Currently promoting her second book Know Your Style, Alyson sees style as something that can be practised in the same way one might ‘fine tune a yoga move or perfect a recipe’. That style needn’t be dependent on buying lots of expensive things, but in knowing yourself, and projecting a sense of confidence, the most important accessory of all.
Alyson, your belief that ‘style begins at 40’ was the inspiration behind That’s Not My Age, tell us more about this?
That’s Not My Age started nine years ago because I felt that women over 40 were being ignored by the fashion industry. All the emphasis was on youth and being young and yet I was seeing all these wonderful, older people everyday that were not represented by traditional media. I’d left a job as a magazine fashion editor and thought that there was a space online to discuss this issue.
I have always believed that it’s not about age, it’s about style – and I wanted to talk to women in the way that I talked to my friends. Before long I had discovered a network of brilliant, similarly minded women online and it went from there. I hope That’s Not My Age is empowering and fun and offers style advice in a down-to-earth way. I’m lucky to have a loyal following who I am eternally grateful to because without them, my two books Style Forever and Know Your Style wouldn’t exist.
And you believe that style can be empowering?
Style is empowering – just think of the way you feel when you get it right. How energizing that can be. Fashion is often viewed negatively but it can be incredibly positive, too. Style and substance can and do co-exist. Just look at Michelle Obama.
These days, when we’re all permanently connected, and living at 100-miles-an-hour, spending time on yourself is important. Whether that’s a Sunday afternoon spent figuring out new combinations of old clothes, or simply having a haircut or a manicure – take some time out to do something that will make you feel great.
How would you describe your own style, and what or who inspires your fashion choices?
It’s what I like to call Casual Glamour, a blend of day and evening wear and flat shoes or trainers. I often wear jeans or a jumpsuit but I do like to mix things up. I have a sort of Split-Personality Style, half minimal, menswear-inspired dressing, half bohemian, hippy-punk. I think that as we continue to reinvent ourselves throughout our lives, most women have become more comfortable with this high-low, pick and mix approach.
I’m inspired by other women. Researching and writing my books has allowed me to gather thoughts and style tips from some of the world’s most stylish women, including Lucinda Chambers, Caroline Issa, Linda Rodin, Pat Cleveland, Sarah Jane Adams, Iris Apfel, Lyn Slater and many more.
You write with such wit and authenticity, but what other reasons can you attribute to That’s Not My Style’s soaring popularity?
I was an early adopter, I’ve been blogging as That’s Not My Age for over nine years so I was one of the first and (I guess) I just struck a chord with lots of like-minded women. My background as a fashion editor helped because even when I only had 20 followers, I have always taken a professional approach to That’s Not My Age – I’m quite anal about my writing and have to edit posts properly and always choose the best quality images. I wanted to celebrate women of all ages, more specifically to raise awareness of women over 40; and I’ve been pretty consistent with my message.
Your second book is about forgetting the rules, and learning to practice style. Can you elaborate on this?
With Know Your Style the aim was to talk less about age and more about style. This was my editor’s suggestion and I think she was spot on. The initial idea – based on what women often ask me – was to try to figure out what goes with what (and that was the tentative title of the book at commissioning stage).
How do we know what to buy when our lifestyles are constantly changing? Today more people are working remotely from home than ever before, and there’s so much clothing on offer. How to colour match or mismatch? How to wear flat shoes? Style is individual and prescriptive rules are no longer relevant.
There are many ways to dress and different outfits work for different individuals. I think it’s better to spend time working out different combinations of clothes that fit and flatter, rather than buying loads of new stuff. Then you create a handful of go-to outfits that save time in the long run and allow you to whip up a styling sensation! We practice a favourite recipe or a musical instrument – why can’t we practice looking stylish?
Brands and marketers are currently scrambling to ‘go grey’, do you think this is just opportunistic, or that it is potentially the start of a more permanent shift?
It can feel a tokenistic at times. Advertisers appear to have resorted to a kind of ‘diversity checklist’. Model with grey hair: tick. That’s age sorted then. Young and sexy or old and fetishised – take your pick. Having said that, I do think this is a permanent shift, brands have done their research and they know that this is a powerful, affluent demographic. It’s all about the money.
How do you feel about Allure Editor Michelle Lee’s recent decision to ban the term anti-ageing?
Language matters and so in that respect, it’s a good move. Although, there has been a backlash for a while, now: an anti-anti-ageing movement of consumers and bloggers who are refusing to accept this insidious – and sexist – terminology. A movement that brands, and now publishers, are finding impossible to ignore.
The renaming and repackaging of products has already begun – as one look at my bathroom cabinet reveals: Pro Age (Dove), Age-Defying (Olay), Age Perfect (L’Oreal) and Slow Age (Vichy) – are all new phrases being used on a selection of moisturisers in lieu of anti-ageing. Women of my age and beyond don’t buy into the anti-ageing, younger is better model, we accept our wrinkles and prefer to look and feel healthy, fit and radiant.
You’ve been a key player in getting style into the spotlight, but what other issues affecting mature women, do you think, need a little more air time?
Health, menopause, finances, ageism, sexism and career prospects. What I don’t like is the idea of being written off as past it while grey haired male counterparts are viewed as having knowledge, experience and wisdom.
And what are you most excited about in the future, be it professional or personal?
I’m going to New York to launch Know Your Style in the United States – so that’s quite exciting! After that I want to focus on That’s Not My Age; to continue providing interesting, informative, well-written content about age and style and to continue to engage with my lovely, loyal followers. And then I’d like a holiday.
In Know Your Style, fashion journalist Alyson Walsh interviews some of the most creative women from around the world – from architects to museum curators to designers – revealing their tips on how to dress with confidence and lead a stylish life.