I’m moving on with the highly requested style tips today. In the survey, 85% of you said that you were looking for advice on how to add a bit of oomph to the more relaxed end of your wardrobe. It was no surprise to hear that 49% of you are buying fewer clothes and trying to find ways of working with what you already have, adding updates here and there. Today I’m looking at easy AW23 outfit updates from John Lewis. Keeping the way we’re all shopping in mind, I’ve dug out simple ways of adapting the clothes in your wardrobe so that they look relevant for a new fashion season.

Before we go through them though, let’s talk a little more about what the survey uncovered about how people here are feeling. In the comment section at the end, the point about invisibility came up time and time again. I think most of us hit a day when we look in the mirror and feel as if we’re starting to fade away in midlife, quite literally in terms of colouring – hair and skin pigment – but also in ‘self’. It isn’t just the physical changes and the shock of the visible ageing that causes this. Without meaning to sound too abstract, it can also feel as if the ground is suddenly a bit slippery. For those who had children, our generation mostly had them a bit later than the one before and I certainly feel as if I’ve catapulted straight from one lifestage to another without having any breathing space in between. I’ve gone from the heart of a busy family life to watching friends suddenly starting to retire. There are big changes going on and there hasn’t been any lead-up to it.

Regardless of whether you’ve had children or not, it’s odd when long term friends who’ve been on the same road as you suddenly veer off in a completely different direction. It makes you question everything, even when you find you couldn’t follow them if you wanted to. We have a few who following the death of their parents have suddenly come into large inheritances so their options are now very different to ours and I think that’s going to happen more and more. The last time I felt this kind of pull was when I left university and half of my friends chilled into round the world gap years while the others accelerated into a career path and a mortgage. There’s probably a whole blog post in this and how to maintain friendships when your directions and mindsets are branching off – but we’ll save that for another day.

My point is that midlife is a time of redefinition. As well as friendships shifting, other roles start to change and I think for a lot of us the sense of identity that we’ve had for the last few years – decades even – starts slipping. It doesn’t matter whether that’s caused by empty nesting, parents dying, redundancy or retirement, illness or disability, divorce, a change in a partner’s status or just a sudden move to working from home. It’s a funny old time and I think most of us go through a period of feeling lost as we try to manage our way through to whatever the next stage is going to hold.

So what on earth does all of that have to do with the far more pithy topic of clothes? Well as always they’re our clearest external form of self-expression. They can reflect either how we actually feel – or project how we’d like to feel, the new identity we want to take on. The option is either to hide with your clothes… to become the cookie cutter older woman who is as pleasantly dressed as all the others but then wonders why she’s no longer noticed. Alternatively you can use them to show that you’re still in the game in one way or another. That can be in an outstandingly bold way like the wonderful 102 year-old Iris Apfel. Or, you can dress quite simply but ramp things up with one simple piece – architectural glasses or bold jewellery… standout shoes or a zingy bag… or just by adding a really brightly coloured piece to your outfit. People may not stop in their tracks but they’ll look twice. You project an element of confidence and you’re no longer invisible. It’s often enough to open a random conversation in something like a coffee queue which, in itself, can change your day if not more.

Easy AW23 outfit updates

Let’s move on to the detail. You’ve probably spotted by now just how big silver is this season. Silver jeans are everywhere, either in faux leather or coated metallic effects. I first spotted them on someone two winters ago and I’ve been trying to find a pair ever since but they’re now just so ubiquitous that I think it’s too late. Adding a touch of silver to your outfit though is probably the quickest way to bring it bang up to date and the easiest place to start is with your feet. I’m only doing a small try-on for this post but I just want to show you how it can work with the plainest of outfits, in this case all black.

I’m styling this for a night out but there’s no reason why you couldn’t switch the evening bag over and wear it for lunch with friends. If I’d added black boots to this outfit it would still have been fine but it would be less interesting, it’s the flash of silver that makes the difference. The other thing to note is that I’ve played with textures and I’m going to talk more about the power of that next Friday but rather than wearing ordinary black jeans, I’ve picked out the new version of my long time JL favourites because they’ve launched them in a coated finish. Coated is a quieter statement than a leather effect but it still has that slightly rebellious rock n roll chic.

