Friday, 17 January 2014

My turning 40 style rules

Everyone who is anyone is turning forty this year. Kate Moss. Chloé Sevigny. Eva Mendes. Amy Adams. Penelope Cruz. Victoria Beckham. And me. I got all of those except La Moss (and myself) from this joyless article about the abundant new possibilities of 40+ style. One may "consider colour"! It may not be essential to "cover up"! However, do not have a blunt fringe because it will accentuate your jowls. Seriously, don't.

 (Jowls. That bit resonates).

Anyway, I thought it would be an opportune moment, between bouts of cold terror at my own galloping mortality and burning jags of jowl shame, to present you with my own, carefully curated, style rules. These are the fruits of 39+ years of uncompromising commitment to... well. To cake and sleeping and warmth and long books. To avoiding exercise. To self-acceptance in all my jowled glory.

1. Take a view on ladders
I don't wish to be prescriptive here, but you need to decide how comfortable you are with the ladder issue. My own view is, if I can't see it, it doesn't exist, thus ladders to the rear of hosiery, or holes in toes: fine. My mother, also a style icon in her day, took a different view and would colour in visible runs and holes with a black marker pen. An experiment with superimposing two pairs of differently laddered tights was not successful, but might merit another attempt.

2. Buy a slightly larger pair of trousers
I bought a slightly too large pair of trousers at new year, because they were £10 and I was in a rush and they were comfy. What a bloody brilliant decision. Nothing, but nothing, has improved my mood like these trousers. They are PROZACTROUSERS. Despite over-eating solidly for 4 weeks, disdaining dry January and composing whole meals from small puff pastry canapés, I only have to put the trousers on to feel delightfully slim.

3. Fuck matching socks
Any time spent trying to match varying gradations/ages/lengths of black sock is time that would be more usefully spent doing almost anything else.  No one is ever going to look that closely at your legs, especially if you are wearing black ankle socks. Read Stendhal. Have phone sex. Pet a capybara. Make Felicity Cloake's Perfect Lemon Drizzle Cake. NO ONE CAN TELL.

4. Embrace the sack
The close correlation between mood and waist constriction has been the subject of literally no studies. However, I can and do assert this link exists. Too tight belt/skirt/waistband = urge to murder by 11am. Cos sac dress = beatific sense of wellbeing. You know it makes sense.

5. Be selective with stains
After a certain age, one must exercise some discretion with stains. A light dusting of avocado around a cuff, fine. A discreet spot of grease on a trouser leg, perfectly acceptable. Both together = edging towards full hobo.

6. The very best accessory is a striking dog
Most dogs come in flattering, warm, go-with-everything neutrals. Also, once you have a dog, no one will look at you again, except as a sort of adjunct to your pet. This is very comforting.

7. Dress for the life you want, not the life you have
My main aim for my middle and later years is to become one of those defiant Englishwomen whose best, indeed only, friend is a halitotic labrador. You know, the type who wear straw in their hair and keep horses in their kitchens and a half bottle of gin and twenty Rothmans in every pocket of their fetid waxed jackets. To this end, I am amassing a collection of old navy blue jumpers, slightly foxed padded waistcoats and sensible boots. Eyes on the prize.

What are your mid-life style rules?

39 comments:

Helen Strydom said...

Utterly brilliant! The defiant Englishwoman is exactly the look I like to think I'm aiming for. Realistically though I think to others it appears as couldn't-care South African. Meh.

cruella said...

Waaa! I'm turning FIFTY this year! (Well, like Michelle Obama. Nothing to fear then.)

I think it's finally time to realise that whatever I didn't already achieve stylewise (foodwise, exercisewise, whateverwise) is not very likely to happen. They didn't happen FOR A REASON, ie I can't be bothered. I'm to lazy and I spend far to much time in my own head to have time to even have haircuts. (Not that it matters. Since I've taken to wearing sloppy up-dos tucked in place with cheap pins my hairs breaks off anyone. Various lengths.)

