The seven ages of fashion: You can dress to impress at every stage and age

 THE TRIBAL YEARS (TEENS)

In her teens, Millie Bobby Brown is at an age where fashion is an adventure
In her teens, Millie Bobby Brown is at an age where fashion is an adventure

You are experimental and know your own mind…hmm, and so it is that you get together with your BFFs on Saturday afternoons and spend your (annoyingly limited) Bank of Mum and Dad funds on identikit dresses in New Look.

Then it’s straight to Topshop for artfully ripped shorts and hair bobbles. You happily raid your elder sister’s wardrobe and wish your mum would stop going on about having rocked baggy jeans in the mid-1990s.

Expert eye ‘This is the age to wear a crop top,’ says fashion director and personal stylist Arabella Greenhill. ‘After 21 forget it.’

GO-TO BRANDS Brandy Melville for sweatshirts, vest tops and chokers; Boohoo for party dresses, and New Look for everything else. DRESS, £75, Boohoo.com. Right: INVEST NOW Invest in a Uniqlo wear-with-everything down jacket. And hang on to anything your granny gives you, as it’s guaranteed to come back into fashion. JACKET, £59, Uniqlo, uniqlo.com

GO-TO BRANDS Brandy Melville for sweatshirts, vest tops and chokers; Boohoo for party dresses, and New Look for everything else. DRESS, £75,Boohoo.com

INVEST NOW Invest in a Uniqlo wear-with-everything down jacket. And hang on to anything your granny gives you, as it’s guaranteed to come back into fashion. JACKET, £59, Uniqlo, uniqlo.com

 

THE WEAR ANYTHING YEARS (EARLY 20S)

 

Forget dressing like your friends; now you want to look worthy of an influencer at London Fashion Week. Thank God for Zara, which has become your new religion, as has following bloggers Lucy Williams and The Frugality on Instagram and beating everyone to Vita Kin-inspired tops and rip-off Gucci loafers.

When you're in your 20s like Maya Jama, it's all about Insta-ready fashion cool
When you’re in your 20s like Maya Jama, it’s all about Insta-ready fashion cool

Expert eye ‘Urban Outfitters and Levi’s are a must. Pick up floral pieces and sexy lingerie you can flash under anything,’ says blogger Camille Charrière.

 GO-TO BRANDS Zara for catwalk-inspired separates (and grown-up handbags and blazers for job interviews); Asos for shoes, sunglasses and festival outfits. T-SHIRT, £12, Weekday,weekday.com. Right: INVEST NOW A good-quality leather jacket will last for ever…or at least until you stop worrying about Brexit. JACKET, £420, Maje, uk.maje.com
 
 

 

 

GO TO BRANDS Zara for catwalk-inspired separates (and grown-up handbags and blazers for job interviews); Asos for shoes, sunglasses and festival outfits. T-SHIRT, £12, Weekday, weekday.com

INVEST NOW A good-quality leather jacket will last for ever…or at least until you stop worrying about Brexit. JACKET, £420, Maje, uk.maje.com

 

THE CAREER YEARS (LATE 20S)

 

For what might be the last time, you find yourself trying to look more grown-up – you need that pay rise. It’s time for a dose of demure with midi hemlines and buttoned-up blouses.

Emma Watson shows that demure need never be dull
Emma Watson shows that demure need never be dull

And as every weekend from March to September will be eaten up by hen dos and weddings, occasionwear is essential. Whistles is tempting; Self-Portrait less risky, and Reformation maxis bought from the US will be perfect for next season.

Expert eye ‘The key is to smarten up without compromising on personality,’ says Katherine Ormerod of workworkwork.co. ‘Pretty dresses can be as effective as a power suit.’

GO-TO BRANDS & Other Stories and Mango for inexpensive high-street style; Victoria by VictoriaBeckham and MSGM for payday investments; Toastfor a pared-down Margaret Howell vibe, and Kitri Studio for tops and day dresses. SKIRT, £59, & Other Stories,stories.com. Right: INVEST NOW Classic jeans from a quality brand that fit you like a glove – buy the best pair you can afford. Head to Selfridges’ denim floor with an honest friend, and ask for advice from the store’s jean geniuses. JEANS, £250, AG Jeans, from Selfridges, selfridges.com

INVEST NOW Classic jeans from a quality brand that fit you like a glove – buy the best pair you can afford. Head to Selfridges’ denim floor with an honest friend, and ask for advice from the store’s jean geniuses. JEANS, £250, AG Jeans, from Selfridges, selfridges.com

SKIRT, £59, & Other Stories, stories.com . Right: INVEST NOW Classic jeans from a quality brand that fit you like a glove – buy the best pair you can afford. Head to Selfridges’ denim floor with an honest friend, and ask for advice from the store’s jean geniuses. JEANS, £250, AG Jeans, from Selfridges, selfridges.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE GROWN-UP YEARS (30s)

The Duchess of Cambridge rocks a baby-resistant block-colour uniform

Just as your income justifies those Net-a-Porter binges, along come commitments beyond your credit-card bill: marriage, mortgage, motherhood. You give in and embrace Boden – after all, it does the best cashmere crewnecks – and realise (with small children, a demanding job, or both) that a uniform is essential.

