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Dressing in the menopause

Does your style really go off the rails at this time?

I read an article today from the Invisible Woman blogger in the Guardian that bemuses me somewhat. She talks about women suddenly wanting to wear pastel and puffed sleeves and gingham when they hit the menopause, and how the M word is taboo and no-one talks about it. She even apologises for raising such an 'indelicate' subject. 

None of this rings any bells with me at all. My friends and I talk about the menopause all the time, swap tips on how to deal with hot flushes and vaginal atrophy, carry and use fans in public, etc.  No-one gives a shit or tries to hide it. And I don't think any of us dresses differently because we're menopausal, only sometimes we choose more comfort because we're getting older

I admit I had a brief wobble when my doctor told me I was 'bien menopausée', but that was more to do with fear of osteoporosis than the loss of any "previous identity as a fecund, mysterious and powerfully feminine creature" as the writer puts it. 

WTF? I have NEVER felt like this. Mysterious? A coal-miner's daughter from a council estate? Not a lot of mystery there. Most of my life I've felt, as Fern Britton put it, like a man in drag. I have never pretended to be some sort of femme fatale - it's not the sort of thing I could pull off.

Nor, having never wanted children, could I mourn at no longer being ABLE to have them. The feeling was more one of relief at no longer having to endure my godawful periods. 

Equally admittedly, I have hated some of the symptoms of menopause - the hot flushes, the weight gain, the fat gut, the insomnia. But now that I'm back on the black cohosh and the flushes have virtually disappeared again, I feel as right as ninepence. I'm still as fat as a fat little fat pig but I've decided to ignore it and just buy bigger pants. I'm pretty fit, after all, and I eat well. 

I found the comments about dress on the blog interesting too. One really struck me, that: "Most people really do not see older women, so wear what you want". I dunno. Is that true? Maybe it's that it's not true here in France. But even if it IS true, well how wonderful is that? What freedom it gives you to observe. Once you get over yourself and stop wanting to be paid attention all the time, you can just get on with being a person

One thing I am noticing and appreciating about ageing is that I give a lot less of a toss about what other people think - as my oestrogen levels fall off a cliff and my testosterone becomes more important, I am perhaps behaving with the indifference of a man. But in terms of my wardrobe, the menopause has entailed far less of a change than moving to the countryside ever did.

More another time on dressing for hot flushes. 

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Swings and roundabouts

Boy, have I made some mistakes in purchases lately. But on the other hand, I've had some successes.

I thought I'd quickly review a couple of the clothing purchases I've made lately, because to tell the truth, not all of them came off. It's always a bit diff when you have to buy mail-order, but locally, there's almost nothing available except cheap shit in shopping chains like Kiabi, or very expensive items from individual boutiques. 

M&S lace knickers

First up, the lovely lace knickers I ordered from M&S. When these turned up, I could see straight away that they weren't going to fit. I am normally a size 14 in knickers - I could get into a 12 but I like a bit of ease - but with the 14 in these, I had a choice of wearing them either low on my hips in order to get them to actually cover my buttocks, or pulling them up my hips, in which case, they were so low at the back they were almost down to my butt crack. The problem? No room in the arse, dears - not something you can tell from a photograph.

This is an increasing trend, not only as my arse grows ever larger - which it does - but also as goods are increasingly made in the Asia-Pacific region where women have flat bottoms. The average lardy, round European arse simply doesn't fit into these kinds of knickers. I'd also ordered a 16 to be on the safe side, and these fitted very well, but also felt as if they would fall off at the first step I took, they were so loose. So, back they go. 

M&S cotton rich pants

The size 14 black cotton pants, however, were perfect. This is the shape for me, with my 10-inch difference between waist and hip, and I'll definitely be ordering more. They are the same shape as my Elila control pants but without the control, and they properly come up to your waist. I'm delighted to have found these because it seems beyond the ken of manufacturers that a woman might want big pants that are pretty but NOT controlwear. I don't want control - I just want to feel secure, like my knickers aren't falling off or riding up or sawing me in half - you know, the kind of comfort MEN expect every time they get dressed.

Meanwhile, in a snit, back to Sloggi I went, ordering a three-pack of their maxi briefs, in which I will basically look like my mum. But at least my bum will be safe - there's no escaping a Sloggi.

