Some great fashion labels for women over 40
I'm generally a bit reluctant to mention labels on this blog. Everyone's taste is different and how much we're willing and able to pay for things varies dramatically. What suits one woman may be anathema to another - I never could find a thing to fit me at Next or Jigsaw, I feel that Laura Ashley women are clearly not meant to have breasts, and I can't get over the feeling that Top Shop is just still cheap rubbish, no matter how many pix of Kate Moss are plastered around the place.
However, here are some labels that I would personally recommend, bearing in mind that I'm British (and that many of the labels I now rely on are known only in France, so I haven't mentioned those).
Boden is now my go-to fashion house. Partly it's because I live the right kind of lifestyle for this label, which is aimed at active women who want pretty, practical everyday clothing at a reasonable price. Boden designs have a bit of a twist, and they have high manufacturing standards. Their bootleg-cut moleskin trousers are my favourite trouser - thick Italian moleskin, a slightly low-waisted cut, and very nice satin binding on the interior waistband. T's often come in long-sleeved designs with interesting trims such as mother-of-pearl buttons or velvet, and they do a great range of cotton jersey cardigans in plains and prints that can really pep up your wardrobe. My friend R swears by them, especially for coats and footwear. Prices aren't the cheapest but the sales are worth looking out for and if you buy often enough, you get privileged customer status.
La Redoute is one of those labels that women rely on in rural France, but it's also available in the UK at www.laredoute.co.uk. Sizing can be a bit tricky, because there are so many brand names in the catalogue, but for the over-40s babe, the Creation, Essentials, Best and Laura Clement ranges are usually a good buy. Laura Clement is my favourite - clean lines, quality materials and very sexy. Best provides you with quality basics such as cashmere knitwear and wool coats; Creation is more decorative, while Essentials is good for cheap basics such as cotton t's and knitwear. The label Anna Weyburn is aimed at older women, but I find it a tad too decorative and staid. However, if you're a size 14 or above, the Taillisime range (called Plus Size in the UK catalogue) has good, clean-lined clothing that could teach its smaller-sized brethren a thing or two about design.
I don't get to visit Monsoon in person any more but an acquaintance of 48 just found her wedding dress there after she'd searched high and low for something even halfway suitable. Monsoon have always produced quality clothing, with an emphasis on silk, and although their new blouse ranges are rather girly (lots of short, puffed sleeves), their jackets and dresses have great clean lines and classic prints. A good place to go for evening wear, and this little black dress has some great features - a flattering neckline, long sleeves, a bit of skin revealed by the crochet...
Orvis is an American company that originally made fishing bags and gear, then branched out into men's clothing, and then into women's. They sell mainly online and via catalogue but also have a few retail outlets in the UK. At their worst, Orvis can be a bit frumpy, especially their drawstring-waisted skirts and dresses, but at their best they are brilliant. Scoop-necked, no-cling travel dresses in microfibre that you can wash out in the sink and leave to dry overnight. Scrunch-cloth items that screw up in a suitcase and require no ironing. Plenty of long-sleeved designs, and skirts and trousers with an elasticated back or side waistband that doesn't give away your secret from the front. Everything is fabulously well made, and the fabrics are high quality - their washed linens and rayons are a delight. Orvis isn't the cheapest, but on a cost-per-wear basis, my Orvis items have worked out to be some of the cheapest in my wardrobe, and the sales are competitive.
Heck, Damart might look like a strange label to pick for clothing, because the name was once synonymous with thermal undies, but in fact Damart produce some nice clothing as well - everything from coats to skirts and dresses. I recently bought this skirt in two colourways - that 1920s flounce gives movement without bulk, and the suedette is as close as I want to get to the real thing these days. While you're online, check out the thermals range, which are pretty enough to wear as tops.
Unbeatable for t-shirts and they always have long-sleeved types in. You can choose from two body lengths, which is great if you're tall, or - like me - you don't want to show bare flesh at your waistline. Gap have gone off the boil lately in terms of their loyalty to their core customer base and have been trying to court the teenage market, but their sales fell dramatically as they alienated us over-40s, and let's hope they continue to produce clothes for those of us who are old enough to know good from bad.
My favourite label for workwear for many years, when I still had the money. Jaeger has an unfair reputation for frumpsville and it's true that some of the stuff is a bit Tory wife, especially the acetate-lined dresses and summer suits in linen/poly mix (yuk). But they also produce good clean skirts and lovely knitwear (their original forte), and trousers big enough to get your backside in. I've owned some of my Jaeger belts 15 years and their leather skirts and jackets are really high quality. Worth a visit, if only for trying-on, and sales are good value - this jacket was reduced to £50 from £200.
I've been wearing Hobbs since the 1980s and am still loyal to this label. They first made their name with shoes, and their shoes remain excellent quality and very comfortable, but they also make good-quality clothing, including businesswear that is kind to the female body. Designs have a bit of a twist - I have a crewneck linen jacket from here, which I bought in three colours. It has a huge asymmetrical back split right to the shoulderyoke - fabulously cool for summer. On this yellow jacket, note the gorgeous little bow pockets that lift it out of the ordinary.
The designer floors at the major department stores are always a source of inspiration. My favourite was always Liberty for its cutting-edge and decontructed designs but the current leader at a mid price point is probably Debenham's, which has commissioned the likes of Jasper Conran and John Rocha to design whole ranges. This wrap dress is by Betty Jackson. Oh, and Harvey Nicks is always worth a visit, of course, just to get your eye in...
However, don't turn your nose up at the own-label brands from the big department stores. John Lewis's own label has furnished me with great merino-knit skirts and cardigans (this jacket is by them - just ignore the cheesy and unthreatening models on the website who look like they strolled in from KwikSave); Liberty's own label is great and the House of Fraser's own label, Linea, produces fluid, clean-lined clothing that works on grown-up girls. When a reputable company stakes its name on something, it's always worth a second look.