I guess that I “dress to live” rather than “live to dress” – it’s all about function. Most days I walk the dog and stay in the same clothes to work from home. So: walking trousers, t-shirts, boots, and that essential waterproof coat. They are practical (lots of pockets) and washable. These are the clothes I associate with proper travelling – exploring – which is when I’m at my happiest. I always wear a pair of sunglasses, but not as a fashion statement – I have little colouring in my eyes which makes them sensitive to light.
Next on my list of requirements comes comfort. I won’t wear anything that chafes, itches or digs. Or shoes that give me blisters or corns. And I don’t much like tights – I started my career working for a company that insisted that women wore skirts and therefore tights – so for me they are a symbol of oppression! Opaques get a free pass though on account of their gothnicity.
I do have a need to super-coordinate. It’s genetic – my Dad has his underpants dyed so they match his outfits. He found they don’t tend to sell them in brown or green… I’m not quite that bad, but I do avoid wearing colours like navy or brown myself as I find them too hard to match. And like the Queen, I do almost always wear black shoes, to assist in the coordination process. I was brave and tried some Kate Middleton nudes this summer-with matching handbag.
With all my requirements, clothes shopping is time-consuming and depressing, undertaken only when absolutely necessary.
Beyond that I’m mostly trying to avoid faux pas. Following Trinny & Susannah’s advice for, and I quote “big tits” (c.2002) by avoiding high necklines, chunky knits and polo necks. Which make them look “like balloons semi-filled with water”. I know from a Colour Me Beautiful consultation (c.2000) that I’m either autumn or spring… So need to wear muted colours regardless of what the fashion industry is telling me that week.
When I do venture out, the final objective is to find things that don’t make me look like an air hostess, clown, hooker, or a drag queen…
A few years ago I had my style and colour palette assessed. All good – I could wear the things I like and it explained a lot about some buys which never got off the hanger until the day they’re given to a friend or go to charity.
I’ll happily spend more on classic pieces – they’re an investment. Carefully chosen to go with what I already have but adapted for whatever’s trending, with the help of different accessories.
My classic buys are never high fashion but I feel great every time I wear them so in my opinion that’s value.
My current evening favourite is a pair of tuxedo style trousers, teamed with a navy and black floaty blouse – both Vivienne Westwood Red Label. Not cheap but so individual you’d never find anything like it anywhere else. You can always find something to fall in love with at VW in my opinion. Remember Carrie Bradshaw’s dress in Sex in the City?
As the fashions change with the seasons so does my wardrobe, but not dramatically. I’ll look for a couple of ideas from the new season to update my look. I’ll buy a just a few things at a price that won’t hurt if I relegate them to house-cleaning outfits next season.
Sales are shopped carefully. I think good quality and good styling are even more important as you get older. I’ll always look at Reiss, Karen Millen and Whistles; their clothes suit me, have a little something extra and don’t date fast. But they’re a bit pricey for the fashion season updates. I always keep my eye on Banana Republic too (online they regularly discount) and Next for my season updates.
I’ll buy my undies, stockings and tights from TKMaxx but don’t rummage for anything else.
My style? I think it’s classic, modernistic and above all I aim for glamorous.
Here’s the thing. I’m the woman who accidentally bought 15 vintage Kimonos from Osaka, Japan, off Ebay. And I wear them. (I was expecting to be outbid on most of them – then I wasn’t.)
I don’t read magazines for advice on clothes, except to look at the Observer’s style page because it’s there. But I’ll see something in a shop window or an email – or TKMaxx when I go in for some bargain knickers – and I love it so much I’ve got to have it.
Occasionally I realise I’m completely “off trend”. A couple of weeks ago I was on King’s Road wearing orange and fuschia, went into a juice bar that’s so cool I nearly froze, and realised that all the hipsters in there were in grey and black. I hadn’t been planning to buy clothes at all this year because I’m putting everything into building my business. But I had to buy some Italian togs for a project I’m working on with Peroni, so when I dropped into TKMaxx Kensington, I got a deeply discounted black coat, a black sweater and grey trousers. Italian. Sorted.
To keep it simple my own rules – just for me – are:
- In the sale, once or twice a year depending on how much I’ve got in the bank, I get one piece from Issey Miyake’s Pleats Please collection because it’ll match everything else from his collection – and jeans. (Or I see what I can pick up second hand from Ebay. Sometimes there’s a bargain.)
- I get shoes from United Nude as they are so crazy they are never either in or out of fashion. (I wait for the sale.)
- I stick to one third of the colour spectrum (orange through to purple + black and grey) and whatever I buy will go with whatever I own already. And jeans. If I wear green close to my face I look like a corpse; so I don’t. (I’ve only got kimonos in black, pink and orange.)
Wear lipstick and smile a lot so people look at your face first.
You’re allowed to break everyone’s rules if you see something that’s so fabulous you’ve just got to have it. If you find something you love to bits, just get it. You can make it match something, somehow. That’s how I ended up with the floor length, navy wool, pink velvet and gold brocade military coat I’ll be wearing all winter.