Sunday 18 February 2018

Taking changing shape of fashion personally

Women over the age of 40 need to remember that personality is the one constant, Joanna Kiernan is advised

This 50s-style dress is from La Rochelle at Carraig Donn.
Barbara found this vintage hat on the website
This 50s-style dress is from La Rochelle at Carraig Donn. Barbara found this vintage hat on the website
Barbara loves this white boat-neckline top from Anne Fontaine. Her choker is by Pulse Accessories, the pearl ring was bought in Venice
Joanna Kiernan

Joanna Kiernan

'It's all down to shape and the silhouette of the clothes, how the shape suits you," Barbara Stack, PR professional and mother-of-three, tells me on a sunny morning in Dalkey.

For Barbara, balancing a career and children, and doing it with a strict adherence to personal style, has become a fine art.

"I bought a Diane Von Furstenberg dress the other day. I've wanted one for about 10 years. It was expensive, but at the same time I'll have it in 10 years, and when I put it on I just feel fantastic in it," says Barbara. "You hear people saying, 'oh well sure, I don't have a clue about clothes', but really it's not rocket science. It's really just the confidence."

Clothing confidence is something that the glamourous fortysomething feels increases with age, but ironically Barbara also believes that the older a woman gets the fewer options she has as regards fashion.

"I think once they're over 40, women become invisible to a lot of designers and shops," she states with no small amount of exasperation.

"There is no high-street shop that I would shop in and it's not a snobbery thing, it's just that the ones that target me, at nearly 46, are so nana! They're awful! You really need a bit of texture on your fabrics at this age, to hold you in a bit and give you some sort of definition. I think Peruzzi are very good and they target women over 35."

"I like Choice Boutique in Glasthule," adds Barbara, "they do about 15 brands and they're especially for women over 35. I also shop in Carraig Donn for sort of everyday stuff. I think good underwear is a big thing. I buy my underwear in Victoria's Secret and I would get measured."

For Barbara, once you buy well, there is no reason a piece can't last in your wardrobe for years. But that said, she is also a firm believer that a woman's personal style should mature at the same pace at which she does.

"It has to, because what you would have worn at 18, when your skin is lovely and fresh and young and you've long hair and you look cuter, doesn't work anymore. I went shopping with my friend Paddy and I picked out this lovely outfit with a pussy bow. He said: 'When you're 18 that looks ironic, but when you're 45 you look like a librarian.' And it's true, there's a lot of stuff that only works because it's a contrast."

Fashion, according to Barbara, should not just focus on showing off one's beauty or shape -- though these are relevant goals. It should be more so about personality and depth. It's a sensible outlook; beauty fades, shapes change, personality is the one constant.

"I work a lot with models and there are some in particular who have never got over their beauty and I think that's a cross for them. I don't wear that much black but if I do I'll brighten it up because it's how you project yourself to the world," Barbara continues. "If I came into a room of strangers, I would like them to think that my clothes were nice, but I would also like them to think, 'I would like to know more about this person.'

"Fashion," Barbara concludes, "is as much that you're aware of the world and that you're taking part in the world. That's why you're aware of trends and looks. Being fashionable and being interesting is just showing that you're a part of the world and the community that we live in."

So if the goal is to be conscious in general, rather than simply "fashion conscious", perhaps we would all have wardrobes that are not just interesting and colourful, but like Barbara's filled with memories and personal expression.

Fact file:

Name: Barbara Stack

Occupation: PR professional

Marital Status: Married to Aidan with whom she has three children Aoife (13) and twins Fionn and Sadhbh (8)

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