My Almost-Forty Sartorial Wishlist

It’s quite rare, these days, that an outfit will make me feel truly great. Great with no caveats. Great “but also I don’t have to worry about my dress flying up in the wind” or great but “also I don’t have to worry about my middle button popping off where my gut has stretched the fabric so much.” Great, but without the associated fashion stresses.

Because it stresses me (in a very minor way) even putting together an outfit – that’s nothing to do with having had kids, I’ve always been crap at dressing myself – and so by the time I’m actually wearing something decent, and I’ve found shoes to match that won’t kill me and a coat that’s not covered in mud, I’m truly indifferent. I’m usually just relieved to have been able to get dressed without tripping over my own legs and knocking myself out (Levis flagship store, Oxford Street, 2009) or getting my head stuck in a tight neck-hole (Ghost sample sale, Westbourne Grove, 2004) or temporarily dislocating a shoulder getting into a couture Dolce & Gabbana corset dress (Elle Magazine fashion cupboard, Mayfair, 2010).

So I’ve been taking particular notice of the times that clothes do make me feel good – properly good – and making a bit of a sartorial wishlist. Because feeling good in clothes – for me at least –  isn’t necessarily just about knowing that they flatter me or look expensive or turn me into a more sophisticated version of myself; I also gain immense pleasure from clothing that’s practical and comfy. A sexy skirt that also allows me to run for a bus without flashing my knickers, a power suit that won’t look absurd with trainers, a cashmere sweater that’s supremely warm and makes the oldest jeans look expensive again.

What I’ve realised, recently, is that what I truly want from a garment – indeed an entire outfit – is the following: comfort, elegance, intelligence. In no particular order. Actually in that order. And by intelligence I don’t mean that I want my trousers to make me look brainy: I want the cut to be clever. I’d like my dress to cinch me in and give me shape but skim over the parts I want hidden. I’d like my sleeves to add interest and my shoulders to add power – even the humble jumper should make my chest look good and shapely and not blocky or matronly.

It’s a lot to ask, but this is what I want. It’s my Nearly-Aged-Forty sartorial wishlist. (Thirty-nine next month: jeepers where did that decade go? I started A Model Recommends almost a decade ago! Hands up those who’ve been here since the beginning…) I don’t want fast fashion, I don’t want cropped things, I don’t want overpriced slips of wishy-washy fabric that only look good on the model, I don’t want anything that I can only wear once, I don’t want tight gussets or waistbands that don’t expand and I don’t want – I definitely do not want – leggings that are intended to be worn as outerwear.

That’s not to say that I’ve given up on fashion (apart from when I’m at home, which is 90% of the time): I still refuse to wear lycra as outdoor, meeting-the-public clothing and I will never see the merit in any kind of footwear that people delight in calling “ugly”, as though that’s a selling point (ignore my Crocs, I only wear those to feed the chickens – jet-washable, you see). I still want to look good, I still want to look put-together and polished, I’m just not prepared to sacrifice comfort.

Which means, I think, that my clothes have to work ten times harder. To be comfy and to still look chic – to be practical yet flattering enough that I don’t look in the mirror and want to instantly walk backwards into the wardrobe and shut the doors on myself.

And I’m really starting to see certain fashion investments pay off, ten or fifteen years later; things that I bought when It Bags cost less than a grand. The Jil Sander coat with an impeccable cut, the cashmere Burberry trench, the Belstaff Trialmaster boots, the Diane Furstenberg maxi-dress… All heart-stoppingly expensive, even then, but still going strong with over a decade’s worth of wear. The tailoring is timeless, the quality so good that everything just keeps going and going – I’ve had countless pairs of black boots from the high street that my Belstaff’s have outlasted.

Anyway, this wasn’t supposed to be a fast fashion/investments sort of post, I merely wanted to have a little update chat about things I like to wear. The brands I tend to gravitate towards – even if it is only for inspiration and fantasy shopping purposes, not for actual buying. Classic tailoring – Joseph, MaxMara, Me+Em, Stella McCartney. Statement dresses – Maje, Ganni. Everyday pieces – Hush, Me+Em, Equipment silk shirts, Paige or J Brand jeans…

This post was actually supposed to be about the dress and the jumpsuit that you can see in all of the pictures, but I got a bit waylaid once I started talking about my fashion wishlist. Both are from Me+Em, sent to wear for a series of events that I was hosting and attending and they made me feel so incredibly good about myself that I was moved to write my feelings down.

It ended up being a sort of thousand-word-long love poem about the weight of the dress’s fabric and the cut of the jumpsuit’s jib and – to be quite frank – it was embarrassing, so I expanded my subject matter to include fashion in general and here we are. My almost-forty sartorial wishlist post.

