I’m popping up on strange days again – I’m early this week because we have a family wedding tomorrow which is exciting and I think it might be slightly haphazard all summer but I’ll get back into a regular routine when autumn comes. As you know, retail is in full sale so rather than a focused post, it’s a summer cornucopia with outfits, travel & The Telegraph. So let’s get going.
Welcome to new readers
I’m starting with something quite big that happened on Saturday morning. There I was, sitting in bed with a cup of tea reading through the news on my iPad when I saw an interview I did with a journalist from The Telegraph a little while ago pop up. I often do things like this with various newspapers and magazines and nine times out of ten they use all of my ideas under their own name and don’t give me any credit. This time it was a bit different, not only had Boudicca Leonard-Fox credited me but she’d also included most of my ideas and photos too. I showed Mr MC and wondered out loud if it might appear in the printed version so off he went to the newsagents and came back with this…
… definitely a once in a lifetime moment! It felt so exciting and yet I knew most of my friends and family wouldn’t even see it so I just want to say thank you to everyone here who sent a message and shared how I was feeling – that meant the world to me. And I know some of you will have missed it so I’ll reproduce it at the end of this post because I think it’s hidden behind a paywall. Hopefully you’ll be able to zoom in and read what it says.
The best thing to come out of it of course is that we have new friends to welcome here as a result and that really matters. It’s getting harder to find women who are looking for more than the quick snack of Instagram and I’ve been wondering if it makes sense to keep spending so much time on writing this blog. However Boudicca said that she’d chosen me because she felt I had so much more to say than an Instagrammer. And it’s things like that – and all of you – that keep me here. So, I’m just going to do a quick intro for people who are reading for the first time – if you’re a regular reader you can skip past.
About me & Midlifechic
I really do want to give you a very warm welcome, it’s increasingly difficult to meet people who want to read rather than just look at pictures. Even though we’re between fashion seasons I hope you’ll enjoy it and decide to stay. While you’re making up your mind let me tell you a little more about myself and what you’ll find here. I’m 55 and I live in a village between Lancaster and The Lake District with my husband. Moving here was a return home for me after 15 years of living in London and we did it for a better work/life balance. We have three sons aged 25, 20 and 18; the eldest works for a media agency in London, currently enjoying looking after the Nintendo account; the middle one is at university in Newcastle studying Theatre and Performance; the youngest has just finished his first year at Leeds University studying French, Spanish and Italian. We also have an apartment in Newcastle and spend quite a bit of time there when it isn’t being enjoyed by readers – we rent it out exclusively to people from Midlifechic.
I met my Geordie husband in London when I was editor of Selfridges magazine. Our lives were much more glamorous than they are now; he was head of the creative studio there overseeing the design of everything we did in store from graphics to the huge window installations. We left after the rebrand (to the iconic black and yellow identity that they’re still using today) and the launch of the regional stores to begin our own small creative agency which we continue to run. I also work with retailers as a consultant, my specialism has become the midlife marketplace and I help them to understand how we’re changing as a demographic and exactly what it is that we’re looking for.
Why I launched Midlifechic
So Midlifechic is a very absorbing hobby really. I started writing it as a personal project eight years ago shortly after my parents died. It was one of those times in life when you take stock and I realised I’d been so absorbed in bringing up the boys, working and looking after my mum and dad that I’d lost all sense of who I was. I’d put on a lot of weight and somewhere along the way I’d stopped thinking about what I was wearing. I realise now that this is a stage that a lot of women go through; because my parents were older I probably did it earlier than most people but it left me in a good position to help anyone who finds themselves there now. I’m proof that you can rediscover yourself when you reach the other side of your hectic 30s and 40s and feel happy with who you’ve turned out to be.
