How to be stylish over 60: Former Vogue fashion editor LUCINDA CHAMBERS shares her secrets

I am about to knock on the door of stylist Lucinda Chambers’s Shepherd’s Bush home when she arrives. She is wearing a blue striped jumper, Cos chinos, a leather belt from Italian brand Krizia (‘I’ve had it for 30 years’), Birkenstocks and brass ‘calamari’ earrings – like the jumper, they’re from her own luxury label, Colville. 

The outfit is typical for her, she explains, in that it hits ‘all the food groups’: designer, high street and vintage. She looks as stylish as one would expect of a former Vogue fashion director, and is carrying that crucial accessory: a pint of milk.

In the house, every surface is painted a rich colour, heaped with patterned fabrics or filled with family photos, art and beautiful plates. 

The kitchen table has been raised with the help of thick paperbacks under its feet. The home feels like a physical manifestation of its owner’s personality: creative, welcoming, wonderfully scatty.

We are here to discuss style over 60, and yet I’ve interviewed Chambers before, and on neither occasion could she accurately remember her own age: ‘63,’ she says today (64, her publicist later clarifies). 

She’s not embarrassed about getting older: ‘I’ve never tried to look younger,’ she says. Regardless, I feel I’m in the company of a 25-year-old: her openness, self-deprecating humour and giddy enthusiasm for fashion are irresistible.

‘If other people like the look, that’s a bonus’: Lucinda Chambers flaunts her unique personal style

‘If other people like the look, that’s a bonus’: Lucinda Chambers flaunts her unique personal style

Chambers regularly clears out clothes – ‘It makes me feel guilty to have anything I don’t use’ – and yet will never be a minimalist. By stealth, she says, she has commandeered three extra wardrobes as her grown-up sons Toby, Gabriel and Teddy have moved out.

We head off to investigate, and with arms full of Marni dresses and Zara knitwear, she talks me through her philosophy of dressing well…

Style is something you can learn, like a craft. You can chip away at it and fail, get back on the horse and try again. The important thing is not to be afraid. 

When I was at art college, there was a phase when I wore purple from my knickers to eyeshadow. Now, there is not a purple thing in my wardrobe; I can’t look at it.

When I joined Vogue as a secretary, I looked around and everyone was wearing sweater dresses and cowboy boots, and I couldn’t understand it. I thought, ‘But everybody looks so normal.’

I made all of my clothes, and they would often fall apart by 5.30pm. I created a dress out of lace doilies from the market – I started making it as a bedspread, but then it migrated on to my body. On another occasion I made a tutu and tied ribbons up my legs. I looked like a Morris dancer on acid.

Since my 40s I’ve found my groove. I still sometimes dress in a maximalist way, but not every day. I love prints, usually for special events – the problem is that they make you think, because they don’t go with everything.

Most days, I work from a neutral base camp. You can dress quite plainly without looking boring if you just add a personal touch – red lipstick, a beautiful cocktail ring or electric-blue socks.

Comfort is absolutely essential. I’ve never known anybody I thought was stylish who didn’t also look really comfortable. If you can’t walk in your heels, if you can’t run for a bus in that skirt, if you can’t fling yourself on a sofa because something’s restricting you – don’t wear it. 

You’re never going to look stylish when you feel like that. Personally, I don’t find jeans very comfortable, and I don’t wear anything that’s tight.

I love layering, even in the summer. I think about clothes the same way I think about surfaces in the house: they’re an opportunity to do things with colour, texture and shape. 

If I’m wearing cream, I might put it with neon orange, so I don’t look too bourgeois-beige. If I wear a dress on its own I feel too girly, so my comfort zone is dresses over trousers, often with stonking great shoes. I’ve never been beautiful, but I wasn’t afraid of expressing myself through clothes.

My rule of thumb is never to buy anything I don’t actually like. I have to like it a lot, not just think it’s fashionable. When I worked at Vogue, the lunch hour would roll around and I’d say, ‘I’m just going to worship at the shrine!’ and I’d head to Oxford Street. 

I’d come back, everybody would gather and I’d say, ‘I’ve bought these incredible feather shoes from Zara.’ Over the next few weeks, I’d see four other people wearing them. I’d think, ‘Job done.’

You can find fantastic stuff on the high street, but it varies in fabric and cut. I started with my former Vogue colleague Serena Hood, where we sell things online at all price levels – but we do the trawling in person to make sure the quality’s always good.

I get sad when I hear people judging themselves. Like, worrying that they shouldn’t show their knees over a certain age. I don’t think other people judge you as harshly as you might judge yourself. We’re very lucky in the UK that people are generally accepting and embracing of anyone who’s a bit of a peacock.

I saw a woman on the tube the other day, in her mid-70s. She had painted her nails blue, and was wearing a big blue necklace, and she had a blue tint in her hair. 

Half the people in the carriage would have probably said she looked crazy, and the other half that she looked fabulous. I loved it – the enjoyment and exuberance she’d taken in it was wonderful.

Getting dressed is a very personal pleasure and I don’t expect a reaction from anyone.

If you’re not dressing in order to create an impression, that gives you confidence – you’ve decided, ‘If it’s sitting OK with me, that’s good enough.’ If other people like it too, that’s a bonus.

Chosen by Chambers

Last item I bought

A Zara Surplus sweater dress and massive matching scarf.

Best item in my wardrobe

A multicoloured handwoven poncho from Mexico.

Most expensive buy

A black draped Yohji Yamamoto coat: £400, and that was 35 years ago!

Go-to high-street shops

Zara, Cos, Arket, Mango. 

Favourite designers

In terms of changing the way women dress, Rei Kawakubo, Miuccia Prada and Hussein Chalayan 

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