Discover more from My Goodness! From Jo Elvin
How to find your fashion mojo
Step 1: ignore that mean girl in your head
I asked for your questions for me on Instagram this week. There were some great ones and I will get to them all. But a theme that comes up a lot is women asking me what do when they feel like they’ve lost their fashion mojo. And within that, one thing I hear a lot is women telling me they ‘can’t’ wear something. ‘Oh I can’t wear colour.’ ‘I can't wear dresses.’ ‘I can’t wear jumpsuits.’ ‘I can’t wear T shirts.’
In 99.99% of cases, if I get the chance to ask, ‘Who says you can’t wear that?’ the answer is no one but themselves.
I’ve been in therapy lately - a long story for another day - and I’ve been working hard on trying to really make something my therapist says a lot sink in and it’s this:
Thoughts are not facts
Intellectually, rationally, we all know this. It’s a fancier, more upmarket spin on something my father always says - ‘Opinions are like bums: everyone’s got one.’
But it’s a remarkably difficult thing to commit it to your heart and actually believe it. The terrible negative spirals we all get stuck in, telling ourselves we’re not good enough, or we’re not particularly nice people… it’s the kind of noise rattling around our heads that really needs catching, dragging out of our skulls and interrogating. I’ve been really putting effort into that recently and it’s as tough as committing to a 45-minute spin class.
And yes, ‘Thoughts aren’t facts’ is also relentlessly applicable to these fashion standards with which so many women hold themselves hostage.
There is no rulebook somewhere that decrees who is ‘too old’ to wear bold colours, or the wrong shape to wear a tight dress. These fashion ‘rules’ have been scripted in our own insecure heads. Yes, many of them have their roots in a real experience - being told most days in high school that my legs were ‘too’ thin to be on view did a number on me that I still wrestle with. But I am not too old to get my legs out in a short dress, or a swimsuit. Thoughts that were aired in high school are not facts.
When I was the editor of You magazine, our readership was mostly women in their 50s and older. So many of them would write to me lamenting that they were ‘too old to wear jeans’ or asking what they should wear ‘now that I’m in my 60s.’
My answer? Always wear what the bloody hell you want, whatever your age. There are no age limits on fashion. Some of you may know I regularly present fashion on Lorraine Kelly’s morning show. We have a great group of rotating house models, aged from 20s through to 70s. We approach the styling of all them in exactly the same way. We don’t race off to any sort of ‘nana section’ to dress 70-something Heidi. We use the same high street shops that we do for 20-something Abbey and I really love how we demonstrate that the high street is teeming with choice for everyone.
The only secret to style confidence is to just decide to wear what you want to. If you really are feeling a bit adrift and need to figure out what it is you want to wear, a few nuggets of advice from me:
Take a trusted friend shopping; someone who will be honest, yes, but it’s important that it’s also someone who you consider to be a personal cheerleader. I’ve had friends in my day desperate to show me I can look nice in colour, or a dress. You want that energy, not the friend who wants to point out the things you look bad in.
If you can’t think of that person, book a personal shopper. Department stores like John Lewis offer complimentary styling services. And I implore you - ignore the voice in your head that immediately wants to pipe up and say you ‘can’t’ wear something - THOUGHTS AREN’T FACTS. Surrender to the stylist. Just try their suggestions, because you really might be amazed. I’ve often had some true revelations that have pushed my style boundaries - and my body confidence - when I’ve let someone else take charge just for a second and show me new possibilities of how I can look.
Spend time figuring out whose style you like and take hints from them. Below I’ve featured some of the people - friends and strangers - whose style I love to be inspired by.
Dress for you and only you. Instagram tells me I have both fans of my fashion sense, as well as those who think the outfits I put together are either ugly or stupid. I can’t pinpoint exactly when it happened, but over the years I’ve simply become someone with the confidence to be happy in an outfit if I’m happy in it. Compliments are lovely when they come, but neither they nor the insults alter what I want to wear. In fact, the older I get, the more I’m convinced that my old-age aesthetic is going to be full-on ‘circus clown’. If you think I wear #clothesmyhusbandhates now, you just wait.
Below are some of the women who inspire my outfit choices and reassure me that fashion is not the preserve of Generation Z.
I’ve talked about her a lot. She loves colour and quirky trousers as much as I do. She’s my constant inspiration for not listening to any of this nonsense that women over 40 can’t be confidently chic. Find her on Instagram here.
Morag Elspeth Atkinson
Mogzee_m to her 450k Instagram fans. She puts colours together in ways that really inspire me. I love that her whole approach to dressing is to have cheer in every outfit. And you can tell that she just thinks getting dressed is fun. I think once you stop viewing it as some sort of torturous decision to make, and just think about what it is you really want to wear, it really does become a pleasure.
Anna wrote the brilliant book Destination Fabulous - an uplifting conversation about all the good things about ageing and naturally, as she is also the fashion editor of The Times newspaper, personal style is discussed. Anna has a way of putting clothes and colours together that is always a little bit off-beat in a charming way. I’m always discovering brilliant, tiny off the beaten track fashion brands from seeing them on her.
She’s been influencing my wardrobe since her days as the creative director of J Crew and still does. No one has given me the confidence to wear what the hell I want at whatever time of day it might be like her. See above: battered khaki jacket plus fancy tulle skirt - who knew that would work until Jenna came along?
I’m far from the only woman who these days wonders aloud if I should just have my salary transferred directly to Clare and her brilliant label, Me + Em. She calls it intelligent style and I agree. Really well-cut building blocks - fantastic versatile trousers, comfortable dresses with pockets - that you can dress up or down for any time of day. I tend to go for the brand’s statement pieces like a shocking pink or plaid trouser, but when I’m in a minimal mood, I look to Clare’s personal pared-back brand of chic for inspiration.
No one understands joyful dressing like the brains behind the gorgeous brand, Lisou. Season after season she delights me with her beautiful, kaleidoscopic prints. And her fearlessness in putting them together inspires me to be the same. I’m destined to be that granny wearing neon orange trousers with a cobalt sequinned shirt and you can totally blame Rene for that.
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