Anyhoo. Remember I advocated a piece of brill advice from style icon Jane Birkin that I'd read in a Swedish newspaper interview? When getting on a bit, take to wearing men's clothes. You will look infinitely better than any man AND it's comfy. Yes, and also line your Converse with lambskin and skip the socks.

Occasional sack dress. Yes. Muted lights. Filters on Instagram. Joyeux anniv!

breakfastlady said...

I would add the following to your very brilliant list:

8 Buy a walking stick. You will need this in order to fully realise 7, as 7 will involve walking along flicking other people's dogshit into the hedge with the walking stick, whilst swearing loudly.

9. Consider scarves. My best friend sent me one for my 46th birthday, in celebration of the dawning of the Age of Scarves (it's a neck thing).

I am troubled by the marker pen on ladders. They were black tights? Not just marker pen lines on tan etc legs?

I'd also like to know your thoughts on facial hair in the 40+. Mine sprouts at an alarming rate these days. Aforementioned friend claims shaving the moustache is acceptable, as the only person likely to notice is any man likely to be kissing it, who is also likely to be stubblier than thou and will therefore not even notice. She doesn't, however, have children who are liable to complain about it loudly in public, so I remain unconvinced.

Stacy said...

Don't forget comfortable shoes. Just like a tight waistband causes murderous thoughts, uncomfortable shoes makes me stabby. I end up kicking them off anyway. I also second the scarves.

mountainear said...

Seem effortlessly to have achieved at least 60% of the defiant Englishwoman look - one of the few bonuses of living beyond the pale of the M25 where the fashion police fear to tread.

That's Not My Age said...

Love this! And agree about the Prozac Trousers. I would add: don't try too hard to look young, it just looks tragic. I've just turned 50 (I keep telling everyone, it's like I've got some sort of age-related Tourette's) and am celebrating along with Michelle Obama.

Renia Edwards said...

I had my eyebrows made over my gay Vietnamese eyebrow guru- I had plucked them to fine slivers during my 30s and he's helping me regain some of my bushy and youthening glory. I know sadly not an option for you dear Emma, but my advice to younger ones would be to leave the damn things alone as the hair doesn't always grow back.
Contrary to that, I shave my face and put wax up my nose as I'm sick of my kids telling me there are hairs sticking out of my nose and hairs coming out of my chin at inopportune moments (parties, public transport, dinner table).

Marion Bulmer said...

I am 56. I am well on the way to everything on your list bar the Rothmans. In order to be able to afford dental care I quit smoking, which also improved my oral health.

I can extol the virtues of hats. In recent years I have acquired a good half-dozen, and I don't mean wedding hats or fascinators. In fact a wedding is about the only place I don't wear a hat as it impedes the view of those in the pew/seats behind.

Smocky tunics, colourful leggings, and good boots take me just about everywhere for three seasons of the year. May, June & July it is much the same with sandals, NO socks, or a dress and sandals and a nice cardie. August it rains anyway "as every fule noes" then September is a bit of both.

Jane in SF said...

Same applies to knickers. Yesterday's pair were slightly too small with damaging emotional effects of a hidden muffin top. I initially miss read Prozactrousers as Prozacterousers. I made the mistake of buying a 10x mag mirror recently. It has made me feel 10x older since but I'm drawn irresistibly to the horror.

This is a brilliant post. Can you sell it to someone?

helen said...

Socks? If they are both clean they match.

Style rules approaching 40. Look at your clothes. Do they make you happy, do they make you feel sexy, are they comfortable, do they make you feel cool? Then wear them and fuck what everyone else thinks.

treyterson said...

I do like the comment about getting a dog, it rings true as I have a lovable but dumb and friendly dog. I tend to kick my shoes off and do like to take care of my feet. I don't really flush too much( fast approaching 50 ) but the toe rings and the nail varnish are not what you expect from a 50 year old. A good pair of tweezers takes care of the single long hair that grows from the side of my nose and one in the middle of my back. Smell nice too.

