Age-proof ways to look 'now' in the new normal

Need a style update, but not in the mood for tricksy trends and frivolous fashion? Age-proof ways to look ‘now’ in the new normal

  • Shane Watson gives her list of key pieces which will age-proof your wardrobe
  • Picks out big puffed sleeves which are still going strong and gathering volume
  • She adds that you really can’t go wrong with a velvet jacket to spruce things up 

Even though this has been the year when everything changed, it’s September, the start of the new fashion season — we still have jobs to do, occasions when we want to dress to impress, and we still want to look in the loop.

That said we’re not in the mood for fashion for fashion’s sake. 

In March, the autumn catwalks were awash with slinky, long dresses and wader-height boots, but we have zero use for clothes like these now. 

The priorities of the average woman over 50 are simple: we want to look good for our age in clothes that work hard for us. 

That’s it. We’re looking for key pieces that will age-proof our wardrobes into next spring and beyond. Here’s my list…

BIG PUFFED SLEEVES 

Green top, £29.99, hm.com; red top, £14; jeans £16, george.com

Still going strong and gathering volume, though just a hint of balloon will do the job, too. 

This is the detail that makes shirts and dresses and sweaters look thoroughly up to date, and it’s easily the simplest and prettiest trend to buy into. 

Everyone’s looking at your sleeves this autumn. What’s more, you can wear a really bold sleeve with zero fear of looking embarrassing. Almost.

Big puffed sleeves are still going strong and gathering volume. Pictured: This green top costs £29.99 at hm.com

This red top is £14 from george.com, and the jeans are £16. You can wear a really bold sleeve with zero fear of looking embarrassing

VELVET TAILORING 

Blazer, £234, Bella Freud at matchesfashion.com 

You really can’t go wrong with a velvet jacket to spruce things up — and this autumn they come in all shapes and sizes, with trousers to match, or mismatched long skirts if you prefer. 

The way to make velvet look fresh is to wear a jacket in the day with a neck-tie top and wool trousers. A velvet tux is still a safe bet for evening. 

You really can’t go wrong with a velvet jacket to spruce things up. Pictured: This Bella Freud blazer is £234 from matchesfashion.com

DARK ALL OVER PRINT DRESS   

Dress, £295shoes, £195, meandem.com

With a neck tie and long sleeves, flowing and asymmetric and unashamedly busy, this won’t be for everyone, but talk about a one-step problem-solver! 

All you need are boots, a midheel sandal or trainers and you’re good to go.

With a neck tie and long sleeves, flowing and asymmetric and unashamedly busy, this won’t be for everyone, but talk about a one-step problem-solver! The dress is £295 and the shoes £195 from meandem.com

CHUNKY CHAINS 

Belt, £84, thekooples.com; Bag, £29.99, zara.com 

Chunky chains on shoes, on belts, around your neck, as the clasp on an edge-to-edge jacket are the big standout detail of the season. 

And keep your eyes peeled for a trophy belt: they come with big buckles or chunky chain clasps and instantly make everything, from a long-sleeved midi-dress to boot-cut jeans, look more glamorous and edgy. 

Chunky chains are the big standout detail of the season. They can go on shoes, on belts, around your neck or as the clasp on an edge-to-edge jacket. Pictured: This belt is £84 from thekooples.com

Pictured: This attractive blue bag, which comes with its own chunky chain, is £29.99 from Zara.com

BROWN COATS AND HIGHER, WIDER TROUSERS 

Coat, £69; top, £19.50; trousers, £19.50, marksandspencer.com

Brown (anywhere on the spectrum from pale caramel to chocolate) is the coat colour of the season. 

And it’s worth considering, because you’ll never not get wear out of a well-tailored caramel coat; it’s got all the advantages of classic camel without being old-school smart, and it’s less severe than black.

Styles that will work hardest for us include a double-breasted masculine tailored cut, a belted teddy bear style or a buttonless wrap. 

Black, too, is certainly back for autumn, but sometimes (at night) brown is more forgiving, warmer, and we want a coat that we can wear any time, any place.

Brown (anywhere on the spectrum from pale caramel to chocolate) is the coat colour of the season. Pictured: The above coat is £69; the top, £19.50 and the trousers £19.50, all from marksandspencer.com

Alternatively, go for a belted grey plaid design.

As for trousers, it really is time to let go of the leg-clinging look.

Wear jeans and trousers higher-waisted and looser-legged, with a tucked-in shirt or baggy with a pleat front and cinched with a belt if that suits you.

These trousers are so much more elegant, and once you get used to the loose-tailored style, you’ll be amazed that we ever wore anything else.

Note: a mid-heeled ankle boot will give you the extra height to pull them off, if in doubt. 

BLANKET SCARVES AND GIANT STOLES 

Poncho, £149, winserlondon.com 

Is this just the return of the pashmina? Not really. 

It serves a similar function, it’s still all about comfort and adding something extra, but it’s less girly and more swaggery. 

The beauty of big wraps is that you can sling them over a blazer or a polo-neck, wrap them around an insubstantial dress, drape them over head-to-toe black to give you a boost of colour and pattern (how about in the season’s plaid?) or dangle them over the shoulder of a caramel coat for extra dash.

