What sexy dressing truly looks like,in your 50s+

How did you celebrate your 57th birthday? Maybe with a trip to the doctor to stock up on HRT,or a gentle Pilates class. What you probably didn’t do is chuck on a tiny pink chainmail dress held together with gold clips,and post the evidence on Instagram. This is because you are not Elizabeth Hurley,a woman with the body of a 25-year-old and the “eff you” attitude of a recalcitrant teen.

Elizabeth Hurley,Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu and Emma Thompson lead the way when it comes to dressing sexy past your 50s.

Elizabeth Hurley,Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu and Emma Thompson lead the way when it comes to dressing sexy past your 50s.Getty Images

Her attitude may rile those who think women should only wear Phase Eight past the age of 45,but Hurley is merely one of many 50-something – and older – women reframing midlife not as a period to fade gracefully into the background wearing something comfy,but as a life stage in which they have never felt – or looked – better. Hurley regularly posts bikini snaps on social media,knowing she’s the best advertisement for her swimwear brand.

Other midlife women rocking bikinis on their social feeds include Salma Hayek,55,Sharon Stone,64,and the model Paulina Porizkova,57,who has been vocal about the age prejudices women face,most recently urging her 788k followers to stop saying women “still” look beautiful,arguing “a ‘still’ is like a ‘but’ – it ruins a compliment.”

Of course,photos of Liz Hurley – the older woman may feel – say nothing to them about their life. Many can’t afford the hair,face and body maintenance required by such women in the public eye. Which begs the question:what does sexy look like for the average midlifer?

Thankfully,not all midlife women are as unrelatable as Hurley when it comes to looking good – and are clearly feeling good because of their sartorial choices. Consider Sophie,the Countess of Wessex,57,who recently wore a white semi-sheer Carolina Herrera skirt while carrying out her royal duties opening a school. Sophie is a fan of semi-sheer garments,often choosing evening dresses with chiffon overlays to provide coverage to her upper arms. Semi-sheer fabrics are a great way to expose your legs or arms without actually exposing them at all. The sexiness is all in the suggestion.

Tailoring is another reliable way to feel your best without baring flesh. Dame Emma Thompson,63,might be appearing as a sexual adventuress in new filmGood Luck To You,Leo Grande,but in real life she’s a clever and understated dresser who looks excellent in trouser suits,recently in a pale yellow one by Stella McCartney.

Other strong arguments for the trouser suit are Annie Lennox,67,who has been wearing them for years and Trinny Woodall,58,who favours brightly coloured two-pieces often from the high street. Don’t underestimate the feeling of invincibility a suit can provide – and confidence is always sexy.

But if anyone knows how to do sexy,it’s Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu,the scene-stealing star ofCall My Agent! andEmily In Paris,who at 59 is making more headlines than ever. When I interviewed her last year,she said that the style of her character Sylvie inEmily in Paris,created with the help of Patricia Field,was based on that of actresses such as Katharine Hepburn and Joan Crawford who blended feminine and masculine to chic effect.

In real life,Leroy-Beaulieu dresses much like her character – in pencil skirts,loose,tailored trousers and satin shirts,the latter having become a signature. A silk or satin shirt is a great addition to the midlife wardrobe,as every French woman knows. What stops it from looking frumpy is unfastening that one extra button,and tucking it into your waistband instead of wearing it loose. Those self-conscious of their waists could try the “French tuck”,a styling technique whereby a portion of the front is tucked in,while the back and sides are left loose.

Fans also wax lyrical about Leroy-Beaulieu’s hair,worn long and tousled in a deliberately youthful manner at which many older woman baulk. The hairdresser Sam McKnight,most recently seen on a float at the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee parade alongside his famous friends Kate Moss and Charlotte Tilbury,is adamant that women shouldn’t automatically ditch long hair as they age.

“Stay away from safe. That old adage that you should cut off all your hair is so old-fashioned and wrong.”

“Stay away from safe. That old adage that you should cut off all your hair is so old-fashioned and wrong,” he counsels. “I love women with long grey hair. Be free,be adventurous and embrace it. Doing something unexpected with your hair will make you feel younger. Hair is just as much about how it makes you feel as how it makes you look. What will age you are the sort of styles that people had 30 years ago. Being in your 60s and 70s doesn’t mean getting a short perm any more. That type of hairstyle has almost disappeared.”

No amount of hair dye,silk shirts or sexy tailoring will change the age discrimination that older women suffer. Our worth being determined by what we wear and how we look is an issue that understandably goads many into feeling pressured to keep up appearances for others and not themselves. The ever-stylish Naomi Watts recently recalled how she was told she’d become irrelevant if she got too old and was no longer ‘f---able’. “This is an ageist industry,” the 53-year-old actress said. Those sniffy about Liz Hurley’s thirsty bikini snaps perhaps haven’t felt the deathly embrace of society’s invisibility cloak,a discriminatory garment that only seeks out older women.

Of course,women should only ever wear what they feel happy and confident in,whether that’s a silk shirt or a slanket. Sexiness means something different to us all and what you feel your best in can differ wildly from day to day. Who knows,even Liz Hurley might have put the safety pin dress away and be sporting jeans or leggings. Then again,don’t bet on it.

The Telegraph,London

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