It’s no secret that the fashion industry has long been obsessed with youth – just look at any fashion week runway and you’ll find a collection of models barely past their teens.
But looking good is something women of all ages aspire to.
In fact, designers and high street stores are beginning to realize that midlife women are becoming more adventurous. Gone are the days of settling comfortably into middle age – plenty of fabulous women in their 50s and beyond are rocking their individual looks and flaunting their own great style.
Take Mel Warner, 57, from Cork, who retired her conservative after-hours workwear of blazers, shirts and trousers last year. The former elementary school teacher used to wear a lot of black and navy, but her style has evolved over the years, becoming bolder and more colourful.
“I’m more adventurous now and more drawn to print and color,” she says. “I don’t follow fads as I like to do my own thing and I like classic outfits with a whimsical element.”
Mel launched an Instagram page in 2019 to document her looks (@itssome6) with the tagline – “Over 50 but not fashion and fun.”
“I started doing it because I was starting to lose confidence in myself,” she admits. “I felt like I needed an injection of something because when you’re in your mid-50s you can feel invisible and wonder if you’re over it? I needed something that would bring me a little more life and fun and make me more energetic and seeing other women my age looking fabulous in bold colors online inspired me and helped me to be a little bit bolder.”
Mel has three adult daughters, Niamh, Sinéad and Aoibhne, who are very pleased with their looks. In the early years, when the children were younger and she and her husband Peter were paying off a mortgage, she didn’t have that much disposable income to spend on herself.
“Nevertheless, I definitely don’t buy much anymore because I would be very environmentally conscious,” she says. “Now I know what suits me and when I buy something I make sure it goes with other things in my closet.”
One of the perks of getting older for Mel is that she now wears what she likes without being afraid of what other people think. She really enjoys dressing up and planning her outfits and is now more aware of her bigger picture.
“I used to have very short black hair, but I’m wearing it longer now, and even when I’m not going anywhere, the face goes on every day,” she says. “I would never go out in a tracksuit and always dress smartly, even if I was just going into town. But I’m not doing it for anyone else – it’s just for me.”
While Mel’s confidence has grown in recent years, Fidelma Walsh, 57, has never been afraid to stand out from the crowd. “I’ve always been in love with colours, prints and fabrics,” she says. “I love things that are different, so if I can add sequins or feathers to an outfit, I will.”
As a teenager, Fidelma tried to follow fashion, but that didn’t make her happy because while she wanted to fit in, part of her wanted to stand out. She then started working in the bank, where she had to wear a uniform, which she found uncomfortable.
“I longed for the evenings when I could come home and experiment with my clothes, mixing unusual color combinations and contrasting prints,” she says. “The crazy, creative and self-developing journey made me feel like I had found myself.”
After working in the bank for 17 years, Fidelma embraced her passion and started working as a visual merchandiser for retailer New Look. When the pandemic hit, she decided to go online
(@fashionwithfid), where she aims to spread joy “one outfit at a time.”
“I don’t want to wear what people think I should wear because I want to be the one making the bold fashion choices,” she says. “I’m just not going to take a backseat as my fashion journey is all about expressing myself and I never wanted to blend in. Everything suits me, so the louder, brighter, bigger and bolder the look, the better.”
Originally from Dublin but now based in Mayo, the adventurous Fidelma is married to Gary and has two college children, Amy and Jack. Known for her signature hat and sunglasses look, she’s a big fan of bags, belts and gloves.
Fidelma wears sunglasses so people focus on her outfit and not her makeup, but says the hat is a big part of her identity. She never goes without a colorful fedora or a wide-brimmed straw hat in the summer. “I have a passion for fedoras,” she says. “I just love her.”
While Fidelma does have some lovely designer pieces, she likes to shop at Zara and Mimi’s boutique in Castlebar and says that having the right underwear is key to a good outfit. “I’m on HRT, and by the time you get to that age, everyone has bumps and bumps because it’s part of getting older,” she says. “If you’re wearing good, structured lingerie, they’ll never show.”
With her adventurous looks and bold choices, Fidelma turns heads as she walks the streets of Castlebar in animal print outfits or feathered dresses. “I love it,” she laughs. “It gives me a buzz.”
The stylish Noeleen Gordon is also a fan of bright colors and likes to experiment with her look. “I love geometric prints and mix checks and flowers,” she says. “I have a paisley outfit paired with gingham and it looks amazing.”
Originally from Wicklow, Noeleen (66) moved to Cavan when she met her beloved husband Trevor who sadly passed away two years ago. She has three grown children, David, Alicia and Elle. “My daughters keep me young because they’re like, ‘Oh mum, try this on – it’ll look amazing on you,'” she says. “I have dark hair so bold colors like bright pink suit me and I think something nice and colorful is a great way to lift your spirits. I find that wearing dark colors can make me feel low on energy.”
Noeleen has loved clothes since she was a child and was inspired by her late mother Maura and her aunts who were very stylish. As a teenager, she wore blue jeans, pretty pearls, and long 1960s dresses, but always had her own style.
“I’ve never been a slave to fashion,” she says. “Obviously trends like the Afghan coats were great and I loved Bianca Jagger’s very cool look with her fabulous pant suits and big hats. When I was a young woman and mother, I loved the Laura Ashley look, which was very sweet, demure and floral.”
Noeleen had a health problem last year and had to have radiation therapy on her neck but luckily she’s fine now. She launched her Instagram page (@alittlebitfab) last month and admits it has become a welcome distraction as she still mourns the loss of Trevor. She wasn’t expecting to receive such lovely compliments on her outfits and so far she’s enjoying the reactions.
“I’ve never done anything like this before, so I’m having a bit of an adventure with it,” she laughs. “I think having radiation therapy gives you a great perspective as you realize that life is for living so you should just enjoy it. The rule book is out the window now and I’m just going to wear what I like and what suits me and I’m going to have fun with it.”
Five shops to try
1. MiMi Boutique, MiMiBoutique.ie
This Mayo boutique stocks fabulous offbeat dresses and casual wear.
2. Dirty Fabulous, DirtyFabulous.com
Visit Monaghan for beautiful vintage clothing and accessories from the 1920s to the 1970s.
3. Sassy and Classy Plus, SassyandClassy.ie
Based in Kilkenny, this online shop offers cool, funky pieces for women from size 16 to 28.
4. Samui, SamuiCork.com
This boutique in cork is full of labels that combine elegance, individuality and colour.
5. Om Diva, OmDivaBoutique.com
This Dublin store is great for hilarious, wacky clothes and accessories.
https://www.independent.ie/life/invisible-us-meet-the-women-embracing-bold-brave-looks-in-their-fifties-and-beyond-41640890.html Invisible? Us? Meet the women who are embracing bold, bold looks in their fifties and beyond