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Tight tailoring, baggy cardigans, very high heels and wearing all black – the fashion trends to AVOID when you’re over 50


The headline news for spring/summer 2024 is that ‘real’ clothes are dominating the agenda. This may make you wonder what we’ve been wearing all these years if not real clothes, but ‘real’ is fashion-speak for everyday wearable — the sort of uncomplicated clothes that make your life easier.

Yes, on the catwalk there were pants on show and micro shorts, and skirts with fringing, and long, floaty white dresses, but mostly the message was This Works For Real Life. This blazer, these trousers, this shirt: they’ve worked before, so we’ve done more in a similar vein and made them even more desirable.

Does this mean we’ll automatically look good in all the major trends for spring? Not quite.

As ever, we need to choose carefully if we want to get the maximum return from our clothes, and when you’re over 50, that means not just looking good in your clothes but good for your age. Turning heads would be nice, but we’ll settle for shaving six to eight years off our biological number.

We’re not talking about plastic surgery. This is about picking a wardrobe that makes you look contemporary without trying too hard — fresher, and brighter, and in the know. 

A wardrobe that takes years off your age is the holy grail of the 50-plus woman — and it starts with zeroing in on those trends that score high on the good-for-your-age rating…

CARDIGAN 

Recycled wool cardigan, now £83, and leather skirt, £429, baukjen.com

Recycled wool cardigan, now £83, and leather skirt, £429, baukjen.com

The classic crew-neck, neat-and-tidy cardigan, worn slightly unbuttoned with nothing underneath or a glimpse of something lace-trimmed in the neckline is an every age, going-out option.

It’s more flattering than a plain crew-neck sweater (which your daughter might wear with a pretty skirt). Make the cardigan black, add a midi skirt or smart tailored trousers, some gold and pearls or eye-candy earrings.

WHAT’S AGEING: A baggy cardigan with a shirt underneath it.

TAKE YEARS OFF WITH… A bare collarbone draped with a single necklace.

Or opt for a four-pocket long jacket cardigan, unbuttoned from the waistband down.

PENCIL SKIRT

The everyday floral dress has taken a back seat for now, and a midi pencil or A-line skirt with a tidy top are the new alternatives.

For evening, the new option is a simple top (maybe a cashmere T with a three-quarter sleeve) and a pretty A-line skirt.

WHAT’S AGEING… A skirt with a high split.

TAKE YEARS OFF WITH: A skirt with boots or kitten heels. Stick to darker colours for now.

SHIMMER & SPARKLE 

Striped cotton shirt with embroidery, £190, Essentiel Antwerp

Striped cotton shirt with embroidery, £190, Essentiel Antwerp

At Prada there were firework bursts of rhinestones embroidered onto black dresses and silver eyelets on fringed skirts. Sequins, metallic, lamé and rhinestone embroidery featured heavily on the spring/summer catwalks, and while you should always say no to a Bacofoil trousersuit, an element of glimmer in an outfit looks modern and has highlighting benefits for the 50-pluses.

A slim sequin stripe on a skirt, or a smattering of rhinestones on a top, make those minimal ‘real’ clothes look more decorative and partytime.

WHAT’S AGEING: Wearing head-to-toe slick sequins.

TAKE YEARS OFF WITH… Some sparkly detail on a skirt, or gold or silver shoes.

GOOD JEANS

High-rise, wide-leg jeans, £168, thereformation.com

Seam detail, wide-leg jeans, £99, mintvelvet.com

L-R: High-rise, wide-leg jeans, £168, thereformation.com; Seam detail, wide-leg jeans, £99, mintvelvet.com

By ‘Good’ jeans we don’t just mean weekend jeans or favourite jeans, but ones that will hold their own in the office or after work at a friend’s birthday dinner. For jeans to be Good (not just good enough), they must be a darkish wash, crisply tailored and bang on-trend, which means medium-high to high-waisted and relaxed in the leg, but still sharp, not sloppy. The new style in town is a cargo jean, but why complicate matters when you can make a straight leg or an A-line flare your two best options?

WHAT’S AGEING: Your old bootcut or skinny jeans.

TAKE YEARS OFF WITH… Straight and long jeans worn with boots. Or wear wide-leg jeans, as you would a long skirt, with a smart white tuxedo jacket.

HEAD-TO-TOE COLOUR

Panelled midi dress, £250, meandem.com

Panelled midi dress, £250, meandem.com

Wearing all one colour, or tonal colour (shades of one hue), is easy and smart, but doubling up shades of camel or white or grey, while very spring 2024, is not going to do much for older complexions.

Khaki works well in tonal shades, as do all the blues and pinks, and designers went mad for red this season.

Red top-to-toe can look lovely, but an accent (a cardigan thrown around the neck of your shirt) will do just as well.

White coats and dresses designed to be worn together are already in the shops, but if you’re going in that direction look for off-whites and cream, too.

WHAT’S AGEING: Head-to-toe black.

TAKE YEARS OFF WITH… A statement red dress (it’s florals that are over), but don’t match your shoe.

