How To Develop Personal Style - une femme d'un certain âge

How To Find Your Personal Style “Sweet Spot”

Susan B. shares her personal style evolution, and tips to help you define and evolve your Personal Style. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

Some women find a definitive personal style early in life and stick with it. They may “tweak” around the edges over the years, but the overall look is consistent. I often envy them, but I have never been one of those women.

I’m delighted to join Cindy Hattersley and Vicki Archer, sharing our thoughts on Developing Personal Style. Both are very stylish women, and I can’t wait to see what they’ve written.

My Personal Style Journey

I began writing this blog in 2007. I’d just turned 50, and felt I’d lost my way with regard to style. Years of working in a semi-corporate environment had left me out of touch with my own taste and preferences. I hoped the blog would start a conversation about style for us “certain agers.”

A mostly black wardrobe is easy, but over time it felt too serious. Details and tips for evolving personal style at une femme d'un certain age.

Around that time, I found and latched onto the “dress like a Parisan” aesthetic. Simple styles, dark neutrals, and lots of restraint. That phase lasted for several years. It was easy, well-received, and worked nicely for the office and travel, but I always felt there was something missing.

When I left my corporate job, I began to feel freer to experiment again with style. But to a certain degree, I’d painted myself into a (neutral) corner. I’d been trying for years to add more color and personality to my wardrobe, but couldn’t quite find my footing. I decided to get some professional help and signed up for a color and style consultation with Red Leopard during our visit to London last summer.

Manina Weldon of Red Leopard drapes Susan B. for a color analysis. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

It was a real eye-opener! It not only affirmed some of my color and style preferences, but provided a framework that I could use as a launching pad to create a more colorful (yet cohesive) wardrobe that better expressed my personality.

Susan Blakey of une femme d'un certain age wears a gold sweater, French Kande jewelry, and leopard slides.

Earrings | Sweater (Misses/Petites) | Necklace | Bracelet|
Jeans | Sandals (similar)

Over the last 15 months, I’ve been slowly rebuilding my wardrobe. I find that wearing color gives me a real lift, and usually plan my outfits around it. But color alone isn’t the only thing that makes an outfit feel like “me.”

Style Sweet Spot Attributes

Personal style should be an organic and authentic expression of ourselves. When you put something on and the immediate feeling is an unequivocal YES! THIS, that’s what I call the Sweet Spot. I’m much more likely to hit my Style Sweet Spot when these elements are present:

Simplicity. I don’t like anything gimicky, fussy or fiddly. I’m petite, so a lot of detail tends to overwhelm me.

Comfort. I can’t stand wearing anything that binds, pinches, or restricts my movement. I won’t wear anything that requires shapewear.

Softly structured. I feel trussed up in clothes that are too tailored, but anything too soft or boxy just looks sad on me.

A neutral foundation. Yes, I still believe in the power of neutrals to create a cohesive wardrobe. But now instead of mostly black, navy, and grey, my neutrals are brown, tan, ivory, and some denim. And leopard print, of course… 😉

Susan B. wears a red sweater, brown corduroy pants a silk scarf, and metallic sneakers. Details at une femme d'un certain age.

Earrings | Scarf | Sweater (similar) | Pants | Bracelet | Sneakers

Style isn’t a static thing. Our lives change, our bodies change, our perspective changes. And we shouldn’t feel locked into something that no longer speaks to us or serves us. Personal style can shift over time, and that’s fine.

Susan B. of une femme d'un certain age wears a mermaid print shirt, red linen pants and yellow platform sandals.

Earrings (c/o) | Top (similar) | Bracelet (c/o) | Bracelet (similar) | Pants (similar) | Sandals

5 Tips to help you develop, evolve, and refine your personal style:

Identify what speaks to you. Keep a mood board, or use Pinterest to collect images or outfits that inspire you. Is there a unifying theme? What keywords define what you’d like your style to express?

