I’m going to talk about how to make winter outfits look pulled together today but first I just want to say how nice it is when a post falls on Midlifechic’s actual birthday – my blog is 8 years old today. This is post number 655 and what a journey it’s been. As always I’ve been flicking through my early pictures and my first thought is how tired I look but then I think about how busy life was with a business to run and boys aged 17, 12 and 10, each with their own sets of interests and clubs to attend. There was so much running around… and so much emotional housekeeping too – I miss the closeness that comes with the fully intertwined lives of five people but I don’t miss not having time to catch my breath.
As you know, Midlifechic was really just supposed to be my own visual way of moving from mumsy back to woman. Here are a couple of the early outfits to show you what I mean:
Looking back now I can see that not only was I tired but at 46 I was probably in perimenopause – my sense of self was very low. We had a worrying legal battle going on with the builder who had abandoned our extension project taking the rest of our budget with him and it felt as though it would never end. When I reflect on my 40s I realise that they were hard, they contained my parents’ cancer struggles as well – it wasn’t an easy decade.
Starting Midlifechic turned out to be one of the best whims I’ve ever acted upon. It’s given me the ongoing company of so many of you – friends that I may never meet but who have still become part of my life. I’m forever talking to you in my head and when I’m out and about; something will often make me think of one of you in particular and a comment you’ve made recently. Life is full of unexpected turns and writing this blog also helped me to get back into my beloved world of high street retail. I enjoy being back in the flow of it, analysing target consumers and what it is they really want. And I think we’ve had a huge impact on retailers as an audience – they see midlifers very differently now to the way they shifted in their seats rather uncomfortably when I talked to them about us back in 2014.
In fact today we won a BIG retail contract to work on as an agency so we’re feeling delighted and daunted at the same time. Setting it alongside existing clients means we’re going to be very, very busy over the next six months but we’re not afraid of hard work. So regardless of bootcamp, I’m going to eat cake and feel grateful for whatever it was that finally made me press ‘publish’ on my first post eight years ago today. You know I like to be visual and if there’s anything that sums up the difference that Midlifechic has made to the way I feel it’s the contrast between the first Newcastle ‘out out’ outfit that I featured in May 2014…
…and this one from last May.
That’s the joy that HRT, a good haircut, hitting my 50s and this blog has brought me – I feel like my true self again. You never know what’s around the corner so I just hope I’m lucky enough for this good period of life to continue. In the meantime I want to say yet again that women shouldn’t fear growing older. It’s a time in our lives when the clouds part – we know who we are and we have the wisdom to be happy with what we have rather than constantly chasing more. It often takes a lot more effort to feel good about the way we look than it used to but we have more time to put into it if we choose to. This is the point where the world opens up again for most of us and I’ll keep on trying to come up with ideas so that we can feel good about it together and squeeze it to the pips.
How to make winter outfits look pulled together
And so with that in mind I’m moving on to a reader email that came in when I asked you if there was anything you’d like me to cover on here.
“I always feel as if I’ve walked out of a jumble sale in winter and I want to feel polished. I’ve been trying to work it out by trying on different combinations of things but it isn’t working. Can you shed any light on where I’m going wrong?”
Now I can’t give a definitive answer without seeing photos but I suggest that this reader (who’s asked me not to give her name) could perhaps play around with colour blocking. I’m forever noticing that the best dressed women in winter tend to minimise the contrast in their outfits by sticking to just one or two colours. The thing is that if you wear a pair of jeans with a jumper in another colour and then throw on a different coloured coat over the top, probably with shoes in another colour and maybe a bag as well then there’s an awful lot going on.