Justine said...


Oh gawd, I turned 40 last June and I have a blunt fringe! I find it a much cheaper option than Botox or surgery.... I am also committing another forty-ish fashion faux pas, I am currently 35 months pregnant ( well 8.5 months pregnant, but certainly feels like 35 months ) so not only am I drawing attention to my jowls, but I have preggo fat face. Perhaps there is just no hope for me!

BeckletP said...

Turning 40 on 6 March. Had a blunt fringe cut in this morning to hide the frown lines, did not even think about my jowls!! Oh god, jowls.... what a horrid horrid word! Off to weep into my sack dress...

Waffle said...

BeckletP - They are good for weeping in too. Multiple uses!

Patience_Crabstick said...

I see your forty and raise you forty-FIVE. I like your rules and prozac pants are definitely a sound investment, but it might be important to wear them with prozac shoes. I hate uncomfortable, stylish shoes and really just want to stump around in my dansko clogs no matter what I am wearing.

Anonymous said...

Belgian Waffle, you are an insanely good writer. How is it possible that you don't have your own column in the Lifestyle section of a quality newspaper? I read this post on a crowded bus in the freezing cold, surrounded by grumpy commuters and bitter-looking old ladies. It made me so happy that I'm sure I was emanating positive vibes and brightening everyone's morning, Ready-Brek style. Or maybe I was just trying to suppress a wave of laughter? In any case, thank you for making my morning/ day. Now I'm going to read it again.

(Prozactrousers is sheer brilliance)

Fresca said...

Something along the lines of not bothering to match socks, this year I stopped folding my undies, which I have done since childhood. The things our mother's teach us... they are hard to shake (or even to notice). Forty is a good time to shake off the useless ones (I say from 12 years beyond).

Dale said...

Uff. Can I comment if I have no discernible style whatsoever? Happily I am a professor so less is expected. In total agreement re: trousers, socks, waist constriction, stains and dogs --- I once owned a very fetching greyhound who was as dumb as the proverbial box of hammers, but just as elegant as your own dear one. I owe him no end of interesting conversations with strangers, who I am confident never once glanced at me.
I cannot hope, in my own case, to approximate a defiant Englishwoman, inasmuch as I am hopelessly American, but I do admire the spirit of the thing. Carry on!

Dee said...

Comfortable shoes (yeah, good luck with that). A really good bra thats been properly fitted (everything looks better, especially the sack dress). Hair off your face, and great earrings.
Thats all I got.

Margaret said...

You're a mere child! I'm pushing 50 with a short stick (48).

My main style change is I now paint my nails very dark, goth colors because my fingers have become all arthritic and twisted--the aggressive color makes me less self-conscious about how ugly I think my hands are. I know I should embrace comfy shoes, but I'm completely resentful about my current inability to wear heels. That's right: I RESENT COMFY SHOES. I am enraged by Danskos and Birks. I believe they are the embodiment of mental and spiritual decay. Your pants tip is right on, though. I once accidentally bought pants that were a bit too large and was all Whoa! It's a game-changer.

Anonymous said...

What an amusing post and excellent comments. You are beautiful in every single way, Mme Jaywalker. Hats off.

Mystica said...

I am approaching sixty and still the same rules apply. Have been doing the socks thingie for decades!

Anonymous said...

Strongly agree about the really good bra - it can make all the difference to whether the chest or the waist protrude further. But with one caveat: said bra must be removed as soon as the front door closes behind you in the evening, with a sigh of relief. Extraction via the sleeves in the sitting room is optional, but has the additional advantage of horrifying the children.

Starfish said...

Don't wear dark lipstick. It's very aging unless you have very full lips.

Don't wear nude lipstick that makes your lips look the same color as your skin. It's deadening.