Lands end trousers black velveteen trousersponte trousers

Next up, trousers from Land's End. Oh dearie me. I've ordered lots of fleece pants and cotton jersey trousers from Land's End and been really pleased with them, so I thought I'd take a punt on their tailored trousers, but despite my careful checking of the measures, not a single pair of these fits me. They are all so large on the waist that I could stuff a toy rabbit down there (his name's Thumper, since you ask...). So back go all of those too, and at international postage rates, more fool me.

It's the first time I've sent stuff back to Land's End, but once bitten, twice shy - I won't be ordering tailored pants from them again. A shame, as the ponte fabric of the paler grey pants was absolutely gorgeous - I will definitely look out for that in future.

teal skirt

It made me realise, however, that I have also reached a crossroads - I will be 50 very soon and I have had it with uncomfortable clothes. I need ease. Ease in the waist - my favourite being the kind of smooth, stretch (not gathered) waist of Land's End Starfish trousers or this Wall pull-on skirt; ease in the knees, so that I can sit cross-legged or do my yoga without getting changed; and ease across the body, preferably in wrap styles, knitwear or stretch tops. I am renouncing tailoring - it is just not ME. 

In my wardrobe, the things that get the most wear are:

* Teeshirts, vests and camisoles in cotton jersey.
* Fleece pull-on pants with pockets from Lands' End, and their stretch fleece tops.
* (make unknown) bootcut jeans with 5 per cent lycra, and BHS pull-on bootcut denim jeggings with an elastic back waistband.
* Black merino knitted pull-on trousers from Pringle. 
* Pima cotton jersey pull-on trousers from Wall.
* Thick merino knit pencil skirts from John Lewis (I have five).
* Cashmere knitwear, merino knitwear, cotton knitwear.
* Cotton jersey dresses from Wall.
* Wrap viscose dresses from Boden.
* Bias-cut linen or cotton dresses for summer.
* Wrap skirts and trousers.  

As you may notice, there is no tailoring anywhere. The trousers don't, in general, do up with zips and buttons - they pull up and then have a flat, yoga-style waist. I also wear wrap skirts and Thai fisherman's-style trousers, which I can adjust as I see fit. Sometimes I put on conventional jeans then a few hours later I take them off and get back into my stretch items. You can't do yoga in jeans, can you? A few hours of sitting at a desk and I'm tired of pulling trousers out of my crotch or undoing the top button - women my shape are not designed for jeans unless they have serious amounts of stretch. 

Wall baggiesWall pima cotton trousersAmalfie dressHaving had my mini-epiphany, I parcelled up my failures and logged back onto Wall, where - to my delight - some items I'd been considering were now halved in price. So, I got these black cotton-drill baggy pants, which are just my cup of tea: wide enough in the leg to accommodate cross-legged sitting, fully lined, pockets, elastic waist (on me, dear reader, they are ankle-length!); these pima cotton pull-ons, which I already have in grey and which are brilliant - very slimming with their vertical tucks, lined to the knee and - listen up, manufacturers - also HAVE POCKETS; and this Amalie linen/viscose dress, which I've lusted after for ages, but which had been sold out in the blue colourway I wanted. I just love this, the asymmetry of it, the interesting use of the fabric, and it will be my first linen item from Wall.

Maybe, just maybe, with better weather forecast, I might actually get to wear it soon.    

wall jersey dress

I also got this jersey dress in viscose and spandex, which I've had my eye on for a while but never quite plumped for (bought a size up, so I can get thermals under it). This is more for next winter than this summer, and gives me a chance to try out another Wall fabric.  

 

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What your clothes say about you, part two

The second part of a three-part series.

Yesterday, I looked at the first part of the questionnaire from What your clothes say about you by Jennifer Baumgartner. That dealt with your past and your clothing influences. Today, let's look at what she asks about the present. 

Present

* How would you describe your style now?

* How do you feel when you get dressed?

* Why?

* How do you feel when you shop for clothes?

* Why? 

* How often do you shop? 

* Why?

* Who is your style inspiration?

* Do you find getting dressed difficult?

* If so, when did the difficulty start?

* What is the most difficult part of getting dressed?

* Do you find that you have nothing to wear?

* Do you wear the same thing all the time?

* Do you wear a new outfit every day?

* Do you dislike most of the clothes in your wardrobe?

* Do you have a specific style that is ‘so you’?

* Do you wish you could improve the way you dress?

* What is your favourite colour?

* Do you have that colour in your wardrobe?

* Is your style classic or trendy?

