After 40 years of working in the media and the fashion world, I am going through a style crisis. I wore the same clothes for three years, trapped in a micro wardrobe of jeans and “fun” slogan sweatshirts, with big boots, diversifying in the summer into an equally limited range of ruffled dresses with bright colors and Birkenstocks.
I miss my water bottle with.
Two things put me in this fashion cage. The first was lockdown, when there was no point in dressing in anything but the most utilitarian yarns and we were all too freaked out to make any effort, anyway.
Then there was the weight I gained during lockdown, which meant there was a finite number of things in my wardrobe that I could force my burgeoning fat into.
And those voluminous sundresses didn’t help, providing an illusion of chic, with no reminder of the ever-increasing circumference of what used to be my waistline. There’s a reason they’re called “buffet dresses.”
Now I am released from these two prisons. Lockdown is an eerie memory and I lost over 20 pounds on Dr. Mosley’s brilliant Fast 800 Keto Diet (so easy to do, I can’t recommend it enough).
So, yahoo, I can now put back on all the clothes I wore three years ago – only problem is I don’t want to wear any of them.
The past is a foreign country and all that, and after March 2020 it was more foreign than most, with the world and all of us completely reset from who we were before we heard the word Covid.
The problem is, I just don’t know what to wear in this brave new world we find ourselves in. And with life happily open again, I have to dress – and nicely – for working lunches, real face-to-face meetings. , socializing with friends and more special outings.
It’s hard when I don’t even know what to wear for my normal work day, writing in the studio space I rent to get out of the house – only what I absolutely don’t want to wear. I wonder if I could heat the house by putting those greasy jeans and sweatshirts in the woodstove.
Looking for inspiration, I found myself scrolling through “fashion influencers over 60” on Instagram, only to find a digital sea of women even thinner than me, but with endless legs.
It was boring and didn’t have much to do with what they were wearing either.
My next search was simpler: “fashion trends”, but the results almost returned me to bohemian jeans. After investigating “Regencycore” – Bridgerton-inspired dressing – and “Gorpcore” (like I was about to set off down a mountain trail with my pockets full of good old raisins and peanuts, who knew?), I didn’t feel inspired at all.
And the style of the 1980s, 1990s and Y2K – strong current trends – does not please either. Nothing reminds you of the harsh passage of time more than fitting back into the looks you wore in your youth. The attic portrait in an oversized jacket.
No wonder most people give up being ‘fashionable’ at 35 – according to a new survey by online personal shopping portal Stitch Fix. It also reveals that more than a third of us feel “overwhelmed” by trends, which, given the very notion of Regencycore, let alone Cottagecore, doesn’t surprise me.
But with my professional background, it’s weird for me to get confused by trends. With all these years on the cutting edge of fashion – telling others what the trends will be – I’m used to absorbing the “feel” of the moment and instinctively knowing what felt right to wear there, but my post-lockdown brain just doesn’t process the vibe like it used to.
So I realized I needed help – and I was thrilled when the person this journal suggested they give me was stylist Nicola Rose, someone I had the occasion to observe on many occasions during the fashion shows of Paris and Milan, where she always wore just the right thing.
So, where did Nicola advise me to turn? As a new must-have, instead of my jeans, she suggests the Every Day Every Way dress. A garment with the same integrity and comfort as my (formerly) beloved denim, that you can build on.
The secret to making this work work, we decided, was to get such a dress and submit it, wearing it constantly, so that it became as easy to put on as your favorite pair of jeans.
The Every Day Every Way dress
Maggie wears: Corduroy dress, £270, Cefinn; Roll neck top, £19.90, Uniqlo; Shoes, owned by Maggie
This corduroy dress (above) from Cefinn is the perfect Every Day Every Way dress I can imagine making my new work uniform. It’s so comfy, but with the high waist and fitted bodice it has a bit of structure, it’s not a big tent. As soon as I put it on, I felt like I already owned it – and it has pockets, which is a fashion break for me.
I love the flowy fabric of this gorgeous dress (below), also from Cefinn, which has a high waist and a structured bodice, so it’s not like the bags I wore last summer. It falls so elegantly and it was so nice to walk in. I would never have picked this jacket in a store, but the cropped length looked great on the longer dress. I would wear this look anywhere. And yes, pockets.
Maggie is wearing: a silk dress, £390, Cefinn; Leather jacket, £459, LK Bennett; Leather boots, £195, Whistles
The ‘Wow Dress’
The second kind of dress she suggested I consider is a Wow dress. A truly stunning piece that makes you feel instantly dressed up (ha-ha) so it can be worn anywhere but is so comfortable you’ll feel just as good wearing it with flat boots for the day .
“It’s about learning how to dress up a dress,” Nicola said. “In mild weather, you don’t need a coat, or even a proper jacket, so you can show off your dress and add pieces to give it a different look. A cardigan, a big sweater, a jacket, a short jacket…”
The dress below is a clever mix of classic elegance with modern details, in the front zipper, black trim and stretch cuffs – perfect for pulling them up. There is no chance for the Dinner Dance look, which I particularly dread. And it has pockets, which looks fabulous in a dress you could wear for any night out. It was so comfortable I could imagine wearing it in the daytime too.
Maggie is wearing: Recycled Satin, £295, ME + EM; Leather platforms, £329, LK Bennett
The versatile combination
One of Nicola’s other pieces of clothing is Miracle Pants, but even though she tried very hard to convince me, I just couldn’t feel comfortable in pants with anything other than narrow legs. With racerback shoulders and Mick Jagger hips, I can’t help but believe that voluminous trews make me look big all over.
What did work, though, was this denim jumpsuit (below) — and I was glad she found one I felt comfortable in. I had been looking for years. And trying it on with sturdy boots, then loafers – then a heel – I could see how versatile it would be.
I had been looking for a jumpsuit for years – which is difficult when you’re 5ft 1in. Most of them overwhelm me, with a crotch near my knees. I felt a little butch with the ankle boots, but I loved wearing it with the moccasins, which give it a chic side, less obvious than a heel. I’d wear it around town like that, to meetings or to lunch.
Maggie wears: denim jumpsuit, £155, Jigsaw; Lurex jumper, £180, Cefinn; Faux leather loafers, £59, Charles and Keith
The swishy skirt
The latest new style idea for me was a throwback to an item of clothing that I felt like I had hardly worn in years – the good old skirt. And how I love this one. The swish feeling around the legs is just glorious and I don’t know why I neglected the skirt for so long. It’s just as versatile as the pants, and it’s oddly liberating.
This satin skirt from Ghost felt great as soon as I put it on. The slippery feel of the cheeky skirt is so comfortable to wear, and the sweater will look so comfy, yet glamorous and fun. I’ll be wearing this outfit mostly with flats, but I love how it looks here, with heels, for socializing with friends.
Maggie wears: cashmere jumper, £225, Jigsaw; Satin skirt, £69, Phantom; Leather pumps, £695, Manolo Blahnik
I’ve already ordered this one – and the glorious sweater – and hope all the other pieces will still be in stock next month. It’ll be a bit of an investment to replenish my depleted wardrobe, but I’ll heed another tip from Nicola: “You need to spend a few bucks to get something with wardrobe icon status.”
It will be so worth it to look forward to getting dressed. Buffet dresses need not apply.
Stylist: Nicola Rose Photographer: Andrew Crowley Makeup and hair: Wendy Sadd @ Joy Goodman Use (hair) of Bumble & Bumble products and (makeup) Bobbi Brown Stylist assistant: Alice Dench