Wear rosy pinks or peachy corals depending on your skin tone. Obviously, the darker your skin, the more brown can be mixed in those colors.

janerowena said...

Yes, you have described me, but sadly have to add that animal hairs show up horribly on navy blue woollens, so further enhancing the blob of mashed avocado. I acquired a pair of jeans with a lot of stretch, just for emergencies I told myself. It would appear that every day is now an emergency. I can hardly bear to part with them to give them a much-needed wash.

Waffle said...

JaneRowena - I have those jeans too. Also, I inadvertently discovered yesterday that they are two sizes bigger than I thought they were. HMMMM.

Whilst I do agree with the bra commenters, my own (M&S minimiser) are so HIDEOUS I couldn't bring myself to mention them. I used to have nice bras. I gave up. The Rigby & Peller harridans beat the desire for pretty things out of me.

Lucy said...

No style tips to add at 44 except that I wear eye shadow when I go out. It's the main difference between my day and evening look. Nothing too garish though, dont want to look like Dame Edna.

Love the dog shit stick idea. Great post.

brutti-ma-buoni said...

My earliest 40something style memory is watching my mum collate laddered tights - one leg each, with the laddered leg cut off. This left her wearing one one each leg but two tights-tops, which I now think of as a recipe for cystitis or worse. But she also wears terrifying jaeger undies so warmth apparently not a bad thing in that area.

I otoh am already in the care for nothing sock place, with 2 years to go before 40. Positive progress.

Waffle said...

Brutti ma Buoni - That's kind of amazing. Respect, your mum.

Jess Paterson said...

Hilarious post, love the Prozac trousers and the judicious stain protocol. I'm sure you look fab, and can see you rocking the noxious hound accessory. I have always wanted a battered oiled jacket and feel confident in acquiring one now.

Gloria said...

It may be worth considering maternity trousers as an addition to your wardrobe. They come in a dazzling array of styles and colours now and , most brilliantly, many have elasticated waists which can be adjusted depending on how much perfect lemon drizzle cake you have consumed. The pinnacle of comfort.

Waffle said...

THank you all for these most magnificent comments (and anonymouses, you are both exceptionally kind, thank you).

oggleyboggley said...

40, it seems like a distant memory...
I've just turned 47 and have taken a liking to vintage crimplene dresses, great for individualality and ironing avoidance (although I don't need to try hard for at that); not so great when you get THE MENOPAUSE FOR CHRISTMAS. 1970s man made fibres and hot flushes are not happy partners.
Having said that, it no longer seems to matter what I wear now since it's on and off so often (to accomodate lightning fast changes in temperature) that it somewhat ditracts from any kind of attempt at style.
FYI, during the typing of this, the cardi has been removed and replaced so many times the static created a mini firework display.

Cardi. I shouldn't even be contributing to this conversation!

oggleyboggley said...

Really should proof read before hitting send - I blame *the change*. At least I've got a new thing to blame everything for ;-)

Cass said...

Do you allow people to link to your site? Because I want everyone I know to read this. It's too fantastic for words. I'm a full three years away from 40 - that still counts as early thirties, right? - but have been following most of your style rules for most of my life. Ahead of the game, that's me. So anyway, totally going to be telling all my followers (all four of them) to come read this. Thank you for making me smile.

Waffle said...

Hi Cass, God, of course you can. And congratulations on being so exceptionally style savvy, ahem.

Anonymous said...

aaaaah. Am 46 and have a blunt fringe....I thought it helped accent my cheekbones, now can only think of jowls. I knew there was a reason i didn't read beauty articles! Off to haircut tomorrow...perhaps it will be that Freja Beha fringe thats recommended. Jowls...blech! (thank God my dog is ridiculously cute...google sheepadoodle and you'll see!)

Waffle said...

SHEEPADOODLE. SO FLUFFY.

Emily said...

The rules are, there are no rules. You can wear greige, elasticated trousers and a slanket if you like .... but I'm probably not joining you :-D