Wow it’s back to it this week – straight from summer into a very autumnal feeling north but I’m happy to be here. We’ve done a lot of travelling recently and so the thought of six months at home feels good. I have no plans to talk about our Greek Island Hopping adventure now, it was always intended to be a private logging off. It was relaxed, low key and low budget – a treat to read, eat, sleep, roam as we pleased and wear the same things over and over again. This kind of low maintenance holiday clearly appeals to others and lots of people have asked for practical planning tips so I’ll cover them in the dark days of January when thoughts are perhaps more likely to turn to travel. Now it feels as if it’s time to look at the season ahead. I’m going to work some of the interesting findings from the survey into posts over the next few weeks and by far the biggest request has been for style advice. So, before we start looking at what the stores have to offer as new season starts to drop in full this month, today’s post is going to give that a kickstart. I’m going to recap on rediscovering your style over 50 – understanding what’s right for you but first there’s just something I want to chat to a few of you about.
In the end the responses coming through were so interesting that I kept topping up the software plan and the survey ran to almost 3,000 submissions. When you work in marketing you hope for a 1 – 2% response for anything like this and so 6% is phenomenal, it makes the information worth taking seriously. I really value what you have to say and I didn’t want to make any moves on without listening to you first so I want to say a big thank you to everyone who gave their time. Most of the contributions were so constructive and thoughtful. Before I go on to talking about the most requested topic of style though, there’s something I need to address and it’s only relevant if you made a point about money and the blog – if not just skip past it to the style bit.
The difficult facts about blogging
In the ‘anything more’ section, a small number of you queried the subject of subscriptions and financing. Some people feel I’ve travelled extravagantly recently and that somehow I’m trying to finance that (all of the travel in 2023 has cost no more than our usual family holiday for five adults, you can go a lot further as a two – but that’s by the by). The thing is that if I was in this for the money I’d have moved over to the free and easy platform of Instagram long ago. I’d focus on that and flog people different things every day.
This isn’t about making money, it’s just that blogging has become a very expensive hobby. The things that were free when I started no longer are, they cost four figures… in the low thousands of pounds every year for high level hosting on servers that can cope with the Friday night rush, tech maintenance, plug ins, software apps, the email subscribers’ platform, Disqus and survey subscriptions, hacking protection and so on. Over the summer I’ve had notice that most of these services are increasing even more. This brings me to the brands who continue to help me to keep Midlifechic going. There aren’t many retailers who are interested in blogs any more but Boden and John Lewis continue to stand by me. Without their support, Midlifechic would become a luxury I could no longer justify.
The increasing costs are one of the reasons I was looking at a part subscription model, if I could have charged £1 for it I would have done but £5 is the lowest that providers such as Substack will accept. However, only 44% of you supported the subscription model and many of those who didn’t echoed what I’d already suspected, that it isn’t the right thing to do in a cost of living crisis when most people are facing a degree of challenge with disposable income. So I won’t be taking that route. Therefore the blog will stay as it is and my options are to either stuff it with annoying Google ads that will mess up your algorithm as well as your reading experience or… I can continue as I have done by occasionally working with brands who actually take notice of what you have to say.
I do a monthly Boden edit and occasional posts with JL because they honestly are brands that I spend my money with – but also because they value us as an audience. I’m sure you heard Johnnie Boden’s admission in the press last month that he’d behaved like a “complete nitwit” by trying to cater to a younger customer. In a nutshell he accepted that they’d “effed up” by losing sight of their loyal midlifers. Who do you think played a big part in that realisation? It isn’t all down to us of course but we’ve been giving them consistent feedback for the last five years and they’ve listened and noted it. They’re now pivoting back to design their styles around their founding customer and they will continue to listen to your thoughts.
