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How to get your fashion mojo back in your 40s and beyond

The Feel Good Fashion Coach Miranda Holder shares her advice for feeling your very best in midlife

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11 January 2024
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Forty-something can be a particularly tricky age to dress for and many of my clients come to me feeling they’ve totally lost their way with fashion. In reality, this isn’t usually the case, it’s just that they’ve been working so hard looking after everyone else, they’ve neglected their own needs in the process.

All of a sudden, they realise that they themselves have changed, but their wardrobes haven’t. There’s a disconnect between the energy of their clothes and the energy of the woman and as a result, their clothes stop working for them.

I’ve worked with hundreds of women who felt they’d lost their own sense of identity and just don’t know what to wear. They have fallen out of love with their wardrobe and style is no longer their friend but a source of frustration. This, coupled with changing bodies and emotions as our hormones fluctuate, results in anxiety as we become totally unsure of ourselves and how to dress.

Lady in pink top with hat
Miranda Holder is a styling queen

Confidence loss in midlife

So many of my clients come to me having totally lost their confidence and I can relate as I have also been there.

Our mid-forties are challenging; our bodies are changing, our hormones are raging, we start to get rather unglamorous hot flushes and night sweats and do bizarre things such as put our car keys in the fridge. It can all happen very quickly and it’s easy to feel like you’re out of control. We lose trust in ourselves and get anxious about simple tasks which we would have eaten up for breakfast in our thirties.

As if perimenopause wasn't enough, our lives are also transitioning into a new phase; our children might be almost grown up, needing us far less - which in itself can be tough. Our relationship with our parents reverses as they become vulnerable and we start caring for them, and this causes us to naturally reflect on our lives.

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Many women, having put others first for the last 20 years feel lost, with no real sense of direction, unsure where they fit into life. It can be a tough time indeed, which is why I’m so passionate about helping women get their fashion mojo back. It underpins everything, especially confidence.

Fashion struggles in our forties

Fashion felt more straightforward in our thirties, whether you were running around after small children in your ‘Mum uniform’ of skinny jeans, trainers and a nice tee or climbing the corporate ladder in power suits before tailoring got trendy and the workwear wardrobe became far more confusing.

In our mid-forties, we don’t fit into those boxes anymore. Our bodies are telling us that we are getting older but we still feel young, our confidence dwindles and it can feel like we are fading into the background as we lose touch with ourselves.

Lady smiling in pink
Miranda Holder says confidence is key to happiness

We don’t want to wear clothes that age us, but equally don’t want to dress too young either, there doesn’t seem to be any hard and fast ‘fashion rules’ so it’s difficult to know where we fit into the style spectrum.

How to rediscover your love of fashion

It’s all about confidence - but the beautiful thing is that the right clothing will bring you oodles!

The power of a great outfit; the right colour to make you glow, clothes that make you feel alive, seen and most importantly - reflect you - cannot be underestimated.

It will put a pep in your step, transform your posture, your smile and it will have a transformative effect on the rest of your day, switching up your energy which those around you will sense and gravitate towards. 

 READ: I'm a confidence coach - these are the 3 rules I tell all my clients 

Remember style isn't selfish

I start by teaching women that it is not selfish to invest in yourself in this way - it’s essential. Fashion is a wonderful tool that, if fully embraced, can bring us so much joy and we deserve to reconnect with who we are and express ourselves through this wonderful medium.

In midlife our lives are far from over and by doing this work we are also inspiring other women, including our daughters and showing them that this is possible. When you think of it like this - how can you not fully embrace your new style?

So many women neglect themselves, but I remind them that fashion can be a pathway back to self-acceptance, confidence and ultimately, feeling good.

If you feel your best, that wonderful energy radiates and everyone around you will feel it - it's the sartorial equivalent of putting your own oxygen mask on first so everyone else can benefit. 