* Traditional or modern? 

* Clean or adorned? 

* Fitted or loose? 

* Short or long? 

* Do you wear what other women in your cohort wear? 

* Have you ever tried to get help in creating a wardrobe? 

* Is your closet full of old or new items? 

* Is your closet neatly organised or messy? 

* Is your closet empty or crammed?

* Do you wear your clothes? 

* Do many of your clothes still have tags?

* Do you feel that your clothes represent who you are?

* Do you feel that your clothes flatter your body?

* Do you feel that your clothes enhance your age? 

* Do your clothes function well with your current lifestyle?

* What is the most common fashion mistake you make?

* Have you tried to change that?

* Has your style changed with a time of major transition?

* Are you happy with this change? 

* Are you content with your current wardrobe. If so, why?

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And here, for the record, are my answers:

PRESENT

* How would you describe your style now?

Comfort dressing. Practicality HAS to come first, especially winter warmth. In winter I’m bundled up in thermals and fleece layers. In summer, I like a dress but it’s hard to wear dresses, because of the grass and nettles. Shoes have to be flat. I suffer from hot flushes, so I have to layer my clothes. Jeans, tees, vests, cardis, boots, wellies, waterproof coats and warm knits are my life - in summer, a linen dress with a blouse or cardi, or trousers with a tee. I don’t like to show my arms now that I’m older and I don’t feel comfortable in short skirts because I like to sit cross-legged and I also loathe tights. Jeans and a long-sleeve tee, or pull-on pants and a tunic, that’s me. 

* How do you feel when you get dressed?

Comfortable but often frumpy. 

* Why?

Because I’m not wearing the clothes I want to wear, I’m wearing the clothes my lifestyle dictates.  I’d like to look elegant, sophisticated and more urban but my lifestyle doesn’t support that look - not only are those kinds of clothes not practical for my life, I’d look totally out of place if I wore them. I thought when I came to the country that I could wear unsuitable clothing because I’d be in the house all day, but in fact the COLD in the house pretty much dictates what I wear. Even in summer, it’s cold inside the house -  I usually have to wear a cardigan. In summer I can wear prettier things, but in winter I yearn for things that don’t exist: stylish fleece, Viyella, knitwear that's actually warm enough. My indoor clothes are most people's outdoor clothes. 

* How do you feel when you shop for clothes?

In shops, frustrated: I just don’t bother any more - I buy nearly everything online. Half the time, the clothes in shops aren’t in my size, and choice is limited here, to either mall-style cheap things or expensive boutiques. I’m astounded by prices - 40 euros for a completely ordinary blouse, for instance. I can find things that I like and things I can afford but not both. French clothes aren’t cut for my shape either - they have very narrow sleeves and the French don’t wear full skirts. I tend to buy from the UK and stick to a few labels: Wall, Orvis, Boden, Land’s End, where I can guarantee the quality and have some idea of the cut. I get excited when the catalogues arrive and enjoy browsing around the sites. I’m quite good at interpreting a look at a lower price level. 

* Why? 

Frustrated because fashion isn’t designed for women my age, my shape or who live my lifestyle. French clothes are terribly, terribly expensive, other than cheap rubbish at the supermarket. I love my specialist clothes - my swimwear and my trekking clothes - they’re beautifully made and fit for purpose, but they’re not stylish. I find shoes a complete nightmare these days. 

* How often do you shop? 

Quite often, really, at least once a month. 

* Why?

Because I keep buying things that don’t quite work, then I end up having to buy more, different styles. 

* Who is your style inspiration?

Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn. Tina Chow, and any of Balenciaga’s models - elegant, a little severe. Talia Shire in Godfather III with her beautiful velvets and wraps. The women in MadMen - so glamorous and beautiful. I love Inès de la Fressange, but her style wouldn’t suit me - she’s rake thin and six feet tall. I’m short and voluptuous but I don’t want to dress like an Italian bombshell. 

* Do you find getting dressed difficult?

On a daily basis, no - I just pull on my clothes and go. But I don’t look nice and I try not to leave the house in these clothes. Looking nice, I find more difficult. 

* If so, when did the difficulty start?

When I gained weight again after my illness. I hate being over 8st 7lb but am currently much heavier than this. I have large breasts and a pot belly. I don’t so much mind having a big rear and hips, thighs, etc, but I hate my matronly bosom - it spoils the line of clothing. 

* What is the most difficult part of getting dressed?

