I’ve been dipping in and out of new season but I think it’s time to declare that Spring’s arrived. There are hosts of golden daffodils in the Lake District and over in Newcastle this week we’ve been watching the kittiwakes returning to nest at The Baltic. After two muted summers living under the shadow of Covid I’m looking forward to updating the outfits that I have in my wardrobe and being out and about again. So I thought now would be a good time to talk about SS22 wardrobe refreshes – defining your own style whilst understanding what fashion has in store for us.
SS22 wardrobe refreshes – defining your own style
I have to say it’s a strange new season as we emerge from a time when just about every business has been operating on a dialled down basis for longer than we ever imagined. As with AW21, there isn’t much newness around and the first fashion headlines provoke little more than a sardonic smile because ‘black is back’ and ‘stripes are in’ (yes really). When I talk to design teams they all agree that commerciality has had to be the driver for every storyboard they’ve worked on, after all, very few retailers are in a position to take risks.
At the cutting edge of high fashion, the real newness that’s coming through isn’t easy for midlifers to adapt; mini skirts are tricky to wear without tights, low rise jeans with crop tops probably worked better for us in the 90s and blazers worn over bras… actually I think they look fantastic as an evening outfit on a midlife woman (picture Sylvie from Emily in Paris) but you need confident insouciance to pull them off. I wonder if Gen Z are tired of looking the same as their mums in looks that have been relatively easy for every woman to wear, it feels as though they might be fighting back against ageless style.
However there are micro-trends that we can pick up on and use to update the clothes we already have:
- Square or sweetheart necklines
- Shirring details
- Midi-dresses – but with a waist this year, the prairie look is thankfully heading back to the Great Plains
- Pool hem trousers – wide legged, often elegantly pleated and puddling over the shoe
- Bright, dopamine colours – bubblegum pink, grass green, cobalt blue and sunshine yellow
- Tan suede accessories
- Kitten heels and ballet pumps – some will adopt them, others will shudder
- Peplum tops – another 90s throwback but a very easy way to disguise your midriff
- Sequins – unseasonal but popular this summer and great for festivals or nights out
- Pedal pushers – although they’re just appearing at the designer end so I think they’ll be more mainstream for SS23
These are tiny updates and they reflect the fact that we’re living through an ongoing revolution when it comes to fashion. More and more women are proving that they’re no longer willing to be told what to wear by the industry and made to feel irrelevant if they don’t comply. Factors such as the lack of innovation during the Covid period, a keener focus on sustainability, the omnipresence of social media and now the squeeze on incomes are combining to produce a new outcome – for the first time in centuries women are being admired for knowing their individual style rather than sheepishly following trends. And defining your own style can in itself be a challenge.
Defining your own style
The starting point for style for any woman comes with understanding your body’s strongest points and working them to the max (or resolutely ignoring them but that’s a more fashion statement-y approach). It’s not about being fat or thin or tall – there’s always some feature that makes a good anchor point to work your look around. Mine is a narrow ribcage but you might have great ankles or wrists / long legs / narrow shoulders / a swan neck / curvy hips / a great bustline…
Sometimes you can build a strength out of your weaker areas too. For example I have very broad shoulders, they immediately eliminate half of a Winter wardrobe because things like drop shoulders, loose dresses or boxy jackets just emphasise them. I’m forever working outfits around them by making sure things fit neatly on the shoulder line. It could cause a real problem in summer – put me in something like a boxy t-shirt or a bandeau bikini and I look like a sumo wrestler but if I just break the breadth up with something like a triangle bikini that has a halterneck, everything changes. And it’s a case of knowing how to make these little adjustments – a racer cut sleeveless tee for example makes me look sporty whereas in a standard tank I look like a breeze block (I’ll talk a little bit more about body shape when I move into swimwear further down).
So I think as we head into this particular new season when there isn’t much newness it’s time to buy clothes you love, that suit you and that you know you’ll enjoy wearing again and again – all of which sounds painfully obvious but I bet when you think back over the years you’ll realise that you’ve so often tried to shoehorn yourself into trends that you’ve ended up with a wardrobe full of clothes that don’t bring you joy. And just as a heads-up, there are significant changes coming through from the AW22 catwalks to keep in mind (or ignore). There’s a new focus on fit, tailoring and elegance ahead, it’s a backlash against the loose silhouettes we’ve grown used to over the last four or five years.
SS22 wardrobe refreshes – Boden try-on
I’m moving on to a Boden try-on because it’s one of the brands that I know works best for my body shape. They often have the neat fit on the shoulders and arms that I like with a waistline that’s cut above the fleshy part of your stomach. Never underestimate the power of a piece that’s cut above your natural waist, for many of us it visually lengthens the legs and nips in at the point where you’re mostly bone so when you sit down there’s no spread.