Be realistic. About your lifestyle, budget, and body. You may swoon over crisply tailored suits, or beautiful coats, but where and how often will you wear them? Think about how you can translate what appeals to you to your particular needs. (e.g. rather than a suit, how about pairing a sharp blazer with your jeans?)

Re-evaluate periodically. Has your wardrobe kept up with your lifestyle, taste, and priorities? Don’t be afraid to let go of what no longer inspires or serves you. It’s only weighing you down.

Get help. Sometimes we get locked into seeing ourselves a certain way. A fresh pair of eyes (whether a professional image consultant or a trusted friend) can help us break out of a style rut, and provide a fresh perspective.

Tools, not rules. Style guidelines are just that…guidelines. Take what works for you and ignore the rest. Don’t feel you have to buy or wear something just because it’s capital C-lassic or on someone else’s Must Have list. Learn to trust that “click” when you slip something on that feels like it belongs.

Has your personal style changed over time? How so, and what has helped you in that process?

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  1. September 29, 2020 / 12:54 am

    I loved reading your style journey, Susan.. what I love most about your style is that you look so beautifully comfortable in it and it’s you. This is the most important feature for me .. is that it’s about “us” and what we love and feel great in…xxv

    • Stephanie Ashworth
      September 29, 2020 / 12:39 pm

      What a timely post! I just spent the morning with Manina and Rachel. My head is spinning. I felt absolutely certain I was some kind of winter. Nope! I’m a Blue Autumn. I’m so happy that I have watched your transformation otherwise I’m not sure I would trust the process. Wish me luck!

      • LeeAnn
        September 29, 2020 / 1:31 pm

        Same! I had my colors analyzed in August and discovered I’m an Autumn, not a Winter as I had supposed for decades. Mind duly blown. And what inspired me to try and trust it was watching Susan’s experiences and transformation over the past year.

        • stephanie ashworth
          September 29, 2020 / 2:33 pm

          So has the Autumn palette worked out for you? I am so game to try but am a bit apprehensive.

  2. Louise
    September 29, 2020 / 4:28 am

    Enjoy your blog! It’s the first thing I read when it appears in my email. This post was especially helpful … to see your before ‘Parisan’ style and now your style after the Red Leopard consult… you look more relaxed, youthful, and happy. I plan to print your list of points to consider and refine my style. Thanks! L

  3. September 29, 2020 / 4:40 am

    I think most of us have tried on the “Parisian Black” style of wardrobe at one time or another — either in an attempt to simplify our lives (you can always buy black, black goes with everything, black is slimming, black is sophisticated — we’ve all drank the Koolaid)or because at one time in our youth we could wear it. And it does take courage to step out of that and move on to a more color-full style. What I’m most impressed about with you is that you dared to pursue your personal color/style as an “influencer” — too often style influencers are chameleon dressers focusing on what their audience will buy and making it work by covering their face with dark sunglasses (you can pull off any color if you wear dark sunglasses) instead of on dressing for themselves. Kudos to you for breaking the mold. What I love most about my work as a Seasonal Color & Style Consultant is helping people to find their sweet spot — learning how to use their inherent coloring to reflect their energy and using style to express their personality. Yes, for some that will include black – for others, it will be a navy or brown or olive or eggplant — there’s so much freedom when you understand how to reflect who you are from the outside in — may you continue to grow and develop your personal color & style, we are enjoying watching you find your way.

  4. September 29, 2020 / 4:43 am

    Last question ” what has helped you in that process ” is the most interesting to me . I always had ‘clicks’ as you describe but it was the reverse which only reached me in my ’40s (I’m now in my ’60s) . I realised that I didn’t have to wear what I didn’t like even when it appeared to be mandatory . I don’t mean mandatory as in what was explicit but what was implicit . Eg for a long time I wore navy blue although I look terrible in it (wh and more recently I tried wearing jeans again because all the blogs I have read assumed that every woman wears them . What helped me trust my own judgement of what I saw in the mirror or felt on my skin were some of the startling outfits of the Style Crone and the excellent charity/vintage shops here in York (before the lockdown) . So different is not always unacceptable !