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How fashion can make us happier

Every woman, no matter her age, deserves to feel beautiful, and this occurs when the energy of our clothes aligns with the energy of who we truly are. We are all blessed with different gifts and there is so much beauty in our uniqueness – but it’s easy to lose that in the current cookie-cutter world of beauty that we live in, but no one is more magnetic than a woman who resonates with who she really is and expresses it unreservedly. 

There is huge power in dressing intentionally and much research has gone into the impact that dressing for the life you want, or day you want, can have on our lives.

Lady smiling in sequins
Dressing with confidence can help us feel happier

Every morning you have the choice to be the very best version of who you are today, it’s a fresh start, a new leaf just for you and you deserve the very best.

How to feel confident in midlife

1. Accept who you are

As they change, it can often feel like we are at war with our bodies in midlife as they almost betray us with odd symptoms and new wobbly bits.

The first step in the feel-good fashion process is to pause and reacquaint ourselves with these wonderful, miraculous machines that have carried us so reliably through life so far.

Our bodies may have born children, we’ve probably abused them with lack of sleep, too much alcohol or squeezing them into too tight shoes. This may feel a bit uncomfortable, but I would really encourage you to silence that inner critic and reflect on just how incredible our bodies are.

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2. Refocus on the positives

Rather than thinking about the parts you don’t like, why not reverse it and start focusing on the bits you do? This could be something as tiny as your wrists or decolletage, but if you start to alter your mindset by dressing to celebrate your body rather than disguising it, your confidence and happiness will follow.

I recommend taking this further by writing gratitude letters to your body, doing mirror work, recording and listening to positive affirmations about your body (even if you don’t actually believe the statements they actually work), you may feel resistance which is totally normal, but this inner work supports everything else - just remember you are investing in yourself, which will positively affect everyone around you - and that you are worth it.

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3. Empower yourself

 There are so many tools out there to learn about dressing for your body shape from books and websites, to investing in the services of someone like me. Go and equip yourself with the tools to make the best of your new figure.

 No matter your size, there are so many tips and tricks out there to help you amplify your best bits and get your shape back - and the confidence this will bring is immeasurable. Don’t forget your vertical scale too - ie, the ratio between the length of your torso and the length of your legs - this can often be the missing link to making a look truly work.

4. Embrace colour

Colour can transform your mood in an instant, and if you’ve never invested in a colour analysis session, now is the time to treat yourself, or add it to the Birthday wishlist, as the effects are truly life-changing. 

As we get older and wiser, we lose a bit of life from our skin and our hair can fade, so wearing complementary colours that can help give you some of this life back, becomes even more crucial. 

 READ: 3 body acceptance experts share how they learned to appreciate themselves 

The right shades will take years off you, giving you a radiant glow, whereas showing up in the wrong ones will have the opposite effect. 

Stay away from black, even if you could previously wear it, as it can be the ultimate complexion-drainer and contrary to popular opinion, doesn’t pair well with other colours, rendering them murky and dull. 

Finally, if you are prone to wearing a colour on top and black on the bottom (or vice versa) - a ‘failsafe formula’ of many a woman I have worked with - the stark contrast will literally cut you in half, making you appear shorter and wider - avoid at all costs! Instead, try substituting other shades for black such as camel, navy, or even khaki or aubergine, your wardrobe options will start to open up and you will feel more vibrant.

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5. Be bold

Nothing builds confidence faster than straying a little out of your comfort zone, so I would really urge you, once you are familiar with your colour palette, to get a bit brave and start to play with it. 

This can be particularly challenging for a previously chic fashionista who lived in neutrals, but we only need to look at nature to see there is nothing more uplifting than a vivid colour combination so please give it a go.

 READ: What are limiting beliefs and why are they stopping you from feeling happy? 

You can look to Mother Nature, interior design schemes or the colour wheel for inspiration. Pairing contrasting hues situated opposite each other on the wheel (such as blue and orange) or analogous colours situated next to each other (such as pink and red), can result in a striking look that will make you feel fabulous.

