What stylish & chic Parisiennes of a certain age wear
Reader Lynn wrote in to ask about how older Parisiennes who can’t rock short miniskirts & high heels transition their style as they age.
I’ve seen the whole gamut in Paris from the ones who have never cared about style (yes they exist) to the ones to whom it is simply a fibre of their being & they couldn’t imagine wearing or looking any other way.
THEY STICK TO THEIR AESTHETIC
The one thing I will note is that the ones who are as slender as they were in their youth, and have remained slender, will dress in pretty much the same way as they did when they were younger.
Others, who have put on a few pounds due to maturity & change in their bodies (menopause for instance) will adapt their style to wear slightly larger clothing in the same proportions, or change it up with a few accessories to define a now shapeless waist.
In all of the cases, they just tweak the hemlines, sizes, proportions and hide what they don’t consider fit for public viewing any longer; formerly taut stomachs or now slightly wrinkled or saggy upper arms… an new observation of my body that I can assure you I am currently going through and I am only in my early 30s!.
They stay true to their own style & adjust it as they see fit.
PROBLEM AREAS THEY MAY WANT TO DISGUISE OR HIDE
As with all women as they age (or even in their youth like yours truly), there are things they want to disguise, not that there is anything wrong with these areas, but I am a realist and I understand vanity, being a great possessor of it.
- stomachs that are no longer flat (hello childbirth & lack of caring which I can now label as ‘maturity & transcendence’!)
- knees that look like smiley faces
- flabby upper arms (yes, this is me right now)
- veins in their legs (luckily this has not happened yet but I see it coming)
- wrinkled necks and chests that betray their age (I suggest a big hat & sunscreen)
- wider hips and/or bigger bums (childbirth has changed my body too)
- waists that are no longer as defined (this was a longstanding issue of mine)
If one, any or all of the above applies, they are all easy fixes for things that you feel are uncomfortably on display.
Time for the visuals.
WEARING COLOURS (YES IT IS POSSIBLE)
Neutrals are chosen most of the time, but brights & prints are not out of the question; they’re just in solid colours, and in a lesser amount than before – perhaps relegated to just an accessory.
A neutral palette (NOT BLACK PLEASE), looks just as chic in a nice camel or taupe colour, whichever flatters your colouring more.
Black just makes you look like a widow if you’re a woman of a certain age, and for me, it loses a bit of its allure of looking elegant and chic as a result.
Black when used judiciously and in fabrics that are interesting like leather or silk can still be great at any age, particularly when paired with a head of grey or white hair (it looks incredible).
The black has to be jet black, not some dull, pill-y black & it has to look really saturated and deep.
What looks equally as great is white or ivories against white or grey hair as well.
OUTFIT #1: PENCIL SKIRT & BOOTS
Perhaps in the past, it was a much shorter mini skirt, a very fitted tailored top and high heels with a blazer.
Now, as they’re older, their style formula is the same, but it has been tweaked to be more appropriate to what they feel is comfortable and stylish.
Ponchos, blazers and any kind of topper now have the function of gracefully hiding wrinkled upper arms, or less-than-muscled ones.
They’re still chic (at any age), but now they’re functional while being comfortable.
One size larger and then tailored in slightly (or left as is), so that the fabric skims over the body rather than being body-conscious and hugging it.
For any sleeveless tops, they’re covered by a topper (see above).
The pencil skirt in the past may have been a structured, tight number but now it is a size larger, in a stretchy, comfortable jersey knit that lets you move and bend without feeling like you’re in a sausage casing.
The hemline is longer than a miniskirt (obviously), and now either reaches at the knee or just below it to cover what you may not be comfortable with.
You can also decide to wear an A-line skirt instead (a favourite silhouette), so that it flares away from the body and doesn’t highlight large hips or a bum, but hides it instead in a visually flattering manner. Just make sure the hemline reaches at least the knees, or else it will be too short and twee.
A-line skirts work on both the slim and the larger-hipped, giving the former curve and shape while defining the waist, and the latter a very pleasing hourglass silhouette with a more nipped-in-waist that draws the eye out and down.
Footwear now is flat, with a very slight heel (if any), and with supportive insoles (I love Birkenstock half soles that go inside ALL of my boots). The boots are knee-high which covers most of the leg while looking quite chic.
Tights will more than likely be worn underneath the entire ensemble.
OUTFIT #2: ALL ONE NEUTRAL BUT NOT IN MOURNING
I could not have found a better example of Parisienne chic.
This particular outfit works beautifully in all the neutral shades from grey (whatever shade suits you the best from dove grey to charcoal grey), to black, to camel or tan, taupes.. you name it.
I really like this in a dark charcoal grey rather than in a black.
I saw this on a woman in Paris and then she had the most amazing red glasses that just popped on the whole outfit against her white hair. Stunning.
One or two sizes larger than your fitted size, a slouchy neck (not fitted so you don’t feel like you’re choking), and it hides your neck and chest if you are not comfortable with it.
For those of you who want to show off your neck & chest, then perhaps a looser v-neck t-shirt (long-sleeved or short) will work perfectly as well.
Proper TROUSERS that are half a size bigger, and a little slouchy.
Not skinny unless you have the slender slim legs of your youth to pull it off, but a nice, menswear inspired trouser with pockets.
The trouser itself can have any kind of hem from a peg leg to a straight or even wide legged depending on your body type.
