“I just feel invisible!” a 50-plus friend said to me the other day. That really got me thinking about what it means to get older.
We reach our 50s and something changes. It’s all very well to try and keep fit, stay trim and keep on working, but the reality is that all these things become harder. Your knees start creaking and other joints give a twinge or two, and perhaps you’re not quite so inclined to go to the gym anymore, or join sporting clubs, so it’s harder to keep slim (especially when the hormones go haywire too).
As if to add insult to injury, over the years our style might also stagnate. You might suddenly find yourself becoming a bit, well ‘uber mumsy’, a little too practical to be considered stylish, and this may be compounded by the fact that people begin to overlook you. Girly versions of who you once were seem to get all the attention while you might be ignored, and you begin to put it down to your age.
It happens. That’s life. It’s not the end of the world, but after 50, from a visual point of view, you can start to feel a bit, well … invisible.
The good news is that when you’ve lived on this planet for half a century you’ll have come to accept certain things about your body. The things that you can’t change, and the things that you can. You understand your body shape; whether it’s your hips, your butt or your tummy that you need to conceal and if it’s your legs that you can show off, and you realise that body shape is often more about genetics than lifestyle.
There’s no need to sink into invisibility when you reach 50, or get stuck in a fashion rut, because with a bit of help we can look younger than our years and still remain elegant and stylish. It’s no good chasing youth as if it were a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow but there are lots of ways to look great after 50.
When Nikki asked me to write about my style journey from 20y-something to 50-something I thought it would be easy. I’m no model, I’m just a normal woman (a blogger and freelance writer), but I thought my dress sense was probably ok. Pah! What a shock I got when I really started looking around at what I thought was stylish – and actually isn’t anymore.
Seriously in need of some help, I approached Kirstie from W.Lane (Previously Wombat) a store that focuses on fashionable clothes for women baby boomers, and she luckily came to the rescue, took me in hand and put some looks together to teach me how to not be invisible after 50.
The pictures I found from my youth also made me realise how little style I had then, and I only got away with things because I was young and just a little outrageous. Back in the day, I could wear anything with aplomb and it didn’t really matter and I didn’t care, it seems. In a very old photo below, taken on a night out in Jogjakarta, Indonesia when we were backpacking I didn’t have anything clean to wear so I wore Dave’s lanky shirt tied up with a scarf I’d probably bought that afternoon in a market. The hat. Omigosh. Where did I get that hat? Don’t ask.
Almost 30 years later and how we’ve changed. Older, wiser and a little more respectful in dress sense maybe.
These days dressing well not only takes some thought, but it’s also the putting it all together that needs consideration – which is why I’m a Styling You fan and my hat goes off to Nikki for being such a natural style icon and making it all seem so easy.
But it’s amazing what you realise about yourself when you pay attention to your clothes and looking at photos is a wonderful way to take stock.
Or take shock.
In the photos below I’ve learnt a couple of things.
When I was 24 I had long permed hair. I tried to emulate the Pre-Raphaelite look and I enjoyed a bit of bling, floaty Indian dresses and jewel colours. I used to use a henna rinse that made my hair a Titian colour and then it suited me. Now, I’m not so sure I could do that because of the grey coming through, and blond highlights are a more effective way (for me) to hide the grey. Some people are happy with grey, but I’ve learnt that I’m not.
I’m still drawn to jewel colours, and again, if they suit you, why should you stop wearing them as you get older? There’s a poem that goes something like, “When I’m old I’ll wear purple,” and why not if it suits you. In the picture below right, at Dotti, beautiful and stylish Cassy (wish I could wear a black beret worn at a raffish angle like that) showed me this lollipop crew neck jumper that I though would be just right for a rather grey South West day and would be something to bring colour to a pale winter face. It was $49.95 and the lavender jeans $39.95.