But by God the dress does have good weight. I let out an audible gasp of joy – like an orgasmic heroine in a romantic novel – as I popped closed the final popper and felt the full heft of the fabric; I could have been wearing five dresses! And there’s nothing like a label being generous with their fabric to make a dress feel a million dollars – I swept along the hotel corridor like a movie star on their way to the Oscars.

 

 

It was extra, as they say, but it was wearable. Which seems to be one of Me + Em’s calling cards, along with pin-sharp tailoring and sport-luxe detailing. I’ve since worn this dress with a leather jacket and white trainers, with heeled black boots and a black jumper and with a huge long winter coat thrown over the top. Delightful in every which way.

You can find the AM-PM Cargo Shirt Dress online here* – I have it in Navy in a size 12, because of my large-ish hooters, but it also comes in black which is equally amazing. At £299 it’s an investment piece, but it’s a solid one: there’s no trend-following here, really, it’s just a brilliant cut, an overly-generous glut of skirt fabric and a style that can be as smart or as casual as you want to make it.

Buy the AM-PM Cargo Dress at Me+EM*

The black jumpsuit is online here* and might just become your most-worn going-out-out outfit, if going out-out for you (as for me) no longer involves an Hervé Leger bandage dress and vertiginous heels. The AM-PM Cargo Jumpsuit* makes me feel as though I’m wearing a power suit, except that I’m not. I’m comfy and I don’t feel like a dick. I feel like an Anneka Rice-Pop dipped in Prada. And that is a good thing.

Buy the AM-PM Cargo Jumpsuit at Me+Em*

So there you have two classic examples of things that would be on my almost-forty sartorial wishlist – I could throw either of these items on without a second thought and both would look fine with trainers on that all-important walk to the tube station (London) or for the cross-countryside drive + schlep on the GWR train (Somerset), higher heels stowed in bag, ready to be changed into. (I have started using those disposable hotel shower caps to keep the soles from getting my bag dirty, which means that I have finally turned into my Mum.)

What’s on your sartorial wishlist? At what age? Let’s get a little database going in the comments section: wishlist, preferred labels, things that you love/hate – I’ve just realised that pockets got missed off my original list, so I’m adding pockets now!

DISCLOSURE POLICY. Posts published after 24th January 2019: if the post contains gifted items or affiliate links then it is indicated clearly beneath the title. Posts published prior to this will have a disclosure within the body of the post and then an asterisk * marking all affiliate links. If the content is a paid-for AD then it is marked as an AD in the title. For more information on disclosure please read here. 

Share:

40 Comments

  1. November 1, 2019 / 12:29 pm

    Your are looking amazing in this black outfit :)

  2. Franzee
    October 24, 2019 / 11:55 am

    Yap to pockets,( hankie, kids stuff, emergency money etc), proper sleeves, high waisted jeans for every shape( don’t want to pull them um every minute) and good quality pieces with flattering cuts and as you said above- nice, solid, fabric that’s made to last. Coming from a (freshly) 31 y/o toddler mummy.

  3. Corrina
    October 18, 2019 / 12:00 am

    I loved this post and really identify with the ladies asking, “is this too young for me or is this too matronly”
    I am 43 with older children. I still feel great but I am so cautious of appearing as though I’m trying to ‘keep up’ (or worse yet ‘compete’) with my 21 year old daughter. We actually look very similar… apart from the 22 year age gap. I’m happy to be 43 and a mum… but I still love fashion. Just found a store called Decjuba (I’m Australian) and it seems to have my age group covered.
    I love your posts Ruth. And have downloaded your app even though I’m no longer up with small children through the night. Really appreciate your content.

  4. Linsey
    October 17, 2019 / 9:57 am

    I was here from the beginning!

    I was 39 in September and I want choice! I no longer want to wear short skirts but I don’t want to be in Phase 8 or Fat Face either. I wan’t cool, edgy (but not ‘out there’) clothes that aren’t garish in colour or covered in bloody sequins but with better quality than I can find in 80% of h&m).

    I currently have to hunt out the odd pieces from h&m, zara and topshop but I want to walk in to a shop where I am spoilt for choice.

    It would be lovely to have somewhere on the high street that felt more aimed at the ‘middle ground’ age group. I feel if you are under 25 or over 60 you have designated shops but us in the middle have to try and sniff out the appropriate items

  5. October 17, 2019 / 7:07 am

    It same feeling Thanks for sharing …my age also 42

  6. Jess
    October 16, 2019 / 11:31 pm

    I hate high waisted jeans and trousers. Controversial I know. But I’m short waisted and have no bum, so they come right up to my boobs and roll over at the top when I sit down. Hideous! I miss the low rise nineties…

    • Emma
      October 19, 2019 / 12:51 am

      I’m long waisted with a sizeable arse, so I happily waved goodbye to the nineties where everything was hipster and therefore barely covered my crotch and displayed an arse crack a builder would have blushed at – praise be high waisted jeans – how I longed for your return!

