Fashion How to style this season's tricky trends when you're...

How to style this season's tricky trends when you're over 50

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I’m a sucker for a dopamine-inducing fizz buy at the beginning of the season that’s going to lift my wardrobe as well as my spirits, because there’s really only so much interest I can muster in a rail of neutral basics. But when it comes to buying into some of spring’s more eye-catching trends hitting the stores now – preppy, metallic, leopard print and sheer – I want to know the styling tricks and tips to help me integrate a standout piece, or two, with confidence and ease.

Plus, I always like to be mindful of the wears-per-buy maths – in general I prefer my wardrobe to work for day as well as evening. So, with all this in mind (and some wise words from the experts), I  took to the studio with The Telegraph fashion team to try out some bold spring trends.

Trend one: Preppy

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Sarah wears: &Daughter wool polo shirt, £350,Matches; Relaxed fit jeans, £89,Hush; Slingback shoes, £49.99,Mango; Earrings, £36,Hush

First up… preppy and how to sate my rugby shirt craving without looking like a PE teacher in Grange Hill? “I would avoid wearing one with other sporty clothes and go for more minimal chic pieces you may already have in your wardrobe, like a plain neutral colour mid-length A-line skirt and knee-high boots, or high-waist black tapered trousers and a heel,” advises Steph Stevens, stylist and sometime Alexa Chung collaborator, who tells me she has three beloved rugby shirts in her own wardrobe. “The reason I love them so much is they’re a good alternative to wearing men’s style shirts and I like how fresh and clean they can look.” 

Gigi Hadid

She advises that “loosely tucked-in is ideal, so maybe when looking to buy one, go for styles that are a finer cotton as opposed to the thicker heavier ones so there’s no messy excess bulk around the waistband”. Some of the best versions, she says, can be found in the menswear department.

In the studio, Telegraphfashion editor Sophie Tobin has selected a range of fun, eye-popping options. We are all aligned on a bigger, mannish fit looking cooler and more flattering than anything too tight, but in the end, it is a gloriously light cashmere option by &Daughter that wins the day. I absolutely love the grey/racing green school uniform colours, complexion-flattering cream collar and the weight is just cosy enough to step gingerly into the new season. Pairing the sweater with cream barrel-shaped jeans (not words I ever thought I’d type by the way, but I am embracing the new!) feels like an easy, wearable modern take on preppy. And I love the pop of red injected by the Mango kitten heels that Sophie has picked out. This outfit feels like a fun, new way to elevate weekend dressing. And not a pair of joggers in sight!

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Clockwise from top left: Denim pleated skirt, £99,Aligne; Organic cotton jersey dress, £85,Cos; Leather loafers, £260,Duke + Dexter x Peachy Den

Trend two: Metallics

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Sarah wears:Cotton shirt, £29.90, andcashmere jumper, £89.90, Uniqlo; Faux leather skirt, £225,Wyse; Leather shoes, £89,John Lewis; Earrings, £36,Hush

Next… springtime metallics. It sounds like a contradiction for sure, but thanks to the ongoing 1990s revival and the long tail of Queen Beyoncé’s Renaissance tour, silver continues to be everywhere in stores. My former Redmagazine colleague, creative director Nicola Rose, says: “I think the last few seasons metallics have been introduced as a spring staple. I think of a shine or shimmer as a neutral with your basic wardrobe; it’s just a new, modern mindset.”

Metallics might look fancy, but Rose insists you can wear them in a more laid-back way. “Silver isn’t just for special occasions; for instance silver leather trousers, a white shirt and a great pair of trainers is just elevated everyday. In the same way you could team a metallic blazer with your favourite jeans; it’s about confidence. And the fact that the high street has focused on this trend tells you it’s here to stay.” Her key piece of advice, to avoid looking costumey, or like you are about to photobomb a TikTok video: “Dress down! This is what gives a metallic a fresher look.”

Cate Blanchett pairs a metallic top with understated trousers and heels

Rifling through options in the studio, Sophie and I decide that a silver skirt is a more versatile, grown-up take on the trend (less rock chick than metallic trousers). There is a fantastic long, lean, slightly faux leather silver skirt at Mango, which I recommend checking out (though the length drowned me a little).

In the end, I go for Wyse’s Lateisha A-line version instead. The ingenious pull-on design of this skirt – flat front waistband and elasticated at the back – means you can tuck in your top without incurring any lumps and bumps. Pairing this wow piece with a light-as-air Uniqlo grey cashmere sweater, worn over Uniqlo’s easy-to-layer white shirt, gives me exactly the insouciant, dressed-down 1990s mood that I am hoping for. Interestingly, adding silver slingback flats keeps the look more tonal and streamlined, as opposed to a black shoe which looks too “busy”. John Lewis has a fantastic selection of purse-friendly little silver flats in its collection – I particularly like its pretty basket-weave, cross-strapped design, as well as the pointy, deep vamp flats that I am wearing here.

