And just in case you didn’t already think this year’s whizzing past, today I bring you the last of the new Autumn drops. After this it will just be what I’ve been wearing and then, very soon we’ll be moving into the sparkly season. So if you haven’t worked out how you’re going to dress most days from now until (let’s face it) April – it’s time. Today I’m working with John Lewis & Partners and I’ve put together a few outfits from various brands’ latest drops and then I’m going to move on to do something a little different. I’m always being asked to run through how I do my make-up and I have such a quick and simple 5 minute make-up routine that I never feel it’s worth covering. However a couple of weeks ago I had an email that I couldn’t fail to respond to – so the second half of this post will be a very basic 5 minute make-up session.
AW 21 Outfit ideas
But let’s start with my comfort zone of clothes and it’s been a terrible week for taking photos because it just hasn’t stopped raining. As you know I’ve been limping along without a haircut since July and so with the humidity in the air it all went a bit to pot. Normal service was resumed after my trip to London at the end of last week but we had to take the outfit photos before that so….
The tank top
I’m doing my best to focus on wearability. There are lots of lovely clothes around but I’m concentrating on quality pieces that will form a hardworking capsule with a good lifespan. I don’t think any of us here are in the mindset of the one season wear any more and sometimes new trends come along that just make sense. We saw it with the arrival of the midi length that shows no signs of going anywhere and with cropped trousers too because they’re practical and look good with trainers. I think the tank top is going to be another perma-trend, and I’ve been really keen to try this one since I saw it in JL&P’s lookbook way back in mid-summer.
I like the fact that it’s a straight cut which means it’s easy to wear a layer underneath without looking too bulky. The hem has deep ribbed detail but it doesn’t hug your hips and so visually it makes them look narrower. I’ll talk about the blouse in a minute but I’ve paired it with the new favourite jeans that I showed you in my last JL&P post. I’ve worn them at least four times a week ever since and I’ve discovered that if you roll the turn-ups down, they have the perfect hem for wearing with ankle boots; at full length they stand proud of the boot so that the ankle still has good shape.
You’ve seen me wearing these trainers all Summer and you can buy the latest colourway from John Lewis & Partners if you’re quick (they have a metallic silver N rather than the white you see on mine). They are down as men’s, I wear the size 7 which is a 41 and they’re no different to my women’s ones. Navy trainers are more practical in winter than white; they’re easier to wear with socks and these are a suede and textile mix which wipes clean if they get muddy. According to the sneakerhead in the family, this style continues to be high heat – which is why they sell out so fast.
I just want to show you the detail on this blouse because I think it’s the prettiest one I’ve seen for a while and it’s a shame to hide it under the tank top. It’s made from an organic cotton and modal blend so it’s supersoft. There are pintucks that go all the way round rather than just being at the front so it looks lovely from every angle and it’s designed so that you can wear it out or tucked in. If you’re trying to invest in beautiful capsule pieces this is certainly one and given its sustainable credentials it’s a fair price too.
And I wanted to show you this warm coat – it’s available in navy too but I’m trying the khaki for a change and it’s a great buy. Quilted coats are still going strong this season particularly in diamond quilting like this or onion quilted designs. I love the fact that it has a slim fit and poppers up the side so if you’re climbing gates or stiles you’ll have plenty of room to move.
Tonal colour blocking
Some of you have noticed that I’ve really embraced pattern this Summer but when it comes to layering Winter clothing, colour-blocking is my favourite trend. This is a different colour for me – one that I really like. Green is key this season and like blue it often works well tonally for a pulled together column effect. Colour consultants always vacillate between a Spring and Autumn ‘diagnosis’ for me so at this time of year I often dip into Autumn colours and the pine of this coat is an example.