And this simple Summer dress is a perfect example of something that works well for a lot of midlife bodies. I bought it the moment I saw it come in – as did a lot of other people so stock is running low in the blue. It was released in a Sicilian lemon print last week though so there’s more availability in that. You can wear it off the shoulder as I am here or on the shoulder if you prefer, it works both ways. For most midlife women the shoulder and clavicle line is an easy area to reveal in Summer for a touch of glamour, especially if you’re someone who worries about wrinkles on the cleavage and upper arms because a dress like this obscures them. It’s made from crisp cotton with a slight sheen that gives it the touch of stiffness it needs to hang well.
Dress (also available in yellow lemon print)
Somehow it just makes you feel fresh and carefree. The shirred waist gives definition but also adjusts to your midriff when you sit down so it’s supremely comfortable to wear. It’s an absolute 10/10 in my book, I’m wearing a 12R and it’s true to size.
Dress (also available in yellow lemon print)
Moving on, I’m always on the lookout for blouses that flatter my neck (remember we discussed how to make necklines work for your body a few weeks ago). Boden always have options for women who have shorter ‘duck necks’ and this is my favourite cut. The button neck enables you to adjust the neckline to suit your bust and it’s silk so it drapes rather than giving you the bulky outline that cotton can. Paisley is on trend and it’s one of my favourite prints – blouses in ditsy florals can look a bit Miss Marple.
Silk blouse (gifted SS22)
The ivory background is great for Summer’s lighter look and it tones with ecru jeans for a leaner, column dressing effect.
Silk blouse (gifted SS22)
I have the matching palazzo trousers on back order, particularly with Summer nights in mind. I’ll wear them with the blouse for a jumpsuit effect but also with tonal soft washed linen or modal t-shirts. Wide, drapey trousers like this are a key look this Summer if you like to nod to trend, you just have to be a bit careful about the trip factor if you’re striding out in them.
Here’s a dress that’s working well for Spring and it’s another one that I loved instantly. There’s something about it that makes me think of 1981 (but in a good way), just as the 70s were segueing into the 80s – the more stylish end of the era. It’s pure cotton again and fully lined so it hangs beautifully without too much volume. Boden are calling it a tea dress but it’s more sophisticated than that – a tea dress/shirt dress hybrid. It doesn’t actually need to be worn with a belt because it has a flattering panel detail at the waistline but I found the size 12R was just a little loose on me so I cinched it in (and that comes back to the point about emphasising my lower ribcage). The other thing I really like are the elasticated cuffs so that you can place the sleeves further up if you want to emphasise your wrists.
Mr MC was struck by a moment of “Whistler’s Mother” and insisted on taking this shot (I’m hoping it was the corner rather than me that reminded him of Whistler’s mother). However it shows that the skirt isn’t too full – it has just the right amount of volume for comfort and elegance. I’d say this dress is one of the quiet winners that people often overlook at Boden. I’m wearing a 12R – size down if you’re between sizes and I should note that on me it was a midi not a maxi as described on the Boden site. Oh and if red’s not for you, it’s also available in a lighter, ivory print.
SS22 wardrobe refreshes – swimwear, selling out like you won’t believe!
Now – I’m surprised to find myself fast forwarding to high Summer pieces. You see retailers are spotting an unusual phenomenon this year – Summer holiday clothing is already selling out. It seems that we’re all just so hopeful about having a break away from these shores that we’re planning way in advance. I was caught out at Boden because I’d spotted a few bikinis that I wanted to try when they first came in but when I went back a week later they’d completely sold out in my size – and this was February! I’m not surprised, Boden swimwear isn’t the cheapest but in my view it’s the best on the high street – I rarely buy it from anywhere else.
Best swimwear for midlife women – defining your own style
After spending time observing women with all kinds of body types on the beach, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s actually the shoulders and the breasts that have most impact on swimwear. So even though it’s only mid-March I’m going to talk through shape recommendations on swimwear now before everything’s gone. The big question I’m always asked is : which is best – a one piece or a bikini? If you have long legs and a shorter torso you’ll look great in a one piece but if you’re the other way round (like me) they can make you look dumpy. Here’s an example in a swimsuit – I knew the shape didn’t suit me but I couldn’t resist the pattern (ignore the daft sons in the background)…
… versus a bikini a few days later. The swimsuit emphasises how long the block of my body is whereas the bikini breaks it up.
So, a bikini breaks your body up and as I’ve already said, I opt for a triangle halterneck top to reduce the expanse of chest and shoulders. An alternative to a bikini is a tankini top which helps to cover the midriff if you’re not too keen on having it on show. The only problem is finding one without ruching. Ruching can sometimes look saggy whereas a flat tankini top looks sporty.