Midlifechic was originally just me talking about mapping my way back to a more stylish version of myself. Over the years I’ve built up good relationships with quite a few brands and so during the key SS and AW seasons, I talk mostly about outfits and clothes. And it’s worth pointing out that this is where reader comments can make all the difference because retailers have learned that we’re an intelligent bunch and so they listen carefully to what’s being said. I think one of the best examples I can cite is the way we’ve helped influence Boden to return their attention to their founding customer.
What you can expect from Midlifechic
As well as talking about clothes I chat about what I’ve been doing and sometimes we move on to other topics such as menopause, empty nesting, relationships with husbands and older offspring, travel – whatever’s going on really. It can be as random as the conversations you have when you sit down for a coffee with a friend. There are a core group of commenters who come back most weeks with their thoughts and they really do feel like friends – not only to me but to other readers who may not be as confident with their opinions but still like to feel part of a group. I hope some of you will join in, it makes all the difference.
Whenever I do interviews I’m asked what my objective is with regard to Midlifechic. It’s no longer the personal journey back to happiness that it was because I’ve more or less found it – even though life’s not perfect and I’ll always be honest about the bumps in the road. Now what I want to do is encourage midlife women to make the most of the second half of their lives. It can sometimes feel as if we’re at the end of something when in fact it’s a completely new beginning and there are great times to be had. However it’s worth taking stock first and I think that might be what I talk about over the next few weeks – the building blocks. For me it was addressing my weight followed by getting fit, getting my hormones balanced, finding the right haircut and then things started to slot into place.
As well as encouraging you to reconsider how you view the ageing process, I do my best to challenge ageism in other generations and also with retailers. Ageing is a privilege and yet ageism has become one of the last socially acceptable prejudices. For some reason unlike most other demographic groups, it’s ok to view older people with derision. However GenX and the younger Baby Boomers certainly don’t look anything like the stereotypical caricature and it’s our responsibility to challenge it – and also to make growing older a more attractive proposition than it currently is.
I could go on about ageism for ages but today’s not the right time – I have a few bits to catch up on so I’ll crack on. But if you’re new and you’d like to ask me anything, please do it by email or via the comments – I don’t check social anywhere near as often so I tend to miss messages there because they get buried.
Summer cornucopia – outfits, travel & The Telegraph!
I’ll start with a few recent outfits. Our usual round of corporate summer events hasn’t gone back to where it was pre-Covid but actually I’m quite glad; it gives us more time and energy to spend on the things we really want to do on summer evenings. However it was lovely to have the return of the local lawyers’ garden party that you’ve seen me going to every summer over the years. It’s held beside the historic castle in the heart of the beautiful city of Lancaster.
Legal garden party 2022
This is what I wore this year, I bought this dress since when I first saw it appear in February. As you know with the return to regular face to face meetings I’ve been updating my capsule of work dresses and jumpsuits that require minimal thinking and don’t crease after a long car or train journey. When I bought this I ended up upsizing because the band across the tummy was too tight and I was at a point where I didn’t think I was ever going to lose the weight I’d put on over the various lockdowns. As it happens I have now and so it’s a bit big but I still love it.
Mr MC took the photo after the party when I’d relaxed a bit because I’d arrived feeling very grim faced. Before we left I’d been battling with M&S to take us seriously and it’s something that’s been going on for a while. A few of you have asked why I haven’t been covering them and it’s because I feel they’re disrespecting us as an audience. As you know I had a close relationship with them pre-Covid, I went in to head office to catch up with them before each season and they sometimes took note of comments I made at the design stage of their collections. However, having worked there myself I’m always aware that regime changes can happen as suddenly as they do at government level(!)
During lockdown everybody I worked with moved on. They now seem to have a much smaller in-house team, delegating to agencies. As you can imagine, agencies only have a certain amount of insight into strategy. I’ve heard that we’re not really their target right now; it appears that they have their eye on the 30-40 somethings. We are to be catered for by their marketplacing decision to stock brands such as Hobbs and Phase Eight – oh and the Food Hall, that’s for us too.
