How do the French do it?

Pick up any style book and the chances are there will be some reference to the stylish almost effortless way French women dress. Older women in particular seem to achieve an elegance and femininity often lacking in the UK. Give a British woman and a French woman the same jeans, top, shoes and a scarf, together with a couple of pieces of jewellery and I promise you they will look considerably different.

fashion blog for professional women new york city street style work wear

Classic French Outfit – timeless

CL with scarf

Christine Lagarde

Christine Largarde is always stylish and yet never overdressed. Of course it helps that her ancestry has given her that fabulous tanned complexion. Her jewellery is carefully chosen to complement not to over power.

Paris Fashionweek ss2015 day 2, Garance Doré, nili lotan coat

Garance Dore – modern yet chic

There is a simplicity about the way French women dress. Key pieces, carefully chosen, and put together in a balanced way. You will rarely see a French women wearing loads of ‘bling’ or dressed head to toe in designer labels. Less really is more if you want to look stylish. Trying too hard shows and can shriek of desperation.

What French women do well is to mix their wardrobe with key expensive pieces – such as a jacket or coat – and then wear a top from Zara or a T-Shirt from a department store.  You can invest in an expensive handbag and if you team it with jeans from Gap the whole outfit is transformed.

good detail

It’s all in the detail

Consider the outfit above. On the face of it a simple top worn over a shirt and a pair of jeans. Yet look at the way the sweater sleeves have been pushed up to reveal the cuffs & a small part of the hem left below the sweater. If the top had been put on top of the shirt without these adjustments the outfit would not have been given a second glance.

French women tend not to buy complete outfits. They buy key pieces and mix and match. I believe that’s how they do it!

 

Are dress codes too relaxed?

I can remember the time when going to the theatre or out for supper, by implication, suggested the need to make some kind of effort. A pair of heels and some extra jewellery at the very least. Now, anything seems to go. Personally I find this depressing. I love to see people ‘dressed up’, particularly if they have been creatively stylish. It adds to the atmosphere. I was spending some time recently with a style client and she was bemoaning the fact that she never has the opportunity now to wear some of her evening clothes. She has some really timeless lovely pieces. As her friends tend to wear very casual outfits she feels overdressed.

 

pasmina & pearls

Pashmina & pearls

The above outfit is casual and relaxed but still looks stylish. Good for lunch or shopping. This women has made an effort and it shows.

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Black & white are timeless

The above combination is fairly minimal in style yet looks ‘put together’, as opposed to putting some jeans and a top on and then throwing your coat over the top.

cut offs

Day into evening

The above outfit could be teamed with a statement necklace a colourful clutch bag and it could carry you effortlessly into the evening. A pair of ‘posh’ ballet flats would relax the look.

oufit jumper and trousers

Stylish & versatile

I have always enjoyed the process of ‘getting dressed’ (perhaps I was a 19th century lady in a previous life) and I’m sometimes surprised at how little care is taken when people go out for a meal. Sometime last year I was on my way to our local cinema (we are fortunate in still having one) and I bumped into someone who asked where I was going. When I told her she seemed surprised and made some comment about me being “dressed up to sit in the dark”. I was wearing smart jeans and a knitted jacket and didn’t think I was over dressed. I think she missed the point. I had to get there first! I think dress codes have become so relaxed we are in danger of turning into slobs.

Style faux pas

We all do it. From time to time we wear something that, with hindsight, makes us cringe.  Clothing that has nothing to do with style. Here are some of those items of clothing best put in Room 101! I’m hoping you don’t need to ask why.

green crocs ugh

Crocs

Yes, Crocs make some kind of sense if you are getting out of a small boat in Indonesia and wading through the sea. But not on the high street. Unless you look like Kate Moss you will not look stylish.

slogan t-shirt

The slogan T shirt – under no circumstances!