Your saviour is Amazon Fashion where Zoe Karssen sweatshirts and box-fresh Converse arrive by 9am the next day.

Expert eye ‘Start layering,’ says Arabella Greenhill. ‘Try polonecks under smock tops with straight-legged jeans. Wear block colours and invest in shoes, which, unlike silk dresses, won’t get ruined by babies.’

GO TO BRANDS Me + Em and MiH Jeans for uniform-friendly basics; Ganni for knitwear and dresses; Massimo Dutti for workwear in every colour but grey, and splurge in Liberty’s shoe hall. JACKET, £139, Massimo Dutti, massimodutti.com. Right: INVEST NOW Knee-high leather boots that will work during pregnancy, in the office and at weekends. Chloé versions are the dream, but Marks & Spencer offers a surprisingly good pair for a tenth of the price. BOOTS, £880, Chloé, net-a-porter.com

 

GO TO BRANDS Me + Em and MiH Jeans for uniform-friendly basics; Ganni for knitwear and dresses; Massimo Dutti for workwear in every colour but grey, and splurge in Liberty’s shoe hall. JACKET, £139, Massimo Dutti, massimodutti.com. Right: INVEST NOW Knee-high leather boots that will work during pregnancy, in the office and at weekends. Chloé versions are the dream, but Marks & Spencer offers a surprisingly good pair for a tenth of the price. BOOTS, £880, Chloé, net-a-porter.com

INVEST NOW Knee-high leather boots that will work during pregnancy, in the office and at weekends. Chloé versions are the dream, but Marks & Spencer offers a surprisingly good pair for a tenth of the price. BOOTS, £880, Chloé, net-a-porter.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE HAVING IT ALL YEARS (40s)

 

Outside the office Sweaty Betty leggings suffice for coffee catch-ups with the benefit of making you appear younger and fitter than you are. Competing with mothers at the school gates is futile and un-feminist…but a high five was surely due when at least three mums asked you where your Madeleine Thompson knit was from.

You secretly shop on Vestiaire Collective for coveted designer items you never need to declare as second-hand.

Expert eye ‘There is a danger of a rut; you might be ageing yourself without realising,’ says Arabella Greenhill. ‘Opt for white leather sneakers – Whistles has good options.’

GO-TO BRANDS TK Maxx for covert designer bargains; Tibi and Raey on payday, Masscob for bohemian-leaning style. DRESS, £277, Masscob,masscob.com

INVEST NOW Snap up the designer handbag you’ve always wanted. Not the copy. A classic Loewe, Céline or Fendi fits the bill. BAG, £1,525, Loewe, harveynichols.com

GO-TO BRANDS TK Maxx for covert designer bargains; Tibi and Raey on payday, Masscob for bohemian-leaning style. DRESS, £277, Masscob,masscob.com

INVEST NOW Snap up the designer handbag you’ve always wanted. Not the copy. A classic Loewe, Céline or Fendi fits the bill. BAG, £1,525, Loewe, harveynichols.com

 

 

 

 

 

 
 THE WHO-CARES YEARS (50s)

 

Trinny Woodall embraces an age-defying rainbow palette
Trinny Woodall embraces an age-defying rainbow palette

At long last the aim of the game is to look the best you can for the age that you are. Navy is your new best friend – a facialist told you it would be more flattering than black and you decide it might be more cost-effective than Botox. It also mixes well with the rainbow palette you know you should be embracing.

For eveningwear, jumpsuits are saviours, especially fitted styles worn with heels. A-line dresses with capped sleeves in heavy fabrics hide a multitude of sins, as does tailoring from the higher end of the high street.

Expert eye ‘To me there is nothing more chic than a tailored YSL-inspired blazer. That, a good colourist and a sleek bob is my post 50s goal,’ says Camille Charrière.

