Isabelle Huppert and Brigitte Macron have led the way in proving that, just because you’ve hit your 60s, it doesn’t mean you have to forget about fashion, writes Carolyn Moore.
Mutton dressed as lamb. That lamentable phrase strikes fear into the heart of the average 40-year-old, so imagine the power it wields for women in their sixties and beyond?
Too often, women are led to believe that turning 60 means checking your fashion credentials at the door; forfeiting a lifetime of style lessons in favour of easy-fit slacks and cosy cardigans, because God forbid you’d look like you were trying too hard or dressing ‘too young’.
God forbid you’d be mutton dressed as lamb.
But the times they are a changin’. As we watch style icons of the 1960s and ’70s refusing to relinquish their fashion nous when they enter their sixties, so we’re seeing the women who grew up with them become increasingly determined to age in style.
And 2017 has been a stellar year for this age group.
French actress Isabelle Huppert, 64, pulled the awards season red carpet out from under the A-List fashion darlings half her age.
Visionary designer Rei Kawakubo, 72, was honoured at the Met Gala, and she rocked up to the event in her signature leather biker jacket.
France’s new first lady Brigitte Macron, 64, stole the style spotlight from a newly staid Melania Trump, with both chosing powder blue dress suits for their husbands’ inaugurations that were worlds apart in terms of the messages they sent.
Melania’s prim Ralph Lauren (with matching elbow length gloves, no less) was evidence of the studied style overhaul she has undergone in a bid to emulate the elegance of Jackie Kennedy, whereas Macron strode onto the world stage in fashion forward Louis Vuitton, conveying her absolute confidence in a personal style that’s hers and hers alone.
While Melania (47) has embraced classic sheath dresses and fussy blouses, her French counterpart opts for leather leggings and couture tailoring one day; skinny jeans, trainers and knits the next.
The French fashion industry adores her, and the media applauds her ‘soignée’ (elegance), championing the effortless way with fashion that French women seem to have.
Equally soignée, Isabelle Huppert’s elegantly edgy awards season wardrobe gave us a new definition for age-appropriate style.
Mixing immaculate tailoring with gowns that epitomised laid-back luxury, she had the insouciance of a teenage ingénue; her hair just mussed enough; her makeup perfectly understated; her accessories — like the ear cuff she wore to the Oscars — adding that essential edge.
It’s an exaggeration to say that one nationality has a predisposition towards great style, but Macron and Huppert both illustrate that if there is a magic ingredient to the way French women dress — it isn’t style, it’s confidence.
Joan Cashman, stylist and image consultant at Colour and Image Academy, agrees that for older women, lack of confidence is often at the root of their issues with fashion.
While they can feel abandoned by the high street, she says this is because they don’t know what to look for.
“They panic when they go into Zara and see cold shoulder tops and short leather skirts. They think, ‘There’s nothing here for me,’” says Cashman.
“But if they learn to understand their shape and what works for them, they will find those staples they’re looking for.”
Staples — the outerwear, denims, tailoring and knits that are the foundation of any stylish wardrobe — don’t change all that much between 40 and 60.
The older we get the more we gravitate towards better quality, more lasting items, and as investment pieces, staples can be instantly updated with the right accessories.
“Aim to pull a little bit of the season’s trends into a classic look,” says Cashman. “Accessories will do that for you.”
Layering delicate jewellery is bang on trend, whatever your age, and when it comes to shoes, every woman can afford to be a little bit adventurous. Updating your footwear so you have the right shaped toe, the heel du jour, or the cut that’s au courant, can prevent you from looking dated.
“Smarten the trends and relax the classics,” is Cashman’s motto for the older woman, and it’s an ethos Huppert has mastered. When she does leather, it’s a biker jacket with an elegant blouse; when she does denim it’s trendy frayed bell bottoms with neat tailoring.
A good tailored jacket is an absolute must; the structure counteracts rounding of the shoulders, Joan explains, while some shaping at the waist gives the illusion of a curvier, more pert bottom.
Build a wardrobe around your tailoring with good quality shirts and knits, tucking them into skirts and trousers, but blousing them out a little to accentuate the waist. After 60, below-the-knee or midi skirts are your friend, and don’t shy away from luxurious, edgy leather.
“Why can’t a woman of 60 wear a leather skirt?” Cashman asks, and we’re not about to argue the point.
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