I’m not saying that this technique will work for everyone – I know some women base their whole style ethos around clashing but I doubt they’re drawn to this blog. If you look at the style personality definitions it certainly falls under “Classic” which always sounds as though it lacks imagination but when you consider the iconic Classics – Helen Mirren, Gillian Anderson, Victoria Beckham, Amal Clooney, Grace Kelly, Jackie Kennedy, Kate Middleton… then perhaps not. If you think about the way these women dress, colourblocking is a key tool that they always use, along with fit and structure. However it’s a technique that encompasses a few other style personalities too – Natural and Gamine for example. If you’d like to find out more about style personalities here are two good resources:
What’s Your Style Personality? (Brief and includes British High Street brand references)
The 7 style essences explained (American and goes into far more depth)
Winter outfits that are too busy
So let’s move on to how to make winter outfits look pulled together. I’ve pulled out some old photos to try to illustrate how I use colourblocking in winter but first let’s start with examples that I feel didn’t work for me – I didn’t colourblock and there was too much going on:
Here I have red, green and grey…
… this would have been better with just a single pop of colour…
… and here I have blush pink, grey, blue and snakeskin all going on at the same time.
You see it’s fine to wear a red jumper and blue jeans for example if you’re staying inside but if you then throw a green coat over the top it can start to feel messy. It’s why many stylistas say they have a higher density of coats than outfit options in their winter wardrobes. And you’ll have noticed the trend for elaborate statement coats this winter which is an extension of this way of dressing although I wonder how quickly you’d grow tired of them.
So if you’re aiming for ‘polished’ which is what our reader-friend says she wants, it’s best to stick to one or two colours per outfit. I’m in the process of a huge wardrobe clearout at the moment which will result in my first sale for the Food Bank on here for ages. As I’ve gone through, I’ve made sure that I have good winter column options in specific colours for example:
dark wash indigo jeans / navy trousers / navy midi / navy mini/ navy work dress / navy casual dress/ navy turtleneck / navy cashmere crew / navy silk blouse / navy boots / navy shoes / navy coat / navy jacket
I have a slimmed down version of that in black too. I can then throw a coat of any colour over these columns and know it will look pulled together.
To add breadth of choice, I’ve then deliberately looked for tops or bottoms that tone with the coats I have because another way of colourblocking is to wear a top and coat in the same shade with a contrasting lower half. Alternatively I’ll often wear a tonal coat and trousers or skirt with a contrasting top – the third colourblocking option.
It’s very simple when you get your head round it – let me show you:
Solid navy block
Solid green block
Solid red block
Solid colourblocking with contrast outer layer
Solid navy with contrast jacket
Solid navy with contrast coat
Solid grey with contrast coat
Solid pink with contrast coat
Solid blue with contrast coat
Colourblocking outer and lower layers
Contrast silk blouse
Colour blocking outer and upper layers
Contrast bottom half
Thinking about your own personal contrast level
I’m sure you’ve got the gist of colourblocking by now but there’s one more thing that’s worth considering in midlife and that’s the degree of contrast in a simple outfit like this. I used to wear quite harsh contrasts such as red and black for example but as I’ve let the grey come through in my hair and my skintone and irises are fading it’s too severe as you can see below. Instead you’ll notice that I’m adjusting mostly to mid-tones and if I wear black, I pair it with a colour that will soften it.
If you’re not sure about the contrast you can take, think about your hair and set it against your eye colour and skintone. If you look like Snow White for example with dark hair, dark eyes and fair skin you have a high level of contrast and so can wear all kinds of strong colours together. Women of colour can often handle strong contrast too because of the strength of tone that they have. If you have pale hair, eyes and skin you’re probably happiest in colours that have minimal contrast and tone instead – for example shades of cream and camel or tonal greys.
I fall in the middle of the two, I now have far less contrast than I did so I try to stick to mid-tones of whatever colour I’m wearing. Some of you will be wondering if that means I’m going to get rid of my reds, cobalts and emerald greens but you’ll notice that I mostly wear them in spring and summer when there’s flesh on show (in terms of bare arms and legs) to balance them out. In winter when every inch of my body is covered in clothing, I have to tone the colours down.
So I hope that’s helped to give you an idea of how to make winter outfits look pulled together. When I’m not eating cake I’ll be back in my dressing room again this weekend, preparing for new season by doing a big purge and working to this discipline. I’m hoping to reduce it by half so as I mentioned there will be a big sale coming up but it’ll take a while to get everything washed, photographed and listed. Have a lovely weekend whatever you’re doing and I’ll be back next week.
Discloure: “How to make winter outfits look pulled together” is not a sponsored post
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