Janice Issitt                    Life and Style

travel, interiors, photography, home, crafts, personal style

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Boho to Coco

I have fallen in love again, with clothes, and oh I've missed that feeling, why is that - well because I've changed shape and then changed again and again.

Generally, trends repeat themselves, so when you are older you have likely seen most styles before, and this is great because you've already worked out what suits you, providing your shape hasn't changed too much (and therein lies the rub).

Leon and Harper jacket from Amelie Fashion Berkhamsted.   Necklace from Holy Cow Home Aylesbury

I do think it's important to move with the times and to re-assess our look as we age.  I am a great advocate for re-invention of my personal image, it doesn't happen monthly but over the last ten years I have changed pretty much everything about my appearance and I intend to continue to do so. I look at everything with a critical artistic eye, including my own reflection.

The only problem as you get older with clothes and image is admitting to yourself what works and what doesn't - for you.  Just be honest with yourself, if your shape has changed then chances are you want to hide the wobbly bits and flatter the good bits.  This happened to me and I was not happy about it. Also I found that I no longer suited blonde hair and that red looked thicker, more glossy and suited my skin tone, (I looked less washed out and grey will never work for me as I'm too pastey). My point is that perhaps what worked for your younger self is now not doing you any favours. 

My shopping dilemma most often is that what looks good on a hanger does not look good on me. I'm short and I have boobs, so smock tops and loose dresses just make me look pregnant. A pregnant granny is not a good look. 

Our shapes are formed by our life and our genetics, so I'm going to generalise here as an example.  I have never found Italian or Spanish designs that fit my shape and so I've given up even looking in certain stores as I know that their cut just won't work for me. I'm short and curvy so for me I find French and American designs seem most closely cut to my shape. (I have some French blood so no surprises there). 

Through the course of the menopause I put on a lot of weight round my middle.  Nothing I did would shift it, going to a gym every day was exhausting as I was already lacking in energy, living on nutribullet fruit and veg smoothies, the 5/2 diet, I tried a lot of things.  The weight around my middle was causing me many problems, it slowed me down, made me breathless, I found it difficult to move in Yoga, so I started to wear shapeless sacks. My hot flushes are still pretty terrible and the extra few pounds was making it worse.

After speaking to a variety of doctors I came to the conclusion that the best solution for me was liposuction, and I can honestly say it's the best thing I have ever done.  The doctor explained that short of starving myself and living on a cross-trainer I was unlikely to ever shift the fat that was sitting around my middle, but because I have never had children he could see that the times in pilates and yoga had given me good muscles under the fat and was pretty sure that the results would be good for me without further surgery.  He was right.

Now my point is here, this is not for everyone. It is very invasive and quite a shock to the system.  You do need to take a few weeks of rest and wear a compression garment and the results will not show until months down the line.  But once the swelling has reduced and the scars heal (they are really small), you notice quite a big difference in the way you look.

I appreciate that some people don't approve of cosmetic surgery, but hell, some people don't approve of tattoos and that's never stopped me.  Each to their own, so don't even bother leaving negative comments. If you love everything about yourself then I'm truly envious, I wish that I did.  I guess it's just a difference of opinion, if you can do something about it then do you do it or not? and how much does it actually bother you.  The extra fat on my body was putting me in danger of many medical problems, but the most influencing factor was that I felt terrible with it. I didn't want to meet friends as I thought they would be thinking how much I'd aged and let myself 'go', it just drained all fun out of everything.

Getting my waist back was a game changer.  My confidence in buying clothes has gone through the roof (apologies to my bank balance, but you only live once).  I can fit into my old jeans, wear clothes that are shaped to go in at the waist - it is a new lease of life. I have more energy, I eat less and I like dressing up and going out. For me clothes have always been a fun thing, you can dress up like a character in a movie, dress to reflect your mood or job or dress to show how jubilant you are about life.

wood watch by Jord, click on the link on the right and you should get a discount

Feeling that I'm back in the game has obviously influenced the style of clothes I'm choosing although there are still some compromises. I dare say that as a short-ass I would look better in heels but sadly my recent broken toe and my ever increasing painful feet will not allow that.  In truth I don't want my footwear to slow me down. But flats have never been more fashionable so I'm sticking with the ones that like my feet and look good.

My new wardrobe now consists of - a brown version and a black version of basically the same things!!  (hey if it ain't broke don't fix it).  So on the feet we have Birkenstocks and UGGs (with the occasional pretty trainer like the ones from Paul Smith). Birkenstock sandals are the only ones that stop my feet swelling in hot weather and so I feel that they are a good investment as they last for years.  The UGGs are the biker boot style, with a small heel and a structured shape. I got these at a good discounted price by buying out of season.

Maven sweatshirt from Southwood Stores gloves knitted by me

On top - the brown wardrobe is layers of American Vintage sheer fine cotton t-shirts. This label is fantastic, if soft is your thing then you will love everything in their range.  American Vintage is actually a french company so what they have done here is take the basic t-shirt and make it more flattering and luxurious, it drapes to a woman's shape and some styles are so fine you can even layer them up on a hot day.  I have built up a collection of mix and match short to mid length sleeves with vests and roll necks to interchange. Some of their t-shirts cling more than others so if you are trying to hide your tummy then do try on a few first.

