Monday miscellany: thoughts on trends, Chanel & more

As women over 50, we’re often advised to avoid fashion trends. Or, “if you wore it the first time around, don’t wear it the second time.” I think that’s an oversimplification, and so much depends on the “trend,” and your style preferences and personality.

I’d begun writing a long-ish post on trends, when I read this one from my friend Alison at Wardrobe Oxygen. She says a lot of what I was going to say, so go read hers, and instead I’ll just add some of my own thoughts below.

What is a trend, anyway?

These days, I think there are two kinds of style/fashion trends. First are the here-today-gone-tomorrow pseudo-trends that (now) often get their start on TikTok or other social media. Think “mob wife,” “eclectic grandpa,” or the non-trend trend, “coastal grandmother.” These are mostly manufactured for the sake of clicks and engagement. You can get whiplash trying to keep up.

Then there are the slower-brewing, longer-lived, real world style trends that determine to a great degree what silhouettes and colors are available at any given time. Think wider leg pants, oversized blazers, anything red, etc. These latter, slower trends are what I’m more interested in, as they can be an opportunities to find a better selection of styles or colors we’d want to wear anyway. For example, I’ve been adding pieces in chocolate and dark browns while they’re on trend, as they’re good neutrals for me and not always widely available. As well as shorter jackets.

Susan B. wears a cropped plaid blazer, v-neck silk tank, wide leg brown pants, gold sneakers.
My sizes: blazer – S, top – S, pants – petite S

Worrying about whether something we love is “in or out” is pointless. As is worrying about whether a trend or any other style is age appropriate. (As my friend Karen says, “is it YOU appropriate?”)

I’m going to say yes, conditionally. If you’re perfectly happy with everything in your wardrobe, and it suits your style and lifestyle, then trends will probably not be on your radar. But if you’re updating or refreshing your wardrobe, it’s good to be aware of general style directions, so you’ll know what you can expect to find when shopping. And as Alison says, sometimes it’s fun and energizing to try something new. (Because it appeals to us, not because we think we have to “keep up.”)

Sometimes you may need to wait out a season (or a few) to find those Just Right pieces. (As I mentioned, I’ve been snapping up browns and a few Spring greens over the last several months.) Those of you who have been frustrated by cropped styles will find the pendulum is swinging back to longer lengths. And I’m starting to see some movement away from the dominance of oversized everything, as many recent collections have featured more tailored pieces.

At the same time, trends are not as overarching as they once were. And you can often find a broad range of silhouettes and styles offered concurrently. So I don’t think trends have the power to determine what we’ll want to wear that they did even just a few decades ago.

How to wear something “trendy” over 50 (without looking like you’re trying too hard)

Susan B. wears a leopard print sweater jacket, brown knit pants, gold oxfords, and carries a dark brown DeMellier New York tote.
Leopard prints may be “trending” again, but to me they’re perennials! I’m wearing a Small in the cardigan.

Here’s the thing: if a piece suits your coloring, lifestyle, and style personality, it’s probably not going to stand out as “trendy” when viewed as part of a whole. (Again, is it “you” appropriate?) I think if you’re wearing something primarily because it’s on trend, or wearing too many obviously trendy pieces at once, that’s when the disconnect occurs.

So don’t be afraid to try something new, IF it appeals to you. Today’s trend can be tomorrow’s “timeless,” if it’s aligned with your personal style.

What I’m reading…

Chanel daywear from late 1920's

After seeing my post from the Gabrielle Chanel: Fashion Manifesto exhibition in London last year, my friend Greetje from No Fear of Fashion sent me this biography of Chanel:

I’m just a little over 1/3 in, and think it’s good reading so far. There’s a lot of cultural and historical context, and even though the author delves into her relationships (family, friends, business associates, lovers), it’s not overly salacious or sensational.

(Just a note: I’ll be interested to read how this author deals with the controversies of her WWII years. So far it’s a fascinating, but not fawning biography.)

One thing that strikes me (especially in relation to the discussion of trends) is the radical shift in fashion that occurred within the first two or three decades of the 20th century. It was a complete sea change, the magnitude of which we haven’t seen since, IMO*. And Chanel was one of a handful of designers at the forefront of that.

Also, it’s interesting to note that until the last few decades, a handful of designers (mostly in Paris) determined what was being made and sold. What was “fashionable.” (Think Miranda Priestly’s famous “Cerulean” monologue from Devil Wears Prada….)

And it strikes me that much of what Chanel was designing in the 1920’s was her era’s equivalent of athleisure. Much more tailored and formal than today’s version, for sure, but still, clothing designed for movement and comfort, in practical fabrics. What do you think?

*Though the 1960’s may have come close with the casualization and relaxation of fashion rules.

