Meteorologically at least it’s time for Spring 24 – first thoughts about the trends. The buds are bursting, the birds are singing and the new collections are starting to drop. This winter feels as though it’s been a long one and although we still have a little way to go, I’ll be very glad to see the back of it. So today I’m looking at Boden’s new collection which has an opening offer of 15% off with code Q2Y6 (until 24th March). This time last year it was a very different launch and I know some of you were disappointed by the crop tops and short skirts that dominated the range. As always I’ll say there’s no reason why midlifers can’t wear them if they want to but I’ll admit that they’re a bit easier when you have 20-something washboard abs than a body that’s ripened with a life well lived.

This year you’ll notice that if you put ‘cropped top’ in the search bar, all that comes up is the classic cashmere cardigan along with past season pieces that are all heavily reduced in the sale. There’s a real about-turn as they move back to their tried and tested core sellers. You’ll find strong families of things like trousers shapes such as the Westbournes that work for lots of different body shapes. It makes shopping easy when you have a cut that you know suits your frame while translating from winter to summer fabrics and even to shorts in a choice of leg lengths. As you’ll see in the photos below, they’ve also adapted their bestselling dresses and skirts to this year’s maxi length, they have a strong collection of shirts which are key to SS24 and the chic, supportive swimwear is as good as ever.

Spring 24 – first thoughts about the trends

So let me show you what I pulled together for my first full edit of the year. As we start to think about warmer days I may be a little further ahead than you because we’re heading out to see the youngest today. He’s been living in his Spanish mountain village since early September but we haven’t been able to take a long enough break to visit him until now. He tells us that the weather out there is warm but not hot, very much like summer at home and as the rest of our year is going to be very much UK based, thinking about what to pack has been good practice. As I’ve already mentioned, my message to self from last summer was to focus on clothes for cooler days and those are the clothes that are landing just now.

Skirts and dresses – lengths and silhouettes

I’ll write a proper post about the key trends for SS24 when I get back – and in this new era of dressing to please yourself I keep wondering whether they really matter but I think it’s a good idea to have an eye on the dominant looks, just to keep a touch of relevance in what you’re wearing. So one thing you’ll notice this year is the evolving skirt shape. The midi hasn’t gone but it’s changing to a much slimmer silhouette and we’ll see much more of that coming through for AW24 when the long pencil skirt starts to dominate. I wonder if, like me, you’re instantly remembering just how difficult pencil skirts are to move about in – I can’t see them working very well for my life which whether I’m in town or country involves a lot of walking.

There is a way round it though and the fastest way to be on trend this season is with a denim midi with a front split like this one. It’s a great look if it works for your style and it’s very easy to wear with a jumper and boots now or a t-shirt and trainers later… or a shirt like this – we’ll go on to talk about the importance of shirts in a minute. It’s such a simple update that I wish it worked for me but it doesn’t – neither back in the 90s or now and that’s purely because my style personality is a ‘dramatic classic’. If you’re more of a ‘natural’ (think Jennifer Aniston) it’ll be an easy wardrobe fix for the next two years and you can wear the same style in a chino skirt too.

Spring 24 - first thoughts about the trends

Denim midi-skirt

The new season alternative is the return of the maxi skirt (yes again) and that’s something that does fit into my life. It looks easy and breezy but it’s also warm enough for cool northern summers. It can be dressed up or down, it works in town or country and when it has a print that includes a lot of different colours like this one, it gives you good wardrobe mileage. I can pair this with a pink, red, blue, orange or denim top as well as white or off white and it will give me a completely different look each time. The volume means it balances both long and short sleeves and there are petite sizes available too.

I’m doing my best to make it look like spring here but what you can’t see just out of the photo is the snow on the hills here last weekend – hence the cardigan over my shoulders to ward off hypothermia. It’s an old one, the first piece of cashmere I ever bought from Boden in 2014 and it’s still going strong.

Spring 24 - first thoughts about the trends

Poplin blouse with lace panels; maxi skirt; suede espadrilles; Boden belt (past season); Boden cardigan (past season)

There are similar colours in this season’s cardigan collection though and they pick out the deep pink in the print perfectly – this one in cashmere…

Spring 24 - first thoughts about the trends

Cashmere cardigan

… and a deeper tone in cotton, both with lovely detailing that elevates them from your average cardigan.

Spring 24 - first thoughts about the trends

Cotton cardigan

I have a few of these skirts in a midi-length from past seasons at Boden and the difference this year is that there isn’t a lining. It’s probably a good thing for a maxi because otherwise the volume would be a bit too much, giving you a crinoline lady effect. I always size up on this style to avoid the risk of a muffin top when a t-shirt’s tucked in – they always seem to come up a little small and it’s still the case this year.