I think a cocoon cut is one of the most valuable styles you can have in your coat wardrobe because it bridges the gap between smart and casual. This one is a good length so you can wear it with a midi-dress like this for a relaxed but elegant look and yet it would work perfectly with jeans too. Over the last few years the cocoon is another style that’s stayed around and become a classic purely because of the youthful edge it lends to whatever you pair with it. With 85% wool content it’s good value too. Since I took these photos last week it’s been selling fast but there’s another good cocoon option in black here.
If you’re not sure about the looser midi-dresses that are around this is a great way to try them out at an entry point price. Most of this season’s tiered dresses have a lot of volume but this one has quite a slim cut so it’s good if you want something that feels a little neater. It’s made from comfortable cotton jersey and there’s a slub to the fabric that gives it a soft, wintery texture. The slightly raised neckline is more flattering than a crew neck (unless you’ve been blessed with a long swan neck) but it isn’t so enveloping that you’ll overheat.
An elevated jeans look
And for my last look I couldn’t resist pulling out some more of JL&P’s knitwear. As I keep on saying, no high street retailer can match them at the moment in terms of the quality/design/price/sustainability matrix. This is 100% cashmere and they’ve used a thicker twine to achieve a chunky look but it still feels like cashmere.
You may remember that I wrote quite a detailed post about cashmere last Winter, talking about the rather worrying overfarming that’s going on as a result of some high street retailers driving prices down. I’m pleased to say that the cashmere at JL&P is fully traceable, you can read all about it here – and yet they still sell it at a decent price. I’m wearing a size 12 so if you’re going for a looser, oversized look, you’d need to size up. Also available in denim blue and an oatmealy grey.
It took me until March last year to find a pair of stompy boots that I was happy with and by then it was too late in the season to tell you about them but happily they’ve been re-released. I chose this particular style because they fit neatly at the foot and so give more definition than stompy boots usually do which means they’re a little more elegant. They’re extremely comfortable, as good as trainers and they’re here for the foreseeable future so if you’re thinking about buying some, now’s the time.
Moving on to the coated jeans, I was excited as soon as I saw them come in and they’re even better than I hoped. For years I relied on coated skinnies for nights out or for a slightly more rock n roll daytime look. But then skinnies began to look dated and I haven’t been able to find anything to replace them. These have a looser cut at the thigh so there’s no sausage-skin casing going on and they hang straight from the knee to the ankle without clinging to the calves. I’m wearing them casually here but they’d be great dressed up with a silky blouse or a sequin top as we go towards December. As they’re a 7/8 length they’ll work with both heels and flats too. One of my most exciting finds of the season so far.
One last note on coated jeans, always think about texture. They look better worn with knitwear or something silky than with basic flat cotton or jersey – you’re looking for contrast with the matte effect.
5 minute make-up
As I said at the beginning, I receive 3 or 4 messages a week asking me to give tips about how I do my make-up but not being a beauty blogger, I usually demur. Then while we were away I received a message from Jill and she’s given me permission to include an extract so that you can see where I’m starting from.
“Last year just after Christmas my husband and I split up. I can see now that we hadn’t been happy for a while and I’d probably given up a few years before but even so it was a shock for me and the kids (7, 12 and 14). Then came lockdown, home schooling, working from home, trying to look after a dad with dementia along the way… basically I had no reason to even try to feel good about myself and I guess I let myself go even more than I already had.
Fast forward to now, I found you via your capsule wardrobe course and I’ve bought a few new clothes so I’m feeling a bit better but I’m writing this because I caught sight of myself in a mirror this afternoon in M&S when I was rushing for a sandwich. Even with my new clothes I felt depressed by how drab I still looked and I think it’s my make-up (or lack of it) that’s letting me down. I haven’t really worn make-up since having the kids and I don’t know where to start. I don’t live near any big department stores and anyway I wouldn’t feel confident going up to a counter feeling the way I do at the moment. I hate watching make-up videos because they go too fast and my friend says she’s good but I can’t cope with Trinny Woodall. You don’t seem to wear much make-up but you always look nice and that’s what I need – can you run through what you do on an ordinary day and what you use – if you have time to do anything before Christmas it’d be great.”