Large shoulders, large bust
This is the shape that should work for you, it has the visually narrowing effect of a halterneck without the plunging expanse of cleavage – not that I’m saying you should hide it, it’s just everyone I know who has a big bust always seems to want to. It’s a Boden classic that’s released every year so there are currently plenty of options in all sizes available but it’s going to be a volatile year for all swimwear stock I suspect. This style also comes in Long.
V-neck swimsuit (available in 8 colours)
The bikini version is here and I bought this last year to wear in Greece but while I was there I realised it didn’t do me any favours because it flattened the little bit of bust I have even more.
Another great option for large shoulders and a large bust is this classic number. If you have the dreaded midlife thickened middle though you might find it doesn’t flatter you (it works best if your body goes in slightly at the point where the solid band sits) and you may prefer to go for a solid colour or the bikini or tankini instead.
Large shoulders, small bust
This is the halterneck triangle bikini that I wanted to try (in exactly this colour) but it sold out in a matter of days. They’ve now reordered it so you can pre-order it to be delivered in the last week of June if that works for your travel dates. There’s also a swimsuit version and a tankini but bear in mind they both have ruching so it depends if you like that or not.
Halterneck triangle bikini (available in 5 colours)
If your silhouette nips in at the same point as the band, this would be stunning. It’s also available in the new pink and yellow release or a solid mid-blue which is a great option for a more straight up and down shape.
Plunge swimsuit (also available in solid mid-blue or pink and yellow)
This is a great choice if you’re more of a pear because the sweep of your hips will work well with the crossed lines, there are six colourways available.
Narrow shoulders, small bust
I’ve bought this and I’ve just tried it on this morning – I love it (even though it isn’t a halterneck the straps sit at the edge of the shoulders so somehow it works for large shoulders too). I see the reviews from larger breasted women feel it’s a bit risky and it certainly is low cut with a plunge effect so I guess it depends how active you are. Unsurprisingly it’s pretty much sold out in this colourway but a new pink and yellow version just dropped yesterday here with a couple of swimsuit options too – one’s asymmetric.
Banded bikini – 2 colour options available
There’s a swimsuit that comes in the same style and is also available in long for the long bodied. Understandably it, too, has almost sold out in the original colourways but a new version arrived yesterday.
Banded swimsuit – 3 colour options available
Narrow shouldered people can also wear this and again it comes in long. If you’re broad shouldered you may find the thin halterneck strap is too dainty to be flattering. It’s also available in a bikini here.
U-bar swimsuit comes in 5 colours
Narrow shoulders, large bust
This cup sized range is superb and there are a number of different options for briefs to match the bikini. The swimsuit version is here but once again keep an eye on where the horizontal band sits on your body.
If you’re not happy with the band, this one-piece with its elongating stripes will work brilliantly. It’s available in two colour options.
And if you’re a narrow shouldered, full breasted apple who likes to gloss over the tummy area, this one has soft ruching so it won’t cling to lumps and bumps. Available in two patterns.
Best shorts for midlife women
I’m going to finish with shorts because as soon as there’s a flash of warmth in the UK they’ll be gone. After our end of season Greek holiday last year quite a few people said they loved the shorts I wore so I’m going to flag them up now. I always go for a 4 inch leg, I find the other lengths have a bit too much fabric flapping around. If you’re not sure, try them along with a longer length and take a photo – you might be surprised to find that the shorter leg is more flattering than you expected.
This design went down well on Instagram, they’re about 9 years old but I’m pleased to say Boden have done a similar print this year in a slightly different colourway.
I’ve had this pair since the boys were little and they’re still going strong. Mine are white, this year they’ve done them in ecru which will be a softer tone. Either way they work with everything and look great against tanned legs. They’re a 4 inch leg again.
And the other pair I have are in navy blue, again very old even though they come away with me every year and I often wear them in the UK too.
The one thing I don’t have is a pair of denim shorts. I order some every year and always end up returning them but I see they’ve released them in my favourite style so I’m going to try them again.
For some reason I find that in midlife shorts often look better with a long or 3/4 length sleeved top – either a shirt/blouse or a breton so have a think about that. It just looks a bit more elevated than a t-shirt.
And with that I’ll leave you to shop – a whole new drop arrived at Boden yesterday here, don’t forget to use code J7T7 for the current best discount plus free delivery and returns. Life for me continues to be madly busy – work is all consuming at the moment but I’m not complaining. We’ve been working in the northeast all week but the good thing about that is that we’ve been able to base ourselves at our Newcastle flat. It feels like ages since we’ve been here so I’ve loved every minute, especially being able to wander out to a restaurant at the end of the day. Next week the youngest breaks up for Easter, the middle one the week after that so they’ll be home and the hardest, coldest quarter of the year will be over. Small signs of good things ahead for everyone I hope, I think we all have absolutely everything crossed for a better Summer.
Disclosure: ‘SS22 wardrobe refreshes – defining your own style’ was commissioned by Boden but all thoughts about trend and styling are my own
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