Cool clothing for a bus pass bearerI am the holder of a bus pass, size 12-14 (me, not the bus pass) and I want to dress in something I feel okay with. My choice lies between the pretentious, exorbitantly priced designer labels (is it moral to spend €1,000 on an item of clothing?) or the lower- and middle-priced resolutely young fashion lines, ending in the mutton-dressed-as-lamb look.
I often wonder who designs the clothes some older women wear at weddings. I had to borrow a plain, light gluey-grey coat from a friend (Episode, €60 on sale in 2010 – she has a great eye for bargains) to go to a September one.
Have you any advice that would simplify the search for appropriate clothes?
Cecilia, by email
Your division of fashion along the lines of pretentious and resolutely young is spot on, but there are labels and shops that straddle the divide between young and old, minted and skinted – you just need to know where to look.
Start off with Cos. Standing for Collection of Style, the older sister of H&M does a great line in minimalist dressing. Lest you think that is shorthand for boring, check out this shot from its autumn/winter campaign – very cool, ageless dressing with very few concerns in terms of showing too much skin or being too tight. Its signature style is boxy shapes and bright, but classic, colours, with very little attention paid to seasonal trends, which is great if you don’t want to look like you’re hopping on the tween bandwagon. Buy in BT2 stores or online at cosstores.com.
If you’re not averse to online shopping, Mary Portas has designed a fabulous line for House of Fraser. It’s not available to buy in Ireland’s shop, but you can buy online at houseoffraser.co.uk. Portas’s prerogative with her namesake line was to design clothing for women above the age of 40 – so, dresses with sleeves, and trousers that weren’t designed to sit only on nubile young hips – and it’s a goal she has achieved.
There’s also no reason you shouldn’t be shopping in “younger” shops such as River Island and Topshop, which have great basics and some lovely standout pieces that shouldn’t be overlooked. To avoid feeling like mutton dressed as sexy lamb, there are a few rules of thumb: pay attention to hem and necklines (neither too short nor too low); avoid standout or loud prints (too attention-seeking); say no to neon (it can be draining on older skin tones); and take your denim high-waisted and with a bit of stretch.
A few statement accessories (try Wallis for a good selection of well priced, interesting pieces that you won’t see on every Penneys fan from here to Strandhill) and a good coat (Luke Lovely at Kilkenny has some gorgeous, flattering designs for under €300) and you’re good to go.
Bother with boyfriend jeans
After a year of being told boyfriend jeans are really, really “in”, I finally succumbed and bought a pair. The problem now is that I have no idea what to wear with them, and three weeks later they have yet to have a single outing. Help.
Aoibheann, by email
Boyfriend jeans can confound even the savviest among us, and it can be difficult to find a look that’s more chic grown-up than sulky teenager. The former should always be the goal, unless you are in fact a teenager, in which case: go mad. You will have plenty of time to try to look grown up when you are actually an adult.
The key to making boyfriend jeans work for you is to always dress them up, rather than down. Pair them with old runners and you look like you’re about to redecorate; pair them with a stiletto-heeled court shoe and you look as if you’re making a style statement.
Here, Asos has paired Current/Elliott’s white star print boyfriend jeans (€277.80) with a relatively casual look, although it’s still streamlined: the top is snug and the heels, high and chunky. You want your jeans to do the talking – so don’t pair them with a baggy, oversized top. Keep everything else tailored and tucked in.
Rachel Bilson is a big celebrity advocate of the boyfriend jean; she pairs hers with pumps or statement heels and tailored jackets, keeping things neat above the waist and below the ankle. New Look has some great little blazers at the moment that won’t cost a bomb and will set you on your way to wearing your new jeans with pride.