So here goes and bear in mind that I’m sharing tips as a friend, not a make-up artist. The thing is I don’t wear much make-up and I don’t put any extra on when I take photos for the blog but I feel happier than usual writing about it because I think that’s Jill’s point. I went to see Jenny Eclair’s “60 FFS” stand-up show on Saturday night and as you can imagine it was an audience full of midlife women so a great opportunity for people watching. The thing I noticed was that I’d say 85% of them weren’t wearing any make-up at all. I understand that some women choose to go barefaced from a feminist standpoint but I think a lot of people have just got out of the habit during lockdown.
I haven’t changed my routine since before lockdown but I did shortly before that because I was having my make-up done quite regularly by make-up artists (MUAs) for shoots and events so I picked up some good tips along the way. The last time was before the JL&P reader event when one of their independent MUAs did my face. Don’t forget if you’re near Leeds, Cardiff, Cambridge or Southampton you can have a beauty session with someone who isn’t tied to a brand and will recommend exactly the right products for your skin – more info here.
This is probably going to take you longer to read than it takes me to do, it would have been much easier on video but perhaps not as simple to follow. I’m going to try to make it work by taking step by step pictures of doing the left half of my face as you look at me so that you can (hopefully) see the difference.
And then I’ll show how little I do to convert day into night (if you’re a make-up aficionado this will all seem very basic). As I go, I’ll show you the products I usually buy but I’m also going to be trying out some of the (mostly new) products that JL&P are focusing on in the Beauty Department at the moment and I’ll tell you which ones I prefer.
5 minute make-up – daytime
So here we go, barefaced before we start; I’ve cleansed, added Vitamin C, moisturised and applied SPF. I don’t currently use primer but I’m just about to start testing some so I’ll tell you about them in another post if I think they’re worth it.
1. Concealer – 5 minute make-up
Now I confess I don’t usually use concealer because I’ve never found one that I like but I notice the difference it makes when a MUA does my make-up and I’ve been keen to try this one from Nars that wins endless awards. I don’t suffer with dark circles but on shoots I’m always told that concealer sticks better around your eyes and nose than foundation so it’s best to use it for extra staying power. MUAs often use the age old trick of applying a shade lighter than your natural skintone too to give the undereye a youthful brightening boost.
As you can see I’ve dotted it around my eyes, nose and the corners of my mouth where I tend to need a little extra coverage. It’s a great product and it taps in easily with a finger.
2. Foundation – 5 minute make-up
Now a lot of people don’t use foundation but it’s something I never go without because it makes such a difference. I don’t find BB creams do enough for my skin these days and they disappear too quickly so since Dior stopped making my beloved Star I’ve been using Armani’s Luminous Silk. The first time I bought it was during lockdown and I got the wrong shade but since discovering the brilliant Findation site I’ve solved it (I needed 4.25 not 4). You simply put the shades of other brands that have worked for you into Findation and it will give you the right shade in the foundation you’re wanting to try.
I like my foundation to have a dewy glow and so today I’m trying the new Intensive Serum SPF40 from Bobbi Brown. As well as providing coverage it includes a number of skincare ingredients such as Cordyceps and Ginseng that build over time to improve the condition of your skin. This is the first time I’ve tried it so I can’t comment on that but I do like the fact that it claims to be sweatproof because I am that woman who wears make-up at the gym.
I notice when I have my make-up done for a shoot that they only put foundation on the T-Zone which is probably why I don’t look as if I wear much make-up, my cheeks are mostly just natural skin. The reason for just doing the T-Zone I was told is because it’s where you tend to have pores, pigmentation and unevenness so just a light covering of foundation smooths it all over and you then blend whatever’s left outwards from there. I use my fingers unless I’m going somewhere really special when I might wear a bit more and use a brush to buff it in.
Hopefully you can see a subtle difference on the left side as you look at the photo. I have to say though that I prefer my usual Armani foundation, the Bobbi Brown needed a lot of working in and it doesn’t have the same coverage.
