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When you're stuck in a fashion rut, there's only one way to get out of it - short of giving yourself a head-to-toe makeover that is - and that's to go back to the start and build yourself a basic capsule wardrobe. For many women, how to dress over 60 and beyond is the source of some head-scratching, so we're here to get you off to a flying start. Here are the wardrobe essentials we should all have tucked away somewhere, from quality underwear to the perfect Little Black Dress.
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If we're going to build a capsule wardrobe, we should probably start by understanding exactly what one is and why it's so useful. A capsule wardrobe is a collection of essential items of clothing - think jeans, skirts, jackets, trousers etc - that won't go out of fashion and that can be paired with a variety of statement or seasonal pieces.
The idea of a capsule wardrobe was coined by British boutique owner Susie Faux in the 1980s to encourage women to fill their wardrobes with high-quality garments that could be worn time and time again. It's pretty efficient, if you think about it - not only does it help us to be more picky when it comes to shopping for clothes (and hopefully save us a bit of money in the process), but it also helps us to make sure that we don't just stick to current, fleeting trends.
Building a basic capsule wardrobe is actually quite simple and overhauling your current collection can be a liberating experience. When it comes to your wardrobe, there are a few hard and fast rules to follow. Here are just a few.
"I have a good clear-out about once a year and if I haven't worn an item in a year I get rid of it."
The point of a capsule wardrobe is simplification - the sloughing off of excess and refinement of your style. To that end, it may be that you need to have a good clear-out before you begin. Separate the stuff that you haven't worn in yonks, especially the dressier items that you seldom have occasion to wear, and the good-quality clothes that you already own.
Take the first pile to the charity shop, or sell it on eBay, and have a real think about how likely you are to need the things in the second pile in the future. In order to effectively streamline your wardrobe, you may be better off keeping one or two of your favourite items and selling the rest.
"I buy the majority of my clothes from charity shops. That way I can have labels and better quality clothes than I could afford new."
Cut and material is everything when it comes to smart-looking clothes, so choosing classic tailoring in quality materials will give you instant, but lasting, style, not to mention a high-quality collection of clothing. Always opt to spend a little more and buy a little less. Steer clear of cheap, throwaway clothes because that's exactly what you'll end up doing - throwing them away. They bulk up your wardrobe without really adding any value. Primark and the like may be easy on the wallet, but you'll pay for it in the long run.
"Look at your underwear, get measured for a bra, wear one that holds you properly, and buy new pretty knickers and foundation undergarments if you stick out in places you do not want to."
How long has it been since you gave your undie drawer an overhaul? Or got measured for a bra? It may be time to start again. Go back to basics and make sure you have black, white and flesh-coloured options that fit properly and sit comfortably. House of Fraser, Debenhams and Marks and Spencer all have in-store bra fitting services, so go and get yourself measured. Your bra size can fluctuate as you get older so it may be that you've been buying the wrong size for years.
"A wrap or shift dress always looks good."
There's a reason Diane Von Furstenberg's iconic style is still going strong today. The wrap dress has really stood the test of time - and for good reason. It's an almost universally flattering shape that can be dressed up or down with complete ease.
"Smartish, straight or slim leg trousers in black or dark grey are the way to go."
Some styles just never go out of fashion, and a good pair of tailored trousers is one of them. Cigarette pants or slim leg - whichever you go for, make sure they're good quality and a neutral colour that goes with whatever you feel like that day, be it a splash of colour or a comfy sweater. Top it all off with a pair of flats and you're ready to go.
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"I don't enjoy clothes shopping that much so tend to buy certain basics in two different colours then mix and match. I also stick to colours that I know suit me."
Quite possibly the best thing about a capsule collection is the number of outfit combinations that it allows for. When building your wardrobe, go for a mix-and-match approach and always shop with your other clothes in mind. One of the most common errors is buying an item that you soon realise doesn't go with anything you already own. Whether it's winter or summer, day or night, you'll never be stuck for what to wear if you keep this fail-safe tip in mind.
"I had mine sorted in the 80s and I've never looked back. It means that everything in your wardrobe goes with everything else."
The concept of getting your 'colours done' has been around for a while, and it's a tried and tested way of making sure you stick to shades that complement your colouring. Visit Colour Me Beautiful to find a consultant who will assess exactly which colours you should be scanning the shopping rails for.
"My daughter bought me a gorgeous statement necklace this year in shades of green. It looks great!"
While it's good to keep a base of versatile, neutral colours in your wardrobe, brightly-coloured clothes are one of life's great pleasures. Focus on one splash of colour per outfit, keeping the rest of it fairly neutral.
Alternatively, team your outfits with fun accessories, such as a brightly-coloured necklace or a patterned scarf. They will give your look an instant boost without being over the top.
"For evenings, I have a couple of black shift dresses and a beaded black taffeta knee-length skirt. Add the jackets, bags, earrings etc and it's amazing how many events are catered for. Keep it simple is my advice."
Choosing one really well-fitting black dress or skirt means you can add differing accessories to change it up for a multitude of occasions. Are you heading to an event with a smart/casual dress code? Go for fairly simple jewellery and shoes (flat shoes, even). Or, if you're going to a truly swanky do, break out the heels and opt for standout drop earrings. Et voilà - your 'going out' wardrobe expands dramatically.
"My most successful purchases have been when I was with my daughter who is always brutally honest."
It helps if they're stylish as well of course, but, at the very least, shop with someone who will tell you if one of your intended purchases simply doesn't suit you. Honesty is the best policy, as they say.
"I have never followed what fashion dictates and prefer good-quality, classic clothes that never date and last for years."
What does the ideal capsule wardrobe for a 60-year-old woman look like? Well, believe it or not, it depends on your own personal style, but here are a few wardrobe staples we wouldn't be caught without.
Joules do a lovely range of casual, but stylish, shirts in soft cottons and pretty prints. If you're looking for a more tailored piece to dress up your straight leg trousers, Great Plains can almost always offer drapey longline tops that are universally flattering.
Of course, Marks and Spencer can always be relied upon for good underwear, especially from the Autograph by Rosie range, but it's also worth considering TK Maxx for some real bargains on high end undies.
Hush is the perfect place to shop for knitwear that will keep you warm and cosy, but won't leave you looking like you're hibernating.
Do you usually only wear trousers? Jeans are your best friend. Team them with faithful classics, such as your favourite cardigan, jumper or flats. Again, Marks and Spencer are our go-to for comfy slim fit jeans in a stretch fabric.
Are you feeling fancy or frugal? The ultimate wrap dress is, as mentioned above, Diane von Furstenberg's classic, but we also love JD Williams for a wide range of wrap dresses that come in longer lengths.
The finishing touch in your capsule wardrobe, and Debenhams have a stunning array of choices, from the straight-forward and simply cut, to sparkly, lace, swing - the list goes on.
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