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Janet Reeder Fashion Agony Aunt: ‘Save me! I’ve got no style’

While some people know instinctively what makes them look good there are so many others who stand in front of the wardrobe with that ‘caught in the headlights look’ wondering what the heck they should wear.

Well, having spent many years as a fashion journalist, I have the experience and expertise to be a fashion agony aunt and I’m aiming to help. Whether you need advice on how to dress for a first date to how to put together a capsule wardrobe I’ll be leading you into some fabulous fashion adventures.

Now for my first column… I have chosen to decode that elusive quality called ‘style’ for one  40-something who feels she hasn’t got any!

Q. I am in my 40s and to be honest I have little interest in fashion. What I would really like to have is my own ‘style’. I’d like to look cool and modern but not have to think too much about what I am wearing. The trouble is, I don’t know where to begin. Can you help?

A. Every so often someone will write a book on this subject – usually, a French supermodel who’d frankly look good in a bin liner. She will put forward the theory that all you need is a capsule wardrobe of loafers, a navy blazer and a white shirt and/or stripy tee shirt for day and a LBD (little black dress) for evening. I’m all for black clothes but the blazer white shirt combo is strictly for those of tall elegant proportions. On the rest of us it screams ‘fares please’ and let’s face it that is not what ‘style’ is all about.

On the other end of the spectrum is someone like Iris Apfel the 90-year-old grand dame of style for whom more is more. Big black glasses, heaps of designer jewellery and flowing colourful designer clothes are her trademark and she looks incredible but not everyone can dress like they’re off to a carnival every day and carry it off.

The key to style is self-expression. Don’t think about age or weight, or anything like that. Style has no boundaries

So probably, like most of us, you’d like to be somewhere between the two. Put together but with some stylish flourishes.

Firstly I’d like you to think about your personality. Do you like being smart/groomed? Or do you prefer to be more casual? Do you like dresses or are you a trouser person? Are you always rushing about or are you the sort of person who always takes the car? Are you sporty, or not? 

The key to style is self-expression. And don’t think about age or weight, or anything like that. Style has no boundaries.

Secondly, get your hair cut at a really good hairdresser. Stylish hair can make anything you wear look good. Don’t think that because you’re pushing 50 you can’t have long hair, in fact short hair can make women look more masculine and asexual which again isn’t what we want because style is nothing if not sexy.

Thinking sexy…start with great underwear. Bin greying old bras and mismatched lingerie, not because anyone is going to see them but for you alone. You buy yourself good underwear because you deserve it.

Invest in key pieces as the building blocks of your wardrobe, so if you like wearing trousers why not a gorgeous trouser suit. Maybe in bright jewel colours, or velvet?

Then think of how you’d like to look. Casual, effortlessly put together or high maintenance chic. Vintage babe, or vampy Goth. The choice is yours!

Invest in key pieces as the building blocks of your wardrobe, so if you like wearing trousers why not a gorgeous trouser suit. Maybe in bright jewel colours, or velvet?

I’d see a good jacket as essential but it doesn’t have to be boring. Don’t just stick to black or navy for example, but what about animal print that you can wear with a black dress or jeans?  Add red heels for dramatic effect!

Of course everyone needs a black dress. It can be long midi or above the knee but stop it from being boring with interesting jewellery, fishnet tights and metallic ankle boots.

When you want easy to wear style: black tailored dress, £85 and jacket, £170, Kaya Turello

For daywear, you should look at dresses. The wrap is back and looks great with heels or trainers, but check out less formal looks that you can just pull on at a moment’s notice without even thinking.

Ten ways to pile on the style

Get a cool haircut

Try out a new hairdresser for this. Often the person you’ve been going to for years will do your hair in the same old same old way without thinking. Don’t be afraid to go up to someone who’s hair you admire and ask them where they go and more importantly which hairdresser they see, then book an appointment.

Buy a new coat

This should cost as much as you can afford. Sure you can fall back on the old puffa when the weather is really cruel but a gorgeous winter coat is an investment. You should feel fabulous every time you wear it. If you’re on a budget though, then Zara is a good place to hunt down a stylish winter coat.

Affordable style at high street favourite, Zara: Limited edition coat, £129
Invest in a cuddly teddy coat,, £815

Rethink your jewellery

Some jewellery can be ageing or scream ‘boring’. Hunt down vintage costume jewellery – even better rifle your gran’s jewellery box for eye-catching pieces. Brooches are back so stick them on a sweater.

Earrings to talk £239

Buy black

Black can still look edgy and modern as long as it doesn’t take the shape of a cheap work suit/jacket. The LBD should be a wardrobe staple. For good black tailoring take a look at Cos and check out designer Rick Owens.

Black tailoring is always worth investing in: Jacket, Cos, £150

When in doubt do ethnic

Going to a party? Summer wedding? Ethnic isn’t just for holidays, it’s the perfect way to set your spirit free. A good brand to check out here is Free People and Rixo, and if you have a bigger budget L A Double J.

Invest in funky footwear

You’ll want to invest in trainers. These go with everything. They are the fashion accessory every woman can do but don’t ignore heels. Sometimes, there’s nothing to pep up an old dress like a classy pair of stilettos. Designer if possible like Jimmy Choo. Don’t just stick to trusty blacks and neutrals but step forward in metallic ankle boots and animal print sandals for example.

Flaunt your feet in a pair of luxurious Rosamund Muir silver ankle boots, £425

Wear shades

It doesn’t matter that it’s the darkest depths of winter. Invest in a gorgeous pair of designer sunglasses. Don’t just buy boring tortoiseshell but take a look at exciting frames. These you must try on. Head to TK Maxx if you want stylish frames at a bargain price. Take selfies in the mirror. Honestly, they’re a shortcut to style.

Accessorise with a good bag

The ‘it’ bag is no more, but your bag says a lot about you anyway. The slouchy shoulder bag that you bought in Morocco or the knock-off Vuitton sends style messages to those who know!

Get ahead with a hat

Another way to be effortlessly stylish. A wide straw hat for sun-soaked occasions is a must. A beret, fedora or a fur hat in winter, whatever you choose don’t let it have a bobble.

It’s all about you

Your style should come from you and who you’d like to be. If you’re unsure about buying anything ask how you feel wearing it. If you put something on and instantly love it. Buy it.

Janet Reeder
Janet Reeder has a 30-year career in journalism. She is a fashion expert who has interviewed top designers Calvin Klein, Vivienne Westwood and many others. She also loves to travel and write about her experiences.

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