bazaar magazine

how to dress your age for spring 2015

Lisa Armstrong, 31 March 2015

Recently, something I’d been dreading for years happened: I gave my 21-year-old daughter my black leather J Brand skinnies. For good.

This startlingly philanthropic gesture came about after something that should have been even more traumatic (but wasn’t really) had come to pass. My husband uttered the dreaded words: “old,” “those,” “you,” “for,” “too,” “are,” and not necessarily in that order.

Realizing that you’re about to eliminate a treasured piece from your life forever or, rather, that it’s about to eliminate you is not nothing. But that’s fashion. And if you use it correctly (instead of getting used by it), you’re constantly assessing the situation or, more specifically, your situation. This is about you. Can you wear that shape? Does that color do anything for you? Are florals your enemy?

Whatever your age, looking stylish requires repeated calibration of nuances and a certain degree of letting go. The point is to see that letting go not as a loss but as a process of streamlining, simplification, and replacement. To paraphrase Roger Sterling from Mad Men, “Every time God closes a door, he opens a dress” or at least a new dress option.

Maybe another key to getting it right at every age as Annabel Hodin, a personal stylist and former model, believes is that the basis of style is an understanding of not only who you are but also the kind of woman you want to project. “Don’t ever try and compete with a younger woman on the age proposition,” she says. “Why would you want to when you can outrun them by looking sleeker, more stylish, and generally better dressed?”

Hodin and every chic woman I’ve ever spoken to stylish is about getting the basics absolutely, irrefutably right. But it’s also understanding the currency of a hot label or accessory. It’s about clocking that flares are in but going only as wide as suits you. As for those basics, the devil is in the details I’m thinking the sizeable patch pockets (see Derek Lam’s suede skirts) that encourage a youthful nonchalance no matter how formal the style. The three-quarter sleeves on a short, flared dress by Dolce & Gabbana, which are somehow much more playful than full-length ones. The contrast trim that takes a J. Crew turtleneck from staple to statement. Or the slightly raised waist on a pair of forget-me-not Miu Miu pants that make your legs look yards longer than skinny hipsters ever could … These are the added extras you should be thinking about as you progress gracefully through your decades.

Hodin likes to say, there’s always a way to replace what you think you’re eliminating. “You might decide it’s time to stop wearing tight, revealing clothes and it probably is. But you can still wear slim silhouettes and show some flesh,” she asserts. She recommends the collarbones, wrists, and back of the neck as lifelong candidates for display. “All the places you’d wear perfume and would like to be kissed. It’s about being adored, not ravaged.” That’s ageless fashion.