The black wardrobe has been dominated by Agnes B.  French, classic, sophisticated, cute and ageless.  This label has produced the same basic styles for years and they never go out of fashion.  When I travelled with work (in the 1980's and 90's) I would hunt down Agnes B stores in Paris, Tokyo and London.  Their t-shirt range called Australie is shaped to go in at the waist and a very flattering cut for the lady with boobage. Their blouses are superb, (does a french motion with hand going to mouth and kissing - formidable) quite 1950's in style they look vintage and have gorgeous detailing on them. 

Ive had this suede coat for about 12 years and finally I can wear it again AND do the buttons up
necklace from Lobster & Swan

Bottom half - right now it's jeans. I've been collecting second hand pairs from ebay.  I worked out what size I am now and hunted down more pairs in different shades of fade.  For a curvy lady with a waist I suggest the GAP girlfriend.  It's a shame that Levis have discontinued their 'curve' range but I did find some on ebay, look for 'demi-curve' they aren't cut too low and they don't gape like a builders bum every time you bend down.

I have to wear glasses now and changing frames every ten minutes is a right pain in the posterior, so I've gone for designer frames with bi-focals and reactive lenses (not radioactive lenses as I told someone).  I can wear them for reading, long sight and in the sun - job done.  My brown pair are now discontinued and are Ralph Lauren and my black pair, well it has to be Ray Ban Wayfarer.

Thoughts I have about 'dressing for your age', (from someone who doesn't believe in conforming to a stereotype).  Here's just a few things to consider when shopping for clothes that might save you some time.

Some things can actually make you look older - like buying badly cut clothes from teenagers shops, you are unlikely to look like a teenager if the cut and colour is not for you. 

Think about who the shop is aiming at, and for me what country are the designs coming from. It should hopefully reduce the stress involved in finding something as it's so depressing trying on lots of clothes that don't fit.  I bought a winter coat in Zara and had to get an XL - extra large, me?, I'm a size 12. As I needed it to fit over jumpers I bit the bullet and bought it but seriously though, XL !! Yes that hurt but please don't be like me, ignore what the size on the label says, just try on several and see what hangs right.  Too tight can make you look bigger. 

The basics I have put together here are my 'ready for the world' pieces.  Practical, comfortable to work in (my work that is), and funky.  Good basics to dress up or down and accessorise and suitable for our wet summer and ever changing temperatures.

My local boutique is Amelie in Berkhamsted, they stock Paul Smith, Twin Set trainers, American Vintage, Leon & Harper and UGG. I thank them for keeping me up to date with what's hot and what new labels are worth checking out.

The Agnes B branch I visited was in Marylebone High Road but they are on-line and global. You can find Southwood Stores, Holy Cow Home, Lobster & Swan, by clicking the links. 

I would also like to recommend a great blog for older ladies called Alternative Ageing it is really full of joy and Suzi is great at talking about food for menopause as she trained as a nutritionist. 



  1. Hi Janet, I didn't want to be the first one to comment, but I'm going to go ahead and post anyway. So lovely to see someone older than 40 talk about ageing in a realistic way. I turned 55 this June and don't feel a day older than 30 (although my body often does!) I have found I'm getting more experimental with my clothing, but I find highstreet shops sadly lacking in creative clothing for over 50s. I like Zara clothing this year for their ethnic inspired skirts and tops and I'm a big fan of Toast although a little pricy and not always suited to short people like myself (5"2). I love Boden for work day dresses but they are more traditional in style. Great post! It's about time someone starting talking about the M word...Sharon

    1. Sharon, thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I agree that the clothes targeted at our age group assume we want to be granny or 'mother of the bride' and really not very cool, and then the younger shops have cool stuff but the cut and quality doesn't work for the older figure. Unfortunately the high street does make the generalised assumptions so it's good to explore more niche smaller outlets. I love Toast but it doesn't work for my body shape, and Zara has never worked for me. I think that Boden is definitely worth checking out and have a look at Braintree as I've got a few nice things from them. I thought it was about time sometime talked about the M word too and even younger ladies are saying to me that they feel there is a lack of information and preparation out there, especially if our Mums are no longer around. Lovely to 'meet' you Sharon xx

  2. I just LOVE your blog Janice and this one on dressing for your age is bang on trend! So agree on all counts, find your shape, your colours (you know I am into bright colours) and your style and don't look at the size. I have an extra large biker jacket from Zara, and I am 10/12 on top! Who cares! Cut the labels out if it bother you! I had no idea you mentioned my blog, thank you, although you did tell me, so shows how good a job you did that I actually read all the way to the bottom. Something I rarely do in this age of skimming! Really hope we can catch up this year - maybe lunch in London town? Suzi xx

    1. Thank you Suzi, your blog is great too, hey don't underestimate us old birds eh! Hope we can find a chance to meet up, lunch in London sounds fab xxx


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