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  1. I saw the Dior exhibit in London about 5 years ago and am very interested in watching the new dramatic series on Apple TV called The New Look. It explores Dior, Chanel and other designers during WW2. The thing that struck me over and over as I walked through the exhibit was how timeless it all was. There was also a side exhibit of Mary Quant. Those 60’s styles are still quite wearable.

  2. I like a lot of your suggestions but sometimes the price point is way too expensive. I usually purchase what I can afford at the time or I will wait for a sale. My favorite colors are navy ,gray or some shade of blue.

  3. WOW! Just read Alison’s article. Love the message and appreciate fashion “bloggers” of a certain age telling it like it is! Thank you for sharing Alison’s article and your sage advice on fashion trends.

  4. I am somewhat new to your blog. It’s a rainy day in Georgia so I decided to read your older posts. You are a gifted writer and make fashion fun. I never feel pressured to purchase what you are showing but you do always open my mind to new things. Thank you for the time and effort you put into your posts.

  5. Susan, I am delighted to know you are a friend of Alison. The two of you are my very most favorite of all bloggers. Thoughtful, insightful, positive, all the good things. And good insights on this topic
    I am quite short, and when either cropped pants or cropped sweaters and jackets are being sold I’m on it. It means I can skip the tailor, and with knit tops buy something that would otherwise not be viable.
    I look for my favorite colors too.
    Those are the practical aspects. Trends can give us energy and just a nice surprise every once in a while.

  6. The book sounds interesting, thank for the recommendation. Without being anything even approaching an expert, I think that the fashion ‘revolution’ earlier in the last century was a reaction / result of the wars. There was a sea change in women’s roles in society, and fashion was a key piece of that. I am not willing to equate it to athleisure though, as I believe it was stronger and deeper than that. It was a cry for equality, even when as elegantly portrayed as by Chanel and others. A more active life required shorter skirts, sweaters, etc. I think you could argue the same for the 1960s and 1970s as well.

  7. Great great article Susan! Lately I’ve been struck by how much time I spend looking at fashion articles and clothing and stressing over prices and fit. My own fault. I’ve let myself get too caught up. I like Alison Bornstein’s idea of shopping one’s own closet to achieve a look. I like the other Alison’s take on owning your age and style and dressing to suit oneself and one’s lifestyle. For me, pulling back from social media will help–I think. I hope. Haha! At any rate I’m still glad that the ‘trend’ is for looser jeans and now *thankfully* longer jeans. I’ve been trying to catch clothes that are ‘color trending’ now, like yourself–how often do we see brown (other than beige or camel). How often do we see pistachio–or saffron. My skin color loves those colors and I don’t get to see them often, let alone purchase a piece of clothing that suits me in that color. Thanks for always being thoughtful about fashion and sharing your thoughts.

  8. Susan, thank you so much for this post! I enjoyed Alison’s post, as well as your thoughts. I very much like the idea of personal style, it’s so much more interesting than whatever is current at the moment and is ever so much more fun! I don’t comment often but enjoy your blog immensely – thanks for keeping it real 🙂

  9. Totally agree with that athleisure analogy, Susan. Are you planning to watch the new Apple TV+ series, “The New Look”? NYT suggests it won’t skirt around the controversies, which I appreciate.

      1. I thought you’d be on that! I do hope it’s better than the Capote one, which I’ve found rather disappointing, given how good the first “Feud” drama was. The clothing, however, is spectacular.

  10. I love Brown, and every time it come around, I try to stock up. But, I’m not fond of chocolate, as it’s a difficult color to work with. To my eye, the first pic with the plaid blazer looks good (though I would like it better with brown or tan boots). But the second pic looks off, since the brown in the top doesn’t work with the chocolate pants. and the brown handbag seems to clash with the chocolate pants as well. I prefer a dark coffee color.

  11. I read and re-read your posts, Susan. This was a good one. I love the Sezane cardigan and see that it comes in several colors. Just wondering about the weight of it since it is merino wool. (I live in southwest Florida). I’m traveling to Paris in early June and think it will be cool but not sure if merino would be appropriate. I’m very interested in the Paul Green sneakers in the first photo — also for my Paris trip. Do you wear the same size in Paul Green sneakers as regular shoes? Keep posting these “cool” classic looks and I’ll keep modifying for my Florida climate.

    1. Hi Kathy, thanks so much! The cardigan is a relatively lightweight piece, and merino wool does adjust well to temperature fluctuations. It’s hard to know how the weather will be in Paris in June. I’ve been there when it’s still definitely sweater weather, also when there’s a heatwave and only linen will do. In these sneakers, yes, I take my regular shoe size (7.5 or a 5UK).

  12. I definitely hear you about snapping up fashion items that happen to correspond to your own preferred style — in your case, espresso or other brown clothing items, and in my case, square-toed flats. My foot is one big rectangle, so square toes work perfectly. And given the vagaries of fashion, I’m buying multiples for when square toes are “out.”