At last, it’s officially Spring (although the weather gods still seem to have their ear muffs on). Within the next month we’ll have that first glorious day when you can feel the good times coming. So, let’s talk about clothes again and easy ways to update your wardrobe for Spring 2023. With an eye on sustainability I’ve been keeping quiet on the shopping front for a while. I don’t feel it’s right to keep pushing ill considered purchases with the way things are for both the planet and the economy. However now, with the season turning it feels like a good time for us all to address what we have and decide what we’re taking through and where we need a refresh.
Great change is afoot in the world of style and it’s about time. We may not see it coming through for a while but I can tell you that after the last few years of milkmaid and breeze block looks, there’s a return to womanly elegance ahead – take a quick look through this summary of AW23’s catwalks to see what I mean. Court shoes are back along with a more fitted silhouette. So if, like me, you’ve been holding on to your beautiful shoe collection, you can breathe a sight of relief.
However, I’m only mentioning this so that you have the big transition that’s ahead in mind. We won’t really see it coming through for SS23 although there are some key shifts to consider… ways of adapting your look so that you can work the new season into your existing wardrobe by making a few adjustments. Before we get into any of that though, let’s step back. It’s easy to get carried away when newness sweeps in so I want to remind you to pin down your personal framework first. We’ve done it countless times on here before so this will be a recap for long term readers and new for others.
The outfitting cycle in the UK
So, let’s start by zooming into the outfitting cycle. In terms of social behaviour, this is the secret – it’s the retailers’ understanding behind customers’ triggers to change their wardrobes over. Obviously in my retail consulting work I use this for their benefit, today I’m flipping it over to reveal the caveats for you.
There are five key wardrobe seasons in the UK with a bracketed sixth depending on your lifestyle:
- Jan – mid March
True winter, the time when we wear more practical clothing that takes into account the weather. This is when we really do wear the warm jumpers and coats that we get carried away with buying in September (which means we often buy them in the wrong colours because we’re thinking autumn moods when we should have pre-Spring in mind). I’ll talk more about all of this when we approach September because it makes a critical difference to how you feel during the most wretched months of the year. For now though, they’re over so let’s put them behind us.
2. Mid-March – end of May
Spring. Rarely as warm as we anticipate but a time when we’re ready to switch over to different textures and colours. It’s worth remembering just how temperamental this time is in terms of temperature. We went to a three day festival between 12th & 14th May last year. On the first day I wore four layers including thermals and boots, by the third I was in a thin sleeveless jumpsuit. It’s as extreme as that.
3. Early June – end of September
Summer. Still variable. Usually, by the start of June we stop wearing socks so boots go away and we wear trainers or sandals (actually loafers or ballet flats this year if they work for you but we’ll come on to that). You’ll probably find that you wear fewer high Summer clothes than you expect to so even though they’re pretty, be disciplined on this front.
Autumn. Sartorially it only lasts for two months and it’s very rarely cold but retailers know that people will pile into AW clothes because they believe they’re a sensible buy. They invest in things in dark colours or seasonals such as orange and burgundy that they think they’ll get lots of wear out of – but by January they just feel wrong.
In terms of true seasonality we need very few Autumnal looks and if we’re shopping at this time we should have an eye on season one (Jan – March). If you’re investing in a coat for example, a lighter one will be much more wearable after Christmas than a black one. Ditto brown/tan boots etc.
Research shows that most people go through November thinking they won’t buy anything Christmassy and then tend to hit December, crumble and spend. There’s a strong case for a ‘pocket of joy’ Christmas wardrobe but it doesn’t need to be huge.
We call this the bracketed sixth because as a retailer it’s less easy to predict. Most people invest in a holiday wardrobe but what they shop for depends on the type of holiday/travel they do and customers at the top end of the high street have the most variation in their destinations. However like Autumn, it’s an occasion for over-shopping – retailers know that most people both buy and spend more than they need, this time with a hedonistic drive.
For now we’re looking at season two which is a time when everyone’s itching to put their Winter clothes away. So, with all of the retail tripwires in mind, let’s go over the best way of constructing a capsule wardrobe for the season.
Easy ways to update your wardrobe for Spring 2023
Plan for your lifestyle
Clothes for the Spring/Summer season bring with them all kinds of promise and it’s easy to get carried away by shopping for a lifestyle that you don’t actually lead. So think about what you’re going to be doing over the next few months and if you don’t have much in the diary, it’s every reason to make some plans – it’s so important to have things to look forward to.