Silver boots; Coated slim straight jeans, Seam detail shirt with pronounced cuffs; evening bag

When you wear something that’s slightly shiny as one half of your outfit it’s always good to contrast it with an opposing texture. I’ve gone for a shirt with a sleek matt finish. The fabric is going to be a love/hate thing for some of you but I love the drape that it has for a night out, it adds chutzpah. For me the silver buttons are another feature that make it look bang up to date and the fluted sleeves add a little femininity to what is otherwise a western style with its pointed dagger collar. The oval hoop earrings are great value and a bit more interesting than the round hoops that everyone’s been wearing for a while.

Seam detail shirt with pronounced cuffs; Oval hoop earrings

The evening bag adds contrasting texture yet again and it’s incredibly light. A great solution for a stand-up buffet when you have a drink in one hand and a plate in the other because you can just loop it over your wrist like this.

Evening bag

And last of all I’ve added a faux leather trench. Trench coats are everywhere this season but if, like me, you struggle with their volume and floppiness then a stiffer fabric in a lean cut like this might be the answer. If black’s too harsh for you, it also comes in brown. It’s a great cut and lovely quality – hard to tell the difference from a very supple leather. I notice that it comes in sizes from XXS to XXXXXXL. I’m wearing a medium which fits everywhere apart from across the bust – and I don’t have a big bust – so take that into account if you’re ordering. I’d say a size 12 would need a large – you can work up or down from there.

Faux leather trench, Silver boots; Coated slim straight jeans, Seam detail shirt with pronounced cuffs

Hopefully that’s helped you to see how easily you can use silver footwear to update pieces you already have. Here’s a selection of other options but don’t dither because silver feet are flying off the site.

Easy AW23 outfit updates – silver feet

Top to bottom clockwise

  • Silver boots with cone heel (also available in gold) an alternative to the ones I’m wearing and particularly good if you like wearing ankle boots with dresses – the top of the boots is angled for leg-slimming effect.
  • Silver brogues a great way of adding a feminine twost to gentlewoman style and a very reasonable price for leather
  • Silver kitten heel boots – for anyone who likes Parisian elegance, particularly perfect for nights out.
  • Silver square toed flat – a simple flat with a squared off toe and an incredible price for leather. Great if you just want to wear a silver shoe occasionally.
  • Silver western boot – for anyone who prefers a more solid heel that doesn’t have the risk of being scuffed. It has a touch of this season’s Western styling but without the full Cuban heel and the silver finish is slightly dulled if you prefer a less pronounced look.
  • Silver block heels – the shoes that I wanted so desperately in spring have been rereleased and sold out again in my size before I could get them. A really lovely option for winter nights out and Christmas parties – plus they’ll take you right through to the summer months.

Easy AW23 outfit updates – a pop of colour bag

A bag is a great way to add contrast to outfits that look very heavy in winter when a coat takes up so much of your sartorial real estate. Crossbodies in particular can be a great way to break things up as they add a horizontal line which cuts across the midriff. It depends on the collar and length of your coat though so I’ve added some that have this season’s on trend top handle as well as a strap to give you a dual option. Now that John Lewis have discontinued Kin which was so good for bags, there are some unbelievable offers as they clear the stock. I’ve included some below and you can find the rest here.