  5. Judi
    September 29, 2020 / 4:59 am

    When I left my job where I wore suits daily, I too was confused by what to wear after work and being over 50. I hit the internet searching for answers and found you and many others. It was so helpful and needed. I am petite as well and the styles in your early pictures worked for me.
    Although a lot of black is difficult for me in a very warm climate. But the long, thin dusters…. I love.
    I have tried the bright colors but feel clown like many times when I put them on.
    I did not feel that way in bright red or yellow suits for some reason.
    Seeing color analysis done on other sites where there seem to be several different opinions for one person, does not give me confidence that color analysis really is the answer. If I put it on and feel wierd, I don’t wear it.

    • Lagatta de Montréal
      September 30, 2020 / 8:41 pm

      I’m that way too. Adding more colours to my black-based wardrobe, but they are cool and deep, including cool red, violet and forest green. I love red but look sick in orange-red. Actually black with deepish colours (as well as cool grey) works a treat for those of us who’ve gone grey.

      Some of this also depends on the climate and culture where we live.

  6. Laurie
    September 29, 2020 / 5:25 am

    Susan, you look amazing in your warm bright colors with your gamine style! I can see how comfortable you are with your new look. As always, I love your “tools not rules” moto! I recently had a style update with House of Colour. Turns out I am a blue autumn, not a winter. Also, Classic Ingenue is my style designation. Happy to have some focus and direction on my own style journey!

  7. September 29, 2020 / 6:32 am


  8. Pink Azalea
    September 29, 2020 / 6:37 am

    My style journey has been a gradual evolution. I worked on evaluating my colors over the summer and determined that I fit into the soft summer category. I only have 3 black tops that I will probably donate or sell. Most of my existing wardrobe was fine in terms of color. I do like a neutral base so I am working with navy, gray, and white. After reading about Kettlewell on this blog I ordered a top and I’ve added a quilted JCrew vest (wisteria) that will work with what I already have. This is fun and a work in progress. Thanks for leading the way and allowing us to share in your journey. You look wonderful in your colors and your gamine style!

  9. September 29, 2020 / 6:44 am

    Susan, I have said this before and I will say it again, I adore you in color. You have really inspired me to step out of the box as well. It is so easy for us to get hemmed into the easiest common denominator. More vibrant colors make us all look younger. Loved your post, so many good tips to help we women of a certain age to find our way. Thanks so much for joining us!

  10. Margot
    September 29, 2020 / 7:39 am

    So interesting to read about your style history compiled into one post. Seeing your “before” and “after” photos really brings that message home. Your comments about finding your style way struck home with me as my husband retired in June of 2019. I kind of chuckled when he first mentioned that he didn’t know what to wear but quickly saw his dilemma. We went through a similar journey with him as he discovered what to wear when you are at home every day.

  11. JKH
    September 29, 2020 / 7:45 am

    Hi Susan! I love reading your blog and always enjoy your thoughtful commentary on the subjects you write about. I was particularly impressed with your 5 tips on finding one’s personal style. Spot-on, and so, so wise. 🙂 I am blessed with a thin frame and am told I look significantly younger than I am. This is great, but as I am aging I find I need to think more carefully about what I wear. Just because I can wear it doesn’t necessarily mean that I should because it feels “forced” (exposed midriff tops, anyone?), or is no longer “me”. Style choices aside, I was lucky enough to learn about color early in my life–at 22, just after graduating college. It changed the way I shopped as I created a professional wardrobe and continues to assist me in making buying decisions many years later. Knowing what colors you look best in is a powerful tool, and can save you a ton of time, money and space in the closet. Thanks for sharing your journey with color, and the gorgeous outfits you are putting together with your new understanding. You inspire us all!