My real pet hate (and I have seen this being worn outside) is the ‘onesie’. It is a large baby-gro! Nothing more nothing less. I refuse to have an image of it on my blog. Whilst I have nothing against leggings (and they can look very good paired with a tunic top) you must cover your bottom. Even if it is neat and shapely. Without the necessary over garment you will look as if you have forgotten to put your skirt on.

motif sweater

The motif sweater – so tacky

Allied to the above is a particularly horrible garment, which tends to make an appearance at this time of year; cropped baggy cargo pants. The style faux pas items above all share one common link. Do you know what it is? You will see children wearing them. In children they are acceptable – in grown-ups not!

Being the best version of you

Why the obsession with age? How have we arrived at this, quite frankly, rather absurd situation where many women want to look younger. Much younger. Millions are spent on surgical and non-invasive procedures to attempt to arrest the passage of time. Sometimes with bizarre results. Accepting your age now can be the most liberating thing you do this year.

Audrey-Hepburn-Beauty-Quote

I firmly believe that all women can look good. It requires time and some degree of investment. That is a fact of life. For older women simply putting on some lip gloss and making sure you hair is clean won’t cut it. So, what will?

older woman

Chic yet natural

whit red and blk

Stylish – black & white uplifted

A decent hair style that is modern and suits you, together with well applied make-up. That is your starting point. If necessary change your hair dresser. They may be so used to ‘doing’ your hair they have gone onto auto pilot. Get yourself to the counter of a good cosmetics company and ask them to give you a make-over. Make sure you ask enough questions to enable you to replicate the results at home.

Why not re-visit my Tips for Keeping Stylish posted earlier in the year. Essentially they stress the benefits of being organised (style does not happen by chance), well groomed, good skincare and updating your wardrobe. Be the best version of you – not someone else.

Is shopping stressful?

shopping bags

I am unashamedly a lover of clothes shopping. So much so that I do it on behalf of my clients (and friends!). At one time I thought all women loved shopping for new clothes. Yet many women detest shopping. They come home tired, disgruntled and generally fed up with the fact that they cannot ‘find anything to wear’. This is particularly true of older women. Sound familiar? Then read on.

What’s missing? Firstly, it’s usually a lack of a plan. ‘Aimless’ shopping isn’t a good idea. Even with a plan shopping can be a disheartening experience. Why is this? Quite simply it is personal service. If you are spending money on something that will enhance how you look and feel about yourself – and this is often the main reason women go clothes shopping – then the often cursory, disengaged service we receive leaves us wishing we hadn’t bothered. In my view there is frequently an emotional connection to how we look. Sometimes major life changes, at home or work, force us to re-evaluate what we wear. So, off we go to the high street, shopping mall or, if we are very lucky, our local independent fashion retailer, with some expectations. One of our expectations, often held subconsciously, is that the person serving us will be interested in helping us to find that ‘perfect’ piece. Remember the last time you bought something you really loved. What a great feeling! The chances are you received personal service. Someone who understands clothes and knows their own stock inside out. Someone capable of helping you to put together an outfit. Sadly, many staff in larger stores are not given the necessary training and development to be able to do this. Added to which younger staff don’t really ‘connect’ to the style needs of older women.

London's Streets Lay Quiet As Visitors Attentions Turn To The Olympics...In this composite image a comparison has been made between the unusually quiet streets of the West End, London and the busy shopping centre of Westfield next to the Olympic Park. (Top Image) LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 31: A general view of an unusually quiet Carnaby Street in Soho on July 31, 2012 in London, England. Overall visitor numbers to London have reportedly declined sharply despite the influx of tourists flocking to the London 2012 Olympic Games. Wet weather, concerns of traffic congestion and fears of inflated prices at hotels and visitor attractions are expected to be the cause of the decline. The Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA) has reported a drop in numbers attending London's tourist sites of between 30 and 35 per cent in the last two weeks, compared with last year. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images) (Bottom Image) STRATFORD, ENGLAND - JULY 31: Shoppers peruse the outlets in the giant Westfield Stratford shopping mall adjacent to the Olympic Park on July 31, 2012 in London, England. Trading in the huge 1.9 million sq ft mall has been boosted by the footfall of spectators, volunteers and competitors from the Olympic Park; whilst shops and restaurants in London's West End are reporting up to 70% declines in revenue. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

Not my idea of fun!