Generally speaking, the skinnier your hips, the skinnier your pants can be without looking odd, but I have seen fuller-figured women rock a skinny pant as long as they had the confidence to feel comfortable & good in it.
Go for something with at LEAST a mid-rise, if not a high-rise. I myself stick to this rule to eliminate muffin tops (belly fat spilling over the waistband)
For footwear, you need something sleek like ballerina flats or pointy-flats, or if you are really feeling adventurous, some black biker moto boots with very little detailing or hardware (one buckle at best). I particularly like this boot.
OUTFIT #3: CLASSIC BRETON STRIPES & FLATS
Can’t go wrong with an Audrey Hepburn style or a Lauren Hutton look which is effortless and easy.
A striped top, not in a wide thick stripe like a rugby shirt (think Peanuts cartoon) but a thinner coloured line with more solid coloured spaces in between.
More options here of what I am talking about:
Pants either skinny (if you have slender hips) or straight-legged pants in navy or white that skim to an inch above the floor (not cropped!).
I only like skinny pants if they are cropped to the ankle (no higher or lower), and paired with flats (not Birkenstocks). When in doubt, stay away from skinny peg-leg numbers, and go for a very flattering straight-legged pant that will fall away from your hips & bum and give you a tall drink of water effect as a silhouette.
You can always find great ballerina flats that have great arch support and are comfortable.
This is not unattainable!
You could even wear 2-strap Birkenstocks with the straight-legged pants in a classic Arizona style in taupe with two straps, which are comfortable and look GREAT. I do not care what others say, it is comfortable and stylish.
Birkenstocks only look best only with straight-legged pants though, not skinny ones; with skinny pants, your feet look like large, potted Hobbit feet.
OUTFIT #4: OVERSIZED SWEATER, PANTS & SHOES
Again, their style is eternal and it just gets slouchier or bigger as you get older so that you feel comfier and it can skim over your body.
A nice ballerina style wrap sweater covers your upper arms, the belt gives your waist a little definition and it is a win-win all around.
The cashmere sweater that is man-sized looks terribly chic when paired with some trousers and worn with aplomb much like with the turtleneck & trouser number above.
The jeans are cuffed and/or distressed lightly if you want to be a little trendier. You don’t have to do either details but it looks great on anyone of any age.
Otherwise, some straight-legged pants or trousers that are one size bigger than your super fitted size, will look fantastic. You can always get them tailored in a bit but the trick is to keep the pants slouchier in the thighs through to the legs.
The shoes are strappy sandals to bring some interest to your feet (slim & beautiful as always), and the flats can be support arch ballerina-styles (round toed, almond toed or pointy toed), or some wilder metallic Birkenstocks for some oomph.
OUTFIT #5: MAXI DRESS WITH AN EFFORTLESS TOPPER
It can be anything you feel comfortable with. A poncho or cape also looks great, a bomber jacket, a moto jacket, or a loose shawl lapel jacket.
You can go casual or more formal, I daresay I would even throw a blazer into the mix if you were willing to do so (then just push up the sleeves or roll them up).
Just please, not a boring shapeless lumpy cardigan!
Hides all manners of sin.
Legs with veins, knobby knees with faces on them, and butts or hips that are curvy are highlighted and they look incredible.
If you are more slender, maxi dresses make you look even slimmer.
If you are shorter, they make you look tall and if you are tall, you start looking like a supermodel!
It really lengthens your entire body in one uninterrupted line.
OUTFIT #6: WRAP MIDI DRESS (HEMLINE ENDS AFTER THE KNEE)
WRAP MIDI DRESSES
If you want to show off your impressive décolletage, this is the dress to do it.
Wrap dresses highlight curves, define waists, open up the neck area and makes skinny women curvy & turns curvy women goddesses.
I cannot rhapsodize more about how incredible it is.
You can wear patterns in dresses you normally wouldn’t elsewhere and it looks incredible.
The hemline is also MIDI not knee-length, because it will cover your knees and give you more coverage when you sit down and it rides up.
The boots are flat, with VERY little detail (no need for buckles, sparkles or anything), then you have the choice of flat ballerinas with support or if you need heels, wedge ones will fit the bill and be comfortable for a night out.
You can wear the entire outfit with or without tights and hide varicose veins (or use some self tanner).
GREAT WOMEN TO GOOGLE & EMULATE FOR CLASSIC STYLE FOR ANY AGE
There are of course a lot more women of a certain age who look fabulous, but their style is not truly timeless for the majority of us plebs.
I mean Christie Brinkley has amazing legs & has definitely made some sort of deal with the devil but even I feel that I can’t pull of miniskirts at my age!
I have chosen my favourite women for classic, casual, elegant style that will flatter & fit most women:
- Carmen Dell’Orefice
- Linda Rodin
- Jackie O
- Lauren Hutton
- Helen Mirren
- Diane von Furstenberg
- Ines de la Fressange
I hope you enjoyed the post!
Thank you so much for doing this for me. I can’t believe how much effort you put into it in a relatively short time. You really did your research by adding links and pictures of examples of clothes and boots. I think you answered everything I was wondering about.. You have an easy to read style of writing. Thanks so much for the time and effort you put into it. You nailed it! Lynn
There is a whole genre of “French chic” books that tell women around the world how inferior they are to the French women. I wonder if they compared similar income status for women there vs. North America or even the UK, how different it would be. At any rate, I enjoyed your examples and the fact that you didn’t denigrate all other women
Enjoyed the wonderful suggestions for us soon-to-be 68 year olds!