I’m interested editorially in their own in-house ranges and I don’t like feeling that they’re excluding our age group from their own design considerations. As you know we’ve been here before with other brands and slowly helped to remind them that we’re valuable customers. I’ll keep battling on but at the moment it’s frustrating. I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts in the comments later because it will help my campaign for midlifers to be taken seriously. At the moment though I don’t feel they deserve our spend.
Anyway I’ve let off a bit of steam there. Going back to the garden party, as an annual event it gives me the perfect opportunity to illustrate to new readers how confidence can grow when you hit your 50s. Let’s go back over the years…
Legal garden party 2019 (age 52)
It’s so annoying that Covid means I’ve missed two years however here’s 2019 in a linen shirtdress from Boden. I can’t ever imagine wearing classic pointed toe shoes like that again right now but I’m still holding on to all of mine just in case.
Legal garden party 2018 (age 51)
One of my first forays into pattern – long term readers know that I’d only just started playing around with it, I still feel happiest in block colours. That was a lovely dress and one of you bought it in my charity sale. I hope you love it.
Legal garden party 2017 (age 50)
Before I found my ‘forever hairstyle.’ I remember this dress being on loan from tiny brand Cecily which sadly went into administration over lockdown. It was beautifully made but not the right colour for me at all, unfortunately they didn’t give me a choice and at that point I didn’t have the confidence to say a polite no.
Legal garden party 2016 (age 49)
This was a classic Boden number from the days when I did what I’m doing now – I had a collection of dresses for meetings that meant I didn’t have to think in the morning.
Legal garden party 2015 (age 48)
See there’s another one here. If you’ve been with me for a really long time you’ll remember that this was a time when I was very unhappy, working for a home fragrance company for a year after I had a midlife career crisis. It was a miserable twelve months but the result was that I always appreciate the freedom I have of working for myself now.
Legal garden party 2014 (age 47)
And the very first one, another classic dress with terrible hair and not feeling very confident at all. You can put a dress on and do your make-up but still feel lost inside can’t you?
So there you go if you’re new, an illustration of the way that you can change how you feel. And to those who’ve been with me since that very first year – we’ve taken quite the journey together haven’t we?!
White Stuff have been back in touch to give us an update on their evolution. As we discussed earlier in the season they’re gradually adding more colour to their collections and they sent me a few pieces to show you. I put this on on a perfect summer’s morning last week; it was the day before the boys came home from uni for the summer and I wanted to look back at our year of empty nesting over lunch. We popped out to the new café at Levens Hall and you can see that I was anxiously watching the clouds roll in…
… and the heavens opened! It just didn’t stop raining so here’s a picture sheltering in a barn. This dress is going to be particularly good if you’re an apple shape because the waistband sits at most people’s natural waist and it’s gently pleated. They’ve cleverly used the darker colour there too which helps to skim over the tummy visually. I really like the graphic pattern, it makes such a nice change from the ditsy florals that are around. It’s true to size for a relaxed fit like this.
Here’s a reminder that they still have the classics too. There’s a micro-trend going on at the moment called Coastal Grandma that Gen Z and the millennials are aspiring too. It looks like this although I should have long, flowing grey hair to be doing it properly. The trousers are true to size, I sized down on the t-shirt because I prefer a neater fit.
Those of you with a dog will relate to this white trouser conversation!
White Stuff often incorporate subtle details like this red stitching on the t-shirt which is very Inès de La Fressange. This is where a lot of retailers are cutting corners at the moment so it’s good to see that some still care about the little touches.
Cotton tee (4 other colours available, gifted SS22);
Last time I wrote about them a few of you said how much you love their bags so I thought I’d have a look at them. I love this new seaside range – although I’d like to point out that there are lovely seaside towns in The North too White Stuff! I do have happy memories of Southwold though.
