Style: When you're the oldest woman in the bistro

The winner of the draw for the iBook, "How to Get Fit Watching TV" is Doreen!
Doreen, please contact me with an e-mail address that Debbie Rahman can use to send the gift link for your book.  (My address is under my photo in the right sidebar.)

Everyone else: Thank you for entering, your intention to be fitter is terrific. I encourage you to splash out for the book!


We tried a hip new restaurant the other evening, with our neighbours Lou and Jean-Yves. The median age at our table was a solid sixty; a round corner banquette was all the better for conversation. (Another friend insists that restaurant tables have gotten bigger and that is why she can't hear someone across from her.)

Next to us a couple read the menu; he was a skinny man of about thirty, all elbows and horn-rimmed glasses, in a Harris tweed jacket. She wore a stretchy black and red dress with a deeply scooped back, the simplicity of the cut revealed her graceful spine. Everything rested on that sole detail.

I said to Lou, "Look at that girl, the cut of her dress is so beautiful." Lou replied, "Do you realize we are the oldest people in this place?"

Though I sound-check, (and have asked for another table if I'm about to be seated next to someone on a phone), I don't age-check. We all wear more or less the same things, anyway: trousers, shirts, dresses or skirts. But a visit to a hot new restaurant is an occasion to dress up a little, which takes some thought.

Below, two versions: the not-so-current and the happening. Often is is not the garment per se, but how it's worn.

1. Wide-legged trousers
Always a good idea for a restaurant, relaxed and easy to sit in—but at left, the fringed top clutters the line. Not one woman under fifty in that restaurant wore stiletto-heeled shoes or boots with her trousers.

At right, clean lines, no clutter, and thick-soled sneakers. At the bistro, I saw only that kind of sneaker, or brogues with trousers, and block-heeled pumps on my neighbour in that dress. Not one woman in stilettos.

When the streets are clear of snow, a supple coat looks fresher than a heavy fur, fake or real.


2. Printed scarves
Printed scarves from Hermès to Joe Fresh are much-loved here, and while at the bar for the first course, I noticed a woman who wore one conservatively, in the triangle fold anchored by a scarf ring.

Across the room a redhead in a simple shirt wore her patterned silk tucked inside the neckline. You did not see as much of the pattern but the effect was more modern.



3. Off the shoulder
Young people show what they please, because it all looks pretty good. Off the shoulder shows that alluring sweep from neck to clavicle, but if the last upper-body workout you did was to a Jane Fonda VHS, you might be chary.

The young ones wear them tight, often also cropped or just to the waist, like the BooHoo ruffled top on the left. But those of us prone to chill, or not quite so daring, might choose the Getsuz off-shoulder sweater, snuggly and not too clingy, and let only one upper shoulder peek out.

These images are courtesy of Asos, where I was delighted to see this trend offered in many plus-sized pieces.



4. Long cardigans
As the evening ended, the young woman in the scoop-back reached for her long charcoal-grey cardigan, nearly heavy as a coat—and it may well be her coat, once spring is here.

At left, a long waterfall cardigan (by Betty Barclay), a style that hit big a decade ago and still is around the shops.  I no longer have one; I like scarves and felt like a flapping tent with all that moving fabric, so gave it to a friend.

At right, the coatigan I'm eyeing: the sublimely strict "Melanie" by ça va de soi. Shown in framboise, suprisingly harmonious with black, navy, grey, brown, olive.




Much is written about "dressing your age". I'd rather not approach choice from age, but from the fact that styles do change, so inevitably the time comes to alter or replace a certain item.

I'm just back from a trip to the donation box, three pieces out (two skirts, one pair of too-tight trousers) and perhaps that coatigan's coming in.

What might you "spring" for?





















16 comments

Lizer Pearl said...

I really enjoyed your post today. The clean lines of the outfits on the right
do look much more fresh.

Lizer Pearl

LauraH said...

Your observational skills are so good. I love these analytical posts, they give me a nudge in the right direction with ideas for keeping my look fresh and contemporary. Like you, I don't aim for young but I want to avoid dowdy and frumpy. Lately there have been a few occasions where I'm the oldest person in the room or the subway or wherever. It's a bit of a jolt. Then there are the occasions where I'm surrounded by those my own age or older - theatre matinees, etc. Those can be pretty instructive too, the conversation - ailments! - as well as the clothing.

How To Watch TV and Get Fit said...

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Art Director and all around tech guy for How To Watch TV and Get Fit, 3 Minutes at a Time".

Wendy said...

LauraH really summed it up for me. You have such a great eye. I would love to see more posts like this on the sometimes little things that can update the look of an outfit. For me personally, I find most looks are "shoe-centric", especially those featuring pants/ jeans. With my fussy, extremely- difficult -to- fit feet, the shoe choices are terribly limited and my comfort shoes seem to make most outfits look dowdy. I'll continue to put the focus on my upper half and hope no one notices my shoes!

une femme said...

I agree that looking current is key. And as you've pointed out here, sometimes it's a minor detail or in how something is worn that makes all the difference.

Janice Riggs said...

You must buy that gorgeous pink cardigan. I insist. You may blame it all on me... But it's so beautiful, I can imagine that you could regret passing it up!
hugs,
Janice

royleen said...

Lovely post. You have a great eye! I adore that pink cardigan/coat. It is 96 degrees F here today in Rancho Mirage, so I will demur. It will haunt me, though!

Francie Newcomb said...

I also loved this post. Liked your note about the placement of the scarf! You have such an eye. The pink coat-sweater would be smashing on you! Thank you and please let us know any other realizations you have about such details.

Guermantes said...

Nice to see the word 'chary' in print. I'd argue that the tucked-in scarf is perhaps modern, but also quite Euro-classic - Parisian, German, Italian women have worn their scarves tucked in like this for generations.... (well, less the young ones but comfortable, well-dressed middle aged women). Sort of a loose, femininized ascot.

Mardel said...

Wonderful Post and you have such a great eye for the telling detail. The pink sweater coat is wonderful, and could be extremely minimalist, or play nicely with a scarf.

Duchesse said...

Guermantes: Yes, I agree... that inside scarf is not new= the effect is just different.

LauraH: Would that be a matinee performance? ;)

Wendy: for more like this, click the right sidebar "Safe or Smokin'" topic link;

Janice: I have a very similar one in navy and have to think if I need another.



Jane said...

Totally off topic but, WOW what a storm you are having! Got an email from son at McGill. They hadn't had a snow day in 19 years before today. Stay warm and safe up there :)

Duchesse said...

Jane: Yes, a record for this time of year. Beautiful dramatic storm (but we had a real safety issue re motorists stranded on the highway,)

Kristien62 said...

Love your insights and views on translating styles for different ages. It often only takes a small adjustment to make an outfit stunning for an older woman, and you have the eye to spot it. A different shoe, a more modest neckline and the ensemble changes to flatter the mature figure.

We have a favorite restaurant that we go to frequently and always dress up a little when we go. When our 29 year old son came home to visit, we took him there since the food is delicious and the atmosphere comfortable. Upon parking the car and approaching the restaurant, my son looked up at the windows and exclaimed, "God, Mom, the average age up there is 75." I had never noticed that we skewed a bit older.

Duchesse said...

Kristien62: "Comfortable" says it all; the young do not apply that criteria. When we take our sons out, we try to go somewhere not so "old"... but we go on the early side- many of these places turn into clubs later in the evening, and the noise level climbs steadily by 9 pm.

s. said...

Fantastic post, chere Duchesse. Thank you. xo