  7. Kate
    October 16, 2019 / 6:53 pm

    I’m still only 32 but I really could not relate more to this post. I already feel that way, that I want to look good but also be comfortable, and frankly I’m willing to pay a little more for the pleasure. I like things that are well made and last. I hate translucent tops and anything cropped. I also love a versatile piece, that I can imagine wearing to work, but could dress up on the (very rare occasion) that I actually go out.

    Question: any recommendations for good shoes? What are your favourite staple footwear pieces that are both comfy and stylish?

  8. Sonia
    October 16, 2019 / 2:47 pm

    Great post! I have a one-year-old and I’m turning 39 next year… I’m also leaving work to be a stay at home Mum at the end of the month.

    What do I wear?? I definitely feel stuck in a rut and in danger of wearing leggings in public every day as a default.

    I love the dress above but where would I wear it in my new role? (looking for any excuse to buy it!) I loved how you talked about how the clothes made you feel – and I guess that’s what I’m looking for too. Any suggestions welcome!

    • October 16, 2019 / 3:27 pm

      I like luxe-y tracksuit bottoms over leggings, and I almost think that jeans now look like the smart option with all this leisurewear!! I love a pair of stretchy high-waisted pale denim jeans!

      • Sonia
        October 16, 2019 / 3:29 pm

        Great suggestions – you’re so right about jeans! Thanks :)

  9. Tracey
    October 16, 2019 / 1:21 pm

    50’s here and I’ve always had a love affair with dresses, because I don’t have to think about it, which piece to where with what etc. I’m happy to see more and more dresses without having to drop a couple mortgage payments for! I’m also a lover (and huge buyer) of shawl/scarves in various materials and colours. Love them and so cozy warm. I keep a black heavy silk one in the car for times needed :) I rarely see other women use them? Am I odd? I do get compliments so I didn’t think so but I’ve been pondering that lately. Love both dress and jumpsuit on you, very attractive.

  10. Di
    October 16, 2019 / 12:54 pm

    Raising a hand here, been with you from the beginning of your online life, and really enjoy your company. I am about to turn a serious number ending with a zero, thankfully my grown up son has bought me an overseas holiday in a spa health resort to buffer that zero!

  11. Hannah
    October 16, 2019 / 12:37 pm

    I’m 33 with a 2 year-old.
    As I have ibs (sometimes better, sometimes worse) and get panicked when something cuts into my stomach, I nearly only wear dresses ( with very stretchy tights in winter) when leaving the house.
    So my wishlist would be POCKETS in everything….big pockets…because why would I wear anything without pockets.
    Good cut ( mostly A line) , good fabric weight and mostly colourful prints.
    If I could, I would wear my daughters unicorn dress
    I just refuse to dress in black, grey or camel when it’s foggy or rainy or dark most of the time because colours make me happy. Though I do love navy
    I have been loving Boden lately.

    • October 16, 2019 / 3:28 pm

      I get panicked too with the stomach thing – that’s a good description! Or claustrophobic…

  12. October 16, 2019 / 12:23 pm

    I meant ‘time flies’, not ‘time lies’, unless that a new expression I’ve just invented…

  13. October 16, 2019 / 12:22 pm

    I’ve just turned 43 and have been following you from the beginning (time lies!!). No kids here, but I want very soft fabrics, pockets too for my oyster and lipstip. I also wear a lot of colour which pops, and the colours I know really suits me, as the wrong colour can easily make me look terrible, especially in winter, which is the time the oldest amongst us look at their worst, ah ah!! Like you, I still have clothes I bought 10/15 years ago, they were expensive at the time, but so worth it. I bought a lot of Alain Manoukian – now gone;-( – I love Ted Baker, and for the shoes and boots, my mum is my cobbler, she does my plastic toecaps – I had to look up the word on Wordreference – I’m French, but didn’t know Sezane by the way, the brand looks great!!

  14. Sophie
    October 16, 2019 / 9:37 am

    I’m 33 and often face the wardrobe battle of “is this too young or too mature?” Hush, mint velvet and M&S are great for dresses and printed shirts (teemed with skinny jeans- can’t do this mom jean/looser ugly fit). Though number one priority from October to March is warmth, a stock of merino T-shirt’s, long sleeves and sweaters to layer up but not feel like the Michelin man.

    • October 16, 2019 / 3:29 pm

      Oh must look at Mint Velvet!

