Style secrets from older women

Josette Bardsley, style queen.
Maarten Holl

Josette Bardsley, style queen.

Josette Bardsley loves bling, orange and sparkles. Wearing an orange top, Ashley Fogel skinny pants and silver platform shoes, the former model is eye-catching.

The grandmother of six shakes her head when asked if there is anything she won't wear. At the age of 75, the septuagenarian scoffs that age is irrelevant when it comes to her wardrobe.

"When I was 42, I thought I should probably look a bit more sensible. But that sensible look wasn't for me," she says.

In the world of fashion, 70 is the new 60, and 60 the new 50.

* The reason our style icons are getting older
* Women over 40 are increasingly calling the shots

Hunters and Collectors owner Chrissy O at her store on Cuba Street, Wellington.
Chris Skelton

Hunters and Collectors owner Chrissy O at her store on Cuba Street, Wellington.


Fashion designer Karen Walker used stylish older women to publicise her eyewear in a campaign, Karen Walker Forever. She says the women, aged 65 to 95, are interesting, inspirational and beautiful, and she is drawn to their "remarkable outlook on life".

Fashion blogger Ari Seth Cohen, producer of a documentary about older women, Advanced Style, says that true chic does not dim with age.

"My eyes have always been drawn to older people," he writes on his blog, AdvancedStyle. "From a style point of view, I find them more interesting because they are of an age where they don't have to impress anyone and can wear what they want."

When Bardsley's husband, Royden, shifted to Taupo to run a farm, she opened a modelling agency there. Her daughter, Amelia, a judicial officer, remembers: "Mum often put fashion before food. Growing up, we ate plain food."

"Mum has always been stylish but she has got crazier as she's got older. She often wears leopard skin pants. But while she looks like she spends a lot, she usually just goes to op shops. She has a few ex-model friends but they tend to wear good quality pearls and nice silks, whereas Mum wears what she wants to wear."

Fashion helped Bardsley when she battled thyroid cancer 25 years ago, and had a double mastectomy at 60. "It was a hard time for my family but I was really lucky," she says. In her younger days, she boasted a short, dark bob. She has viewed the film, Iris, about the 94-year-old New York style icon, Iris Apfel, three times. "She was inspiring and I loved seeing all those garments. But she had a lot of money, and no children."

"I would like to buy a pair of pink lace-up shoes for my husband. But he probably wouldn't wear them. He's more conservative. When he sees what I wear, he says, 'I can't keep up'."

Barbara Brinsley at home.
John G Cosgrove

Barbara Brinsley at home.

Dunedin-based Barbara Brinsley is in the garden tending plants. But the 77-year-old former nurse isn't in a pair of slacks or pants like women typical of her age. Instead, she is wearing stylish Ann Demeulemeester trousers and French gardening shoes. "I was wearing them before and I haven't taken them off. They're a lovely gun colour."

Still wearing many of the things she had in her wardrobe dating from the 1950s and 1960s, including garments she has sewn, she also covets clothes from some of the world's top designers – Issey Miyake, Jean Paul Gaultier, Yves St Laurent and Zambesi .

"I would never let myself go. I was brought up to have a certain standard, and the only thing to let go will be my passing," says Binsley. "People's attitude towards clothes is very slovenly and very lazy. For me, it's not an age thing – it's a way of being."

Christchurch's Barbara Lee has been at the forefront of the fashion industry in New Zealand since 1978.

Christchurch's Barbara Lee has been at the forefront of the fashion industry in New Zealand since 1978.

Each morning, she dons a red lipstick (MAC Ruby Woo) and feels undressed without it. Her style is glamorous and flamboyant rather than conservative, like many of her peers.

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"I went to an evening in Arrowtown recently and people were wondering where I got my outfit from. I had two tops and a skirt, and a coat wrapped around me, all by Jean Paul Gaultier. People want to see what I'm wearing."

Brinsley is one of Wellington-based Hunters and Collector's biggest clients. The vintage store is owned by the flamboyant Christine O, who sends her photographs of garments they know she'll like. Christine 0 (she changed her name by deed poll) has owned the store for 30 years. Over the past decade, a growing number of 60-plus customers – men and women – are flocking to the store.

Waikato interior designer Margaret Verkroost likes to dress up for work each day.

Waikato interior designer Margaret Verkroost likes to dress up for work each day.

"The rules are much more fluid now. I never think about wanting to be young. I'm 61 and I love that."

Boasting orange hair and bright orange lipstick, with rings piled on every finger, Christine O says: "It's great there are role models for young people so they know that you don't have to give it all away at a certain age."

Former Christchurch fashion designer Barbara Lee retired from fashion design two years ago, and finds it impossible to shop. Still wearing her own stylish label, she says: "I haven't had to buy clothes since 1968." A judge of the Hokonui fashion awards, she has been at the forefront of the fashion industry since 1978, and is known for her stylish black and white clothes, and for being impeccably groomed.

Margaret Verkroost has run an interior design store, Red, Red, Red, in Te Awamutu for 25 years. Dressing up for work every day, the 61-year-old describes her style as simple and classic, while she also loves colour. Always told she looks stylish and young for her age, Verkroost was raised by a seamstress mother who fed her passion for fashion from a young age. Drawn to clothes by Nes, of Hamilton, Augustine, and Trelise Cooper, she says: "Clothing is a statement of how you carry yourself. I don't follow trends and I really enjoy my femininity."

An Imelda Marcos with an overflowing wardrobe, Verkroost recently moved houses. "You'll laugh but I could only take my summer clothes with me and a friend is storing all my winter clothes at her house."

 - Stuff


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