Intensive Serum SPF40 from Bobbi Brown (on left half of face)
3. Bronzer – 5 minute make-up
There wasn’t a new bronzer that I wanted to try because I’m happy with the Guerlain one that I always use. I don’t do Kardashian style contouring, I apply it in a figure of three at the temples, down under the cheekbones and then under the jawline to add warmth to my skin. You’ll have to imagine that because it would need video to show you properly.
4. Blusher – 5 minute make-up
I’ve been using my last pot of Bobbi Brown’s Calypso Coral that my reader-friend Gillian tracked down for me but it’s going to come to an end sooner or later. I then usually add a sweep of Bare Minerals highlighter over the top for extra glow.
JL&P are celebrating the Nars Icons at the moments – their biggest selling hit products of all time – and so I thought I’d try the renowned orgasm which is probably a better pinky shade for my skin than coral as we approach Winter anyway.
Probably the best tip I’ve had from a midlife MUA in the last few years was not to apply blusher to the apples of my cheeks because it tends to make you look like you’re having a hot flush. Instead she told me just to sweep it along the top of the cheekbone to add warmth and freshness, as if you’ve come in from a crisp walk.
5. Eyeshadow – 5 minute make-up
Now this is something I don’t spend any time messing around with because my eyebrows have dropped, hooding my eyes and so you only see it if I blink. Nevertheless I do find a gleam of something with a slightly metallic finish works hardest.
An eye crayon is easy to apply and I find good ones last all day. I usually use Bobbi Brown’s long-wear cream shadow in golden pink. Today I’m trying the new Rose Glow Caviar Eye stick from Laura Mercier in Wild Rose because it has the warm gold finish that works well for my skin tone.
I absolutely love this rose gold, it goes on beautifully, gliding across your eyelid with no dragging and it has more depth of colour than my usual eye crayon, especially for Winter.
6. Eyeliner – 5 minute make-up
This, along with mascara, is the most important part of my eye routine. Because most of us have disappearing eyes at this stage, it’s the framing of them that really makes them stand out. However it’s important not just to draw a ring of eyeliner all the way round because for some reason that makes them look smaller. What you’re actually trying to do with eyeliner is add some perception of the depth that you’ve lost. So you’re really using eyeliner to make your lashes look longer.
I use Bobbi Brown’s gel eyeliner and push it into my upper lashes all the way along with the ultra-fine eyeliner brush. I then go over it again to add a little more depth. This is a product I love so I’m not trying anything new for this. The shade I use is Espresso Ink because it isn’t quite as harsh as pure black for daytime.
I then use a Charlotte Tilbury Magic eyeliner to line the outer half of my lower lashes.
Stop at the iris; if you go past that point it makes your eyes piggy. I always use the brown and sometimes I brush a little of the bronze on top to make my eyes pop.
7. Mascara – 5 minute make-up
It looks almost as natural as having your lashes dyed, you can add extra layers for more impact if you want to and there’s a waterproof version for the gym. I must have tested hundreds of mascaras now and this is the one I always come back to – see the difference between left and right as you look at me.
8. Lipstick – 5 minute make-up
I’ve whittled my collection down to only four lipstick colours to choose from for going out – coral, rust, pink and red and I pick whichever is right for my outfit. On an ordinary day at home though I use Charlotte Tilbury’s Hyaluronic Happikiss.
I have the ‘pillow talk‘ shade on the right in just about every handbag because it’s the perfect neutral but today I’m pushing the boat out and trying a new colour – Happipetal. I love the natural look that conditions your lips at the same time and I think I actually prefer the warmth of Happipetal to Pillow Talk so I’m glad I’ve tried it.
And that’s it – my daytime look on the left half of my face so that you can see the difference 5 minutes can make. By the way I switched the Bobbi Brown foundation over for the Armani one for this photo because in my view it gives a better, silky glow finish.