Shoes. My feet absolutely kill me and comfortable shoes require trousers when my body looks better in a dress. I cannot find flat shoes or boots that I like and can walk in. And bras are hopeless. What I really want is smaller breasts - an A cup would suit me just fine, thanks. 

* Do you find that you have nothing to wear?

Yes when I’m going out. At home, dressing is easy but when going out I often change multiple times to find clothes that are comfortable and flattering. I am too fat to wear the things I really want to wear. 

* Do you wear the same thing all the time?

At home, yes - either pull-on denim bootcut jeggings/jeans and a long-sleeve tee (summer), or thermals and fleece layers. Out and about I try to ring the changes, and I like to make an entrance with colourful, beautiful coats. Most of my coats are vintage - 1950s styles suit my shape better than modern clothing. 

* Do you wear a new outfit every day?

No - I very often gather the clothes from the day before off the bedroom floor and only change my underwear. 

* Do you dislike most of the clothes in your wardrobe?

Not really. I have some beautiful clothes, I just don’t get to wear them. But I’m bored with my everyday clothes. There’s only so much black, navy and chocolate brown a girl can take, but any other colours show the dirt so much... 

* Do you have a specific style that is ‘so you’?

When I dress up, I’m classical rather than frou-frou. Simple. Vintage. A little arty. I’m perceived as stylish by some of my friends, but they don’t see me at home, where I spend 90 per cent of my time. 

* Do you wish you could improve the way you dress?

Yes. 

* What is your favourite colour?

Sky blue. 

* Do you have that colour in your wardrobe?

A little bit. Not much because it quickly soils in our brown water. I do wear turquoise a lot, which is an easier colour to find and wears a lot better. 

* Is your style classic or trendy?

Classic.

* Traditional or modern? 

Traditional. 

* Clean or adorned? 

Clean. 

* Fitted or loose? 

Skimming - not loose but not tight either. I don’t like tailoring and anyway it would seem stupid to wear a jacket at home. I can’t bear to be restricted in clothing - I need to be able to sit cross-legged, do my yoga, etc, without getting changed. Jeggings work better for me than jeans. 

* Short or long? 

Long. I like to keep covered up. Even in summer, as I burn instantly.  

* Do you wear what other women in your cohort wear? 

No. Most of the women I know are horsewomen, smallholders, etc, so they are pretty scruffy - breeches, jeans, wellies, stained teeshirts, baggy sweats. One friend wears fleece pyjama trousers now instead of real trousers, as she can't get comfy otherwise. Many are short of money. Most aren't bothered by the lack of 'glamour' but some are and feel a bit disheartened by it. 

* Have you ever tried to get help in creating a wardrobe? 

No. Clearly I should....

* Is your closet full of old or new items? 

Quite a lot of new, actually, as I have bought more in the past year or two, as I’ve had more money. I am happy with most of them but I still struggle. I feel that I make a lot of mistakes. 

* Is your closet neatly organised or messy? 

Messy - I try, but I have too much stuff to be tidy. I do arrange things by colour and type though: stacks of vests, tees, polos etc. 

* Is your closet empty or crammed?

Crammed to bursting. There are clothes all over the house - in the office, in the sewing room, in the bedroom, in the living room. I have far too many. 

* Do you wear your clothes? 

Probably not most of them. Many of my clothes are ‘too good to wear’ for the life I lead. I hate ruining good clothes with dog hair and ash and fluff and soot, and yet that is my life. And I resent paying a fortune for more interesting basics, which is stupid, as these are the things I really wear. Many of my clothes hang unworn in the wardrobe, awaiting a suitable occasion, while I live in the same few things until they literally fall apart. 

* Do many of your clothes still have tags?

No. But I do keep my new clothes to wear ‘out’ on the first occasion because they never look as good once they’ve been washed.

* Do you feel that your clothes represent who you are?

No. They are a mixture of what suits my lifestyle and what I can afford rather than what I truly like. 

* Do you feel that your clothes flatter your body?

I don’t think my current body CAN be flattered - it’s too fat. But I do think I choose clothes quite well for my body. I don't think people realise I weigh as much as I do. 

* Do you feel that your clothes enhance your age? 

I don’t know. Sometimes I think I dress quite well for my age. At other times, I think I’ve lost the plot. Dressing advice seems to be so much about looking sexy and that’s not really something I want to convey in my clothing - I'd rather my clothes say 'hands off', to be honest. 

