Brigitte Trogneux once again defied the tenets of age-appropriate fashion when she was photographed last weekend breezing through the streets of Le Touquet, proving that women over the age of 40 can wear mini skirts (and ride a bicycle at the same time).
The 64-year-old wife of new French president Emmanuel Macron (and her prodigiously toned legs) has become something of a sensation since she arrived on the world stage this spring. Brazenly baring her arms and legs in sleeveless shift dresses, the former schoolteacher and grandmother-of-seven emerged as a style icon for la femme d’un certain age.
Also strolling around France last week was Jennifer Lopez, photographed in Nice wearing a crop-top and high-waisted culottes.
The 47-year-old’s fetishised abdominal muscles – which really ought to have their own agent at this point – have long been a source of fascination.
Now, as the singer approaches her fifties with a seemingly ageless figure, she has become the poster woman for those who refuse to dress according to their age bracket.
There are two divergent schools of thought on age-appropriate fashion. The first group believes that women of a certain age should embrace mid-heel sensibility and three-quarter-length sleeve propriety.
The other group believes that women shouldn’t be oppressed by the dictatorial style commandments of fashion magazines. They think of Lopez’s abs as a totem of resistance and Helen Mirren’s red bikini as a ‘we will prevail’ rally cry in the great battle against ageing.
So is it a matter of taste, or a question of character? Make-up artist Bobbi Brown, who, at the age of 60, still wears Stan Smith trainers and bomber jackets, observed: “If a 45-year-old woman feels like sneakers or pink hair really speak to her personal style, she is going to go for it, regardless of her age.”
In other words, women shouldn’t dress to reflect something as arbitrary as chronological age; rather they should dress in a way that reflects their lifestyle.
It’s a fair point when you take someone like Vivienne Westwood as an example. At 76, the fashion designer can still get away with fluoro orange hair because she’s an anti-establishment activist. The same style would be at odds with a lifestyle of charity bake sales, book clubs and pension plans.
Similarly, fashion experts often advise women over the age of 40 to avoid sequins, but perhaps we should consider the statement of intent rather than the fashion statement.
Razzle-dazzle embellishment looks terrific on women who have every intention of seeing it sparkle under a disco ball (case in point: Kate Moss), but less so on women who prefer to sit it out on the sidelines eating mini sausage rolls at the office Christmas party. As for playsuits, the clue is in the name.
Of course, there’s also the small matter of changing body shapes. Some women overcome this phase by watching every morsel that passes their lips while investing in a wardrobe of smugly-fitted white jeans – think Elle Macpherson, Elizabeth Hurley and Cindy Crawford. The rest of us have to come to terms with the fact that skinny jeans become a health hazard when the top button refuses to close.
Age-appropriate dressing is something of a misnomer given that is has more to do more with attitude (and brute perseverance) than anything else, but there are still a few hard and fast rules worth taking on board:
The high-sheen polyester content of inexpensive, buy-it-on-your-lunchbreak fashion becomes more obvious after the age of 30. Nobody knows why this is.
* Heavy make-up
There comes a point in every woman’s life when black eyeliner has to be swapped for brown and Double Wear has to be dumped. It just makes you look older.
* Prairie dresses
In your head you look like a flirty little ‘first you have to catch me’ forest nymph. In reality, you look like you’re pregnant.
* Boob tubes
It becomes a simple matter of engineering after a certain age. Cameron Diaz said she gave them up when she turned 40.
* Over-the-knee boots
Perfectly acceptable if you’re 5’10” or over. Any shorter and you’ll look like the lovechild of Dick Whittington and Peggy Mitchell.
* Denim shorts
Not denim shorts per se, rather shorts tight enough to cause urinary tract infections and road accidents.
* ‘Still got it’ syndrome
Wear your daughter’s clothing if it suits you, not because you can still fit into it.
This really should be self-explanatory, but sporting pigtails beyond the age of 12 will make you look like Baby Spice, or the type of woman who collects miniatures as a hobby.