When you were a child did you ever practise the signature that you would have when you were a grown-up? Or maybe you practised the signature you might have to adopt if you got married to a certain love interest (No? Oh - was that only me?) The thing about your signature is that it’s meant to be distinctive, specific to you and recognisable as ‘your mark.’
Which brings me to the subject of a signature style in appearance.
I spent January on a mini road trip, contributing as a panel member on a show called ‘New Year, New You’ sponsored by Lumen. I visited Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Cardiff and London and had the very real pleasure of responding to questions from and subsequently meeting many of our customers. One rather sad question came from an audience member in Glasgow who said ‘you have talked about the importance of style as we age, but I have no idea where to start in order to be stylish.’
So I thought I’d give you my thoughts on how to develop a signature style - one that is distinctive, specific to you
and recognisable as your ‘look'.
I would suggest that cultivating a distinctive signature style is something that we oldies can do much more successfully than the young. It takes time to know and accept yourself and to decide what makes you feel and look your most fabulous best. When I was younger I avidly read magazines to find out what the latest fashions were. Each season there would be new considerations of things like colour, shape, hem length, neckline or sleeve shape. I wanted to know what to look out for when I went to buy something new in Chelsea Girl (remember them?) so that I could look as ‘trendy’ as possible. Do you remember Mary Quant’s ultra mini-skirts, hot pants and shift dresses in sharp geometric prints in the 1960s, followed in the 1970s by Laura Ashley’s long milk-maid dresses with high waists, ruffled necklines, full sleeves and tiny prints? In my teens and twenties, in a somewhat desperate desire to be ‘with-it’, I wore both of these ‘looks’ despite being completely the wrong body shape to carry off either of them successfully.
The solution then is not to chase after the frothy fantasies dictated by the fashion industry but to give consideration to your lifestyle, your budget, and your body shape in order to arrive at a signature style which makes you feel happy, confident and comfortable when you go out into the world.
Unless you are marooned on a desert island, your style is likely to be influenced by the kind of life that you lead. There are subtle pressures on all of us to conform to what is expected of an older woman within a particular social group. Some of you will tell me ‘it’s all very well you suggesting this that or the other but in my village/small rural community I’d stand out like a sore thumb if I looked like that.’ I would urge some of you to be a bit braver. Don’t settle for the beige, the bland and the boring in order to blend in or think ‘why bother, who cares what I look like?’ Maybe on a daily basis you just want comfort and practicality, but even so you can inject some element of style which is distinctively ‘you’.
You may think that pots of money are required to look truly stylish. I’d agree that you would need very deep pockets to dress in the height of fashion (think Anna Wintour, editor of American Vogue), but creating a signature style doesn’t depend on access to designer labels. One of the most stylish women I know is my friend Penny Kocher, aka The Frugal Fashion shopper who buys most of her clothes in charity (thrift) shops. I have shopped with Penny in this way and she has an unerring eye for a great bargain to suit her slightly whacky ‘boho’ style. The green hat she is wearing in the photo above cost her £7.99, the scarf was £12 and her wonderful yellow coat was a fiver.
Learn which styles best flatter your body shape. For instance, I no longer do dresses. This is both a sadness and a relief for me. I still occasionally take a dress that has caught my eye into a changing room. I have a fantasy mental image of how I might look in this dress. It’s a cross between Meghan Markle and the Duchess of Cambridge - tiny waist, long shapely legs, tall, willowy and very elegant. I then pull the dress over my wide hips (if it will go) and contemplate my reflection with a kind of quiet despair. The Duchess of Cambridge has turned into the Duchess of Frump. And if I am remotely tempted (I have several once- and never-worn dresses in my wardrobe) I will then have the insurmountable problem of what to wear on my feet….. I can no longer wear heels because they hurt my feet and most dresses need a heel to look elegant. However, I have now come to terms with my pear-shaped body, cankles and sore feet. I like most things about myself from the waist up - so that’s where I concentrate all the attention. It also means that I currently have about 15 pairs of black or navy trousers!
How to Create a Signature Style
My best suggestion is to stop thinking in terms of specific clothes and start thinking in terms of cultivating something which is recognisably ‘your look’. Think colour, accessories, makeup and hairstyle.
