My goodness, another bank holiday, it’s a surfeit of the sweetest things for anyone who’s busy at work at the moment isn’t it? I wonder how many of you have coronation plans. It seems to be very low key here, nobody we know is doing any kind of royal celebration which seems a shame and I wonder if we’ve just had so much pomp and ceremony over the last few years that it’s lost its edge – or maybe it’s more than that and it gives us insight into the mood of the nation. We could probably have a very long and interesting conversation about it all but the reality of another day off ahead means that now isn’t the time! Instead I’ve taken inspiration from a conversation I had with a friend last week. We were talking about clothes and the fact that neither of us has bought very much this year so far and what we’re thinking of for summer (should it ever arrive). She was saying that she was glad that the loose floral dress has gone but that actually she can’t think of anything that’s as easy and versatile to replace it, the point being that the floral dress took you everywhere – work, weekend and dog walk. So today is all about how to update your midlife wardrobe for Summer 23.
The thing is that the floral dress was born out of lockdown, a particular time when our lives had less distinction than they do now. It was both a symbol of homely positivity and also a clever ruse by retailers who were trading solely online and trying to keep returns down – the loose fit fixed that. Even if we still work from home a lot, most of us now have more defined wardrobe moments again – we might go out somewhere at night or to a meeting, to see a play or have drinks with friends… and with that, just shuttle back to life three years ago, aren’t we lucky to have that freedom again?
Going back to the what to wear this summer conundrum, there are some key influences around and on the whole they don’t involve pattern which means that designers have looked towards structure and shape for inspiration. There are two strong references – for anybody that still likes the femininity of floral dress fluidity and the often elasticated waists that lockdown brought, there’s the 90s. If you lean towards the more dramatic element of the look, there’s the 70s. Neither features very much pattern, instead the contrast comes from texture, often in a shiny or matte finish which is far more elevated than the floaty cotton of lockdown, along with colour and cut. Let me show you.
How to update your midlife wardrobe for Summer 23 – 90s references
I can’t imagine there’s a single one of us who can’t remember how to work this style – I spent the 90s editing Selfridges magazine so of course fashion was oxygen. I remember there being looks I loved – the slinky monochrome, the slim architectural dresses and the pared down trouser suits worn with a simple white tee. There were also some I didn’t – dresses over trousers… grunge… cloven toed shoes. We all find our way through trends, working out how to add a touch of relevance to whatever we like to wear because that’s the only point of it really, to show you still have an eye on the game.
So the simplest way to bring the 90s in to your wardrobe now is in pared down form – here are some basic monochrome pieces that would be great for work or a night out. Black hasn’t been around for a while but it’s back and it’s much easier to wear in summer than winter because you have more of your own flesh on show to work as a neutral and dilute it. It’s also unexpected and can give real standout against the sea of summer brights.
If you cast your eye over the shapes here a few things will start to make sense such as why so many of the tops you’re seeing in the shops are short. Imagine trying to style a long one with one of these elasticated slip skirts – you’d have bulges, so instead they’re designed to sit gently over the waistline and fall no further. The same short top principle applies to trousers whether you’re going for a more rigid jean or a wide leg linen pair that works just as well for this look.
Texture is key to replacing pattern and there are contrasts of shiny and matte worn together. Skirts and dresses are elevated from the cottons of past seasons in silk or satin. As you can see, t-shirts are ribbed which makes them more forgiving when they’re slim fitting. Cardigans are anchor pieces, they’re mostly made from a cotton yarn and ribbed like the tees or designed in a lacy knit.
As far as footwear is concerned, you’ll have noticed that pointy, kitten-heeled slingbacks are around again but so are strappy 90s sandals with a low block heel and they’re much easier to walk in. Equally this look works with the ballet flat or trainers but you lose a little of the elegance that comes with a low heel so that’s a personal choice.
L-R, top to bottom
- Clean lines black knit jacket: also available in warm white, this is going to look great with any skirt, dress or wide leg trouser. It has a two way zip specifically so that you can play around with its shape. An easy piece for throwing on and off and it’s machine washable – another thing I love about the techno fabrics of the 90s.
- Pointelle cotton cardigan: lacy textures are the lift that you can give to a 90s inspired outfit, you’ll find them everywhere this year and they’re perfect for cooler summer days. They’re such an easy way of adding a 2023 update to your existing wardrobe. 4 colours available.