A BIT OF SHEER

Sheer panel skirt, £98, anthropologie.com

Sheer panel skirt, £98, anthropologie.com

Sheer is not a word women over 50 want to hear in the context of clothes. But when sheer is as big a deal as it is this spring, it’s worth taking a closer look, because a little bit in the mix is what makes the difference between looking right now and not.

The sheer (naked) skirt is the big news — so for us, that means covered on top, lighter from the waist down (what they’re calling ‘business on top, party underneath’).

We’re not going to be wearing a sheer skirt any time soon, but we might wear a silky skirt, a skirt with a gauzy hemline or a discreet sheer panel on a blouse.

WHAT’S AGEING: Underwear on show.

TAKE YEARS OFF WITH… A glimpse of sheer under a jacket, or a sheer hem under a cardigan.

THE BOOT

Kitten heel leather boots, £200, dunelondon.com

Kitten heel leather boots, £200, dunelondon.com

Boots are made for any age, and with their cover-up potential and air of 1970s chic, they’re the perfect solution for wearing with skirts, so they look uptown-woman rather than mumsy.

Black always works, at least until the weather gets hot. Brown is a good option, too. Just make sure heels are walkable and won’t ruin your wooden floors.

WHAT’S AGEING: Very high heels.

TAKE YEARS OFF WITH… A block or kitten heel — and try a longer boot under a cropped trouser.

THE POLO SHIRT

Merino blend jumper, £75, boden.co.uk

Merino blend jumper, £75, boden.co.uk

So long as it’s not clinging, not baggy and not striped like a rugby shirt, the posh boy’s signature shirt is going to be as useful this spring as a polo-neck in winter. Whether it’s worn buttoned up under a blazer and tucked into baggy trousers, or open with a midi skirt under a trench, this is a simple and sleek way to inject the crucial zip of sportiness that gives this season’s tailoring a modern edge — and it’s a lot easier than the other sporty top out there: a plain vest. The best come with sleeves that finish just below your elbow.

WHAT’S AGEING: Polos with the collars turned up.

TAKE YEARS OFF WITH… Plain coloured polos in fine wool knit. Avoid navy and white (too school gym).

HIGH-RISE TROUSERS

Shirt, £199, and wide-leg trousers, £199, lkbennett.com

Shirt, £199, and wide-leg trousers, £199, lkbennett.com

If you missed the memo, here it is one more time: trousers are no longer skinny or skimpy. They may be straight and looser in the leg, or wide and roomy. Either way, the waistband is inching upwards.

For the arch fashion-follower, this means rib-grazing, and for us, it’s loose-fit, swaggery, tailored trousers that cover your tummy button. Try before you shy away. They can be amazingly slimming and leg-lengthening if you add a small heel, and there is no getting away from the new silhouette.

WHAT’S AGEING: Wearing narrow, tight tailoring.

TAKE YEARS OFF WITH: High-waisted trousers with half a shirt tail tucked in. A classic pinstripe in an extra-wide cut feels on-trend right now, so start here.

CORPORATE CHIC

Trench, £149, blazer, £125, and wide-leg trousers, £85, johnlewis.com

Trench, £149, blazer, £125, and wide-leg trousers, £85, johnlewis.com

We no longer have the stomach for a special working wardrobe. Then again, simple classic tailoring is the grown-up woman’s best friend.

Corporate core is here to bridge the gap: it’s office wear as you have always known it — blazers, shirts, trousers and pencil skirts — but comfortable, feminine and good enough to wear out.

The keys to corporate core are clothes you probably already own that just need a tweak to become spring ready.

Keep your slightly oversize blazer (for oversize read generous rather than genuinely big — that’s for the young adults) and wear it with high-waisted trousers or smart jeans and a belt.

The boyfriend shirt is still going strong, but buy it in eye-popping sky blue or a pink stripe rather than fashionably cool white, and half tuck it in; don’t leave it loose and flapping the way it was styled on the catwalks — sloppy does those of us who remember 1980s grunge no favours at all.

A cargo-style pencil skirt with a round collar edge-to-edge jacket, or a buttoned-up cardigan is the new smart-casual skirt suit.

If you like a trench coat, then now really is the moment to dive in, and keep it long.

WHAT’S AGEING: A narrow-fit black trousersuit

TAKE YEARS OFF WITH… A blazer, shirt and trousers/ skirt in tonal colours. Smart belts are an instant uptown elevator.

THE SHOE

Slingbacks, £35.99, zara.com

Slingbacks, £35.99, zara.com

The good news for grown-ups is the leg-lengthening classic court shoe is back in all heights, and you can wear it for work or use it to electrify an outfit in hot red or shocking pink satin. Low kitten-heeled mules are also a big trend, but are tricky. You’re better off getting a trusty slingback if you want a dressing-up shoe. Say no to boat shoes, even if they were on the Miu Miu catwalk, and Mary Janes — lots around but they make you look anything but young.

WHAT’S AGEING: Nude high heels.

TAKE YEARS OFF WITH… Walkable slingbacks or a pair of suede, coloured trainers.



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