I have been asked this question many times – how has fashion really changed for you in your 40s? I think the natural progression of our lives is akin to a closed flower bud progressing to a flower in full bloom. As we age, our petals slowly unfurl and by the time we reach our forties our lives resemble a multi-layered flower. Many of us have families, children, relationships, aging parents, high-pressure jobs, health issues and other aspects that are part and parcel of a life in full bloom with all its beauty, responsibilities and complications. This natural progression definitely has an impact on our fashion sensibilities. While I agree that age is only a number, my fashion preferences have definitely evolved over the years and hopefully for the better. In my forties, I have found the following to hold true:
1. A higher comfort level/acceptance of natural body shape: By the time you arrive in your forties, you have lived with your body for long enough to know a few things for certain. Genetics is a powerful force and acceptance is a necessary happiness-inducing life skill. We all have a natural body shape and they all have their pros and cons. For me, the key to fashion happiness is to recognize your natural body shape, accept it, and then dress in a way to accentuate your obvious advantages and draw attention away from your perceived disadvantages. For example, I am pear-shaped and my top half is smaller than my bottom half. I rarely struggle with finding tops that fit but it is considerably harder to find a pair of trousers that fit well. I have now accepted that I will never fit into a pencil dress off the shelf – for a pencil dress to fit me well, will always require alterations to be made. I think by the time the forties arrive, you just accept that certain styles will always work, will sometimes work and some will never work. I truly believe that this personal knowledge of what works for you is the holy grail of being well dressed, and the chance of finding it in your forties is significantly higher than ever before.
2. Comfort may not always be a priority but it is definitely a pre-thought rather than an afterthought: My life has definitely included uncomfortable fashion moments where I have chosen to wear items that became more uncomfortable with every passing moment and finally the discomfort has ruined the party mood. The true toll of an uncomfortable fashion decision is often felt the next day with bruised skin and painful feet bearing witness to your folly. In my forties, discomfort, cold and pain are not worth the fashion statement, no matter how glorious. If I am going to be on my feet all day – then no heels for me and if it’s going to be a cold day – I carry an appropriate jacket even if it impedes my style statement. In the course of my fourth decade, I am far more practical in my fashion choices and happier for it.
3. A more adventurous approach to style: Contrary to popular belief, I think many of us become more adventurous in our readiness to try new styles in our forties. I find that I am far more open to experimenting with fashion than ever before. A few good reasons may explain this adventurous streak. a) peer pressure doesn’t carry the weight it may have in earlier years. What will my friends think is no longer relevant – my good friends will be honest and supportive and what I think is most important. b) Your own ability to judge your fashion choices is far more astute – I know when something looks terrible and no amount of desire to be ‘on trend’ will let me step out in it. Therefore, I now make it a point to at least try on shapes and silhouettes that I may not have done in the past and often I am pleasantly surprised with the results.
4. An unapologetic acceptance of your personal style statement: I think we all have personal preferences in terms of the type of fashion we are drawn to – a personal signature fashion style that we are most likely to exhibit without consciously trying something different. I have always been drawn to floral girlie styles or overtly ethnic styles in Indian wear and this constitutes the DNA of my personal style statement. I am no longer apologetic for being drawn to floral numbers when friends say, ‘That looks like something you would wear’. Yes, it is something I would wear because I enjoy wearing it – it’s really that simple.
5. Willingness to pay more for quality: When I was in my twenties, I had a hard time understanding why a cashmere sweater cost four times the amount of another sweater or why a feather down jacket was so much more expensive. I still love a bargain, but now I am willing to pay more for quality because it matters more to me. The good news is that in your forties you may also be in a better financial position than in your twenties (I fully understand this may not always be the case) and have more disposable income to buy better quality. In my forties, I finally understand that certain things cost more because they provide a greater benefit such as increased warmth, and it is my choice to pay more for that extra benefit.
Personally, I am enjoying fashion as a ‘thing’ more in my forties than ever before. We are lucky to live in a world that is far more accepting of the idea of ‘female fashion choice’ than any of the generations before. Forties fashion is just as pleasurable as fashion at other ages because the fundamentals told true at any age – wear what you enjoy and your personal fashion statement is unique and yours to make.
In the lookbook below, I am wearing an A-line dress – I enjoy wearing that shape as it always works well for my pear-shaped body. I love flat boots as the comfort they provide in walking around town is second to none. These beauties are made from a stretch fabric that clings to my leg and doesn’t slide down – making this a ‘winning boot’ as far as I am concerned. I have layered my dress with a wool turtleneck, sleeveless coat and a blanket scarf (I love the juxtapositioning of the polka dots and stripes) to stay warm and avoid a bulky coat, which I am hoping to pack away for many months in the near future.
I hope you enjoy this post (feedback would be welcome) and have a great week ahead. As always, thank you for taking the time to read my blog.
Clothes and Accessories:
Dress – Stradivarius (currently £12.59)
Sleeveless Coat – Zara
Boots – Massimo Dutti
Blanket Scarf – Paul Smith (similar)
Necklace – Coach