Wardrobe Woe

How to dress like a proper grown-up and what to wear with boilersuits

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By Stacey Duguid on

Oh Woe,

I turned 30 and thought I should try dressing like an adult, which in my mind meant wearing black. Then I panicked and started wearing bright colours and pastels – I even experimented with metallic, but ended up looking like a slightly confused Goth. I want to wear colour but not in an over-zealous way and I really want to look like a proper grown-up without feeling dowdy. Should you even wear black with bright colours? I'm sure I used to dress quite nicely. Now I haven’t got a clue.

Woe is me, 

You're experiencing a classic post-hipster meltdown and I'd like to congratulate you for transitioning through this difficult phase at such an early age – Lord knows there's nothing worse than a grown woman (or man) thinking she's 'down with the kids’. I should know. We've all been through the what-the-hell-am-I-wearing fashion stage, usually some time in our thirties, and you're right, getting older needn't equal frumpy. Growing up, what a bugger, eh?

Never wear black with bright colours again, promise? Far too 80s. But don't ditch the pastels – they’re having a fashion moment and generally suit most skintones, even the very pale, especially when worn with blue or mid-grey denim. I'm a huge fan of metallic, but wear sparingly; one piece is probably enough. Have you seen all the cool metallic brogues that are around this season?  

Do you mind if I patronise you for a moment? I promise, I’ll make it brief. Fashion and clothes are two very different things. It’s time to find your fashion ‘uniform’. One that fits with your life, for example a white shirt, great-fitting jeans, simple jumpers. I’m not a scarf kind of girl myself, but scarves are a cost-efficient way to introduce colour and print into your wardrobe and there are lots to choose from this season. When it comes to style, your mantra should to be evolution not revolution and anyway, you're already halfway there; you've acknowledged you're a grown up by embracing change. You deserve a round of applause.

Zara silk scarf, £39.99

Oh Woe,

I live in boilersuits all summer long and am keen to dig them out again – they're so comfy and easy to wear. The problem is they look SO bad with non-summer shoes, but it's too cold to wear loafers without socks (I'm not a total fashion victim). The hem of a boilersuit looks truly terrible with socks, especially when you sit down as it creeps upwards revealing a) a pair of bobbly old winter socks and b) a totally white (in my case) calf.   

Woe is me, 

I too have experienced this unfortunate combination of wrong-shoe-right-boilersuit. How I miss days slouching around in a baggy-denim-onesie, secretly letting it all hang out unbeknown to friends and colleagues; boilersuits have no waistbands, magic! The only sock-shoe-boiler suit combo I'm a fan of right now is a Birkenstock worn with a thick, home knitted grandad sock. I realise this look isn't to everyone's taste (for fear of being single within 24 hours) and it's still too cold to wear furry-lined Birkenstocks without socks. That's the problem with being a non-fashion victim – it's complicated.

Ankle boots, as you've discovered, end at an awkward hem-height and can end up looking plain wrong. The simple white trainer and the reliable brogue or actually any shoe that ends beneath the anklebone will work but there's a catch: they need to be fairly sturdy.  Speaking of which, Birkenstock make a fabulous clog, which can be worn with socks right now; ugly shoes, socks and boilersuits, bring it on. I should shut up now, shouldn’t I?

Birkenstock metallic clogs, £79.95

Oh Woe, 

Trench coats – I look like a man. What am I doing wrong?

Woe is me, 

The trench is an impossible item of clothing to get right and it's taken me years to find 'the one'. Truth is, worn belted, they make women with bigger boobs (or any boobs at all) look frumpy. Add to that the fact they come in tricky colourways (beige, beige or navy) and end at an awkward length, jeez, it's a trench minefield out there. I don't know why we bother. Actually, I do. We bother because, when you get it right, they make a wonderfully fresh alternative to boring winter coats and look great with almost everything. They are perfect for the office and the weekend, so putting in the effort to find the right one is well worth the hassle. 

& Other stories trench coat, £125

Six trench tips, have a read…

1. Honey colours suit those with darker skin tones and brunettes. 

2. Pale sandy-coloured hues work well on blondes, especially those with yellow or pink skintones. 

3. Longer length trenches, ie those that end below the knee, tend to look more modern than the traditional above-the-knee style, although beware if you're shorter than average, as it could totally swamp you.  

4. If you can't find a pale tone that suits, then a black trench will look great and will go with everything.  

5. Those with slim waists and wide hips suit the short, belted-style trench.  

6.  Don't worry about cheap-looking buttons – you can always sew on some snazzier, more expensive-looking ones.

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