When you know what your balance of everyday:elevated dressing is going to be (and yes elevated can just be a picnic or lunch in a country pub) – then you know what the ratio in your wardrobe should be for the season. The important thing here is to think first about the everyday dressing, it’s instinctive to do it the other way around but you want to feel good all the time. Once you have the basics right, then move on to the exciting bit.
Understand the structure of your body
As we make a strong shift away from the loose flowy dresses and boxy looks of the last few years where you haven’t needed to consider the architecture of your body, it’s going to be important to readdress your strong points. Look at everything – waist, bust, hips, neck, wrists, ankles… and understand where your body goes in and out. That’s going to be key to getting the fit of your wardrobe right as we go into a closer silhouette. There are also going to be shapes that haven’t been around for a long time such as dropped waists/low rise trousers and so you need to know whether you’re going to embrace or swerve them (it’s a definite swerve for me, they’re an absolute nightmare for my body shape).
Think about colour
There’s a lot of nonsense going on about this, there always is. Red… cobalt blue… purple… pastels… black… various fashion editors have declared that one or other of these is the colour you should base your entire SS23 wardrobe around. You’re far better off understanding which colours actually work for your skintone – especially when it comes to white/off white which is worn more in Spring and Summer. A lot of people (me included) look absolutely deathly in brilliant white.
The season’s shift – what’s new for SS23?
The silhouette – easy ways to update your wardrobe for Spring 2023 –
This isn’t new exactly, there’s been a shift going on towards the wider bottom with a narrow upper for a while but it’s now reaching its peak. A fundamental way of moving your look on is to introduce full length, wide leg trousers and jeans into your wardrobe if you haven’t already.
Now I know what the dog walkers/village dwellers are going to say, that they just aren’t practical for the rural lifestyle and I agree. This is where the split between your everyday and elevated looks comes in – and it’s why it’s so important to balance that out as a ratio before you start shopping.
Your wardrobe is going to look a bit dated this year if you’re wearing tapered or wide leg crops. However if they work for your everyday wardrobe because you have to walk your dog at lunchtime like I do then those are the choices you make. An easy compromise would be to make sure your trouser leg is straight if it’s cropped.
When it comes to wide leg jeans, unless you’re a leggy beanpole I find it’s a softer composition of denim that makes all the difference. If you have wider hips it can be easier to opt for something that drapes rather than sticking out stiffly, highlighting your horizontal planes. I’ve tried so many pairs on and in the end I’ve found it comes down to the quality of the denim blend. My wide leg jeans are from SS21 so I can’t link them for you but here are a couple of recent pictures to show you what I mean about drape, they mould along my legs to give them some shape rather than standing stiffly apart from them.
Boden silk blouse AW18; White Stuff tank top SS22; Me+Em jeans SS21; Boden boots AW20
John Lewis Coat AW22; Sézane silk blouse AW18; Me+Em jeans SS21; 327 Trainers
One pair I’m enjoying wearing that are still available to buy are these subtle flare jeans. They’re neater from hip to knee than the pure wide legs which means the stiffer denim gives shape from the knee down. Instead pf the solid dye they also have a little fading to slim the thigh. They’re a tiny bit shorter so I can wear them on muddy paths and the thicker denim has a more casual feel.
I’ll move on to shoes in a minute but as soon as the warmer weather arrives, sandals and the new ballet flats will add a nice counterpoint to wide leg jeans.
John Lewis coat and jumper; Me+Em jeans, Boden ballet flats all past season
I’m going to be doing a jeans try-on in Leeds this weekend so I’m really hoping to be able to bring you some photographs of good current options soon – stay tuned!
As far as proper trousers are concerned, they’re mostly wide legged, drapey and elegant. When it comes to skirts and dresses, midi and mini are still the way to go although as Summer approaches you’re going to see far more maxi lengths coming through which is great because they’re easy to wear. And then when the new elegance kicks in, we’ll be going back towards knee length – but I suspect it will take between one and three seasons for it to reach the high street.