Blanket scarves and giant stoles serve a similar purpose to the pashmina – it’s still all about comfort and adding something extra. Pictured: This poncho is £149 from winserlondon.com

If you love ponchos and capes but can’t justify getting either, then the giant scarf/fashion blanket is a great compromise.

Wrap it, drape it, sling it around … it’s a cover-up and a fashion boost in one. 

HIGH NECK OR TIE NECK 

Blouse, £80, kitri-studio.com 

Useful and midlife-friendly, so long as you’re careful not to pick anything too frilly, the high-necked blouse or dress is both the perfect neck disguiser and the most fashionable choice.

A shirt with a hint of a pie crust collar or neck tie was the number one pick on the catwalk to go with suits or under bomber jackets.

The high-necked blouse or dress is both the perfect neck disguiser and the most fashionable choice. Pictured: The above high-necked piece is £80 from kitri-studio.com

The alternative is a neck scarf. If this is your preference, then go for one that’s attached to a shirt or sweater (as at Saint Laurent) or in a coordinating colour. 

Keep it slim and slinky, and steer clear of pussy bows, which can turn frumpy. 

COLOUR BLOCK CLASH  

Jumper, £69, skirt, £45, boots, £149, johnlewis.com

This season, we’re not so much thinking about evening or party — that’s not a big priority for obvious reasons — and all the clothes we’re interested in can be dialled up for night time or crisped up for work.

The colour block clash is one trend on the catwalk which is pretty irresistible. Pictured: The above jumper is £69, the skirt £45 and the boots £149, all from johnlewis.com

That said, there was one trend on the catwalks (see Saint Laurent) that’s pretty irresistible (in addition to velvet tailoring): the colour block clash. 

Knowing we can lift our spirits with this come the cold weather, is reassuring.

GO ANYWHERE BOOTS AND FLATS 

Pumps, £169, prettyballerinas.com; boots, £169, massimodutti.com 

There’s no doubt that, for now, high heels have been tossed to the back of the wardrobe and flats are having a moment.

If loafers and brogues are not your style (and who can blame you?), ballet pumps and pointy flats are also back, as are chunky-soled Chelsea boots and cowboy-style ankle boots.

Chunky-soled Chelsea boots and cowboy-style ankle boots are back. Pictured: This pair are £169 from massimodutti.com

Pointy flats are also back, while high heels have been tossed to the back of the wardrobe. Pictured: These pumps are £169 from prettyballerinas.com

Boots are everywhere for autumn, frequently over the knee, often platform, sometimes with all-terrain tractor soles, but the rule is sturdy, not spindly. 

The idea, of course, is to find the design that works with the most outfits and kicks your wardrobe into the right spot. 

Look for an almond toe, a solid heel, a looseish fit — and make sure they’re black.  

TAILORED SUITS 

Blazer, £110; top, £195; trousers, £55; shoes, £120, reiss.com

We’ve always said, if you want to make life easy and look pulled together, the answer is tailoring.

And, better still, a suit.

If you want to make life easy and look pulled together, the answer is tailoring. The suit has rocketed back to fashion this winter. Pictured: This blazer is £110; the top £195; the trousers £55 and the shoes £120, all from reiss.com Blazer, £110; top, £195; trousers, £55; shoes, £120, reiss.com 

This winter, the suit has rocketed back to first position — but it’s not quite the one you may have hanging in your wardrobe. 

This one is masculine and slightly slouchy, all the better to wear to the office and out after (with the sleeves pushed up and perhaps a change of top).

Jackets are long-line with strong shoulders, and trousers are high-waisted and loose in the leg. 

Go for dark navy or grey rather than black, and wear with a polo-neck or crisp blue boyish shirt with the cuffs on show, and loafers with or without heels. 

If you want to combine two trends, try a suit in a tweedy check or houndstooth.

SKIRT SUITS 

Jacket, £130; skirt, £78, lkbennett.com 

Yes, they really are back.

If you were wearing them for work in the 1980s, then fear not, this one is not nippy with a short skirt: the skirt is A-line or narrow, below the knee or longer; the jacket is cinched with wide lapels.

For decades, wearing a matching jacket and skirt has been not at all tempting — too much like an airline uniform — but now, thanks to Dior and our instinct for keeping things simple and elegant, the skirt suit looks interesting again.


Yes, skirt suits really are back. For decades, wearing a matching jacket and skirt has been not at all tempting — too much like an airline uniform — but now, thanks to Dior and our instinct for keeping things simple and elegant, the skirt suit looks interesting again. Pictured: The above jacket is £130 and the matching skirt is £78 from lkbennett. com

You can always just wear the skirt with a sweater and sharp shirt (very Victoria Beckham) or a high-necked blouse and a cropped jacket. 

It doesn’t have to match, just team up. And if you’re more comfortable hands shrugged in pockets, then a jacket and a pair of those culottes (seen at Celine) is the answer.

You might want one in a light grey plaid or Prince of Wales check. 

Normally, we’d bypass plaid, but this autumn, plaid and houndstooth and tweedy checks look more grown-up and appealing than they have for years.

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