* Do your clothes function well with your current lifestyle?

My everyday clothes are perfect - I just don’t like them or am bored sick with them. And the clothes I want to wear don’t suit my life - they’re too delicate.   

* What is the most common fashion mistake you make?

A: being unwilling to buy an expensive basic and wear it and potentially ruin it. I try to protect my clothes as if they were art objects, and in practice, that often means not wearing them.

B: I also still buy clothes that aren’t suited to my practical country life - I like glamorous, impractical clothes that don't suit my life. 

* Have you tried to change that?

Yes to A:, no to B: I long for the glamour that would go with my clothes. When I dress up, I tend to overdress compared with everyone else. I get a lot of compliments but often feel out of place. 

* Has your style changed with a time of major transition?

Yes, menopause. My body has changed a lot this past year. 

* Are you happy with this change? 

No. I feel fat, frumpy and mannish. Huge boobs that spoil the line of everything. Sweaty and disgusting. I can't wear cotton any more and have to dress in layers for when the flushes strike. I'm constantly pulling jumpers on and off. 

* Are you content with your current wardrobe. If so, why?

No. I can’t seem to marry what I need with what I like and find clothes that are beautiful, flattering and practical all at the same time. 

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Well, clearly I am in a bit of rut to say the least! I've put on a lot of weight this winter, as I do every winter, but it is hanging around more than usual, partly because I am rubbish at cutting down on grub when the weather's so cold. But also I am utterly sick of my winter clothes now. It's nearly April, for God's sake. I tried wearing a cotton teeshirt yesterday (under a fleece polo) but soon headed upstairs to change into my usual ski thermals. It was 5 degrees outside, with a wind that could take your face off. This time last year, we were in the high teens. Still, could be worse, could be a sheep farmer, poor sods. 

I am also in a period of transition with my style, casting about to find things that suit me as I head into my 50s. Last summer I longed for pretty, floral things but when I put them on, I felt a bit like a man in drag - I prettied up the house instead, with chintz curtains, etc, as if I felt like I myself was past redemption. 

I have in my head what I want - beautiful wide-leg or bootcut cotton velvet, cord and tweed trousers in shades of grey, pewter and plum, with lots of grey and pink cashmere, pashminas with beads or sequins, sweaters with contrast detailing or beaded necklines, etc - something a little more glamorous than my everyday wear. Well-fitting indigo denim bootcut jeans with slender white shirts and cotton cardigans with some interesting detailing. Beautiful flat shoes in bright suedes and velvets. I just find them very hard to track down....

Still, at least this exercise has made me think about all this a bit more. I am now heading for Boden for a look round.

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Tomorrow, the Future.  

 

 

 

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What your clothes say about you, part one

A look into the psychology of clothing.

I've been feeling pretty fed up with this endless winter, though thank heavens, northern France isn't copping it as badly as north Wales, for instance. But apart from the cold and the rain and the lack of light, another thing winter means is endlessly dressing for warmth. It can be hard to get motivated, style-wise, when you absolutely have to layer up.

Dressing in winter, for me, means bra, pants, mohair socks from Corrymoor, ski thermals from Five Seasons, fleece pants from Lands' End, a Lands' End fleece poloneck, and Uggs. On really cold days I'll top it with a fleece gilet. It's warm, and I really do attempt my best with flattering colours and mixtures of colours, but stylish it ain't and I have dressed like this every single sodding day for months now. Believe me, I've tried with jeans and silk thermals and cashmere knits - not warm enough, not by half, not when the bedroom is 8 degrees and the kitchen 9 degrees and the office 16 degrees. Outdoor temperatures indoors demand serious cover. 

Hence, in my fed-up-ness, I've been reading a book on fashion and psychology: What your clothes say about you, by psychologist Jennifer Baumgartner. 

The book has its flaws and I'll be reviewing it in full when I've finished it, but the intro questionnaires were very interesting and gave me a couple of lightbulb moments, so I thought I'd share them here. II think it might be worthwhile for many of us to fill in that first section and see what we come up with. 

Past

* Who dressed you when you were younger?

* How did he or she dress?

* What were you taught about getting dressed?

* Was learning to a dress a necessity, a creative process or both?

* When did you begin dressing yourself?

* Did you find the process exciting?

* Did you find the process frustrating?

* Were you indifferent?

* Have you suffered a wardrobe trauma such as being bullied at school or parent criticism?