I tried styling it with a shirt as Boden have but it just didn’t work for me…

Spring 24 - first thoughts about the trends

… in the end it worked better with a poplin blouse and this is where body architecture plays such an important part in deciding what to wear. It led me down a complete rabbit hole of shirt styling as shirts are going to be an important wardrobe element this year and I’ll share my thoughts on that in a minute. The only other thing to mention here are the suede espadrilles which I’ve had for years and they still look brand new – and that’s the beauty of suede over canvas, a good reason to buy them from Boden.

Spring 24 - first thoughts about the trends

Poplin blouse with lace panels; maxi skirt; suede espadrilles; Boden belt (past season)

Shirts with everything? Spring 24 – first thoughts about the trends

Before I go into the important details of finding the perfect shirt, let’s just talk about these linen trousers. They were a late discovery for me last summer, I had the same cut in orange and they were the most glorious fit. As with the skirt I sized up to a 14 so that they had the slight looseness about them that works so well with linen but this time they’re a bit too big, Boden must have adjusted the sizing because my usual 12 would have been better. I’d say they’re a mid-weight linen so there’s a touch of transparency. I have the shirt tucked in and I’m wearing nude knickers, I don’t think there’s any show-through but if you made the classic mistake of putting white underneath there would be. These are is the regular length and they fall where I’d want them to for white trousers with flat shoes; for wearing with heels I’d need the long, there are also petite lengths available.

Midlifechic Boden spring 2024 try-on

Linen shirt; Linen trousers; Suede loafers

How to find a shirt that works for your frame

So let’s talk about shirts – or button downs as they’re increasingly being referred to (an Americanisation we probably didn’t need). When we were heading off Greek Island hopping last September I suddenly decided I needed the perfect blue linen shirt. We were packing light as you know, travelling with rucksacks and the perfect shirt I had in mind would work with wide trousers like this, with shorts and also over a bikini. I ordered and sent so many back because I just couldn’t get them right – when they work shirts look so easy but I just seemed to look like a bus conductor every time.

I finally realised that it’s the ‘boyfriend look’ that can be a problem for my frame. You see when you have a dainty back or you’re petite or gamine, throwing on something oversized just accentuates your daintiness. It’s the same whether it’s an oversized jumper, a t-shirt with drop shoulders, a boyfriend blazer or a supersized trench. If though you have a sturdy sized frame as I do, genetically evolved for milking cows and mucking out shippons then dainty isn’t one of your adjectives and you look more Edna Everage than Audrey Hepburn.

Even so, you see Amazonian framed women such as Cindy Crawford pulling shirts off well, making them look preppy so I knew it could be done. And at last here I’ve found the perfect blue shirt for wearing with wide trousers and shorts – by sizing down to a 10 petite! It’s partly thanks to the reviews on the website that I’ve had this penny dropping moment but it’s also about having the experience to know that the size label doesn’t always tell you what you need to know about the way something’s going to fit you. Your body is the build that it is and it often doesn’t play ball with the retailer’s predefined scope. Sometimes you just need to try things on and look in the mirror without getting caught up in a number.

One of the style questions I’m most often asked is why the ‘perfect white shirt’ look just doesn’t work for everyone and in a season where shirts are going to be so dominant, it’s a good dilemma to solve. It’s all about finding the fit that’s right for you but also for the pieces you’re going to wear it with. You probably need a completely different white shirt for the classic Levi jeans look to the one you’ll wear tucked into a skirt or with shorts on the beach.

I’m not going to go into the various style personalities here, just body shapes because that’s the key factor. If you have narrow shoulders the oversized look will work well whereas a neat fit might look a bit prim. If you have broad shoulders, you’re more likely to feel happy with a cut that fits them neatly. Rolling the cuffs up a little to emphasise a feminine wrist also takes away from the masculinity that comes with a shirt. To avoid looking like you’re wearing school uniform, you also need to consider texture so think about linen, poplin, silk, satin or a textured cotton finish. And collars make a huge difference – I absolutely love the cut of the collar on this shirt – it doesn’t sit as though it’s meant to be worn with a tie but it still has enough strength not to start curling at the edges.

And I hope I’m not boring you but the detail matters so much more on something that’s as simple as a plain shirt. The last thing I’ve accepted is that I’ll have to find another blue shirt for throwing over a bikini – this one is perfect for tucking in but I need a gauzier weave and a much longer, more casual fit for that. These linen shirts are fantastic, I can see why they sell out so early in the season but remember to play with the fit. At 5ft 8 there’s no way I’m a petite but this was long enough in the arms and body for the way I want to wear it – without adding bulk when I’m tucking it in.

Midlifechic linen trousers for women over 50

Linen shirt (petite available); Linen trousers (petite and long avilable); Suede loafers

That’s enough about shirts. Loafers are a continuing trend but as with all footwear this season they’re moving away from the chunky soled styles. These are so soft it was like being out in slippers, the suede is superb quality and the sole is a comfortable flexi one. I love tan suede as you know and I’m particularly fond of the stitched detail on these which is a bit lower profile than the usual snaffle style loafer (this isn’t how the trousers hang by the way, I was holding them up so that you could see the shoes).