And I’ve become slightly obsessed with little phone cases, they suit my life so well. This one is leather and bigger than they usually are so you can fit more in – you phone, cards, keys, lipstick and even a slim pair of glasses. They’re designed to sit quite high up by the way so that they don’t bang around on your hip.
An overnight stay in Bowness
Moving on to last weekend, I was invited to review The Ro Hotel which relaunched last year after being refurbished over lockdown. I was interested to go because as someone who lives quite locally, we tend to avoid the honeypot towns in The Lakes so I hadn’t been to Bowness for ages.
The Ro is certainly different to any other Lakes hotel I’ve stayed in. As you walk in you can see that it’s been furnished with care however the overall mood is relaxed.
We had what I think is the biggest bedroom I’ve ever stayed in with a lovely balcony that overlooked Windermere…
… a sleeping area…
… and a separate living area.
It was a lovely warm day so we wandered around Bowness which made me feel very nostalgic. My dad had clients there and so when my mum was busy preparing for the new term at the end of the school holidays, he often used to take me to work with him, leaving me in the car with a drink and a book while he had his meetings. Then we’d sit by the lake and have an ice cream – it always had to be Lewis’s, nothing else would do… and it’s still there. Can you remember how sophisticated a ‘frothy coffee’ was before cappuccinos arrived in the UK?
Anyway, it seemed important to have an ice cream and think of my dad in his favourite spot.
Bowness used to be the place where coach trips came for fish and chips and elderly tourists would sit on the benches before turning round to set off home again, feeling they’d ‘done’ The Lakes. The visitor profile was younger last weekend but it’s still a place for people who are less into the walking, climbing or cycling side of things so there are lots of bars, cafés and souvenir shops, as well as the Beatrix Potter centre that our youngest truly loved when he was little.
We headed back to The Ro to change for dinner.
Halter tee; Iris & Ink trousers SS19; & Other Stories sandals SS19
There was a lovely bar and we shared a good bottle of reasonably priced English wine over dinner but I’m afraid I can’t recommend the food. Like a lot of places they seem to be struggling for staff, we had to wait for ages for each dish after ordering and all of the food lacked flavour; the cheeses and desserts were so fridge cold that they tasted of nothing. I must say that the waiters were great though and kept everyone smiling. We noticed that a lot of residents were coming in with takeaways to eat in their rooms which didn’t seem to be a problem.
Halter tee; Iris & Ink trousers SS19; & Other Stories sandals SS19
We checked out the following morning after breakfast. My view after our quick stay is that it’s a comfortable, well priced hotel if you want to stay centrally in the South Lakes. They need to work on their food offering but in the meantime it’s just a short walk to the bars and restaurants in Bowness. My tip would be to go up the hill away from the lake where you’ll find higher quality eateries and quieter places to drink than along the shore.
When we left we headed for Blackwell House which is one of England’s finest Arts and Crafts houses, designed and also partly furnished by Baillie Scott, just a mile away. It’s a great place for a mooch and there are lovely gardens outside if it’s a sunny day. It’s difficult to do it justice without a wide angled lens but this gives you a flavour. There’s a good cafe too so if you’re going I suggest you time it around lunch or coffee and cake.
Dress; & Other Stories sandals SS19
I don’t want to frighten new readers away by making this too long so I have just one more thing for you this week. I was sent a good Provençal rosé that I’m happy to recommend, it’s the perfect thing for a summer’s evening. I know it shouldn’t matter but the square bottle is also particularly lovely on the table (and square bottles are quite the thing at the moment apparently). It comes from the Château de Berne and you can buy it at Waitrose or Majestic.
Ok, that’s quite long enough for today, I’ll leave you with that Telegraph piece, if it’s easier there’s an online archive of it here. Have a brilliant weekend and I’ll be back next week and new readers, if (fingers crossed) you’d like to get new posts by email every Friday, you can subscribe at the bottom of this page.
Disclosure: ‘Summer cornucopia – outfits, travel & The Telegraph’ is not a sponsored post
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