Over the last few years, I have been somewhat obsessed with avoiding the mutton-dressed-as-lamb syndrome. A surefire way of looking old is to dress like you're 20 years younger than you really are.
I'm not suggesting shopping in Fella Hamilton as soon as your neck begins to crinkle. But it can be trainwreck if you don't adjust your wardrobe choices as you get older.
It's a belief that has really crystallised for me over the last few months as I've observed two of the women in my office - one with horror and the other with admiration. There's probably a decade between them, but the older of the two (who I would guess to be in her mid 50s) is by far the more elegant, stylish and youthful woman.
She looks immaculate every day, dressing in solid colour - usually black, white or a great coffee-hued brown - slim fitting pants, skirts, simple tops and coats. The thing I most like about the way she puts herself together is that she wears funky clothes, with interesting tailoring, and without fussy details. She finishes it off with good quality but low-key jewellery, and her grey blonde is always beautifully groomed.
Her clothes would look great on women of any age. They work because they disguise some of the things that I think you should start to cover up as you get older. Even if you are in fantastic shape ... just take a look at Ellen Barkin* in Oceans Thirteen for evidence.
I suspect that if evening dresses were considered suitable office workwear, my other work colleague would be swishing around the photocopier wearing something like Ellen's gown here. I suspect that this woman is up for any trend going, as long as it is tight, garish, low-cut and flashy. It's not a good look for the office, especially if you have already faced the Big 4-0 in the eye (and stared it down).
Dressing in the clothes designed for 15 to 25 year old girls doesn't mean you'll look young. Rather, it just draws attention to the bits that aren't so taut and springy any more. Much better to throw people off the scent and play up the better bits of the aging bod ("Hey - look at my great shoes!").
*For the record, I think Ellen Barkin is a terrific actress. She looked fabulous in Someone Like You - and in the scenes in which she wore a cardie over a fetchingly fitted sheath dress in Oceans Thirteen.