Soft suede loafers 2024, Boden X Midlifechic

Suede loafers

Dresses – Spring 24 – first thoughts about the trends

After five years of dominance you’re probably going to find that dresses aren’t as popular as separates going forwards. In one way it’s a shame because they’re so easy to wear but the buffet dress just became so ubiquitous that there was bound to be a whiplash reaction to it. However I have a lot of dresses in my wardrobe that I’ll continue to wear this summer and there will, of course, still be some around in the shops – mostly bold, bright statement numbers.

So let’s finish with one that’s gone straight into my suitcase along with a couple of older iterations because you’ve seen me wearing this style before – I have two others in different shades of green. Once again Boden have lengthened it this season to fit in with the trend for maxi length and they’ve left the lining out to manage the volume. This is the colourway that I was really hoping to show you but it had sold out at the time – it’s been restocked now and it’s such a lovely combination of orangey red with pink.

Spring 24 - first thoughts about the trends

Cotton maxi-dress

And here’s the one that came in a slightly deeper red which means it won’t just be a one season hit, it’ll work well with boots in the autumn too. As always it has a lovely fitted bodice and then flares out, making it forgiving on everything that lies below the ribs. The detail I love on this dress is the contrasting belt and placket; both of my older boys were at home this weekend and separately commented on how much they liked it which isn’t something that happens often. I’m wearing a 12 and it’s true to size, there’s also a petite version available.

Midlifechic Boden try-on Spring 2024

Cotton maxi-dress; Boden sandals (past season)

I tend to avoid long dresses in winter because with tights underneath they stick to your legs and there’s the added hassle of finding a coat that works with them. On a cool English summer’s day though they’re perfect because they look seasonal and yet they keep you warm while fending off midges. The day had been sunny last Sunday when we took this photo and although the temperatures were plummeting at this stage, people were sitting outside the pub with a glass of wine enjoying the very first taste of the evenings to come.

Midlifechic Boden try-on Spring 2024

Cotton maxi-dress; Boden sandals (past season)

The Midlifechic get together

And so it feels as though the fallow months are over and the year is truly beginning. I am, of course, feeling especially buoyed by our Midlifechic get together last Thursday. Thank you so much to everyone who came along on a night of torrential rain when it was a fight even to get to the venue because the surrounding roads were closed as the result of an incident outside. I’m afraid we didn’t get many photos because we filled the whole space and Mal was otherwise occupied checking people in and keeping glasses topped up – but this was the calm before the joy.

Midlifechic royal blue tuxedo outfit for women over 50

Tuxedo suit; Zara shoes AW15; Necklace (now in clearance)

It’s a very long time since I’ve been in a room with such a throng of interesting women – about 48 people came along in the end. It reminded me of the first couple of years at uni when you were suddenly immersed in a melting pot of different people from different places with different styles and yet you could usually find instant common ground with your open and enquiring minds. I did a four year course when the norm was three and with no social media in those days I lost touch with my contemporaries but Thursday felt like stepping right back there. I circuited the room, dipping into groups of women who despite having never met before were chatting happily away about all kinds of things. It was like a fabulous box of chocolates.

To prove my point, some of you were standing with me when a couple of 20-something chaps wandered in and I heard one of them muttering, “I don’t think we’re meant to be in here.” When I turned to him and said, “it’s either your wildest dream or your worst nightmare,” he replied, “I think I’d rather like to stay…” His friend on the other hand didn’t look quite so keen!

Midlifechic London get together

More seriously though, the thing that strikes me every time we do something like this is what a collective force we could be if we united behind something. So I hope that something comes along and if it does, that it’s to do with positive ageing because my goodness, every woman in there was brimming with vivacity. I think you can sense from the pictures the warmth and involvement that was buzzing amongst a roomful of women who’d only just met.

I was really pleased that Mal had a chance to talk to some of you too because this blog has become a big part of his life as well as mine. Back at the hotel he seemed unusually dazed. When I asked if he was ok he claimed he’d never experienced anything like it and was exhausted just knowing that there are so many other women like me out in the world!

Midlifechic London reader get together

There were a few “I’ve always wanted to ask you…” questions that came up repeatedly so I’ve jotted them down and I’ll answer them in future posts. There won’t be one next week though because I’m going to make the most of catching up with my boy and getting a little taste of the life he’s been living on his mountainside. He’s insisting on giving us the ‘full Benidorm experience’ tomorrow night which his brothers are finding hilarious. I’ll report back and you’ll find me on Instagram Stories now and then for a flavour of la vida bella, ending with the magnificent Fallas celebration in Valencia next weekend. I’ll be revisiting it for the first time since 1988 and it should be spectacular.

Disclosure: ‘Spring 24 – first thoughts about the trends’ was commissioned by Boden but as always, the outfit choices and feedback is my own.

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