You would think that the woman pioneering a change in attitudes towards the way women dress in midlife has herself passed that milestone. The reality, however, is that Jacynth Bassett, is a 24 year old Cambridge law graduate, who inspired by her mother's style frustrations has made it her mission to tackle ageist attitudes in the UK fashion industry.
The first step was a blog offering women top style tips and inspiration, as well as a forum for discussion on age-prejudice in fashion. Overwhelmed by the response from women all echoing the same frustrations at the typically dowdy designs targeting the older woman, the-Bias-Cut.com was born in March 2016. It is a multi-label online boutique of limited collections, featuring modern and stylish items from a range of contemporary labels and designers for the 40+woman. Jacynth has a discerning eye and all pieces are chosen for the quality of their craftsmanship and attention to detail.
At the heart of Jacynth's business is the ethos that "Ageism is Never in Style". It is her belief that there should not be any hard and fast rules on what women can wear over a certain age. A passion for style and a desire to wear beautiful clothes and look good in them, transcends generations and is just as important in your midlife years as your teens. The secret in Jacynth's opinon lies in reflecting the best version of yourself today and personally speaking I couldn't agree more.
I am far from being a fashionista, but I have always loved clothes. As I have aged my attitude to buying clothes hasn't changed extensively, I know what I like and still get a thrill from finding that must have item, but it is less about being on trend and more about evolving my style. If I see something I love I will buy it based on whether it makes me look and feel good irrespective of my age, after all who doesn't want to continue to look fabulous? But it is natural for everyone to step back and question their style choices at some stage and as I passed that all important Fabulous Fifty marker earlier this year I asked Jacynth if she would share her thoughts on style at 50.
Jacynth Bassett, the-Bias-Cut.com
“How To Look Good At 50.” “What Women Shouldn’t Wear Over 50.” “Ageless Style At 50.” We’ve all seen variations of these titles – which usually end up being click bate leading to some patronising, insulting or, at best, hilarious article dictating how to dress correctly (whatever that means) at 50.
Of course the underlying message of those articles is that there is a right and a wrong way to dress at 50. Now if you are dedicated to following the latest trends, granted there are looks that are in and looks that are out. If, however, you just want to look your stylishly best, then there is no strict formula to adhere to. Ultimately you can wear whatever you want - the key is to make sure you feel good and are comfortable in it.
So why do all these articles exist? Well, if they are to be believed, when the clock strikes midnight on your 50th birthday, suddenly your fairy tale princess life ends and you’re left with – or even looking like - a pumpkin and with that it means you suddenly need to re-evaluate your style and fashion decisions.
Now I’m not a scientist, but I’m pretty sure when you turn 50 you don’t instantly end up with 20 more wrinkles, grey hairs, hot flushes and a bigger middle. You might become more aware of the signs of aging, but they haven’t just appeared overnight. The only real potential sudden shift is psychological: hitting the 50 mile stone might make you feel different, but you won’t look any different . Yes, with time your hormones are going to change, as is your body, your appearance and your lifestyle, but that will happen gradually.
So what these “Style At 50” articles all seem to be missing is that the reason a woman’s style may change at 50 is because of the emotional differences to a woman in her 40's. It’s all very well saying ‘you should now wear this and avoid that’, but it means nothing if there’s no sensitive rationale and understanding behind it. Ultimately clothes and style are just a reflection of who you are inside.
With that in mind, I’ve come up with my own guidelines (not rules) on style over 50.
1. If you feel now is the time to broaden your style horizons – do it!
A year ago a lady said to me “when I was in my late 30's, I lost my confidence; I had kids and started taking less care in my appearance. Now in my 50's I feel I need to get back to my real self.”
Even if you haven’t felt like this, it’s quite likely you know someone who has. Whatever path your life has taken, there has probably been a point where you started to feel less confident in your appearance, but on turning 50, it’s a great point to evaluate your life so far, think about where you want it to go next, and take control. The same applies to your style. If you’re ready to change and prove that you aren’t invisible and can look gorgeous – go for it. If you want to try a particular style, do! Because it’s time to forget all that mutton dressed as lamb rubbish and remember that confidence is the true essence of style. So whatever you’re wearing, if you’re doing it with pride, then that’s the true beauty that will shine through.