The solution? Find an independent fashion retailer or a clothes brand that recruits the right kind of staff (interested in clothes, style and delivering great customer service) and the take the time to train them well. This reduces the number of outlets you need to visit and increases (not decreases) the chances of finding something you like. I was recently in Birmingham with a client and we went into LK Bennet. Excellent service and a glass of fizz! The staff knew their business and were genuinely interested in my client.

relaxed shopper

No stress

 

 

The ultimate style accessory

Put on a pair of sunglasses and suddenly you are Jackie Onassis or Grace Kelly. Well, perhaps not, but they do confer a sense of glamour on the wearer. Apart from the practical benefits of keeping the sun out of your eyes, which prevents you from squinting, thus causing fine lines, there are also very good at hiding older eyes and a tired face. I’m speaking from experience! Unless you have very small features a pair of large sunglasses can look stylish and, at a stroke, make your outfit more appealing. Yes – really!

As we are now ‘officially’ into Spring we should be having more sunshine. As I live in the North of England this isn’t always the case however I would be lost without my sunglasses. When it comes to sunglasses you really are spoiled for choice. They come in all shades (no pun intended), colours and prices.

older woman

Timeless glamour

Chanel black whit arms

Chanel classics

The Channel brand offers good styling and provided you take care of them (no throwing on the back seat of the car or leaving on the sand in the mid-day sun – holidays obviously!) they will last. They are an investment and should be treated as such. That means when not worn they should be kept in their case.

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Me wearing sunglasses from Mango

You do not have to spend a fortune on sunglasses. The pair I am wearing in the photo above I bought last year for £18.99 at Mango in York. I had forgotten my Chanels (which I have had for 8 years) and can’t bear strong sunlight in my eyes.

black prada classic

Prada Classic Black

The above shape suits most shaped faces and if black is too strong for you try in dark brown.

Classic Ray Ban black

Ray Ban

Ray Bans, I have read, started the demand for sunglasses in the UK. The quality is very good and if you are not comfortable wearing large sunglasses they are just the thing. If the solid colour doesn’t appeal why not consider a lighter frame, as shown below.

ray bans

More Ray Bans!

 vintage shape

Vintage shape – very classic

tom ford

Sunglasses by Tom Ford – variation on the vintage theme

Unless you know exactly what you are looking for you can’t buy sunglasses on-line. You need to try them on. If you live near to TK Maxx they often have a wide variety of styles. You can pick up a designer brand at a reduced cost. Avoid ‘gimmicky’ frames and mirror lenses. They are not stylish and will get you noticed for all the wrong reasons.

How to keep warm in Spring

There’s no doubt that our weather here in the UK is weird to say the least. A few days ago I was in my local town and the temperature was 13 degrees. Oh good I thought, Spring must be around the corner. The next day it was 2 degrees! This unpredictability can make it a nightmare when planning what to wear the next day. Do you stick to the winter coat you are sick of the sight of, or choose a lighter weight jacket?

One way to ensure you keep warm is that fabulous perennial – the scarf. Large, small, silk, cashmere or cotton you can have a scarf for every occasion and every temperature.

blue blanket

Blanket Scarf

A blanket scarf is ideal for keeping you warm on chilly Spring days. Make sure your bottom half is kept slim or you may look too bulky. It can be carried over your arm if the temperature rises.

street style pale blue

Street style

blue liberty

Liberty silk

chanel pink

Chanel silk

Never underestimate the ability of a light silk scarf to keep you warm. If you become too warm then remove it and tie it around the strap of your handbag.

orang and white silk

Fabulous with a white shirt or dark jacket

The simple introduction of colour and a different fabric really can transform what you are wearing. Experiment with tying a scarf in different ways. If you feel your efforts are not producing the right effect there are plenty of infinity scarves around. Just put it over your head et voila!

blue patterned

Infinity scarf

It is possible to look stylish and keep warm this Spring. I must say I can’t live without a scarf. Larger scarves or a pashmina are excellent for travelling. Or is it just me finds railway stations drafty and air travel chilly?