* How has your style changed throughout your life?

* What has prompted these changes?

* What has remained the same?

* Who were your style inspirations when you were younger?

* Have you held on to your clothes from the past?

* What are your favourite outfits from your past and why?

Here are my answers, for interest.

 

PAST

* Who dressed you when you were younger?

My mother. 

* How did she dress?

Badly. Frumpy elastic-waisted polyester trousers, short at the ankle. Silly little shoes - her feet always hurt. Short, tight, shiny acrylic knit tops that cut into her fat arms. She kept her good things for ‘best’ but never had a best. She never wore her nice things because she never went anywhere. Nor did she wear perfume, or makeup other than lipstick and powder. She never owned jeans that I remember and my father didn't like her wearing skirts in case she attracted male attention. 

* What were you taught about getting dressed?

To be modest. To cover up. High necks, long skirts, trousers. To take care of my clothes because they were expensive. We bought twice a year - one new summer dress, two new pairs of winter trousers, a coat every five years. No impulse buys: everything had to be carefully weighed for its cost per wear, etc. Clothes were 'dear', there must be no mistakes. 

* Was learning to a dress a necessity, a creative process or both?

A necessity. There was a degree of enjoyment to it, but we shopped low-end, at markets, C&A etc: it was often a question of what we could afford. An item from M&S was a major treat. I did enjoy, each year, picking my two new pairs of cord trousers - one year I chose teal and plum, I still remember those trousers. 

* When did you begin dressing yourself?

A little at puberty - tie-waist cheesecloth tops that bared my midriff, flared trousers, platform shoes, skinny-rib polos and tight, matching-colour jeans to go down the youthclub, learning to show off my budding figure. Then at 16, when I was into vintage fashion, I began to find my own style more. But my mother still bought my day clothes, uniforms and underwear until I went to college. My sister was horrified by my granny-pants when I was 18 and immediately gave me some sexy undies. 

* Did you find the process exciting?

Yes. I loved buying my own clothes for the first time, especially lingerie - a lilac lace set of bra, briefs and suspenders. I loved it. I’ve never forgotten that underwear. It represented freedom from parental restriction. 

* Did you find the process frustrating?

No. I found it exhilarating. I loved, with my own money and no parental oversight, being able to decide who I was. 

* Were you indifferent?

Never. 

* Have you suffered a wardrobe trauma such as being bullied or parent criticism?

Lots of parental criticism. My mother HATED when I got into vintage and started wearing Victoriana. She said I looked "like a nursing mother". She hated my excess weight, as she struggled with her own. In retrospect this seems ridiculous, as I was only a size 14 - a modern-day size 12 - and I had a 23-inch waist. 

* How has your style changed throughout your life?

As a young girl I wore what was fashionable, though I was pretty clueless, but I got into vintage quite young, and have always worn some vintage ever since. At college I took care to be clean and neat, ironing my jeans, etc, because I was ‘fat and fat people can’t be scruffy’. I tried to find my style but made a lot of mistakes - clothes that made me look heavier etc.

I upped my game a little when I met wealthy middle-class people who knew more about cut and fabric. When I learned to sew in my 20s, I discovered far more about construction and quality and what constitutes a good garment. When I got a job, I power dressed, always wore good wool suits (rarely separates) or coat-dresses, good court shoes, etc - I expended a lot of money on my work wardrobe and kept my clothes in good order. At home I’d wear any old rubbish - I changed the second I got through the door and ironed my blouses for work every Sunday, cleaned my shoes etc.

After I met my husband, I became a more casual dresser and wore more jeans and knits, and full leather skirts for work. When we moved to rural France, I found it a real shock, especially the cold, which absolutely dictates clothing in winter. It’s taken me years to find clothes warm enough to wear in winter, and they are not stylish - style has gone out the window, though I still make an effort when I leave the house. But it’s hard to find attractive evening wear that is warm enough - most evening wear is about exposing skin, which just isn’t suitable in local restaurants, etc, as they are freezing.  

* What has prompted these changes?

Puberty, discovering vintage at 16, leaving home at 18, leaving for college at 18, getting my first job at 20-odd, changing fashion in the 90s, moving to the countryside and working from home, menopause. 

* What has remained the same?

I am still obsessed with quality and still prefer vintage clothes to modern ones. 

* Who were your style inspirations when you were younger?

Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Tina Chow. 

* Have you held on to your clothes from the past?

