I was in the vegetable aisle in Sainsbury’s one Sunday morning a few weeks ago when I spotted a very dapper old man dressed up to the nines in tartan braces and a bow tie.
He looked so fabulous I couldn’t resist paying him a compliment, so I went over and told him I loved his outfit.
His response has been running through my mind ever since. He smiled and said: ‘I dress like this for anyone who is going to cross my path today.’ Then he went off to buy some carrots.
It’s a philosophy I’ve been practicing myself for years – but I couldn’t have expressed it any better.
I’ve always believed in dressing up daily. Life’s too short and this isn’t a rehearsal.
Who cares that I’m a married mum-of-one, approaching 51, with a teenage daughter and a career in creative production. If I want to go to work in a ball gown and blazer then I will.
I’ve been into a previous office in a fabulous designer floor-length dress and when my boss at the time saw me he made the lovely comment, ‘oh we don’t deserve this’.
I hate the term ‘age-appropriate clothing’ and I have no qualms wearing skirts or shorts. I’ve never really noticed any negativity because I wear things with confidence.
People can sense that I don’t worry about what they think. I like to dress my best every single day – whether I’m going to work, out for lunch with friends or just nipping into Sainsbury’s on a Sunday morning.
I have a background in the fashion industry and I’ve always loved dressing up. Even as a little girl I remember changing my outfits several times a day.
For my first day at senior school I chose a rah-rah skirt and white lace Converse. Well… it was 1983!
I grew up in Sydney, Australia, but moved to the UK 1994 to work in London. I had my daughter, Matilda, now 15, and I’ve been with my gorgeous English husband Mark for over a decade.
He’s used to me flouncing around. He calls me Joan Collins!
When I hit my early 40s I had a bit of a wobble over the contents of my wardrobe. I think there’s a lot of pressure on women of all ages to look and act a certain way, from social media and society in general – as well as what you’re led to believe growing up. My generation didn’t have many role models who were sassy at 50.
I had this impression that in my 40s I ought to be presenting myself more soberly in order to be taken seriously. A lot of my peers – women in the same age range – were dressing sensibly and I felt a pressure to do the same.
I spent a lot of time looking at my clothes and wondering if they were appropriate any more. I had this saying – ‘just because you can wear it, doesn’t mean you should.’
All of a sudden I wouldn’t wear anything above the knee. It was a bit of a crisis of confidence; I felt self-conscious for the first time in my adult life. I felt uncomfortable in my own skin.
Luckily, in my late 40s, I snapped out of it. I was rocked by a redundancy, then the pandemic hit, and I had an epiphany. Life is short. I realised I should be able to wear whatever I damn well liked if it made me feel happy.
Looking back now, I cringe to think I’d let myself be so brainwashed by what society thinks a woman approaching mid-life should look like.
I have a huge wardrobe because I rarely get rid of anything, and I cycle things, packing stuff away when I’m bored of it or it’s the wrong season. So I pulled all my fun clothes out – things with colour, prints, embellishment and frills – of storage and started wearing them again.
I actually don’t buy many new clothes, I just rotate them and I love browsing for vintage bargains on sites like eBay and Vinted.
When I hit 50 I really felt the full force of age discrimination because I was interviewing for loads of jobs and being told I was ‘too senior’.
I decided I wasn’t going down without a fight. I still wanted to feel visible and relevant, and show other women that age is just a number and you can aspire to be whatever you want – and wear whatever you want – at any stage of your life.
My wardrobe is now full of colour and I dress according to my mood. I never lay my clothes out the night before because I don’t know how I’m going to be feeling the following morning.
Instead I wait to see what I want to leave the house in when I wake up. I love clothes that make an entrance and that make sounds, like the rustling folds of a skirt or the click of heels. I love that feeling of flouncing around.
Although I don’t need an excuse to dress up, I absolute love being a wedding guest and I love a big, voluminous frock, preferably with a giant sleeve or enormous skirt. I want to be a movable feast and potentially get stuck in the photo booth. One of my favourite outfits is Kika Vargas dress with a deep v-neck and ruffly sleeves.
That’s why I called my Instagram account @flouncingabout. I started it because I wanted to find other mid-life women who don’t want to be dismissed. I won’t go quietly – I want to take up as much space as possible and hopefully put a smile on people’s faces.
I love it when people smile at what I’m wearing and I always try to pay other people compliments because it’s important to spread as much positivity in this world as possible.
Matilda, my daughter, loves my style and Mark often just looks at me and laughs – but he’s the one who takes most of the photos for my social media.
I never save anything for ‘best’. What does that even mean? Life is the occasion so I dress accordingly.
I don’t dress to look younger, or slimmer, or sexier. And I’m not looking for compliments. I dress up because I want to skip into every single day and have a bloody lovely time.
As told to Jade Beecroft
Age is Just a Number
Welcome to Age is Just a Number, a Metro.co.uk series aiming to show that, when it comes to living your life, achieving your dreams, and being who you want to be, the date on your birth certificate means nothing.
Each week, prepare to meet amazing people doing stereotype-defying things, at all stages of life.
If you have a story to share, email Siobhan.Smith@metro.co.uk