Image & perception
This is all about image and perception. Above all it is about perception. No one is suggesting it is possible to turn the clock back or live a life built omitting the awful truth about being over 50. The stress of continually covering up a fact that is bound to rear its head at some stage is likely to add more years than any amount of subterfuge.
This is about how to put our an image that is perceived to be fresh and dynamic even though it is clear – if only from your years of accumulated experience and knowledge – that you won’t be seeing your forties again.
These are the five tips that work. Followed closely they give anyone – whether it is a TV viewer, an interviewer or a new colleague – the ability to look ageless. Shakespeare once said, “Age cannot wither her, nor custom stake her infinite variety.” He meant Cleopatra. I mean you.
Here they are.
Good posture solves a great deal. I was having drinks on the terrace at Westminster about a year ago with a well-known woman MP. She was dynamic and funny. She was also keen to hedge around the subject of her age. I wasn’t particularly interested in that number. What interested me was her posture and gait. Both needed addressing. She may have had a medical issue but there were many things she could have done to improve anyone’s perception of her age.
Anyone can start at any age. I started last year at 55. It is a millimetre by millimetre endeavour but the flexibility and with it poise return relatively quickly. I now practise for twenty minutes every morning (at home with my mat and block) with two or three longer sessions in a studio during the week.
Alexander technique is now mandatory in every drama school in the UK. It teaches breathing and posture. Lie down for 15 minutes in the semi-supine position with practise circular breathing. A friend of mine does this and she looks fabulous. OK, she’s a top make-up artist but she is older than me and always cuts a dash every time we meet. She also swims in an open-air pool once a week through the year. That’s much harder.
Start doing dynamic exercise. That means running, swimming or cycling. You don’t have to take things to extreme but my point here is that all these forms of exercise require knowledge of your own body to prevent injury. Knowledge you can use to align your own body.
Fashion changes but mostly in the silhouette. The fine detail remains the same over the years. It is a mistake to hang on to many clothes from your rock and roll era – even if they did cost the same as a long weekend in Barcelona. Look at each season’s silhouette, register it and find a way of integrating it into your wardrobe. Remember we are dealing with perception and sending out visual signals that can be subconsciously registered is a good thing.
Eyes, hair and teeth
I learnt two things from two internationally renowned plastic surgeons during my time at ITV’s Tonight program where are stood in at some of the ground-breaking plastic and cosmetic surgeries of the mid 2000s. One, an LA-based, doctor, women spends tens of thousands on complex procedures when what really counts is hair and teeth. I would add eyes. Don’t do dry hair, use eye drops and always go to the dentist regularly. Hair and teeth are the two biggest outward ways to build a perception of health and self-esteem. A well-respected hygienist – who regularly lectures at global conferences told me good teeth weren’t just ageless but also sent a signal of self-respect.
Any good make-up artist will tell you – it was Trish McAvoy who told me – that cosmetics are invaluable to older women because they add definition. Our face loses definition, as we get older. Make-up can replace it. Buy the best eyebrow pencil, a gel pencil, great concealer and a hybrid lipstick and blusher. Invisibility is the enemy of the older woman.
Exhibit some flair. Now is not the time to play safe. Keep the canvas neutral but find one thing that packs a punch and lets everyone know who you are both stylistically and fundamentally.