How I do my make-up – night-time
It’s all in the eyes
Lots of people asked me what I’d done to my make-up in this photo when I went to the selfie place in Newcastle and the answer is that I’d tightlined my eyes.
I change very little when I’m going out, it’s still the same routine but the one thing that makes a huge difference is tightlining. What does it involve? Adding an extra layer of eye pencil to the upper waterline of your eyelid.
I had no idea what an impact this would make until I had my make-up done for one of the blog awards ceremonies and just never wanted to take it off again. On that occasion it was done by a Bobbi Brown MUA using the same gel and brush that I used above to line my eyes. I tried to master her technique for ages afterwards but the problem was that the brush tickled so I tended to blink before the liner had set and I’d end up going round in circles until I looked like a panda.
This summer though I discovered this pencil from Nars which goes on in one swipe and stays put all night. There are only two problems with it. The first is that it’s so soft you have to sharpen it every time you use it which means you go through a pencil in about 20 uses. The second is that it’s so popular that it’s often out of stock and hard to find.
Because I only tightline if I’m going ‘out out’ I use the shade Via Veneto which is blackest black but I haven’t been able to find a spare for ages so I was happy to try the new one in onyx from Bare Minerals which has been getting rave reviews too.
I apply it after eye shadow but before mascara, starting with the waterline, pushing it up into my lashes as I go along. I then draw along the line above my eyelashes pushing down – the important thing is to make sure that the line is ‘tight’ – a thick, solid black and that there aren’t any little patches of skin showing through to break it up. I then use a brush to blend the top line into the eyeshadow and make sure it isn’t too harsh. If you can bear watching videos, this is the best and most concise tightlining one I’ve found.
I then finish off with a more dramatic mascara than I would during the day. My favourite has always been Lancome Hypnose Drama but I’ve run out so today I’m trying Nars Climax from the JL&P beauty edit. It does a good job of adding volume but if I had to choose, I’d stick with the Lancome one.
And that’s it. If I’m going out for the evening I slip a lipstick and blotting powder papers in my clutch and I’m done. My daytime routine never takes more than 5 minutes and night-time maybe 10. I think less is more with make-up in midlife and that the focus should always be on the eyes – they are the window to your soul after all… and what marvellous souls we have at this age.
So here you go – daytime on the left, night time on the right
… and you can slide this picture to see the difference that 5 minute make-up can give you for day or night (if I’d known I had the technology to do this I’d have sat in the same position so it aligned but it gives you the idea).
The only other subject I want to mention while I’m doing this rare beauty post is nails. I’ve said a few times that I don’t wear gel polish because I don’t like the condition it leaves my nails in. Even with ordinary polish over the last 18 months I’ve found that my nails are dehydrated and dry, looking cracked and scuffed if I’m not careful. When we were in Newcastle in August I popped into JL&P and they recommended some of the Nails Inc products which I bought and they’ve made a huge difference. Firstly the Superfood Repair Oil which I keep on my desk so that I rub it in every day.
And then this Back To Life which you can use alone as a clear polish or as a base coat. It nourishes your nails with oils even when you’re wearing nail varnish on top.
In these photos I’m wearing Nailberry’s oxygenated Lacquer over the top in raspberry topped off with their Shine and Breathe top coat which hopefully will put a stop to damaged nails for good.
I do hope this has been helpful for some of you; skincare can be hard to quantify but even light make-up makes a huge difference. Do try tightlining if you’re going out, obviously you need to remember not to rub your eyes but it makes a dramatic difference at a time when our eyes are losing their impact thanks to fading pigment and a relaxed browline. Start practicing now and you’ll have cracked it for Christmas. Have a good week and I’ll be back on Friday.
Disclosure: ‘Outfit ideas & 5 minute make-up for women over 50’ was commissioned by John Lewis & Partners but all editorial content ideas, opinions and photographs are my own. Thank you for supporting the retailers who enable me to keep on writing Midlifechic.
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