- Ribbed black cotton cardigan: if it’s a true 90s look you’re aiming for though you want ribbed cotton. I had a cardigan exactly like this that I wore repeatedly with my 90s monochrome looks so it’s like seeing the face of an old friend. 7 colours available and they have 30% off this weekend.
- Wide ecru jeans: you saw me wearing these a few posts ago, it’s taken me a while to get the size right – in the end I found them to be true to size despite the reviews. Now I love them more than my Me+Em ones thanks to the structured cotton that gives them such a great shape and the button fly that breaks up the hip area which can otherwise seem very broad with a high rise style. 30% off this weekend.
- Ecru satin skirt: if you’re toying with the slip skirt look, this is a low cost and easy way of trying it. It has an elasticated waist, it’s machine washable viscose and it’s great value. Also available in a soft sage green.
- Clean cut vest top: another of my favourites for the season, the best cut I’ve found and I’ve now bought it in four of the 7 colours. 30% off with code F3Q9.
- Black satin skirt: available in 11 different colours this is a classic, dress it up with heels or down with trainers, wear it with a t-shirt in summer or a cashmere jumper in winter, a hardworking wardrobe investment.
- Black sandals with circular heel: I wish I’d seen these before I bought the ones I have. With their cylindrical heel they’re quirky and yet timeless, easy to wear with absolutely anything. Also available in gold.
- Black tote: leather totes can appear heavy in summer, this is an easy way of lightening your look.
Of course the 90s wasn’t just about monochrome, there’s a colourful way of doing it too as you can see and you can play around with boxier tops if you prefer something that’s a little less fitted.
L-R, top to bottom
- Pink 90s t-shirt: this is such a 90s shape, a boxy top, probably worn with maharishis back then, now with cargoes if you like them, a skirt or jeans. 5 colours available and 30% off with code F3Q9.
- Blue striped linen blend t-shirt: more classic and this lovely linen blend will feel cool and comfortable. The turn-ups on the sleeves add an extra contrast detail. Available in 3 colours.
- Orange neat t-shirt: back to the ribbed textures again but with sleeves for anyone who prefers to cover the tops of their arms. 9 colours available and 30% off with code F3Q9.
- Orange satin skirt: a mid-priced satin skirt here in an eco-viscose with an elasticated waist. 11 colours available including patterns.
- Denim skirt: a high trend look this season, the below the knee denim skirt with front split. This is a great version at a good price in 2 different washes but it’s selling fast.
- Tapered jeans: another pair that you’ve seen me try this season, like a more flattering version of a 501. Khaki, white and ecru versions available here.
- Gold cushioned sandals: for anyone who loves the gold platform look but wants something lower, these also have layers of cushioning worked in to make them comfortable to wear. Also available in metallic rainbow.
- Lime sandals: you can’t beat a sandal for a pop of colour in summer – like the lime in your drink it will add pep to any outfit. 5 colours available.
How to update your midlife wardrobe for Summer 23 – 70s references
And if the 90s with its fluid, slinky fit isn’t for you then there’s always the drama of 70s shapes. Like the 90s, waists are high and so tops are shorter, it’s a bold, confident look and I think it’s one of the most stylish and easiest ways for a midlifer to stand out.
L-R, top to bottom
- Clean cut vest top: it’s here again, the ribbed tee that bridges both trends. 5 colours available and 30% off with code F3Q9.
- Collared v-neck cotton ribbed top: if you prefer a long sleeved version and let’s face it, this year it might be a good idea then this has the essential collar detail with all of the ribbing and a full sleeve too. Also available in pink.
- Collared v-neck ribbed navy tee: and there’s a short sleeved one too, with a collar, made from cotton and available in 6 colours.
- Collared v-neck red tee: this is a little more cropped and fitted for lovers of high waists. 3 colours available
- Button through short jersey jacket: I have this pique jacket in navy and it’s a summer essential, it’s the sort of thing you can wear on a plane and then stuff in a basket when you get there. It’s comfortable, stretchy, it keeps its shape and it doesn’t crumple. 20% off this weekend. Also available in cream in some sizes.
- Wide leg jeans: another great looking cut, a straight wide leg without any kick flare and with a modicum of stretch for comfort. Also available in ecru or light blue and 30% off with F3Q9.
