Saturday, March 21, 2015

Style Forever: A New Book About Grown-Up Style

Are you over 50 and looking for style inspiration? I just finished reading Style Forever, a highly appealing style guide for grown up women by That’s Not My Age blogger Alyson Walsh. I say “highly appealing” because not only is Style Forever well-written and chocked full of helpful style tips, the ideas are conveyed with a healthy dose of humor in the form of personal anecdotes, inspiring quotes, interviews with clever women over 50, quick-to-digest lists, and lots of lovely whimsical illustrations. Truly, this is a book with something for every woman over 50 or as Alyson calls us, Generation FAB (Fifty And Beyond).

In her introduction, Alyson touches upon her inspiration for writing this book. She tells us about her experience in the world of fashion. For seven years, she was the fashion editor at Good Housekeeping—“hardly the temple of fashion, I know." She started a style blog while teaching at a university. Style Forever, she says, is a continuation of the conversation about grown up style that began with That’s Not My Age. “I strongly believe you don’t have to have youth to have style,” she writes. “That isn’t  about age, it’s about mindset."

Style Forever offers tips on such things as finding a good fit and accessorizing. It also analyzes the different grown up “Style Tribes” (people who dress alike). Style Tribes such as the “Casual Glamorpuss,” “The Older and Bolder,” and the “Scandinista” are described, illustrated and accompanied by a list of well-known grown up tribe members. What I like about this approach is the sense of possibilities. This is not a cookbook of no-fail style recipes, but rather a smorgasbord of style suggestions for women to pick and choose from. In addition to covering style, Alyson shares her thoughts on beauty (“What I’ve Learned about Beauty”) and lifestyle (“Harriet Griffey’s Six Top Tips For Living A Mindful Life”). I’m already addicted to the step-by-step “DIY Face Massage.” 

Interspersed with the chapters and lists are interviews with style-conscious FAB women or “Style Heroines.” Some of these style mavens are well-known fashion icons, like Iris Apfel, while others might be better known to New Yorkers (Linda Rodin) or Londoners (Thelma Speirs) or Californians (Teruko Burrell). These accomplished women share their views on everything from style (“I never understand when people say they can’t find anything suitable for their age,” say Wendy Dagworthy, former designer and one of the founders of London Fashion Week. “Why do they have to have something different? I dress like my students.”) to what they would say to their 15-year-old selves (“…Be as nice as you can be,” says Cindy Joseph, former make-up artist and founder of the cosmetic line BOOM. “Love yourself. You are worth falling in love with.”).

I am in awe of this book. Writing about style is a bit like walking a tightrope. Anyone who enjoys observing the way women dress is bound to notice fashions that tend to be flattering as well as fashions that, well, tend to have the opposite effect. Style observers who like to write are often compelled to share their observations, hoping to help women make sense of style. The trouble is it’s hard to write about fashion and style without it sounding like a bunch of fashion dos and don’ts. And style declarations (one of my all-time favorites: "Woman over 50 should never show their arms") are doomed right out of the gate. Why? Because there's such enormous variety of female shapes, attitudes and lifestyles.

Alyson walks the style writing tightrope with humor and sensitivity. Her book’s conversational tone offers an upbeat sense of comradery, the feeling that we're all on this style adventure together. In a chapter called “Wardrobe Glue” or those “reliable, figure-flattering essentials,” she writes encouragingly: “Finding the perfect Wardrobe Glue may take effort but you’re going to be old for a very long time, so it’s worth putting in the groundwork.”

Finally, hats off to Leo Greenfield, Style Forever’s illustrator. Each time I turned a page and saw one of Leo’s divine drawings, I thought: “How lucky Alyson is to have found such a brilliant artist to collaborate with!”

If like me, you are interested in finding style beyond fifty, I strongly suggest you take a peek at Style Forever.** I suspect, though, that you’ll be completely hooked after a page or two. I was. In fact, I'm convinced I'll be picking up this book again and again for inspiration about style and living the grown up life. Because as Ruth Chapman, co-founder of Matches Fashion, points out: “There is something really attractive about a woman who is confident about her age and her style.”

**Style Forever by Alyson Walsh and illustrated by Leo Greenfield (Hardie Grant, $19.95) will be available in the United States on September 1, 2015. It's currently available in the United Kingdom (Hardie Grant, £12.99).