Meet Heather Boal-Russell, a fashion editor
I live in the country, so day-to-day my preferred look is casual but with a bit of smart thrown in. Last winter I bought a tweed jacket from Zara with a wonderful pale blue and grey striped lining and faux suede on the collar and elbows. I just love it and wear it with straight-legged jeans or trousers, white t-shirts or shirts and flat shoes or boots.
I often buy trousers from Gap and I purchase shoes from the children’s section (a good tip if your feet are size 6 or under – children’s shoes have no VAT, so are cheaper. One of my favourite pairs of boots came from Jones children’s section).
I rediscovered Mango a couple of years ago. If you like affordable but directional style with a little bit of a twist then Mango has a lot to offer. I have a dress from there in midnight blue which seems to work for day and night and it has a relaxed but not too revealing neckline (I am not one for showing cleavage).
I have a great pair of shoe-boots that I purchased on holiday in Turkey. My daughter bought me wedge heels last year while on holiday in Italy (a theme perhaps?) and for a daytime non-heel wearer they were a revelation; so comfortable but with the knack of making you feel smarter and a bit more elegant. I have been wearing the shoe-boots a lot in the short time I have owned them. They are just the right side of trendy but (hopefully) not ‘muttony’. And because they are light, I can wear them all day without getting tired legs. Wonderful!
Although I don’t go to many formal dos, I do find smart evening wear irresistible and have more of it in my wardrobe than I probably should. On the other hand, some of it has been there for years and still looks good, so as long as you go for something fairly classic I reason that these are investment buys.
I picked up a Phase Eight dress in the sales a year or two back, and it is beautifully made, as you would expect from this brand. The material is stretchy so it is very comfortable to wear, and the cut and lining are such that you can relax because everything seems to be held in where you most want it to be. Oh, and it fits snugly under the arms. Sometimes I don’t feel like showing my arms off so I will put a little bolero cardi on over the top, or a shawl around my shoulders. But in a way it is a shame to cover up the lovely proportions of this dress. It always makes me feel grown up when I wear it – and, pretentious as it sounds, sophisticated.
I have a lovely bargain buy in my evening wear collection which I purchased from Ted Baker in the sales. Ted Baker is a brand that initially looks a bit daunting for all but the most confident older woman, but there are some real gems to be had, and now you can get it not just from the eponymous high street shops, but also from concessions in House of Fraser. I really do urge you to have a look. It’s not cheap, but some of the tailoring is wonderful.
Animal print: we might be straying into mutton territory here. Is it or isn’t it suitable for women of a certain age? Too try-hard? A little bit, how shall we say, common? I agree that with any kind of animal print you can be on dodgy ground. But I also think that, provided you choose carefully, it can look wonderful on the more mature woman. And it was my 22-year-old daughter, who works in the fashion industry, who steered me in the direction of a shirt dress in TK Maxx a year or two ago. I bought it for a song, quite hesitant about the leopard print and whether I would actually wear it. And I have worn it and worn it and worn it. I love it! It is so, so comfortable and – oh the joy of dresses – only requires the addition of a pair of black boots (my favourite, from the aforementioned Jones children’s section) and a black jacket or trench to send you out into the world.
Try these high street brands
Zara. wonderful styling, good quality and reasonable prices. Not so good for the more curvaceous or statuesque lady out there (they’re Spanish).
Mango. good for modern styling, good quality and very fair prices.
H & M. the shops are a bit daunting: loud, noisy, crammed full of stuff only teenagers would (or should) wear. But some of my best purchases have come from here. Great for 100% cotton shirts and tops and do take a look at their coats; I bought an amazing leopard print coat with faux-leather stand-up collar for under £40 a couple of seasons back, and I’m always being asked where it’s from.
M & S. I know it’s a cliché but where would we be without M & S? This season they have some fantastic things – ask my sister, who spent a very large sum on a very lovely new wardrobe this autumn. Everything from wearable stretch dresses à la Diane Von Furstenberg to great patent high-heeled loafers, and the accessories are brilliant.
House of Fraser: so much wonderful stuff under one roof. And such beautiful shop floors (mostly)!