I’ve always been pretty robust about my age
I’ve always been pretty robust about my age, but then it didn’t used to be such a big number (I’m now 59). I’ve become a little sensitive now, though, as I’m working in tech, where the average age is twentysomething. I run a startup and I work Mondays in the Google Cafe in “trendy Shoreditch”, and I am far more conscious of my clothes than on any other day.
I don’t want to stick out, but I don’t want to look like I’m desperately trying to be younger either. I’m all in favour of defying outdated age-related “rules” (such as leather biker jackets, skinny jeans and red lipstick), but my situation is about more than my personal preferences and neuroses. This is business, and I need to look like the grownup that I am, but also a credible tech. Not easy, is it?
Based purely on what I’ve seen (and I can’t speak for everyone), the tech women I have encountered have a broad, casual approach to fashion. Think jeans, flats and smart tees, or brightly coloured little waisted dresses. I could stick with my former work wardrobe of pieces such as a Michael Kors shirtdress or a Ventilo pencil skirt, Acne skinnies with a Massimo Dutti safari jacket and Clergerie flatforms, but I’ve opted to meet my fellow techies halfway by staying casual: colourful Joseph shirts, cropped Uniqlo jeans, mannish trousers and DayGlo trainers. The biggest concession is probably my backpack, student favourite Herschel, built for toting a laptop, leads and all.
I’m not averse to what is on-trend now, but I would never wear a Bardot top (the chest area is tricky unless you have stayed out of sun all your life, it can look a bit Bet Lynch/Jackie Collins) or a cutout dress (but I would never have worn that anyway, too attention-grabbing – I’ve always preferred subtle), both big for SS15.
That is my experience, but what is it like for other midlife women working in industries usually dominated by people a generation younger than themselves?
I consulted a glossy magazine journalist of my vintage: “I don’t think I consciously try to dress younger – but I am very aware of my skin compared to theirs, so I never wear short sleeves and always trousers rather than skirts. I’d never go swimming with girls from work – and weekends are a relief when I am with people who won’t notice if my arms are a bit loose!
“Because I am not very tall, I have a horror of looking dumpy and middle-aged, and that is probably increased by working in magazines. I guess you just have to try harder to be accepted as you get older; you do feel under scrutiny.”
Tanya Hughes, 51, the president of Talk PR, will have none of that. “Age really isn’t a consideration – I’ve always been pretty confident about my own style.”
Like me, she sticks to something of a uniform; hers is tailoring, a dash of masculine, flashes of strong colour, focusing on brands such as Whistles, Sportmax, Isabel Marant and Danish designers. One of the advantages of age for Hughes is that she can afford great pieces, which wins approval from the staff fashionistas: “They love my Marni platform sandals! I actually enjoy working with younger people.”
The key is to keep the self-esteem high when working out of your age range – over 40, you lose weight at your face’s peril. Luckily, wearing clothes a little roomier is much more flattering anyway.