Style Style Talk

Thursday 22 February 2018

Bairbre Power: Midlifers were at the coalface of 70s fashion. We were the original Bohemians, so why should we be treated as has-beens?

Bairbre Power. Photo: Kieran Harnett
Bairbre Power. Photo: Kieran Harnett
Bairbre Power

Bairbre Power

She may be gorgeous, but Brigitte Macron has a lot to answer for, in my book.

The 64-year-year old is a fashion trailblazer, and her skinny jeans and high heels would be at home on someone half her age.

But lucky Brigitte has Louis Vuitton to rely on. The rest of us are not so fortunate. And yet we still want to emulate her youthful style. But it's hard to get it right.

After all, the majority of 40-plus women don't feel in any way middle-aged and swat away the term whenever it arises. Society has changed dramatically and nowadays, 60 is the new 40.

But does that mean we should be dressing like our daughters?

Mums and their offspring have been in and out of each other's wardrobes for years but it's the poor mums who live in mortal dread of attracting the 'mutton dressed as lamb' tag.

Chez Power, there's been minimal cross generational borrowing and when there was, it ended badly. The Helen McAlinden butter soft-leather jacket I self-gifted myself to mark a career landmark 10 years ago became a favourite with both myself and my daughter.

I thought my daughter had it in her wardrobe, she thought I had it and after scouring the house, the penny dropped. We'd lost it between us.

Sure, we all see glamazon mums who, like Icarus and Michael O'Leary, fly too close to the sun. Their Achilles' heel is usually showing off too much flesh.

My personal bête noire is when older women confuse short hemlines with playful and flash knees resembling swirling Danish pastries.

I'm ok with short dresses for myself so long as I wear opaque tights in the same colour. Who would have thought it?

I now love wearing all navy and I don't for a moment think I look like an American nun - something I warned my poor mum off when I was a cocky teenager. She had lovely taste but we weren't really on the same fashion hymn sheet.

I looked shocking in her buff-coloured trenchcoats. But I had to be beaten out of my granny's wardrobe, her borderie anglaise blouses, hand-tooled leather clutches and the old musquash fur coat that was my uniform at college. It would probably earn me a can of paint over the head from protesters now. In my defence, it was at least 75 years dead and I'm all about sustainability.

So what do we midlifers want in our wardrobes then?

Well, we don't want to be edged towards a sea of quilted jackets and waterfall necklines. After all, we were at the coalface of 1970s fashion. We are the original Bohos and we loved our 'gypsy' off-the-shoulder lace tops, floppy hats and de Havilland 'glam rock' wedge platforms decades before the current crop of millennials discovered style icons like Sienna Miller and Alexa Chung.

So why should we be treated like has-beens?

Okay, so this midlifer's waistline is not as narrow as it once was, but I still feel relevant and I want designers to stop putting the coats they design for my age group on teenage models who are young enough to be my daughter.

I want sleeves in my dresses not because I'm too lazy to do dips on the side of the bath each morning, but because armpits, at any age, look kind of gross.

I love a cold shoulder top because they are cool, in every respect. Myself and my peers run from unflattering drop waists and we love a pocket or two in dresses - not because we are forgetful and can't find our phones, but because they are handy and add to the silhouette.

We don't crave shiny, or matchy matchy and would prefer fluid and matt over fussy and sheer.

It sounds like a long list of demands, but it's something retailers need to wake up to.

They are missing a trick by serving up negative stereotypes about 'mature women' and relegating them to their own section populated by a sea of beige and elasticated waists.

All this talk of fashion and memories of that gorgeous jacket that I stupidly lost has made me do a quick edit of my wardrobe and to my daughter I send the following message: You know that gold tasselled YSL bag, you ' borrowed'? Drop it back soon.!

Love, Mom X

Irish Independent

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