Do not go gentle
On one of my regular trawls for inspiration as I attempt to instil myself with the belief that my best years are still ahead of me, I came across these words from Dylan Thomas…..
“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day.”
Now while most people would attempt to see the intellectual side of this quote – you won’t find an argument from me on this point – I decided this could have a specific interpretation on my current dilemma of how to cut a dash at 50 without looking like a Trollope. In other words, could I wear leather leggings at my age with any degree of success?
Let me be clear, I am a former news reporter, current affairs presenter and foreign correspondent. I can deal with the big questions but recently I have been on a mission make a stand against the encroaching invisibility of middle age.
My style heroine in this regard is Emmanuelle Alt, the editor of French Vogue and a woman so intelligently chic I could weep through my new MAC mascara.
Ms Alt has a look that transcends even the high-octane style of Parisian ateliers. She is to skinny black leggings what her predecessor, Carine Roitfeld was to sexy pencil skirts and she is, at 48-years-old hurtling toward 50. Yet, she shows no sign of diluting her style of trading in her signature leather leggings for a free run at the Boden catalogue.
The thing is, as the great Fashion Writer Lisa Armstrong, once pointed out leather leggings are a world away from leather trousers. They are pin sharp, sexy and above all full of impact – a key word for the over 50s. Nothing gentle about these age busting, profile raising, eye-catching babies. They enhance any shape of leg; they are very practical and loved by men and women alike. The question is, can you rock this look as you head toward collecting your bus pass. The answer – I tell myself – is yes.
To be honest my legs have always been a little on the weedy side but training for a triathlon this summer has sorted that out (the answer is yes this is something else you can do as you pass 50 – even if like me you have never done anything other than what I call airport running in four-inch heels). In fact, leggings work quite well for me. Close scrutiny of a body shape survey in an old issue of Grazia tells me that in a world full of apples and pears I am, in fact, a parsnip. The posh jacket/leather legging combo works well for me because good tailoring covers the larger bits and shows the smaller bits. Simple really. But, as I said, leather leggings work on any body shape. The most important element of criteria is attitude. Add that to a quick, daily jog round the park and you are home and hosed (sorry that just came out).
The next question was where to start. As usual I start at Zara. Frankly most things at Zara are a bit on the tight side but their leggings and trousers are great value and long enough for my 5’ 8” frame. I spent £30 on a faux leather pair and fell in love immediately. The problem was that after a while I noticed that when I took them off I looked like I had cooked my legs.
I moved up to Marks and Spencer. Their bottom line is a bad as their leather leggings are good. Nice soft leather front and the all-forgiving Ponte de Roma fabric at the back. Good but not great though. Thank you Belinda Earl.
I moved on again to the Scandinavian brand Day Birger et Mikkelson on the grounds that any country that could produce the achingly edgy series, the Bridge, could do the same for leggings. They can.
Still not satisfied I now know I need the ultra smooth and clean lines of leather woven with lycra or spandex. Lots of support and with the right balance of elegance and edge.
Iris and Ink from the Outnet and Baujken do the best. The setback is the price tag of between £350 and £400 a pair. But for Christmas, my tax return and a slight fear of ripping them at the knees, they would be residing in my cupboard right now.
I once had a conversation in an edit suite with the Editor of Tonight with Trevor McDonald, James Goldston, now President of the US Network ABC News, about how one could sustain passion in a long-term relationship. I told him there was not much a good uplift bra and some soft lighting couldn’t achieve. I think the same goes for leather leggings.
Trust me. Don’t go gentle into the night.