Your clothes say a lot about you

white jacket and bag

Relaxed and confident?

Your appearance communicates a message about you to everyone you meet. All clothes convey a message. We tend to think in stereotypes. We see a smart tailored jacket and good accessories and think successful business women. A too short skirt with overly made up face? Well, what do you think? Not helpful, but sadly true. We are visual beings and we take in information through our eyes. For me, the above image says ‘I don’t need to try too hard and I’m happy in my skin’. It may say something very different to you.

sweater and shades

So chic and in control?

dapne silver jeans

Style with attitude!

The older model above exudes confidence and a ‘what do I care’ attitude. Of course it helps that she is reasonably tall and very slim!

safe and sureplaying safe

Playing it safe?

There is nothing wrong with the two outfits above. You may see women dressed like this on every high street in the UK – and elsewhere. The outfits shown don’t say ‘look at me’ or give any kind of definite message. Perhaps that’s the point. Many older women do not want to ‘stand out’. If you are serious about rejuvenating your style you can’t be content to fade into the background. The two simply don’t mix.

eccnetric - good

Eccentric? I think This works, despite the mix of fabrics.

eccentric bad

Eccentric or simply messy?

While style is a very personal expression, being stylish requires some effort and thought. Dress head to toe in designer bling, or animal print, and you look as if you’ve made the effort (albeit in a desperate way!) but given it no thought.

layered look

Balanced and poised?

When you get dressed tomorrow morning stop for a moment and consider your outfit. If you were a perfect stranger looking at you what message do you think you are giving?

The trench coat

short burberry

Short Burberry – timeless

pale trench

Pale trench fabulous casual look

Timeless and classic the trench coat is just right for this time of year, when we are no longer freezing but still need an outer layer. There is something both enduring and alluring about the trench coat. All those films over the years with Hollywood stars, both female & male, wearing a trench coat with turned up collar and sunglasses. Will wearing one make you look like Audrey Hepburn or the female lead in a James Bond film? Probably not. You will however have an item of clothing which is stylish, versatile and absolutely feminine.

classic trench

Casual yet chic

new look trench

For those on a budget – trench by New Look

If the thought of tying the belt doesn’t appeal then leave it untied. Leave it open or closed. Wear it with jeans, capri pants or a skirt – the trench coat adapts perfectly. Accessorise with a clutch bag or over-sized satchel. Jump into your loafers or a smart pair of heels. The trench is the ultimate in versatility. You can buy it in different colours too, so there is no need to restrict yourself. I have a bright pink one which always gets attention, but then I am a bit of a show off!

silk burberry

Silk Burberry – I wish!

Powder blue – or not?

boring blue

Too much!

Oh dear! Pale blue is everywhere at the moment heralding in Spring and demonstrating that a pastel pallette is the new ‘must have ‘. There is a school of thought (mainly younger stylists) that say older women should keep away from pastels. If the pastels in question are creams, pale taupe and soft greys I don’t agree. These colours can look very chic. Whilst I’m not against the pale blue in itself, if you are over 50 you need to be careful in case you drift into frumpy waters. If you have grey hair you can look very faded especially with fair skin. I was reading an article last week about pale blues and saw an item of knitwear described as serenity blue. I don’t know about you but that conquers up an image of a home for the elderly! Do you really want to be walking about in a shade called serenity blue.

with pale blue

The above outfit looks good because the style of the knitted jacket is contemporary and it is worn with dark jeans and a white top.

pale blue gold pants

Very stylish 

The plain sweater above is elevated from being boring when teamed with gold textured trousers and heels. Also the dark blue bag adds some depth.

If you are determined to have some pale blue in your wardrobe – and it can look very good with a light tan – then please avoid the head to toe look. Wear with white jeans, denims or a ‘statement’ skirt. That is don’t team with a classic A-line because you may end up looking very old fashioned and I’m assuming that if you are reading my blog this is something you don’t want.