Archive for October, 2011|Monthly archive page

High 50: holding your own at a 20-something wedding

In Actors, FIlms, Grooming, Hair, High 50 on October 26, 2011 at 10:26 am

Mission: how do you rig yourself out when everyone else at a party is going to be half your age?

Obviously your first response would be: ‘I’m not coming.’ It was certainly mine when my husband showed me the invitation to the wedding party of one of his colleagues and his new bride – who is also a fitness instructor.

I could immediately picture it: acres of firm young flesh – and me. The horror the horror.

But not going for that reason would be rude and wrong. You have to go. And you have to make an effort with your outfit too. Because arriving at a wedding party without looking done up is even ruder than not going.

So you have to try – just not as hard as any of the twenty somethings who will make up the vast majority of the other guests. This might be the only aspect of the evening that will be easy, as they will all have made a massive effort. Most of it dedicated to wearing as little as possible. How to look good naked – with a dress on.

There will be acres of young skin on display, much of it taut and toned. All of it spray tanned. In fact there will be no part of these people that hasn’t been chemically enhanced in some way, from the transfers on their toe nails (the new pedicure option instead of nail polish, they stay on for a month) to the hairspray on their backcombed crowns, with swathes of false eyelashes and lip gloss in between.

Really, the level of cosmetic application currently considered normal by young women is at levels not seen since the early 1960s. You’ve seen them on X Factor, made up like Danny la Rue for daywear, it’s incredible.

Dusty Springfield was an eye make-up cop out compared to this generation. Three layers of false eyelashes is not considered extravagant – if you haven’t had ‘Hollywood Lashes’ stuck on semi-permanently at a beauty salon.

The best response to all this, of course, is not to compete, but to wear your usual best going out make up look – i.e. everything you normally use, but more of it, plus that lip gloss you never wear because it sticks your mouth shut – and to have really great hair.

You can achieve the hair ideal of our generation in an hour, by going pro for a sleek and bouncy blow dry, or – buy a Babyliss Big Hair blow drier.

This miracle gadget is the greatest invention for women since the contraceptive pill (and the rampant rabbit). It’s a hair dryer with a rotating large bristle brush attached, so you can blow dry your own hair to near salon results, while finishing the crossword with the other hand. It’s like having your own personal Warren Beatty (Shampoo era) that you can plug in and blow out any time you need a barnet boost.

The trick is to use John Frieda Luxurious Volume spray on towel-dried hair, then dry to just damp with a normal hairdryer, with your head turned upside down, to give plenty of volume at scalp level.

Then, pin up the top ¾ of your hair with those big plastic clips hairdressers use and dry the lower layers, working your way gradually up the strata, turning it under or out, as suits your style. The perky little brush turns either way – you just push the button the opposite direction with your thumb, so simple.

Pay special attention to sleek-ify-ing the crown, parting and hairline, then hey presto, a done do. There’s a really good demo on Youtube showing you how I also found this independent (amateur…) one useful

It’s really astonishing how professional it looks and more importantly, you’ll feel swishy. Because how you feel – as opposed to how you look, which we never really know about ourselves – is what matters for an occasion like this.

So rather than worrying about whether you should go long or short, trousers or dress, black, sequin or jolly print, just do your hair and wear the party outfit that you always feel good in.

And if that includes high heels you can walk in, you’ll be way ahead of most of the other guests.



In Charity, Dresses on October 22, 2011 at 4:43 pm

I have a worn a dress every day since October 6th. In all that time jeans have not been on my body, which must make it my longest break from denim since I was 12.

Why? Because October 6th was the day I read a tweet by @pottymouthmama introducing me to the concept of Frocktober. I immediately signed up.

Forgive me for not already knowing about this brilliant Aussie charity initiative, which raises money to support the work of the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation, through the marvellous medium of FROCKS, which has been going since 2007.

In a similar vein to the hilarious Movember, where Aussie men are sponsored to grow moustaches in November in aid of prostate cancer (my husband did it last year, looked hideous, but raised quite a bit), for this one you commit to wearing a dress every day in October.

You can also organise group events where everyone wears dresses, frock swaps, whatever, but it was the challenge of wearing a dress every single day which appealed to me.

How could I resist the allure of having something new to obsess on when I get dressed in the morning? I also committed to posting a pic of the frock I’m wearing each day on Twitter.

So how has it been? It’s been wonderful. I’ve loved it for so many reasons. Most of all, because it’s given me a reason to get dressed mindfully again.

One of the disadvantages of working from home – or in a small rented office on my own, as I do – is that you give up on that. You don’t have to make the effort, so you don’t.

It’s ten years since I worked in an office and as that time has also coincided with me becoming a mother and moving out of a big city to a provincial town, the time, energy and motivation to dress properly have all been severely compromised.

And once I stopped covering the fashion shows twice a year in Paris and Milan, I really lost my incentive to make an effort, until it had reached the point where I even wondered if I could do it any more.

On the days when I go up to London for lunches and meetings, I’ve really had to think how to dress as a grown up again, because I wasn’t doing it as a daily activity. And as you know, any skill – from piano scales to golf swings – that goes unpractised, quickly atrophies.

What was joyous for me then, was to discover that, like the old saw about riding a bike, once I got back on, I could still do it. Do it and love it. This project has reminded me how much I enjoy the process of putting an outfit together. Starting with one element – in this case, the dress – and building up from that.

As opposed to grabbing the nearest jeans, the cleanest T shirt and the same jacket every single day…

It’s made me delve into my wardrobe and discover what a fine collection of dresses I’ve built up over the years. And that many of them, which I’ve only ever worn to parties, can work really for day if you play them down with a butch shoe and – my best friend – a cardigan.

Frocktobering has also got me back into wearing proper structured shoes again, because you can’t wear trainers and Converse with dresses. Well, you can, when you’re 18.

This has made me understand that the entire rubber-soled sneaker genre softens you up, in the same way elasticated waists do. You get so used to wearing shoes that mould around your feet, putting on a rigid leather shoe feels like torture.

But after a few days of wearing loafers, brogues and my various heeled day shoes, I was completely used to wearing a structured shoe again – and loving it. I think they’re more comfortable actually.

The other clothing discipline it’s got me back into is wearing tights. I’ve worn them so seldom in the past few years, I’d reached the point where I couldn’t bear to have them on my body, but once the weather started to cool in the second week of October I had no choice. It’s been black opaques every day since and I don’t even notice I’ve got them on any more.

Above all, getting dressed – actually in a dress – putting together an outfit, wearing a proper shoe, has meant putting on make up, doing my hair and all the other civilising details you can skimp on when you’re slopping about in jeans and Converse every day.

I stand better in my dresses, I feel more like my real self in them – and that’s all boosted my self esteem and my mood.

All of that and I’ve raised $234.50 for this most worthy cause. If you’d like to help me raise more, I’d be so grateful. Here’s the link.

And may I also urge you to sponsor the wonderful David Berkelmans, who is up to $2000 and going for $5000. I reckon he’s earned every cent.

And in case you’re wondering, the picture of the top is Claudia Cardinale working a frock as only an Italian diva can. And here’s Uma Thurman in my favourite frock moments of recent times.

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