Patterns/Colours – easy ways to update your wardrobe for Spring 2023
The John Lewis proclamation that ditsy buffet dresses were over reached me when I was deep in the Masai Mara and it was even more of a reason to feel joyful. Of course if you love them, wear them – we should all dress in whatever makes us happy. However the new florals this year will be bold and hothouse style, often with a moiré, slightly surreal finish. You’ll see graphic patterns around too. And a lot of solid colours. As I’ve already mentioned there’s a lot of cobalt, purple, red and a new shade of sugar pink – but choose whatever suits you.
Texture – easy ways to update your wardrobe for Spring 2023
Texture is going to be more dominant than pattern as we go forward. For SS23 it’s gauzy, there’s a lot of transparency around. Fabrics are more fluid, probably as a reaction to the cotton that’s been so strong since lockdown. You’ll see lingerie styling and the good news about that is a return to silk/satin camisoles worn under blazers or cardigans along with satin slip skirts. We’ve done it all before so we know how to work this trend.
Footwear – easy ways to update your wardrobe for Spring 2023
Loafers are still a big look although they’re getting slightly less chunky in profile which fits with the elegance that’s ahead. Ballet flats (and versions of) have been circling for the last couple of seasons, now they’re fully back for the first time since about 2014 and they’re a good way to bring your straight ankle length jeans up to date.
Breton; Hush jeans past season, Boden ballet flats past season
As always, fashion has found a way of differentiating this year’s ballet flats from the original black/camel worn with skinnies. This season they’re used as a pop of colour… or they’re metallic… or they have a square toe… or an embellishment/animal print. I’ve found some of the best for you further on in this post.
Mary Janes are the first heeled shoe to break through for a while and some ballet flats have a Mary Jane strap too which makes them a bit better for you feet.
Trainers – there’s a move away from white although they’ll always be classic. You’ll notice that people are wearing more solid coloured trainers now, probably because of the success of New Balance. I’m often asked for advice on trainers and as always, my first question is why buy own brand from a general retailer such as M&S or Boden? Sports brands instantly inject a shot of ageless style into your outfit and they’re so much more comfortable because they have sports tech worked into them.
Whenever I talk to Gen Z/Millennials about their thoughts on midlife style, the first thing they tend to say is that they rate it from the shoes up and the look-killer is a pair of high street trainers. Not that we should dress for them but I think they have a point. Anyway with the assistance of the sneaker obsessed eldest I’m gradually building a collection of iconic classics so I’ll list them on here soon.
Eras for inspiration – easy ways to update your wardrobe for Spring 2023
1970s – Daisy Jones & The Six inspired boho OR (my favourite) Studio 54/ Charlie’s Angels chic!
1990s – sleek minimalism (think back to the Calvin Klein ads)
Y2K – I really didn’t think I’d be typing that again so soon but yes, low rise jeans with G-string thongs on show, crop tops, combat pants, parachute pants, dresses over trousers. Possibly the worst ever era for fashion (in my opinion).
Simple solutions for now – easy ways to update your wardrobe for Spring 2023 –
So, even though the weather has yet to catch up, let’s get ready for the season. It’s best to start by going through your wardrobe and working out what you already have:
- Try on any Summer trousers and jeans, do they still work for you?
- Look at your bretons and t-shirts – do they need a refresh?
- Think about layering – which jackets are you going to wear when the sun comes out? Do your blazer lengths work with your trousers and dresses? Do you need to buy a cropped jacket to go with wider bottoms?
- Are your white trainers still white or do you need to replace them? Do you need to buy a solid coloured pair as an additional update?
- Are you going to try ballet flats because they work so easily with wider bottoms?
- Are you happy with your wardrobe’s base colour for the season (perhaps one of the following: navy/ black/ khaki/ camel/ ivory)?
- Do you know what your other colours are going to be – either as accents or solids?
- Using your base colour pieces and your pops – can you throw ten great outfits together in less than a minute? If not, where are the gaps?
Classic wardrobe refreshes
I deliberately haven’t bought any new clothes in 2023 and I’m really looking forward to thinking all of this through next weekend (which will be our first at home since the beginning of January. Phew). I need a couple of new bretons because they’re such an easy solution at this time of year but I’ll be steering away from the ubiquitous navy and looking for something different.
Bretons with a twist
Bolder stripes are a key way to move them on this year as well as button details. Remember to steer away from a round neckline unless you have an elegant swan neck. Here are the best I’ve found so far.
