Tell us a little about ‘Know Your Style’. What inspired you to write the book? How did you get started?
I’m a former fashion editor with many years’ experience on women’s magazines, and freelance for the Financial Times, the Daily Telegraph and the Guardian. Nine years ago, I founded the popular blog That’s Not My Age to celebrate life and style over-40. Having left my job to go freelance, I felt there was a gap online for women of my age and beyond. I kept seeing lots of inspirational, stylish, talented people in my daily life but not in the media and so it all started from there, really. Know Your Style is my second book, it offers expert advice and tips for women of all ages and has loads of interviews with creative women who inspire me. I strongly believe that it’s not about age, it’s about style. That looking good is not about buying loads of new stuff but spending time figuring out what makes you feel chic and comfortable and confident.
Do you have a favourite chapter?
Style–you can practise it! – is my favourite chapter. This is based on the premise that we happily spend time preparing food and perfecting recipes, fine-tuning a yoga move or musical performance, but when it comes to clothes and putting outfits together, there is definitely a more gung-ho tendency to throw things on and hope for the best. A tried-and-tested recipe is something we come back to; once accomplished, confidence allows us to experiment with new ingredients, to jazz things up and add a bit of ourselves. The idea of practicing style, of working at what we wear until it’s perfect, and then some, is so obvious, yet so underused and unsung.
I knew I was onto something when Lucinda Chambers told me, ‘The most stylish women I know are older, one is in her 80s and the other in her 60s. I think it takes time, and that’s all right. I can’t be doing with the idea that ‘you are born with style’. That’s nonsense, you should experiment and play around and make mistakes because it will get easier if you practise!’
What was the biggest style question you wanted the book to answer?
Over my 30-year career in fashion, from magazine reader makeovers to meeting women at various events and online, or simply chatting to friends (even the ones who seem confident, comfortable and chic) – I have regularly been asked questions about style. And this often comes down to establishing ‘what goes with what.’ What accessories complement a favourite outfit, what colours coordinate well – or make the perfect mismatch, what to wear for a special occasion without spending loads of money or ending up looking like Barbara Cartland? This is the key question I wanted to answer in Know Your Style – read it to find many style solutions!
Who is your ultimate style icon?
Women like Katharine Hepburn, Tilda Swinton, the New York stylist and beauty entrepreneur Linda Rodin (who I interviewed for the book) are my icons, their style is timeless, ageless and androgynous – and I love it.
Alyson’s party dressing favourites: statement shirt, the satin jumpsuit and the ‘kick ass’ blazer
What are 5 things every woman should have in her wardrobe?
1.A kick-ass jacket. This is a sharp, tailored blazer– the Jigsaw navy tuxedo is a fine example! – slipped on over jeans or posh joggers to upgrade any outfit. I work from home a lot and so often I’m quite relaxed but will throw on a kick-ass jacket when I actually leave the building, for a business meeting.
2. Comfy shoes – no one ever looked glamorous when their feet hurt. I’m always on the look out for easy, run-around styles like Jigsaw’s trainers in leather, felt or velvet.
3. A pair of good jeans – at this time of year I’m forever in black jeans. A slim, straight-leg style in black or dark denim goes with everything and works a treat with ankle boots.
4. An outstanding coat – look around at the train station in winter and you will notice two things: everyone’s on their smart phones (they’ll get Tech Neck) and everyone’s wearing black winter coats. Go for something a little livelier and dazzle your fellow commuters.
5. The jumpsuit – for me the time-saved getting dressed outweighs any toilet trauma. Just allow plenty of time and don’t drop the sleeves down the bowl.
How do you shop? Where? What for?
Quite randomly – and I do prefer to go in-store to see what’s around, try things on and get a feel of the fabric. I enjoy visiting places that are slightly tucked away like Duke: of York Square, Marylebone High Street and Lamb’s Conduit Street (in London). Grown-up places and it helps if there’s a decent coffee shop.
What do you think it is about Christmas that makes people want to up their style game?
I’m a fan of Casual Glamour – a versatile combination of day and eveningwear with go-anywhere appeal – and tend not to get glitzier when Christmas comes around. It’s important to feel like yourself and not like an extra from this year’s panto. Juxtaposing velvet, leopard print, silk or Lurex with a pair of jeans or a jumpsuit adds a sprinkling of decadent luxury, and feels more relaxed, less try-hard; whatever the season. This is how women dress today.
Festive colour in red and green. Opt for soft texture to keep it casual and cosy.
Talk us through the Christmas party looks you’ve styled for us.
Feeling comfortable and confident is the most important thing and so I’ve chosen luxurious fabrics for my Christmas party looks. The beautiful flame red cashmere sweater and green velvet trousers would feel fantastic and be perfect for Christmas drinks with friends; while the jumpsuit and outstanding coat are ideal for a snazzier occasion.
Go bold with colour in your coats and accessories this Christmas
How do you get dressed in the morning?
The aim is to feel comfortable and confident, to feel like me. I want to put clothes on and forget about them. I don’t want to be faffing around with items that don’t fit properly – tights that end up around the knees or bra straps that continually fall off the shoulder. Fit is incredibly important. Clothes that fit right, sit right.
Tell us about the most important piece in your wardrobe. Your wear everyday piece.
This is rapidly becoming the jumpsuit (see above). I have five versions in different fabrics, seems like I’m addicted to the all-in-one – once you start, you can’t stop!