2.Only give your wardrobe a total overhaul if your body is currently changing
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to buy a garment that’s too big or small and say you will eventually fit into it. It never works because we all put on and lose weight differently, so your body is unlikely to change in a way you expect. One of the most common things that happens with menopause is putting on weight around the middle. So you might go from a size 10 to a size 14 – but that doesn’t mean you’re slightly larger all over. Your boobs and middle might get bigger, whilst your hips and thighs stay the same.
This means you’ll need to start shopping for a different shape, not just general size. A new cut might suit you for the first time, whilst ones you used to always wear are no longer flattering. And you may need to find new shops too – because designers’ and high street brands’ lack of understanding and catering to different body shapes is still a huge issue. But don’t let this dampen your spirits: slowly there are more brands taking notice, and at the-Bias-Cut.com we even curate collections specifically with different bodies in mind.
3. Encourage yourself to step out of your safe zone
Having founded an online boutique where the majority of my customers are over 50, there is one comment I hear more than nearly anything else “I only wear navy as it makes me feel safe.” Now I have nothing against the colour navy, I have a lot of it in my wardrobe and it is very flattering, even more so than black as we age because it doesn’t drain the skin as much. But if you’re wearing navy to feel safe – then there’s a problem. Yes, it’s important to feel comfortable in what you’re wearing, but as is feeling beautiful, gorgeous and sexy and dressing to feel safe is not that.
So, if next time you feel yourself drawn to navy (or any other colour that makes you feel safe), honestly consider whether you’re picking it for healthy reasons and if you’re not, then it’s time to give yourself a bit of love and care and tell yourself that you can wear something else.
It might take baby steps at first. For example, I often suggest to my most nervous customer to go for a piece that features a predominantly navy print, but also features other colours. This pushes them outside their comfort zone, without throwing them completely in at the deep end. Then when they start to receive compliments for how great they look and believe it too, they tend to come back ready to be a little more experimental.
4. If she can wear that then why can’t you?!
One of the other most common phrases I hear is “Well X can wear that but I couldn’t!”. Now that person may be a different shape, age, height or colouring to you – but that doesn’t’ mean you can only look one way to pull off an outfit. If you admire what someone else is wearing, give it a go yourself! You might need a slightly different cut or colour, but let it inspire you to try new things. Don’t shut yourself off before even giving it a go. If it doesn’t work – what’s the worst that can happen? You take it off and that’s that.
5. No trend or look is off limits – it’s all in the detail
On doing some research of articles that say ‘what not to wear after 50’ – one of the most common rules is: if you wore a look when it was trendy the first time round, then you shouldn’t wear it again.
Well, given ‘trends’ are being recycled more now than ever, that pretty much rules you out of a lot of styles. Goodbye ripped jeans, farewell pussy blouses and adios punk rock spikes. So unless you’re willing to spend the rest of your life walking around in a sack (because that’s one look that will never be a trend), it’s time to put that rule firmly in the bin.
The trick to looking modern and current is through detail and styling. If you’re keen to wear a style that’s very ‘on-trend’, try to find a variation that includes subtle modern aspects, rather than one that could have come directly from the past. Or keep it subtle with a piece that nods to a trend, but isn’t a full out extreme version of it.
Alternatively, if you want to go full retro with one piece, make sure to pair it with accessories or clothes that are clean, crisp and clearly from a different era. In other words, don’t pair it with the same pieces that you did in the past. That way, rather than looking like you’ve just stepped out of a time machine, you look fresh, cool and effortless.
So remember: if you start to listen to your feelings and your body, rather than those stupid articles, then you will find the right style for you and continue to be the best version of yourself today. Your style will change over the next 10 years, but it should only do so when the time is right for you.
Jacynth's approach to fashion and championing style at every age is inspirational and refreshing and she truly does practice what she preaches, featuring real life "non-models" of various shapes, ages and sizes (including her mum) to show off her carefully curated clothing ranges which can all be seen at https://the-bias-cut.com/.
But it's not just about curating beautiful collections, it is fundamentally about changing attitudes and Jacynth has many strings to her bow. She regularly speaks on panels and podcasts, is a contributor to the Huffington Post and most recently she has been appointed as Fashion Advisor for one of the UK's largest women's forums, the Menopause Room https://www.facebook.com/themenopauseroom/.
Blazing a trail through the heart of the UK fashion industry, Jacynth is unquestionably a young woman on a mission and something tells me that we will be hearing a lot more about her in the future.
Did you find Jacynth's guidelines useful? What is your approach to fashion? I would love to hear your views.