  15. Ashleigh
    October 16, 2019 / 8:36 am

    Fast approaching 40 here too! All I want are: clothes that aren’t all dry clean only; that I can wear with a bra underneath; fabrics that aren’t completely sheer (though am seriously thinking about buying petticoats, am possibly turning into my Nan); that doesn’t crease as soon as I look at it. Plus pockets of course!

    • October 16, 2019 / 9:29 am

      Pockets, petticoats, this list is excellent.

  16. Trudy
    October 16, 2019 / 6:14 am

    Aged 34 here and also finding my clothes taste changing, although I don’t have kids. I think as we get older we just have less tolerance for things that don’t fit properly or dig in in awkward places or need to be hoisted or pulled down or retucked every 2 seconds. I LOVE that jumpsuit on you, but I can’t wear jumpsuits I’m afraid, I’m too stumpy in the leg department.

  17. Lesley
    October 16, 2019 / 5:01 am

    The dress looks fantastic on you!
    At slightly over 70 and no longer working, I find it hard to find clothes that are neither too grandmotherly nor too I’m-really-trying-to-pretend-I’m-30ish. I want something that is made of an expensive looking natural fibre, something that doesn’t emphasize the fact that the waist I had at 50 doesn’t exist any more, something that is comfortable enough that I don’t have to tug on it every three minutes, something that I can move in, something that helps me to look somewhat elegant, and something that isn’t black but also isn’t too garish, too bright, or too blah. Pockets really help.
    My go-to dress and jacket that I have worn for twenty years (and still get complements on) is still possible, but with skirt lengths heading down, is now verging on being too short and I’m feeling a bit panicky about what to replace it with. I’m tempted to leap out of my comfort zone and go somewhat bohemian and indie fashion but I don’t know if I have the guts to do it or if I can just do it and still feel as if I’m dressed like me. Dressing up used to be fun, now it’s just hard.

    • October 16, 2019 / 9:30 am

      What about a dress rather than a skirt, and a bouclé style jacket, like the Chanel ones. Except not Chanel, unless you have 5k to drop on a jacket!! x

      • Nikki Conte
        October 16, 2019 / 10:57 am

        M&S are doing a very good take on a Chanel boucle style jacket at the mo x

        • Maria
          October 16, 2019 / 4:04 pm

          And Hush often have some “relaxed” Boucle jackets, usually without the buttons which makes them less “80’s style”.

  18. Lisa
    October 15, 2019 / 11:45 pm

    I won’t even buy anything without pockets nowadays. Absolutely necessary for kid supplies, their found treasures, and dog treats. And any sweaters that are not square in shape. I hate when they hit above my waist.

    • October 16, 2019 / 9:31 am

      My pockets are constantly filled with absolute crap. Hair slides!! Conkers!!

  19. Emma
    October 15, 2019 / 10:04 pm

    I’m 31 and often find myself confused about what to wear and how ‘sexy’ to dress. Some days I feel elegant, and others I feel like I’m a total frump. I have recently discovered Sezane for my pretend French girl wishes though. I want to look feminine but not twee. It’s puzzling.

    These look great on you Ruth!

    • October 15, 2019 / 11:07 pm

      I LOVE Sezane. Still haven’t ordered anything but I will!!!!

      • Claire Allwood-Coppin
        October 16, 2019 / 8:55 am

        Sezane is my entire wish list at the moment!

  20. Sophie
    October 15, 2019 / 10:03 pm

    I feel exactly the same. I’m 35 and have a toddler. The shift for me was becoming a mum. I love looking polished and put together but have no time for uncomfortable or impractical. I’m buying less items but better quality ones that last now. I think I know myself better now and know what I will actually wear and not just adore hanging in my wardrobe. Still seem to have to safety pin most dresses to stop awkardly exposing cleavage moments though, what’s with that?! Xxx

  21. Helene
    October 15, 2019 / 9:35 pm

    Aged 45 here – almost 46! Wish list: quality fabrics with a bit of stretch that wash well, classic cuts and prints, pockets of course!, heels that are high enough to look (and feel!) sexy but sturdy enough for a comfortable day’s work. Properly lined trousers and coats!

      • Mary
        October 17, 2019 / 10:26 am

        Oh I agree with everyone. Turning 47!! Love clothes love looking good and feeling fabulous uncomfortable clothes make you want to go home and retire to The PJ’s . Any tips for comfy heels not too high too narrow and pinchy (you know the ones) ha

    • Nanaka
      October 18, 2019 / 12:22 am

      I second proper lining! Especially when wanting to buy nice, breathable materials – say a linen blazer for summer or wool coat for winter – then really what’s the point if it comes with 100% polyester lining? Pity this happens with brands that sell at higher price points, too…
      I definitely got a lot more picky considering what materials my clothes are actually made of with “age” (36), and also try to opt for sustainable brands, too.
      Also: pockets are everything :-)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.