What are you going to be wearing when your next big birthday has an eight on the front of it? Comfort slacks and a fleece? Well, actually you could just about wear that and stay uber stylish as long as you followed the example set so perfectly here by Birgit ‘Gitte’ Lee, wife of Dracula/Saruman/Rasputin/Lord Summerisle (from The Wicker Man – shudder), AKA Sir Christopher Lee.
What this Danish former model (now 76) understands so perfectly is that the older you get the more you can carry off – and the more you need to wear – crazy statement accessories. Bolder is better the older you getter. Or Gitte, in her case.
The trick is to keep the actual clothes simple (and comfie), so the accessories burst forth distracting attention from the droopy bits of your anatomy and attracting it to your undimmed charisma. This technique is guaranteed to make people say things like ‘Isn’t she faaaabulous?’
I’m so excited I feel the need to coin a term for it. Do we like Foldie – for Fabulous Oldie?
Foldie Lady Lee first crossed my retinas on the red carpet at this year’s BAFTAs (above). Those knockout spectacles with the severe hair, the red lips, and that magnificent pewter collar projected me straight into a new style crush. And a frenzied Google search yielded even greater Foldie treasures than the outfit shown here.
At a charity gala three years ago she wore a jacket which appears to be made out of raven feathers, very much like a costume from one of her husband’s films. Another outfit was all black silk jersey brightened with just one short necklace of huge spherical red beads, exactly the same colour as her matt lipstick. So simple, so effective. So easy to copy.
Even more thrilling is the shoot she did with Italian Vogue, for their October 2010 issue (above and top), where she is again in all black, simple draped shapes, with her signatures specs and lippie, and the most outrageous oversized gold jewellery. Cuffs, collars, humungous rings. And a pair of humungous mittens like furry boxing gloves. Brilliant photography (by Tim Walker) with stylised Angus McBean-style poses.
The next goldmine I tripped over was my new favourite blog Advanced Style, which is photographs of stylish people found on the street, like The Sartorialist, but all the subjects are over 65. (On further investigation, his taste isn’t entirely reliable, but there are some great people on there – worth a look.)
The blog’s creator, Ari Seth Cohen, is a big fan of Lady Lee and in one she shares her pragmatic daywear style system. She always wears the same combo of comfortable loose pants and a T shirt or roll-neck top, with a long soft coat over the top (varying the weights for the season), with flat shoes – and always a wide-brimmed hat. Felt in winter, straw in summer.
Then it’s scrape back the hair, on with the lips, the specs and several tons of costume jewellery, scoop up a large designer bag and out she goes. How simple is that? And once you’ve assembled the statement pieces – and remember by this stage you’ve had fifty adult years to do it – how economical? Just a few fresh tops for each season. Lady Lee says she’s stopped shopping. So chic.
Growing into such joyous Foldie style is one of the great compensations for growing older. You may not be able to flaunt your knees, but you can carry off spectacles bigger than your face.