12 fashion faux pas that midlifers are guilty of

Annabel Rivkin and Emilie McMeekan
Feather-trimmed dress: Fantasy... Chic as anything. Reality... Lady who keeps chickens that may recently have been savaged by Fantastic Mr Fox.  - 2019 Stephane Cardinale - Corbis

Fashion. Surely the point is that it makes us feel a certain way. That it helps us to claim our space in the world. To establish our identity. And so we try different identities on for size. But what happens when the imagined effect of our outfit does not tally with the reality? Nothing good. Read on.

1. Cashmere cardigan

Fantasy: You pull it tight around your body, cross your arms and feel like an unbelievably young-looking widow staring out at the ocean from the deck of a beautiful beach house and thinking about lost love. Reality: An angry woman waiting for the Ocado van to arrive. 

2. White folk dress with embroidery

Fantasy: Who’s that Mexican village girl on her way to the marketplace to flirt with the town guitarist?  Reality: Pregnant-looking under-achiever with delusions of free spirit in a flammable rag that was probably made in Taiwan by a teeny, tiny child. 

3. Black over-the-knee boots 

Fantasy: ‘Hello world, I am a sexually predatory highwaywoman with a hidden dagger and a heart of stone. Books will be written about me. Men will dream of me.’ Reality: Ageing amateur-dramatic Puss in Boots with alcoholic tendencies.

4. Boiler suit

Fantasy: Now there’s a capable badass with fabulous lingerie underneath.  Sizzling. Reality: Who is that slightly violent New Zealand farmer? She doesn’t look very bright. But she does look like she needs to pee.

The no-make-up look... Another occasion when the fashion fantasy doesn't quite live up to the reality (unless you're a model) Credit: Getty Images

5. The no-make-up look

Fantasy: So fresh and winsome, much like a windswept and irresistible Bathsheba Everdene yomping through Hardy’s Dorset.  Reality: A pallid consumptive not likely to make it to next Christmas.

6. Pussy-bow blouse

Fantasy: Catherine Deneuve.  Reality: Mrs Thatcher.

7. Black tuxedo

Fantasy: A sexy power player prowling around parties. You love parties. You devour parties. ‘Bring me more parties,’ you shout. Reality: Down-on-her-luck maître d’ of a second-tier restaurant who goes home and plays Xbox for days at a time. 

8. Rings on every finger

Fantasy: Pirate woman who is going to sail into the horizon with a hot crew ready to serve her every pirate whim. Reality: Art teacher from the 1970s who needs a bath.

9. Dungarees with one clasp undone

Fantasy: The French ingénue. Carefree, déshabillé, about to be discovered in the village tabac.  Reality: Impossibly awkward-looking and deeply self-conscious financial advisor trying to have a bohemian Saturday afternoon. 

10. A coat with the hood up

Fantasy: Victorian courtesan with a fascinating past, standing on the end of a pier – about to be swept off her feet by the wind. Or Jeremy Irons. Reality: Woman recovering from filler/peel/nervous breakdown. 

11. Black polo neck and black trousers

Fantasy: Beatnik poet. Still looks cool while smoking. Clever. Also adorable.   Reality: Amateur mime artist doing evening classes in ‘self-expression through performance’. 

12. Feather-trimmed dress 

Fantasy: Chic as anything. But light-hearted. Taking centre stage at all the Paris Fashion Week after-parties. Reality: Lady who keeps chickens that may recently have been savaged by Fantastic Mr Fox.