  12. Téa
    September 29, 2020 / 8:04 am

    I love to read the history of clothes and why we wear them! Thanks, Susan, for your ever insightful message. I’ve loved your blog since…a long time!!

  13. September 29, 2020 / 8:51 am

    I’ve been following you for years and love all the transformations. You’re very thoughtful about all you do. I’m loving this new colorful period. I’m sure it will last. You look wonderful in these colors. Love your style and thoughtfulness. Keep on trucking.

  14. September 29, 2020 / 9:39 am

    Hi Susan;
    I love this collaboration…My three favorite “style” bloggers. There is wonderful synchronicity between the three of you. Each unique, but with a shared appreciation of a well-styled life.
    thanks so much. All three posts were terrific!

  15. Peg
    September 29, 2020 / 11:02 am

    I been a faithful reader of your blog and I have enjoyed your color conversion. I still find myself in black – not because I don’t understand or like color – but because many designers limit their color choice to black and often time, colored fabrics sometimes look (can’t think of a better word, so here goes) cheap. Has this been your experience?

  16. Sierra Delta
    September 29, 2020 / 12:03 pm

    You GLOW in your new colors, Susan! Your body language looks different to me these days, too — you seem more relaxed in your pictures, more content. And your smile is truly a thing of beauty — so welcoming and open and curious and friendly and inviting! You make me believe that “the best is yet to come” for us all.

  17. Kay
    September 29, 2020 / 12:24 pm

    The “Parisian Woman” is and always has been a myth. Anyone who has ever been to Paris can tell you that. Besides, most of the people you see in the tourist areas are tourists–not “Parisian Women.” Travel outside of Paris and find women of every sort–obese, sloppy, and careless as well as fit, stylish, and smart. If the fad of the Parisian aesthetic is over, I’m not sorry. Finding your own style is one thing; following the directives from some “expert” is another. (The pup is beyond adorable!)

    • Lagatta de Montréal
      September 30, 2020 / 8:53 pm

      Of course she’s a myth, or restricted to the poshest of arrondissements. However, there are practical reasons that urban Frenchwomen (rich or ordinary) have restrained wardrobes with limited colours; especially the lack of closet space. I’ve lost two clothing sizes, and admit that the first garments I bought were black jeans, in slightly different cuts. The larger ones were falling off me. Not as dire a problem with tops. I’m keeping some of the old ones, not that I think I’ll regain all that weight (for at least a couple of years I’ve been eating out of tapas dishes, and no refills) but because rebuying a larger size would be most disenhearting. I will buy other colours later on, but I’m very broke now (little work due to lockdown).

  18. RoseAg
    September 29, 2020 / 12:49 pm

    it would be fun for you to try some “now and then” posts to highlight different ways one might approach dressing for life. No matter what color you’ve worn, you do always look nice and since you’ve never been exceptionally trendy I think it might be interesting to see.

  19. Jes
    September 29, 2020 / 1:26 pm

    Love your ideas. You look happy and comfortable in your blogs. Is that possible? . Thanks

  20. Karen
    September 29, 2020 / 2:09 pm

    Well gosh I have followed your style for years Sue and I have to say my fave version is the warmer, Golden, casually chic Gamine. I resonate with the “Be Realistic” tip now. I don’t need to dress for Paris, New York and LA when I have moved to Oregon! Different things make sense now yet I still aim to keep my core classic style. The worst we can do is buy the “It Belt” or bag and look just like everyone else. Style comes from within, not from what you have in your closet.

  21. Karen
    September 29, 2020 / 2:25 pm

    I love this post. Your journey has inspired me to step out a little bit. Sometime in the future I plan to be “analyzed” so I can know for certain I am going in the right direction. You look great!