Clockwise – top left to right
- Vintage blue stripe breton. A lovely faded denim colour stripe that will work perfectly with mid-wash jeans for a pulled together column look. I have one of these in a different colourway and they’re a good, mid-weight cotton with quality button detailing on the shoulder. Lots of other colours available.
- Thin khaki strip breton. This is incredible value with a neck-lengthening slash neckline and bracelet length sleeves, good for cooler summer days. The thin stripe is a point of difference, made from BCI cotton, lots of colours available.
- Relaxed oversized breton. The side button detail means you can style this in different ways and on chilly evenings it would look good with a contrast t-shirt underneath. The off white panel at the top is perfect for anyone who finds bretons too busy. Also available in red.
- Charity breton. Once voted by Midlifechic readers as their favourite of all bretons on the high street, this bright summer blue version is being sold with all profits going to the Mind charity. You can find lots of other colours (without the charity donation) here.
- Maxi stripe breton. This season’s breton refresh, a more banded stripe but with a neat Parisian fit on the shoulderline (unlike most on the market). Mid-weight cotton. Lots of other colours available in a classic stripe.
- Maxi stripe breton. A lighter weight jersey for warmer days with a solid ivory top panel for those who prefer it. Also available in a sky blue maxi stripe.
New style ballet flats
As we’ve already discussed, they’re back but in lighter colours and/or with an embellishment.
Clockwise – top left to right
- Soft red pointed embellished flats. I particularly like the way that the embellishment blends with the shoe. A pointed toe is always a good contrast to the volume of a wide leg.
- Lilac scalloped ballet flat. These are available in wide fit only which is a shame because they’re great value for leather with Flex fit technology.
- Bright pink square toe ballet pumps. As above, wide fit only, 5 star reviews and selling fast.
- Gold woven ballet flats. Ah so lovely, they’ll go with everything and they have a low heel too which is good for anyone with struggling arches. Hand woven in leather with a leather lining. Also available in deep turquoise, camel and raffia.
- Leopard embellished flats. Now I’m not a huge fan of leopard print, I find it too busy but I do like it in a shoe or boot. I’ve had a pair that are almost identical to these since 2008 and they’re still going strong. The colours work right through to the early days of November.
- Pointed Mary Jane flats. Two trends in one. The gold trim is especially good because it will break up the clash that so often happens with navy tights and shoes if you’re wearing them on colder days. Also available in a red and blue stripe which is now in the sale.
- Lilac ballet flats. Soft and supple with flex technology. An unbelievable price and also available in tan, black or silver.
- Silver ballet flats. Silver is the most fashion forward choice of the high trend for metallics this season, these have a softly squared off toe and great reviews. Also available in black or tan.
I hope that’s given you a simple kickstart for the new season – by the way I’ve just had a message from Boden to say they’re offering you an extra 15% off their mid-season sale as well as 15% off full price for this weekend only here with code H3Y7 . I just want to finish by saying a huge thank you to everyone who supported the charity sale last weekend. I’m going to leave the shop open for a while because I still have too much to start planning the new dressing room so I’ll keep adding pieces when I have time. You’ll be able to find them here.
We’re heading over to Leeds this weekend because we’ve been invited to join the youngest for his leaving party. After the Easter holidays he’ll be heading out to L’Université de Bourgogne for a term and then he’ll spend a full year in Spain so it’s goodbye to his Leeds life for 18 months. We’re going over with his brothers and godparents to join him and his friends on their last Otley Run. As you know it’s a pub crawl that covers fifteen (yes you read that right) pubs and on top of it all, it’s fancy dress (again – the third time this month). I suspect I’ll be doing one pub on, three pubs off and playing the role of first aider as we approach the end – I don’t think I could have managed fifteen pubs even in my wildest days!
Anyway we feel very honoured to have been invited to join in. It’s going to be especially lovely to spend time with Mal’s friends from his university days as well as family – they’re all godparents of one boy or another. I’ll post my fancy dress outfit on Instagram @midlifechic – the theme is movie characters and I’m taking the easy way out by wearing things I mostly already have in my wardrobe so it isn’t particularly wild.
Have a lovely weekend and I’ll be back next Friday with a new season beauty demo if everything works as it should.
Disclosure: ‘Easy ways to update your wardrobe for Spring 2023’ is not a sponsored post
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