Many of them. Mostly vintage because the quality isn’t replaceable. I also yearn for clothes I used to have. I regret giving away most of the things that I have given away. 

* What are your favourite outfits from your past and why?

My green 50s bubble-fabric dress, because it gave me a sensational hourglass figure; my Jaegar 60s knitted dress, which was such a beautiful colour; my petrol blue viscose jersey v-neck dress from college because I fancied myself as a femme fatale in it; my blue cotton jumpsuit; my khaki cotton jumpsuit that I wore to the Duxford airshow; my Victorian white cotton camiknickers, because I felt beautiful in them; my white cotton broderie corset with attached slip, for the same reason; my pale sage green maille dress that showed off my sensational figure in my 20s.

I notice that most of these date to my college days, which I feel were my heyday, and the last time that I was truly able to use clothing as a means of self-expression. At work I always tried to be smart, but I wouldn't have chosen to wear those clothes in private life, and in fact never did. And now, necessity once again dictates my wardrobe, which I find dispiriting. 

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Well, some of that was a surprise to me. For instance, I hadn't made the connection that even at pushing 50, I still cover up like a nun. This was absolutely drummed into me from being a tiny girl. I came from a strict, religious family - one of my cousins was sent away in the early 80s for getting pregnant 'out of wedlock' and there was a time my father refused to have any of his children visit because we were all living with people we weren't married to. I still prefer high necks, long sleeves, long skirts etc, and don't feel comfortable showing skin as I feel people are 'looking at me'. However, I think I inwardly rebel by wearing quite form-fitting clothing - see mum, I'm covered up, so you can't object, can you?

I also grew up with the value of clothing drummed into me - the expense of clothes, that they must be maintained. And I only really had a few years of fun with clothes before having to dress for work. I never have, and still can't bring myself to, regard items as disposable.

And clearly, I'm somewhat in mourning for my youthful shape. Menopause is whacking me with a big hammer these days and leaving me overweight, big-busted, round-tummied and sweating like a pig - none of it useful for a woman's self-image. I am struggling now to find a sartorial balance for my present and my future.  

Tomorrow: The present - your attitude to clothes right now.  

 

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Lucy Worsley's dress sense

Lucy hasn't been on our screens for a while, but here's a quick refresher.

I just found this lovely little article on Lucy Worsley's dress sense. It's from some time ago when she did an interview in the Sunday Express. 

I love Lucy - the way she doesn't pretend to be stupid, the lisp, the willingless to make a tit of herself. And her style - like a heroine escaped from the pages of a 1920s children's book. The clipped back hair, the heavy eyebrows, the cute little cardis (wish I knew where she got them from - my guess is Boden) and her flat flat flat shoes (thank heavens). Just the sort of thing to get up the snout of a tweedy old prof like David Starkey, the silly sod. 

Lucy professes to not spend much on clothes, says she never wears trousers and confesses to owning a nasal hair trimmer. Which only makes me like her even more. Check it out.  

 

 

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Clothes stash - blue Pirouette dress from Wall

I like this dress so much I bought it in two colours.

Clothes stash: dresses from Wall

I've treated myself to another trip to Wall London for New Year.

Forward to the past

There's a distinct timewarp about the latest fashions being pushed at us.

The last flowers of summer

I am taking the last chance to be girly before wrapping up in fleece for winter.

Vive la difference?

Why is it that the French and the English differ so much in style?

Wardrobe planning

Find out the clothes that are really working for you - and discard the rest.

Which clothes in your wardrobe are you actually wearing? According to professional wardrobe organisers, the answer is surprisingly few - about 20 per cent. The remaining 80 per cent of our clothes hang there untouched.

Dressing for grown-ups, part one

Your 40s is the decade to upgrade your choice of fabric and cut.

One of the things that bugs me a bit about dressing 'advice' for grown-up women is that it assumes you've let yourself go and your main objective should now be to disguise your enormous pot belly and disgusting wobbly thighs.

Capsule wardrobe

Every woman needs a firm foundation to her wardrobe.

I'm a firm believer that clothes, like your home, are only a setting for the life you live - not the be-all and end-all. A girl needs a wardrobe that functions above all else.

Fashion, fashion, go away

A quick page through some magazines is proof positive that fashion is not for me.

The definite dozen

If you have these items in your wardrobe, you'll always have something to wear.

If you have these 12 items in your wardrobe, you'll always have something to wear...