  22. Vive
    September 29, 2020 / 3:12 pm

    It’s great to see your transformation, and you look terrific! Ironically, your “before” wardrobe is quite aligned with my personal taste (according to Kettlewell, I’m a “minimalist” and a winter, which both seem spot on). I will say as someone with a largely black wardrobe, these Zoom days are challenging me out of my comfort zone. I no longer can rely on colorful shoes or accessories to spice up my outfits, given that most people are seeing me only from the chest up. I’m committing to color in my tops going forward, as I’m weary of seeing myself in black. Thanks for this post, Susan.

  23. Wren
    September 29, 2020 / 4:09 pm

    Another aspect of style that I found out for myself has to do with jewelry. Most of us know if we look better in gold or silver tones but then there is size. A dainty piece looks too juvenile on me so I tend to go larger. I love earrings that are bold or dramatic and they show off better now that I’ve cut my hair short. I’ve also found that a woman is mostly a necklace or bracelet lover. I have tried to layer all kinds of necklaces (like French Kandy styles) but they just end up bugging me. I will wear one necklace but would rather throw on a lot of bangles or add one or 2 bracelets to my watch. If I’m going out, I wear jewelry but the moment I get home, I can’t wait to take it off!

    • Janet D.
      September 29, 2020 / 5:28 pm

      What an interesting observation, & you’re right! I have some necklaces I layer but mostly I wear just one, but I always wear a mob of bracelets, sometimes all silver bangles & cuffs in a variety of widths & styles, sometimes leather & cord ones with beads & dangly bits. I also love rings & wear 5 to 7 pretty much all the time unless I’m doing housework. And yes, bold earrings. Dainty, lady-like jewelry makes me feel as though I’m playing dress-up 🙂

  24. Barb
    September 29, 2020 / 8:22 pm

    Great post! Love your use of colors and fun accessories to personalize your style.

  25. Ainsivalavie
    September 29, 2020 / 9:31 pm

    Wow! Seeing the before and after photos is very powerful! You do look more joyful and happier in the colourful wardrobe. It looks natural on you not costume-y. I was looking at your sunglasses in both photos. In your early phase your glasses look overly dramatic but in your ‘new’ look they read ‘fun and friendly’.! I hesitate to use ‘cute’ because, hmm as a woman of a certain age I am sure that ‘cute‘ is not what you are going for. Even your body language has changed!
    The problem when some people go for colour is it can read silly, girlish or throwback to the ‘80’s, which can be, unfortunately, more aging than the black wardrobe. Your new look is very fresh and I think the casual, funky SoCal vibe is far more you than the elusive Parisienne.

  26. September 30, 2020 / 3:22 pm

    Excellent tips, Susan! I especially love your advice about using Pinterest to zero in on what you like!

  27. Carol
    October 1, 2020 / 2:59 am

    Love your blog really interesting
    The photos are always an inspiration, even as we age we still want to be relevant and in touch with fashion adapting our look to our changing bodies and lives.
    Keep us motivated especially in these difficult times.

  28. Rebecca
    October 1, 2020 / 1:13 pm

    Your transformation has been amazing and a delight to see. You look vibrant, fun and youthful in your new colors. I am trying very hard to refrain from buying more black, classic, tailored clothing. I have learned so much from your wonderful blog!

    • Susan Blakey
      October 3, 2020 / 1:17 pm

      Thanks so much, Rebecca!

  29. October 4, 2020 / 11:07 am

    Great and helpful post! I’ve been reading your blog for a while and have enjoyed watching your style evolution very much. I’m in my mid-fifties and am working on my own transformation. I stopped dyeing my hair in Dec. 2019, and in another couple of haircuts I’ll be done with the grow out process—about the only thing the pandemic has been “good for” is keeping me close to home during the ugliest stages :). In addition to your blog and a couple of others, I’ve found the books Style Statement and The Curated Closet helpful in clarifying what I want my wardrobe to look like. I’m a freelance writer and work at home, so most of my clothing can be casual, but there are still times when I want to dress up a little. I’m also trying to live by the “less, but better” principle.

  30. Karen
    October 4, 2020 / 4:18 pm

    I am so in agreement with rejecting anything “ fiddly”!

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