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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 - and that's to go back to the start and build yourself a basic capsule wardrobe. For many women, how to dress at fifty and beyond is the source of some headscratching, so we're here to get you off to a flying start. Here are the essential pieces we should all have tucked away somewhere, from underwear to the perfect Little Black Dress.
"I have a good clearout about once a year and if I haven't worn an item in a year I get rid."
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 old clear out before you begin. Separate the stuff that you haven't worn in yonks, the dressier items that you seldom have occasion to wear, and the good quality wardrobe staples that you already own.
Take the first pile to the charity shop, or eBay it, and have a real think about how likely you are to need the things in the second pile in the future. In order to 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. When it comes to 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, 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? 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. House of Fraser, Debenhams and Marks and Spencer all have in-store bra fitting services, so go and get measured, as your bra size can fluctuate as you get older - 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."
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 or sandals.
"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.
"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. Smart/casual event? Go for fairly simple jewelry and shoes (flat shoes, even). Or if you're going to a truly swanky do, break out the heels and drop earrings. Et voilà - your 'going out' wardrobe expands dramatically.
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.
"My most successful purchases have been when I was with my daughter who is brutally honest."
It helps if they're stylish as well, but at the very least, someone who will tell you if one of your intended wardrobe staples simply doesn't suit you.
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 & 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.
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 Just Last Season have a stunning array of choices, from the straight-forward and simply cut, to sparkly, velvet, floor length - the list goes on.
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