I can guarantee that the team at John Lewis read and note every single comment too. As you know they’re at a difficult stage in their business cycle right now and so grass roots opinion from key audiences like ours is unmatchable. And so I will continue to work with both brands (if any other good brands return to bloggers and long form content it would help to spread the load). Their support, along with any affiliate pennies that add up and the virtual coffees that some of you are kind enough to buy go towards the bills that I pay for the blog. I will always include style tips and advice in brand posts. My ‘what I’ve been wearing’ posts will continue to feature the many other high street brands that you see me shopping with – Mango, Me+Em, Uniqlo, Arket, Massimo Dutti, Stories, Cos, Zara, Free People, Whistles etc. In response to the survey I’m also going to try to run brand spotlight posts on a Tuesday, focusing on the sustainability and offerings of other high street brands – the first will appear next week.
I hope that helps you to understand what’s going on – quite simply my blogging costs have gone up 56% this year and I’m having to find a way around it. Maybe I didn’t communicate it very well because a handful of people were quite hurtful about it in their responses and so I wanted to explain more openly. I’m not ‘being grabby’ with anything I do on here. I don’t have the time or energy to turn it into a business but I can’t keep it going if I have to absorb all of the costs personally. So let’s move on to your most requested topic of style.
My current position in terms of style over 50
The survey has helped me to see that recently I haven’t talked about style as much as I used to which is true and this is why. I covered it all of the time when I started blogging because I was trying to rediscover mine but I’ve found it now so I’m less focused on looking at new clothes. I’ve built a core collection of pieces that I wear over and over again.
The blog has segued this year as my life has changed. Too many people of my own age who were influences in my life in one way or another have died and it’s shaken me quite fundamentally. It’s felt like a kind of existential screaming and I’ve found myself spiralling away from the fragility of life. I’ll perhaps talk about that more in another post but I’ve realised that time is spilling away. I won’t be able to retire properly for a long time so I’m trying to find a way of living my life as fully as I can in tandem with working hard.
It means that I now put most of my disposable income towards experiential spend – travel, concerts, theatre, seeing friends etc. This has been the first full year since we emerged from Covid restrictions of not having any children at home so I’m aware that I’ve perhaps gone a bit mad. I’ll have to slow it down next year but I’m much happier spending money I’ve worked for on memories than things that hang in the wardrobe. So I’m thinking hard about how to cover a wider range of retailers on Midlifechic when I’m shopping less, leave it with me, I’ve heard your request for a spread of brands. Now let’s get down to the nitty gritty of style.
Rediscovering your style over 50 – understanding what’s right for you
Does style even matter in midlife?
I had so many conversations in my head with so many of you while we were away and I want to go into a few of them over the next few weeks. Quite a few people wondered aloud whether it’s even worth bothering with style at this stage in life. My thoughts are that it matters more than ever. If we want to challenge what we claim to be the invisibility that cloaks us in midlife then we have to stand up to it with what we say, what we do and what we wear. What we wear is important because like it or not, that’s the first thing that people see and judge us by.
It’s easy to feel a bit overwhelmed when you’re shopping at the moment though. The age of Instagram has blasted a huge hole in the heart of fashion because so many people now dress for their grid. They want to stand out on there and so clothes are brighter, patterns are louder and shapes are extreme. The problem for retailers is that if they want to be featured on Instagram then they have to make a big noise about these clothes so they front their campaigns with them. It’s a poisoned chalice because so many people then buy them, wear them, photograph them and return them which is why you so often see the campaign pieces in the end of season sales – but that’s another post altogether. Here are just a few outfits playing to that demand that wouldn’t have appeared at the relatively conservative retailers in question even five years ago.
Jumper, satin midi-skirt, scarf
Coat, wide leg trousers, blouse
Waistcoat (sold out); jacket; trousers
They’re real honeypot outfits. As you can imagine I’m hugely drawn to the bright column dressing but I know that it’s so distinctive that I wouldn’t get high repeat wear out if it. It’s easy to have impact in summer with a collection of bright dresses but winter outfits require more components. It’s great to wear a showstopper outfit but you very quickly grow tired of it and then you want to buy something else… and something else… and so it goes on.
So the most realistic way of creating interest, especially in winter, can be to incorporate one interesting piece which can make all the difference to an otherwise simple look. In next Friday’s post I’ll bring you practical pieces to make simple outfits interesting but before getting to the finishing touches stages, it’s important to work out what your core wardrobe is going to be.