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Clockwise from top left: Sterling silver earrings, £180,Annika Inez; Midi skirt, £45.99,Mango; Leather shoes, £120,Vagabond

Trend three: leopard

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Sarah wears: Cotton cropped trench jacket, £65,John Lewis; Slip dress (sold with jumper), £219,All Saints; T-shirt, £19.99,Mango; Leatherboots, £239, andearrings, £36, Hush

And now, for a spot of leopard. As anyone who knows me will attest, a loud and proud leopard print coat is a perennial in the Bailey wardrobe. Of course, the internet has been having a lot of fun with the tropes of  #mobwife dressing recently (the 21st-century empowered take on the old groan-inducing cliché “gangster’s moll”).

I have to say, the whole phenomenon has given me pause for thought. Carmela Soprano is not really the archetype I’m aiming for when I’m popping into town to do a work presentation… So what is the way to wear leopard for spring that looks fresh and modern, less hard-boiled diva?

I turn to Henrietta Rix, co-founder of Rixo, a brand that specialises in an easy, everyday approach to the spotty animal print. “Leopard is one of those prints that is eternal, it’s always been in fashion and probably always will be. We introduced leopard print into our second Rixo collection and have continued with the exact same leopard print for the past nine years,” says Rix. “We even joke that, for us, leopard is a neutral, and we believe it pairs well with everything from bright colours to muted essentials, and even clashing prints.”

Influencer Tamara von Nayhauss wearing a gold and black leoprinted skirt by Maison Common

Keeping leopard looking contemporary, rather than costume party throwback, is all about layering, advises Rix. Take the brand’s best-selling Bohemia leopard-print Milly coat which looks effortlessly cool à la Charlotte Gainsbourg when worn over jeans, or even a suit. “We love seeing our leopard print Kelly skirt styled in a huge variety of different ways – it can dress up a shirt or camisole, be casually styled with a knit or worn with our leopard print Moss silk blouse for a full leopard-print look,” says Rixo.

In the studio, Sophie and I consider the layering brief, and pick out a simple slip dress from All Saints, which looks good over a skinny roll neck or a close-fitting T-shirt. Adding knee-length black boots with a mid-heel delivers a bit of stomp and exactly the contemporary attitude I’m looking for (no Corleone dames to see here). As for a topper, in the 1990s, we always wore our slip dresses with a little cropped cardigan when it was chilly, but I must say that I like the versatility and the modernity of this abbreviated trench from the John Lewis Anyday Collection, which feels office-appropriate and breezy enough for the weekend.

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Clockwise from top left: Organic cotton skirt, £195,Ganni; Mid length coat, £485,Rixo; Velvet shoes, £425,Le Monde Beryl

Trend four: sheer

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Sarah wears: Cotton trench coat, £375,Jigsaw; Tulle dress, £135,Sister Jane; Leather shoes, £205,Bobbies; Earrings, £36,Hush

Which brings us to sheer – a trend, very much like bodycon, which strikes fear into my midlife heart. It is something that the high street has bought into, however. I was intrigued to see that John Lewis is offering filmy rose petal pink pieces in its own-brand collection to wear as separates or together for a full romantic co-ord look.

“We felt inspired by seeing so much sheer on the runways,” Queralt Ferrer, John Lewis’s director of design, tells me. “We have taken this trend and I believe made it super wearable for our customer so they feel confident in wearing sheer, and I hope they will wear it beyond this season too.”

Of course, the secret to wearability of a sheer top is what lies beneath – a tangle of bra straps is never going to look chic, so it’s time to up your cami game and consider one with a built-in bra (Hanro is a good option). Ferrer recommends styling the skirt “with a beautiful tailored white double-breasted jacket to give it a modern edge”.

Charlize Theron at the 2024 Vanity Fair Oscar Party

Another way to do sheer for spring is to embrace a more voluminous, hyper-romantic Simone Rocha/Molly Goddard approach (admittedly, this is not really office attire, but bear with me here). It just so happens that Sister Jane – a brand that specialises in this sort of aesthetic at a more affordable price point – is one of the labels being championed in John Lewis’s occasionwear offering.

In the studio, I try on a couple of Sister Jane’s ethereal macaron-hued frocks (though the effect is more Grayson Perry-as-Claire than I was hoping for). However, a midnight blue number with a frothy tulle overlay and sheer sleeves works like a dream. Sophie suggests I pair it with a beautiful two-tone trench to take down the it’s-my-party vibes by a notch or two (note the stylist’s trick: bunch up the coat sleeves to reveal the sheer layer beneath, it’s so pretty and flattering).

Without really intending to, I feel we have stumbled upon the perfect spring wedding guest outfit. And for all its unabashed romance, this dress definitely has legs. I can picture it with a pair of high-heeled black boots for winter… even dressed down with black sliders and hoop earrings for a summer party. No doubt about it, it’s a keeper.

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Left to right: Sheer overlay skirt, £45,John Lewis; Sheer layering shirt, £35.95,Massimo Dutti; Sheer panelled dress, £250,ME+EM

And really that’s the thing I’ve learned about all these trends – you can dial them up or down depending on your mood and the occasion. Even better, the chances are that you already have some of these pieces; and bringing your day-to-day wardrobe up to date might be as simple as adding in a little silver flat for £49, or styling everything over a simple white tee. But however you layer it, allow yourself a bit of fun and experiment. And remember, an oversized rugby shirt can look very scrummy indeed.

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