Top to bottom, L-R

  • Ivory handbag with crossbody strap – also available in black or burgundy lizard, this is great value and an easy way to add a winter wardrobe update.
  • Burgundy crossbody another bag at a low pricepoint that makes it easy to move around hands-free, also available in black or khaki
  • Silver top handle bag – a bargain in clearance, such an elegant bag to have in your collection for a night out or a wedding
  • Silver leather crossbody/clutch – a classic leather bag that you can use as a crossbiody by day and then as a clutch in the evening by simply detaching the strap. This makes it especially handy for a city break.
  • Black mock croc with crossbody strap – ok so this isn’t a pop of colour but I had to include it because it’s such a great classic bag that’s in clearance. On trend and yet timeless too, a brilliant buy.
  • Forest green crossbody – the good thing about green bags is that they still feel fresh in spring. This is a quality leather bag that adds texture to your outfit.
  • Forest green shoulder bag – if you prefer a shoulder bag, this will tuck neatly under your arm for minimal wardrobe interference, also available in taupe.
  • Orange crossbody – and you know my love of an orange bag, the ultimate moodlifting summer and winter accessory, also available in green or black
  • Black quilted crossbody – I’ve included this because it has this season’s padded texture but also because the strap is removable so you can interchange it with a striped guitar style strap if you want to jazz up your look

Easy AW23 outfit updates – the scarf of the season

The chunky scarf is a key player this season, worn either to break up the dominance of the maxi-coats that are on trend or, at this time of year, on its own, as a wrappable layer for fluctuating temperatures.

L-R, top to bottom

  • Geometric monochrome scarf – a big monochrome scarf is a year round wardrobe hero – you saw me using mine in July at the middle son’s graduation and they’re great as a chunky cover-up for eveningwear too. Whereas a pashmina type shawl can be ageing, they have the same effect as a biker jacket.
  • Multi-coloured pink/blue.yellow/green scarf – still in the sale from last year, a good buy
  • Black and white check scarf – a more muted monochrome option
  • Orange and blue scarf – a great way of adding autumn colours to an otherwise plain coat
  • Pink and orange scarf – for anyone who misses summer colours and wants to chase away the winter blues
  • Grey and black scarf – an elegant option that would look particularly good with the stealth wealth trend for greys and camels
  • Blue and black scarf – a great value choice that would completely lift a plain black coat
  • Multi-coloured scarf – a particular favourite of mine because it’s such a lovely blend of colours, also available in a neutral colourway

Easy AW23 outfit updates – elevated knitwear

The most popular style category in the survey was relaxed casual with 84% of you saying you’re most likely to be found in something like jeans, a jumper, trainers and a down coat in winter. And the great thing about John Lewis is that they create some of the best knitwear you can buy. They have a lot of different blends so that people who have sensitive skin still have options and they vary the shapes too – their styles aren’t all slouchy with dropped shoulders. I’m showing you the jumper that really stood out to me here because I just love the colour. It’s also available in bright blue, khaki or natural…

Alpaca blend jumper, jeans, wellie ankle boots

…and I’ve added a chunky scarf for extra oomph.

Alpaca blend jumper, scarf, jeans, wellie ankle boots

It’s this kind of outfit that should see me through to the middle of next month because I rarely find that the temperatures drop enough for a coat until mid-November.

Alpaca blend jumper, scarf, jeans

I’ve paired the jumper with a pair of straight cut boyfriend jeans. They’re designed to be worn loose but they’re pretty generous so you may want to size down – you can play around with the turn-up so it sits where you want it to. And last of all the ankle wellie boots which are a godsend for wearing with straight or wide leg jeans that won’t tuck into full length ones. It probably doesn’t matter what I wear for my walks these days but I got into the habit of having nice wellies over the years of standing on rugby sidelines so I can’t go back now. These are very reasonably priced compared to most and as they’re Barbour, they’re good quality – oh and they’re also available in olive green.

Jeans, wellie ankle boots

Here are my top picks from the rest of the John Lewis knitwear release with a variety of budgets and yarns in mind.