Rediscovering your style over 50
How to work out your own style personality and what will suit you
As well as 85% of you ticking the style advice box, so many of your very personal responses in the survey were requests for help with style but the thing is that everyone’s style should be distinct to them. I can help you keep up to date with current trends so that you can work them in and always look relevant but that’s just surface stuff. Style is about who you are and nobody else – it’s about standing apart from the crowd in a quiet but self-assured way. You and I can share an approach but if I’ve learned anything over the last ten years it’s that finding what makes you feel good is unique to you and it takes work. So let’s go into that a bit.
Looking stylish is about knowing how to dress the frame of your body in a way that underpins your personality – so it’s a combination of architecture and character. Only you really know yourself so only you can work it out. And if you aren’t happy with who you are at the moment, think about the side of yourself that you’d like to project. Sometimes it’s worth looking back at old photos and finding the ones where you know your style was 100% ‘you.’ When I do that I come up with something like this – and my problem is that it’s always summer; winter is so much harder to dress for!
There is a forensic way to work out your look if you’re willing to put a bit of time and effort into it – a Kibbe body type survey. The questions are simple to answer but it’s very clever. It will help you to understand where you belong within the 13 dominant style personality types by assessing your frame, the way your flesh is distributed, your facial features and your temperament. I highly recommend it, you may find you have a fabulous light bulb moment. You’ll need to get someone to take an unflattering, front on photo of your body first so that you can answer the questions objectively – it’s amazing what you don’t know about your body until you really look. This is the one I used when I did this for one of my first blog posts back in 2014…
….and I found it helped to trace the outline too, measuring the difference between shoulders and hips was an eye opener.
I was a pure Classic back then but when I redo the test I’ve adjusted to being a Dramatic Classic, I’ve moved towards much stronger colours and shapes than I used to wear. You may find you’re some kind of classic too which would explain why you’re drawn to this blog – or you may be something completely different.
Kibbe style personality test
Next steps – how to condense your style personalty when you shop
Understanding your style personality is a great underpinning but it’s difficult to hold all of the information in your head when you start to shop. As I advised earlier in the year, this is when it’s good to have three style words to apply to whatever you’re drawn to. If the piece doesn’t fall into one or all three categories then it means it’s a great piece for someone else but if you buy it, you’ll never wear it. My three words are streamlined, sporty, sassy – and they work particularly well for me at this time of year when I’m not going beyond my usual home environments because they cover the three facets of my life:
- Sporty – for working from home and rural weekend time
- Sassy – for my Newcastle life and nights out
- Streamlined – for my client facing work
My life at home is defined by sporty – not because I’m always at the gym but because every day has to work around Ted and a decent dog walk so even if I’m wearing a dress, it needs to work with trainers or wellies, muddy paths and stone stiles. Sassy is probably a bit of an overstatement for what I achieve but it’s the mood I aspire to when we’re in Newcastle. And streamlined is crucial for me when I’m client facing – I want people to be listening to what I say not looking at what I’m wearing, even though I still have to stand my ground sartorially as an older woman in retail marketing.
Rediscovering your style over 50 – do some homework
So I’m going to leave you to do the Kibbe test, I’m sure it will really make you think – and feel better about style. When I did it the first time back in 2014 it pared away the distractions – the clothes I was drawn to in shops that never looked right when I got them home. It gave me direction, I’ve veered off every so often but I always come back to it in the end. My Kibbe is my sartorial True North.
When you’ve done that think over your three wardrobe words and write them down where you won’t lose them. As you’re getting dressed over the next few days, ask yourself which ones apply. If none do, change into an outfit that does and notice how different your day feels when you’re wearing the right thing.
Let’s move on. 73% of you were keen to discuss ageing positively so I’ll include it in posts every so often. I won’t veer onto any ground that I’m not qualified to talk about, I’ll just discuss new findings or anything I’m doing that makes me feel better. The first is going to be the Zoe programme which I’m starting next week. It’s something I signed up to a while ago knowing that we’d be living a much quieter life over the winter months and so I’d be able to give it my full attention. I’m paying for it myself, it isn’t any kind of gifted or sponsored project and I’m really looking forward to it.