Another option is monochrome - (wearing a single shade from head to toe) - this looks just fabulous and heads will turn, by wearing colour in this way you can’t help but be more confident and smile more - and I promise the compliments will flood in. If this is too daunting, start small by adding in some colourful accessories like a bright, statement handbag, a bold lippy or an eye-catching shoe.

Meghan Markle looking casual and chic© Tim Rooke/Shutterstock
Meghan Markle always nails monochrome dressing

6. Prep and plan

 Nothing kills a fashion vibe more than last-minute outfit panic! Dressing under pressure will either cause you to get it wrong, or to default back to your old favourites which don’t do you any favours.

Both will knock your confidence and set you back on your feel-good fashion journey.

This is about setting time aside either weekly, monthly or seasonally to literally play with your wardrobe, experiment with new combinations in the safety of your own home, record them by taking snaps on your phone, to be stored in a handy album for easy access and build your repertoire of looks you feel good in. 

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It’s easy to skip this step because you are busy, but it is vital. Remind yourself that you are doing your future self a big favour here, and the woman you’ll be in a few days or weeks will be so grateful that you made the effort to do this for them. You probably wouldn’t hesitate to spend the time helping a friend to this, so be a good friend to yourself and invest the time.

7. Clear out clutter

There is nothing more demoralising than staring into a cluttered wardrobe, half full of clothes that don’t fit you or aren’t suitable to wear. 

Now is the time for a good spring clean. Take everything out, clean it from top to bottom, treat yourself to some new hangers or nice smellies that keep the moths away, then only put the pieces back that you can wear right now, storing or dealing with any garments that require selling, cleaning or mending or simply do not fit.

 READ: How to organise your wardrobe in 7 easy steps 

Clutter breeds confusion, and you’ll find it far easier to work with a few great pieces which are suitable than a jumble of clothes which aren’t.

8. Assess your lifestyle.

Before you hit the shops, look at your lifestyle which has probably changed and plan your wardrobe to match. A common mistake I see is wardrobes full of the wrong type of clothes, which were appropriate for the previous woman, but not the woman you are now. Perhaps city workwear when you’ve relocated to the country, or glam going-out clothes when you don’t really enjoy doing that anymore. 

 Embrace the life you now have. It's perfectly possible to still look great, even if your needs have changed. If you are very sporty and live in workout wear then consider upgrading it, buy matching sets so it feels put together and accessorise with subtle jewellery so you look ‘finished’.

READ: 5 life coach-approved ways to feel happier - without spending a penny

 Teaming a clean, neutral trainer with it is far more stylish than a mismatched coloured one. Need to pop out? Add a coordinating cashmere sweater or a hoodie and top with a structured coat and channel the West Coat, LA cool vibe. 

If you work from home and have been living in joggers, upgrade them to a beautiful pair of drapey, softly tailored trousers and have them tailored to the perfect length to be dressed down with a trainer or up with a small kitten heel, these tiny tweaks will make all the difference and make a positive impact on your day.

9. Structure/sizing

If in doubt, add a little structure in the form of a slim shoulder pad (these can work wonders for broadening busts and middles), some sharp tailoring or a crisp shirt. As we get older our bodies and faces soften, so we benefit from the added support that these firmer lines give us.

 Don’t pay attention to sizing and never ever try to squeeze yourself into something that’s slightly too snug, in the hope that you will lose the weight and fit into it - ironically, you’ll likely look slimmer if you size up and the piece is looser-fitting.

10. Wear your happy

Finally, remember that fashion is ultimately a creative medium that exists to enable us to express ourselves and bring us joy. The key is to have fun, enjoy the process and learn to trust yourself. If you feel fantastic then you will look fantastic - end of.

It’s time to stop the self-sabotaging cycles of hiding in baggy clothes or dressing in anything that makes you feel smaller, this is your opportunity to start putting yourself first, and adopting a ‘feel good’ approach to fashion is the ultimate tool to do so.

 Find out more about Miranda Holder and visit her Instagram for style inspiration.

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