottons will get a similar treatment next year. I also have a classic navy blazer that is inexhaustible. It was part of a suit that I bought in Oxfam years ago."
Top and Skirt: Recent charity shop fins bought recently and each £5, Shoes and jewellery as before
6. Know When to Stop!
“There’ll be new clothes and styles coming into the shops for the autumn/winter season but to be perfectly honest I’m at the stage where I’m much more careful about my spending and currently don’t feel the need for anything.”
7. Wear Comfortable Shoes
“Having broken bones in both feet I am super careful about shoes. I no longer wear heels. I’m just grateful that Fit-Flops, Crocs and Skechers are all coming out with great styles and colours…and comfort!!! My latest purchase, actually a birthday present, is a pair of silver Fit-Flop trainers that probably won’t leave my feet for months. I shall now be scouring the charity shops for a silver bag!”
Jeans: Matalan £10, Bottom Layer: Long cotton beige vest ‘Out of the Blue’ South Africa Top layer: Grey T shirt Kit and Kaboodle, Denim Jacket: as before, Shoes: As Before, Long or short (versatile) silver rope from Miglio
8. My Hair is Also Part of My Style
“For many years I battled with my curls. In my teens Mary Quant and Twiggy hairstyles were all the rage, nothing would persuade my unruly hair to comply with those straight styles.Throughout my career in the cosmetic industry I wore ‘short and chic’ styles that suited my dark curly hair. After I left the industry I let my hair grow and for the first time ever, started to embrace the curls. I had started to go grey in my late twenties and coloured my hair for years. Shortly after my fiftieth birthday I cut my hair super short in order to grow the grey out. Once I was grey I wore it short again for a few years. It is currently long again, super versatile, especially during the hot summer months.”
Red Headband: Random chemist!, Trousers, Top and Jacket: ‘Habits’ South Africa bought 12 years ago, Red Bag: Charity Shop find, Jewellery: Silver chain a present from India
9. And Makeup Too
“I absolutely love makeup! I don't, however, feel the need to wear a ‘full face’ if I'm at home or walking on Wimbledon common, just a slick of ‘lippy’ for protection and a touch of colour (I’m super excited that LFF are about to introduce two lip balms, one of which is a pinky colour). That said, after having gone without makeup for a few days there is nothing I enjoy more than ‘putting my face on’...!!! My personal LFF favourites are: Beauty Balm, Blusher in Rosy Glow, the Soft Purples Trios Eye Shadows and Soft Plum is a wonderful colour for this time of year.”
As you can see from these photographs and the way that Josephine sources (and keeps) her amazing fashion finds, style is dependent neither on a tall, thin body nor on the size of your bank balance! It really is a question of an excellent eye for what suits you; the ability to truffle out bargains wherever they may be; and an openness to the possibility of changing a garment (for instance by dyeing it) in order to extend its life. Josephine is super stylish because she loves clothes and sees no barriers whatsoever to looking truly fabulous (forever).
P.S. Very many thanks for all your wonderful food suggestions. I have already taken action and bought a soup maker and ‘The Roasting Tin’ by Rukmini Iyer. I am actually looking forward to experimenting with both - which makes a wonderful change!
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What an inspiration! Josephine has opened my mind to being more creative and bolder with looks. It is so good to see a 'real' woman look stylish, attractive and inventive. (I too have seen those older, gorgeous, tall, willowy models and felt quite deflated). More courage to try different things, I think - thank you Tricia for all your blogs and this one in particular. Kind regards Lizzie S
For those that like to wear dresses for other occasions than at home or shopping, where are we supposed to find them? I have seen adverts for dresses but they are always in jersey which doesn't suit my shape, too clingy. I would love one company to cater for those of us who do like to dress up, and for some shoes that are NOT trainers, but are a smart court shoe, with a small heel.
Loved this article and enjoyed reading Josephine’s tips!! Would like to see more like this!
How refreshing to see your lovely friend “ being herself” I am very fond of wearing shoes and jewellery that fit in with my outfit, and over the years I seem to have achieved that without realising it, I amaze myself when I think ???? oh I’m sure I have a matching “ something or other” I do get complimented and without sounding prissy I find it uplifting. Thank you so much for the world wide free delivery this week, with a daughter in Australia ???????? I have already forwarded to my son in law some lovely gifts from LFF, I know he will keep them safe until Christmas ???? Your lipsticks and primer were a great hit last year. Looking forward to Monday and the autumnal revamp . X
Thanks for this article, Tricia. It's so refreshing and reassuring to read about an older lady who doesn't have model 'proportions' that I can relate to in size and shape. I love how Jospehine embraces her own style and I think she looks fab in all her outfits. It's great to see how she brings together her old favourites, new items and charity shop finds. I am really getting into charity shops and it feels good for the planet too. Thanks again, I hope we see more of these. xxx