If you aren’t familiar with Zoe it was co-founded by Professor Tim Spector and it’s a programme that helps you to learn how food affects your body, specifically with regard to blood sugar, blood fat and the microbiome. You go through microbiome analysis, blood testing, food logging and continuous blood sugar monitoring so that you have a complete metabolic analysis. You’re then guided so that you can restructure your eating around the way that food affects your body.
Why am I doing Zoe?
One of the advantages of having siblings who are 20, 18 and 13 years older than me is that it gives me a clear picture of any genetic health issues that are lined up and waiting for me. Diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are all there as well as macular degeneration so with all of that in mind I already work hard to stay as healthy as I can. As you know I do strength training and cardio three times a week as well as quite a bit of daily walking. Even so, things have slipped this summer, particularly when it comes to food probably because I’ve been travelling around quite a lot and so I’ve been out of my routine. I haven’t weighed myself but I know that I’ve put weight on, probably about half a stone, my clothes are uncomfortable so I need to sort things out.
I don’t want to go on a diet, it just doesn’t feel like a good approach when I’m training quite hard and my body needs fuel. I just need to eat the right things at the right time. So, I’ll include updates in posts when there’s anything interesting to tell you about and I’ll give you my honest opinion as to whether I think it’s worth doing when I reach the end, just after Christmas.
I’m going to finish with something that’s surprised me. Over the summer I took out one of the free trial memberships to Beauty Pie purely because I was intrigued by the debate over Youth Bomb. So many beauty editors have felt conflicted because they hate the ageist brand name but love the product so much that they keep on buying it. I bought both the face and body regime, I wouldn’t recommend the body because it’s very hard to rub in, unpleasantly over-fragranced and I don’t feel it made any difference at all to my skin. The face serum is really good though, the best I’ve tried for a long time. Quite simply it does what it says and I missed it while I was backpacking so I highly recommend it. I suspect I’ll take out a membership just for this.
Youth Bomb Serum
I like the accompanying peptide moisturiser too, it isn’t quite as unique as the serum but it’s very plumping.
Collagen peptide cream
I can’t understand why the kohl gets such good reviews on the site because I found it so hard it was unusable but the gel eyeliner is very good. It’s soft and it has decent staying power – there are better ones on the market but not at this price (namely this one if you use a brown eyeliner – it genuinely lasts all day and you simply can’t beat the VB liners for tightlining but they’re expensive and so butter soft that you soon go through them).
The rather random thing that I added to my basket because I’d heard people raving about it was a gua sha.
Gua sha tool
I was SO sceptical about it but it’s become a pleasure. I get it out of the fridge whenever I watch TV and run it along my browbone, cheekbones and jawline to reduce congestion and it’s made a real difference to the contours of my face. It’s an ancient Chinese facial technique and I’m completely sold on it. There are a few other products that I’m still waiting to see results from, I’ll let you know if I notice a difference from using them.
And that’s it for today, I hope it’s been a starting point for those of you who asked for help on rediscovering your style over 50 – understanding what’s right for you. Thank you to everyone who answered the survey, especially those who were supportive, thoughtful and constructive. As I’ve already mentioned I’m going to try running a mini-post on Tuesday to spread the retail focus a little, let’s see if I can keep up with a twice weekly schedule. Have a lovely weekend, I believe we’re going to have another blast of sunshine in the UK, it’s hard to believe as we have a yellow warning for heavy rain in the NW – but here’s hoping… and I’ll see you on Tuesday.
Disclosure: ‘Rediscovering your style over 50 – understanding what’s right for you’ is not a sponsored post
Recent posts you may have missed
Stepping into Autumn 23, new wardrobe additions
AW23 – the trends and thoughts about planning your wardrobe
A midlife weekend in Porto with friends
Capsule wardrobe building – transitional pieces for cooler days
Midlife lately August – simple summer moments
A relaxing weekend in Cornwall’s Daphne du Maurier country
As your family moves on, so does your life
High summer outfits ideas – ageless style
Menopausal hair – how to keep it looking good
A midlife week in Amsterdam – empty nest adventures
How to update your midlife wardrobe for Summer 2023
Subscribe by email