Rule: Do not go gentle into that good night

In Accessories, Famous people, Older women on March 15, 2011 at 5:00 pm

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.

Pic from Advanced Style

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.

  1. An added bonus of wearing all that humongous heavy jewelery, of course, is fact that it will give a stylish boost to your weight-bearing exercise regime – sooo important for preventing nasty osteoporosis!!
    Long live the foldies!

  2. FAB woman though just a tad Cruella de Vil nonetheless very chic. Loved the post!

  3. Kinda makes you want to get old…ok, not really, but nice to know it can be done extremely stylishly. Time to start collecting large pieces of jewelry methinks

  4. Really nice to see older women feted! It helps,of course, that Lady Lee is an Danish ex-model.

  5. Making a statement is certainly better than fading away.

  6. That’s who I want to be when I’m big! But not a Foldie – too much like what too much does already.

  7. Love her style
    Caftan and floppy hat please
    Need the feather coat for Melbourne winter…oh and the fluffy mitts…

  8. Oh dear, I am already doing the scraped back hair/red lip/big sunnies look! Do I qualify for Foldie at 44? Now I just need to do some work on the statement pieces and bold jewellery….

  9. Brilliant – great blog and great celebration of a fabulous woman. Love it.

  10. Thank you for introducing me to the fabulous Advanced Style blog. It is brillant.

  11. Do I have to wait? At 43, and not quite the shape I used to be, I’m thinking Mela Purdie basics with fab ear and wrist candy. Not to mention some statement shoes; at least my shoe size hasn’t (and won’t) change. Ditto ears and wrists for that matter (I sincerely hope). LOVE this post!

  12. I’m really looking forward to having grey hair (and having it long as well). Being able to be more eccentric is an extra added bonus.

    And I’m only 22

    • Ha ha ha I guessed your age before I read it…. once you get your first grey hair, you might feel differently. But it’s the inbetweener stage that’s a bore. x

  13. she’s fabulous! i so want to be like that when i’m older. so does that make all the costume jewellery i’m buying is an investment?

  14. Try FabOlds for size. Foldies has a regrettable hint of collapse.

  15. The problem with approaching Foldie status (though I’m still a way off yet) is I must remember to put my statement glasses on before I get dressed. Put my knickers on inside out twice lately!
    Love your blog!

  16. I definitely want to be that stylish when I have an 8 in front of my age. Right now my age starts with a 4 and I am sadly not stylish at all! Except maybe for my large and fabulous earrings…

  17. Yes, Linda – I’d rather be a Boldie than a Foldie!

  18. […] to grow old glamorously – fabulous advice from one of my favourite columnists Maggie Alderson.  Maggie also writes novels, I love them, her latest is Shall We […]

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