Colour. Let’s start with colour because I think this is the easiest thing to change. When you have finished reading this blog, I want you to go and stand in front of your wardrobe and count how many different colours you see. Mine used to be uniformly dark - 50 shades of grey, black and navy. Safe, corporate and deadly dull. So for the past couple of years I have really forced myself to veer away from those colours for my top half (see my latest purchase from Whistles teamed with a pair of Toolally earrings). I do still have the odd grey jumper but I am happy to tell you that I now have some much brighter and more interesting tops and of my two winter coats one is pale pink and the other is indigo blue.
Accessories are another easy way to inject an interesting twist to a dull outfit. Theresa May (I know she’s Marmite but this is about style not, heaven forbid, Brexit) always enlivens her very business-like ‘I am a serious politician’ clothes with a big bold chunky necklace and a pair of slightly quirky shoes. It’s the perfect example of a signature style - distinctive, recognisable and specific to her. For Prue Leith, it’s all about primary colours and quirky necklaces of which she apparently has a large number. I do the same thing with earrings. I favour something colourful, quite large and coordinating with my outfit. My daughter Anna gave me a brilliant compartmentalised jewellery ‘drawer’ for Christmas and I have grouped all my 50+ pairs of earrings into red and pink, blue and turquoise, black and grey, silver, perspex ‘see-through’, pearl and sparkly evening ones. You could also create a style statement with glasses if you wear them. Why not inject some colour and interest with your specs - we’re not talking Edna Everage - we’re talking seriously stylish like my friend Jane in her purple pair. Or you could inject interest with hats, or scarves, or boots, or colourful tights if you have good legs. Whatever floats your boat!
Makeup. This is (obvs) another aspect of my personal signature style. For a start I always wear it - full fig come rain or come shine. Why? Because I feel undressed without it and because I believe it makes me look and feel better able to ‘face the day.’ And it gives me pleasure and is a way for me to be creative, experiment, have some fun and to make a signature statement. For instance, I almost invariably wear a strong lip colour. Cherry Red is my current favourite as it’s the depth of winter and I feel the need to brighten my face up. Most stylish women I know wear at least some makeup and my encouragement to all would be to be a bit braver. I truly believe that pale pink or nude lipsticks do very few older women many favours.
And finally hairstyle. What doJudi Dench, Anna Wintour, Jilly Cooper, Jamie Lee Curtis and the Queen all have in common? A signature hairstyle which they have kept for their whole adult life. They found a shape and cut which suits their hair, their face and their lifestyle and stuck to it through thick and thin and in so doing it has become a part of their ‘look’. I have kept the same hairstyle for about 10 years or so. Before I had my hair cut into my current style, I tended to favour a mid-length ‘bob.’ I went shorter for practical reasons of maintenance and I now get lots of compliments on my hair cut and colour and (back to those earlier considerations) it works for my lifestyle, my budget (I go to the hairdresser about every 10-12 weeks) and my face shape.
I’d suggest that we always recognise a stylish woman when we see her. She will stand out from the crowd, maybe in quite a subtle way, and above all else, she will look comfortable in her own skin and very confident. So, next time you browse our website for some lovely new makeup or go shopping for an outfit or pop into your hairdresser think ‘what is my signature style and how can I have some fun expressing it?
Do share your thoughts about creating a distinctive signature style and tell us what you do to express your individuality. I love getting your contributions and I know that many of you really enjoy reading each others’ comments.
We are holding an evening masterclass on 'Hair and The Ageing Process'
Location: LFF popup shop in Wimbledon Centre Court Shopping Centre, Upper Mall, Wimbledon SW19 9YE.
Date: Thursday 7th February
Time: 6pm - 8pm
Come and hear expert advice from one of Philip Kingsley's top Trichologists – the world’s leading experts for hair and scalp health. Philip Kingsley understand that it’s not how you look that defines you, it’s how you feel. Whether you have a hair health issue or you just harbour a desire that your hair could be enhanced, our visiting Trichologist, will be on hand to answer all your hair health questions. From hair thinning and hair loss, to ageing and grey hair, through to the best nutrition and conditioning support, so you CAN grow your best head of hair.
We are searching for our new ‘Face of Look Fabulous Forever 2019'. If you’re over 50 and believe that age is no barrier to living a fabulous life, click here to find out more. Will you be or do you know someone who could be the Face of Look Fabulous Forever and join the other wonderful faces on our website?