Over 50? It really is time to leave the comfort zone

By Jan Shure, June 25, 2010
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You can’t turn the pages of a glossy magazine these days without seeing a gorgeous, 50-plus woman proving that hitting a certain age does not mean invisibility and elastic waistbands. There was Anna Wintour in Carolina Herrera at the recent Council of Fashion Designers of America awards; Meryl Streep at the Oscars looking fabulous in a white draped gown; Katherine Bigelow, 59 also at the Oscars, in indigo YSL; Lulu, 61, with yet another terrific haircut…

The list goes on, but away from Planet Celeb, real women, babyboomers (perhaps we should call them Generation B) perceive the high street as hostile. They have issues finding clothes that are fabulous, modern, yet still appropriate, or they are terrified of straying outside their comfort zone.

As regular readers may recall, in November, image consultant Cyndy Lessing and I launched a website, 60&Sensational, to help women of — why not, Generation B — find fabulous clothing and advice on make-up, skincare and hair.

That and my role at the JC means the plea I hear most often is from women aged over 50 asking where to find fabulous, fashionable yet appropriate clothes. The really good news is that for every woman prepared to look past the mini-skirts, shorts and body-con dresses, there are gorgeous clothes to be found — even on the high street.

To prove it, I took three such Jewish women to Fenwick’s, Brent Cross, to see if departure from their comfort zone was possible. Vicki Obrart, a JP and school governor, confessed to “too often taking a classic path”.

She is slender enough to wear skinny jeans, so we started with a pair by Paige and teamed them first with a long black T-shirt by Miss Sixty, and a cropped, ribbon-trimmed black jacket by Day, Birger Mikkelsen. For some low-key glamour, we then paired the jeans with a sequin-scattered top by French Connection.

“I adored the jacket but I would have teamed it with more classic trousers or even a short black skirt. I never thought of the jeans but they were great,” said Vicki. We also added some gladiator sandals but, unlike most of those around which are sky-high or totally flat, we found some by Pied a Terre with a very wearable heel.

Toni Fine, a London-based watercolourist, also confessed to safety-first in choosing clothes. We mixed well-cut black linen trousers, with a long black camisole and added an eye-popping orange linen jacket by Viyella, and a bold animal-print kaftan by Gerry Weber.

“I learned a lot from having clothes chosen for me, which were not what I would have chosen,” she said.

“The short jacket proved eye catching and flattering and got me out of the baggy, ‘safe’ clothes I usually wear. The bright orange was a colour I have never worn but will certainly consider in the future.”

Our third babyboomer was Cathryn Brichto, who works as an actress between raising money for a Fellowship in Israel Studies at Oxford in the name of her late husband, Rabbi Sidney Brichto.

With a great figure and incredibly youthful look, Cathryn can take her pick of the high street. She said: “I have no problem finding clothes but love to be shown a new way and be given a shake-up away from a tried and tested safety zone. And I need help on shoes — they can make or break an outfit but I find new styles very confusing.”

She loved the cream carrot-top trousers and vest by Mango but said: “I would never have tried them on and I would not have known what shoes to put with them, but loved the beige suede gladiators. The whole outfit made me feel glamorous.”

As for the Hobbs stripey skirt, she says: “I would never have looked at it but I loved it on. And I loved the colour combo of yellow and purple which I would never have thought of.”

Last updated: 12:21pm, June 25 2010