These days evenings are more likely to see me dressed in black. Either a long dress with some silvery bling costume jewellery or slim black pants and a longish top to hide my bum, below left. Boring really. But you know what I’m thinking might improve things? Black beret, like Cassy? Maybe I could …
I really like the British, M & S, Per Una range. I think it’s quite clever, see left below, how I managed to merge in with the flowers in the garden this day at Aravina Wine Estate in South West Australia – or was I just trying to be invisible? Apart from that the look strikes me as a bit ‘uber mumsy’. I’ve cut the shoes out of the picture. You’ll see them in the picture on the right. They’re awful.
But I do like both these dresses, . In hindsight the one on the right makes me look ‘tent-ish’ around the hips. Little bolero tops are a great way to hide upper arms if you’re not comfortable showing them. The sandals I’m wearing should be outlawed. But they’re comfy, (there’s the 50 in me speaking). Should I have been carrying a white handbag? Does it even matter?
The sort of shoes I’d like to buy, and would have teetered about in happily in the past, are what an old friend of mine used to call ‘Tarts’ Trotters.’ Oh how I love these lovely lacy fuschia high heels ($69.99) from Betts, but to tell you the truth I wouldn’t last two minutes in them now. So dream on Cinderella. Instead I’d go for the more practical black ankle boots ($169.99) on the right.
Daytime wear for me is generally casual. I like soft, lightweight cardis, and easy to wear cut off pants or jeans, and although the look below is easy to wear I think the boring beige idea is definitely a no-no if you want to be noticed rather than invisible, although I particularly like this scarf and wear it with lots of things.
How much more stand-out-ish is this beigey look below? Kirstie suggested using cream, mink and black to look more eye catching. I love the little rouched bolero ($79.99), teamed with the lace cami ($49.99), Sateen chino pants ($69.99) and a multi stone resin necklace ($29.99). The shoes are Airflex, Expresso pictured above.
I walked past this Jacket at Just Jeans (below left) and lusted over it, thinking I’d wear it with navy pants to something like a conference or business meeting if I wanted to make an impact. It’s a bit power dressing don’t you think? That was all the rage in the 1980s (Do you remember the series Dallas and all those big hair do’s and padded shoulders?).
I’m not sure if I’d wear the stripey top ($29.95) on its own but you wouldn’t be invisible in that jacket – no siree
Then I tried a stripey jacket over a red top at W.Lane and thought the horizontal stripes were ok as long as they didn’t meet up in the middle, but I think the overall look is eye catching and appealing, ideal for the office perhaps?
My lovely 20 year old daughter talked me into buying this dress from Sabotage, and although it’s shorter than I’d normally buy I’ve ended up wearing it a lot and I love it, which goes to show (I think) that you can still wear shorter dresses when you get older. And why not – as long as they’re not pelmet skirts?
This picture has reminded me how I need to cover up the top part of my arms now that I’m over 50. If there’s anywhere on a woman’s body that ages it has to be the upper arms. I guess the flesh coloured sandals are ok, but I think they could be improved. The wooden beads were a present from my niece who had been doing voluntary work in Uganda where she’d bought them to help a women’s craft initiative. I like wearing bits n bobs that mean a lot to you, it’s like having a security blanket.
Anyway, thanks for reading and I hope some of these ideas resonate with you. Like I said, I’m no model, just an ordinary woman trying to make the most of the cards I’ve been dealt with.
Most of all, I believe the best way to remain visible as you get older is to celebrate your age, wisdom and life experience. Rethink your look if needs be and then stride out with confidence, but most of all keep fit, healthy and happy. So get out of your glad rags, put some old clothes on, oil the knees and go climb a rock – or whatever!
Do you think your age makes your style invisible? What has your style journey looked like?
Johanna Castro is a freelance writer and travel expert. Her Travel and Lifestyle blog “ZIGAZAG” encourages people to “Live for the Moment, Love Adventure and Do Something Awesome.” To learn more about How to be a Well Fed blogger download her free E-book. Jo’s written for 40+ print publications, has self published a children’s novel for charity, lived in 11 different countries, is married to a gorgeous geologist and has two well travelled, grown up children.
Editor’s note: I’m very grateful this week to have some fabulous guest blog posts to publish here on Styling You as I get over my US adventure and a big combination of jetlag and post-holiday blues.