  • Jeans blue jumper – this is a lovely shape with its dipped hem in a flecked Donegal knit which is also available in a soft or dark grey. The blue would look great worn with tonal jeans, a slimming column outfit
  • Ivory cashmere – at the more expensive end of the scale but beautifully soft in a ribbed knit with cable detailing at the shoulders
  • Navy high neck jumper an instant favourite of mine because it’s in a merino wool blend with the perfect neckline and a flattering sculpted shape. Also available in a warm elephant grey – a shade that’s hard to find for people with warm skintones who struggle with cooler greys.
  • Burgundy jumper with deep rib -a great value cotton blend, this is the jumper that JL did in cashmere last year. It’s a great shape for covering the midriff making it easy to wear with jeans. The deep rib at the hem adds weight so that it hangs well and doesn’t round over your tummy. Also available in light grey.
  • Sculpted camel jumper another well priced jumper that has been beautifully shaped for a flattering fit. Made from an 80% wool blend, it’s also available in grey.
  • Bright blue jumper with split hem this the blue version of the lime jumper I’m wearing above, another good option for wearing with jeans or a skirt because the split hem gives you a few options for tucking in. Also available in khaki or natural.

New brands at John Lewis

As always I’ve opted for the more timeless end of the JL offering in the sample outfits I’ve chosen to show you but there are a few more fashion forward new labels to explore if you’re looking for something different. Each season John Lewis invites a few new brands into its stable, this year it’s gone for smaller ones that are hard to find on the high street.

  • Equipment has been creating French chic from Paris since 1976, it’s all about classic elegance and discreet sexiness
  • Theory brings an emphasis on chic tailoring that doesn’t crease for a stealth wealth look
  • Olivia Rubin – dopamine dressing, always feminine and colourful, you’ll recognise it as soon as you see it
  • Fabienne Chapot – fresh in from Amsterdam this boho label includes handpainted prints amongst its whacky designs
  • Rag & Bone – the gritty aesthetic of downtown New York, styles influenced by American workwear
  • Rails – defines itself as California cool meets Parisian chic
  • Sister Jane – full of frills and ruffles, the trend that’s been called Regency-core, Sister Jane has standout dresses and tops for special occasions
  • Soeur – the second season for the understated French chic brand at John Lewis
  • Vivere by Savannah Miller – taken from the Italian word for live or endure, Savannah’s designs are intended to ecapsulate timeless elegance

Vintage Jewellery

And there’s one last department at John Lewis that I want to mention because you may not have picked up on it – vintage jewellery. I never see myself as somebody who’s especially interested in jewellery trends and yet I find it soothingly nostalgic to browse through this section. The pieces from the 80s and 90s are the ones that speak to me most because of course I was working at Selfridges and running fashion shoots. There was so often jewellery that I’d fall in love with knowing that at that early stage in my working life I couldn’t hope to afford it. The prices for the vintage pieces are no higher than the brand new jewellery at John Lewis but I like the fact that they’re mostly one-offs and probably carry a secret story of their own – of lives lived and good times spent.

Pieces like these early 90s love knots remind me of the ones I bought to go with my faux Chanel suit (from Next) for my very first job interviews after graduating. They matched the buttons and helped me to feel pulled together.

90s love knot earrings

Then there are the doorknocker styles that are on their way back, it’s such a trip down memory lane.

Doorknocker earrings

Anyway it’s a great part of the website to browse through if you’re looking for something that’s slightly unusual but still reasonably priced and of course it’s a more sustainable way to shop too.

So that’s my round-up of easy AW23 outfit updates, as always it’s the detail that makes the difference. A quick update on Zoe for those who are waiting, my kit finally arrived today rather than 1st October as I anticipated. It means I now have to wait until I have a relatively clear week to begin it because of the testing factors involved so I won’t be kicking off until 23rd October.

Thank you for all of your lovely messages last week, you really turned the way I was feeling around so I’m more grateful than you know. I hope you have a good weekend ahead, a cosy autumn one perhaps now that the weather’s turned – our heating is ON! We’re off to Manchester on Sunday to see a new new play (Free Your Mind) launching at the brilliant Factory International arts centre. It’s an immersive hip hop imagining of The Matrix which, as you probably know, is almost a religion to Mal so as soon as tickets went on sale I bought some as his birthday treat. I have no idea what to expect but it’s directed by Danny Boyle so it’s bound to be mind bending. I’ll let you know next week!

Disclosure: ‘Easy AW23 outfit updates’ was commissioned by John Lewis but as always, I was free to choose what to feature and photograph

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