- Tweed bomber jacket: a lovely cropped bomber in a two tone black and navy tweed. Ignore the way they’ve styled it on the site, it’s smart and yet sporty all in one and it has 30% off with code F3Q9
- Low platform tan suede heels with cushioning: I’ve pre-ordered these because I love them so much, they’re going to update everything that I already have in my wardrobe for summer so even though they’re an investment, they’re a shortcut to being able to rewear lots of outfits. They have layers of cushioning and they’re lower than most of the platforms around.
- Gazelle trainers: the trainer of the season, everyone’s wearing them because they’re affordable and they come in an endless colour selection. You just have to decide if they have too much of a football terrace association or not. They’re an easy way to move on from white trainers if you’re looking to change things up.
- Short denim jacket: I bought this as soon as I saw it, just the right length and with the slight stretch that I prefer in a denim jacket, great value – a brilliant buy.
- Cow print clogs: they say that midlife women should always add a small element of surprise to their outfits and these clogs certainly do that. A way to be bang on trend as well as something to make you smile; they’re also available in bright pink and lime green.
So I hope you’ve enjoyed that and it’s given you a few ways of livening up your wardrobe. A lot of the clothes in the shops are so dull this season that it’s hard to find a way of jazzing things up unless you decide to play around with a trend. And if you’re on the lookout for a new white blouse to wear simply with jeans I just wanted to show you this which is new in this week but probably won’t be around for long. I don’t know whether you can tell but it has a broderie effect and yet when you look closer you can see that there are tiny three dimensional butterflies. I’m not usually drawn to pretty things but I think it’s lovely. There are other colours available in different designs.
Hope for Hope
I know some of you have been following the journey that our friends at Hope Fashion have been taking to secure the brand’s future after the investors pulled out at the very last minute in January – it’s a brutal world right now in retail and they bore the very brunt of it. However they didn’t give up, instead they turned to their customers with a plea for help and managed to raise £103,250 from 450 individual supporters in 22 days. This has enabled them to put together a small collection for SS23 which they’ve now launched and all of the pieces have been modelled by women who rallied round; they’re calling them Hope Saviours. It’s a great example of what midlife women can achieve when they believe in each other.
The new collection hones in on Hope’s speciality which is creating clothes that give confidence to midlife women, flattering the parts that we can be more self-conscious about such as midriffs and arms. I particularly like the cut of this dress which they’re calling a kaftan but I feel that undersells it, it has a lovely fluidity but it still has shape.
And there’s this fabulous red jumper with block print skirt that you see on Nayna who is battling so hard to save her business. You can see the full collection here so do go over and have a look, support them if you can. There are so few brands that hold midlife women at their core – we need to stand besides the ones who care.
A slow reading course
And before I go I just want to let you know about a guided slow reading course that one of our regular commenters, Maureen, is starting with her group Riversmeet. They call it Slow Reading because the books are classics rather than just light fiction and they take their time over them. The theory is that the past can help us understand the present and give us a new way of looking at the times we’re living through. The course is online, led by Dr Richard Bradbury who has taught at both Warwick and Exeter Universities as well as being a published writer himself.
This time around they’re going to be looking at Orlando by Virginia Wolf and it looks fascinating – a no stress way of being guided to really think about an important piece of English literature. Listening to the opening video made me realise how behind I am on English lit – I spent my four years at uni studying French and Spanish classics but really need to look more into those from my home country. Anyway you can find out all about it here, it starts on 8th May and there will be short online lectures as well as online discussion groups once a fortnight – you can choose from two: Tuesdays at 2pm and Thursdays at 8pm.
And so I’ll leave you to your weekend which I hope has a feeling of celebration about it. Ours won’t be as eventful as last weekend in Newcastle when amongst other things we were invited to the launch of an art exhibition, Strange Times (hence the picture at the top). We fell in love with the work of the young figurative artist Samson Tudor and were even both drawn to the same oil painting so it now has our red dot on it and when the exhibition ends, it will be coming home with us. He’s the same age as our eldest and it feels good to support someone who’s just starting out.
This weekend will be the first time we’ve been at home on our own for ages so we’ll be catching up with jobs in the house and garden which is looking particularly woeful – and you know how much I enjoy gardening! Thankfully we have the light of lunch in The Lakes with friends on Monday to keep us digging. Enjoy your weekend as we head into a new period of our country’s history, let’s hope it marks the start of a different era – one that’s a little less ‘interesting’ than the last fifteen years we’ve all lived through!