Helen Bovey on “Dressing Your Age”


I’m knocking on the door of 50. To be truthful that door is slightly ajar and I’m peeking around the corner. It’s strange to think I’m reaching my half century…I’m still the Mum of a relatively young child, I’m working hard at my career and I’m constantly trying to be fit and active. I’ve heard it say that 50 is the new 30….well strangely it does feel a bit like that.


But one of the challenges of nearing this milestone isn’t one I would have expected. When I look at photos of my Mum who died at an age younger than I am now, sadly I see a quite frumpy, grey haired lady. Surely, I’m supposed to have started wearing sensible clothes and elasticated waists by now …..?


Let’s look back at where this has come from. At school I wasn’t one of the pretty ones, nor was I one of the cool ones… but funnily all my best friends were. I realised early on that I could differentiate myself instead by what I wore. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve never been ‘fashion forward’, I’ve never been one to slavishly follow the trends. But I’ve always wanted to wear distinctive clothes that say something about me. I’m that 18 year old girl still saying, “look at me”, “I’m different”, but “I want to be part of your gang too”.


But recently I’ve had to re-think this. I have a professional life, working with high profile charities, usually in London. I want to look and feel distinctive. But…. despite the exercise there are still the ‘slack’ areas I feel like I don’t want to expose in public. I don’t want to be described as ‘mutton dressed as lamb’. I need to get that balance between formal and informal right that seems to be the London work style these days. And in doing so, I’ve come to think about what’s been described as ‘age appropriate dressing’.


Yuk. What an awful term. Who on earth gets to define what is age appropriate? And who cares?


Well unfortunately I kind of do. Whether it’s due to conditioning or societal pressure, I don’t know. My pre-adolescent son certainly has an opinion on what’s appropriate for me to wear, be that for work, recreation or pleasure. And I’m really not sure if I should still be wearing the kinds of clothes I’ve always worn. What are the rules for me now?


And so I approach my wardrobe with some trepidation. What is appropriate for me to wear; what still makes me feel distinctive; and how do I avoid being frumpy? For me that’s meant finding brands that seem to fit with these principles. Thinking about it, they’re brands that are probably cross-generational in their style. Good design, wearable and comfortable (oops, is that a sign of my age?), a little bit different, and accommodating for those areas of weakness in my body. But come on..why couldn’t I find a summer dress or top, suitable to wear to work, that was pretty but WITH sleeves?


This season Maison Scotch has come up trumps both with their design and the silhouettes. I like a skinny jean with a baggier top so I’m completely loving the moleskin trousers (http://www.airrclothing.co.uk/Maison-Scotch-Moleskin-Pants-Kharki?nh=300639) to wear with the peplum (http://www.airrclothing.co.uk/Maison-Scotch-Peplum-Blouse?nh=300639).



I’m also coveting a new dress for my (ahum) 50th birthday party. At the moment it’s the silky dress (http://www.airrclothing.co.uk/Maison-Scotch-Silky-Dress?nh=300639) I’m drawn to, but there’s still time for me to change my mind back to the peplum dress (http://www.airrclothing.co.uk/Maison-Scotch-Peplum-Dress?nh=300639). It’s so heart warming to find a range like this…



So I rebel against the general principle of age appropriate dressing. I conclude that’s there nothing different between my opinions now and myself as an 18 year old. I still want to wear clothes that reflect ‘me’ in some distinct way. I don’t want to wear what everyone else wears (“Oh, I saw that outfit you’re wearing at Next?”). I want my clothes to be flattering. I want to ‘look the part’ in whatever situation I find myself in. It just so happens that this means being more selective about what I buy (and indeed what I make for myself) and where I shop. I want it be a positive experience, I don’t want to feel patronised and yes I sometimes need help seeing what still suits me. On line shopping allows me to make those kind of decisions in the comfort of my home, but my staple shopping venues now are the small local boutiques where we’ve got to know each other, we can be honest about what’s working and what’s not, and they know I’ll return to shop more because I’ve had a good and constructive experience.


According to the Mail Online “British women change their wardrobe dramatically as soon as they reach their 50th birthday, getting rid of ‘young’ clothes and dressing their age…with rather underwhelming results” (July 2013). I may be wavering, but I’m not planning to be one of them…


Helen Bovey



  1. Louise

    Great article and I relate to this as a 44 year old. I think you should wear what makes you happy and comfortable and my mum at 73 has just bought her first pair of leggings!!! She looks great!


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