GO-TO BRANDS MaxMara Weekend and Joseph; Finery and Warehouse for fabulous prints and colours – and because none of your friends are shopping there…yet. JUMPSUIT, £799, MaxMara Weekend,maxmara.com. Right: INVEST NOW A blazer from Blazé Milano or Stella McCartney will last for the next 30 years. JACKET, £1,400, Blazé Milano, matchesfashion.com

INVEST NOW A blazer from Blazé Milano or Stella McCartney will last for the next 30 years. JACKET, £1,400, Blazé Milano, matchesfashion.com

GO TO BRANDS MaxMara Weekend and Joseph; Finery and Warehouse for fabulous prints and colours – and because none of your friends are shopping there…yet. JUMPSUIT, £799, MaxMara Weekend, maxmara.com. Right: INVEST NOW A blazer from Blazé Milano or Stella McCartney will last for the next 30 years. JACKET, £1,400, Blazé Milano, matchesfashion.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 THE FREEDOM YEARS (60 PLUS)

Prue Leith transcends generations with a flattering blue palette
Prue Leith transcends generations with a flattering blue palette

The kids and job might be out, the golf course, a spot of volunteering and costume jewellery are in. You wear chunky necklaces over high-necked tops Anna Wintour-style, and bought five pairs of earrings for less than £30 on a recent expedition to H&M with your goddaughter.

You also happened upon Asos White while browsing for Christmas gifts – it’s your new secret for fabulous avant-garde shirts and wide-leg pants. Waterfall cardigans over silk blouses are still useful cover-ups – soft pink and blue versions are far more flattering than black.

Expert eye ‘The age of the granny is gone,’ says Arabella Greenhill. ‘You can hit your 70s in the jeans and grey sweaters that transcend generations.’

GO-TO BRANDS J&M Davidson for beautifully cut dresses, skirts and coats; Zara for embroidered bomber jackets and colourful flats, and Cos where you find a friendly shop assistant to adopt as a personal stylist. SKIRT, £445, J&M Davidson, jandmdavidson.com. Right: INVEST NOW Break-the-bank knitwear from Bamford or Connolly England. JUMPER, £850, Connolly England, 020 7952 6708

THE BEST BUYS AT ANY AGE 

BRETON T-SHIRT Me + Em and Seasalt Cornwall are two British brands offering options in several different shapes and colourways. TOP, £55, Me + Em, meandem.com. Right: WHITE SHIRT A save-all whether you’re aged 17 or 77 – buy a couple in different shapes. Try Cos or MiH for a brilliant boyfriend style that covers the bottom. SHIRT, £826, Monographie, farfetch.comGO-TO BRANDS J&M Davidson for beautifully cut dresses, skirts and coats; Zara for embroidered bomber jackets and colourful flats, and Cos where you find a friendly shop assistant to adopt as a personal stylist. SKIRT, £445, J&M Davidson, jandmdavidson.com. Right: INVEST NOW Break-the-bank knitwear from Bamford or Connolly England. JUMPER, £850, Connolly England, 020 7952 6708

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GO-TO BRANDS J&M Davidson for beautifully cut dresses, skirts and coats; Zara for embroidered bomber jackets and colourful flats, and Cos where you find a friendly shop assistant to adopt as a personal stylist. SKIRT, £445, J&M Davidson, jandmdavidson.com. Right: INVEST NOW Break-the-bank knitwear from Bamford or Connolly England. JUMPER, £850, Connolly England, 020 7952 6708

WHITE SHIRT A save-all whether you’re aged 17 or 77 – buy a couple in different shapes. Try Cos or MiH for a brilliant boyfriend style that covers the bottom. SHIRT, £826, Monographie, farfetch.com

BRETON T-SHIRT Me + Em and Seasalt Cornwall are two British brands offering options in several different shapes and colourways. TOP, £55, Me + Em, meandem.com. Right: WHITE SHIRT A save-all whether you’re aged 17 or 77 – buy a couple in different shapes. Try Cos or MiH for a brilliant boyfriend style that covers the bottom. SHIRT, £826, Monographie, farfetch.com

FLORAL TEA DRESS The hemlines might go up and down with age but whether you team with sneakers, sandals or stilettos they are always useful. Find at Topshop, Maje, Sandro and Suzannah. DRESS, £345, Sandro, uk.sandro-paris.com

FLORAL TEA DRESS The hemlines might go up and down with age but whether you team with sneakers, sandals or stilettos they are always useful. Find at Topshop, Maje, Sandro and Suzannah. DRESS, £345, Sandro, uk.sandro-paris.com

HIGH HEELS Topshop still has some of the best shoes on the high street. Or venture to Aquazzura for beautiful, comfortable heels that will set you back over £400. SHOES, £555, Aquazzura, aquazzura.com
HOOP EARRINGS Maria Black at Liberty and The Hoop Station at Fenwick are current fashion set favourites. Dinny Hall also makes classy silver and rose gold styles. EARRING, £85, Maria Black, libertylondon.com
 

HIGH HEELS Topshop still has some of the best shoes on the high street. Or venture to Aquazzura for beautiful, comfortable heels that will set you back over £400. SHOES, £555, Aquazzura, aquazzura.com. Right: HOOP EARRINGS Maria Black at Liberty and The Hoop Station at Fenwick are current fashion set favourites. Dinny Hall also makes classy silver and rose gold styles. EARRING, £85, Maria Black, libertylondon.com

 

By Amy E Williams