Mrs M&S: fashion, style and the older generation

News that Marks and Spencer’s clothes sales are down has led to talk about who ‘Mrs M&S’ is – and what she likes to wear. We speak to six women in their 60s, who love fashion, about how they dress and where they buy their clothes… 

How do the older generation of women (60+) like to dress? What does fashion mean to them? To find out, we speak to the former Woman’s Hour editor (now humanist celebrant) Sally Feldman, ‘Grandmother Pukka’ – mother to Anna Whitehouse (Mother Pukka) and Gillia de Pass – who had a career working in fashion and whose daughter Zoe de Pass, of Dress Like a Mum, has followed in her footsteps. Also, the editor Annie Ridout’s mother, Julia Davies – a part time counsellor and Italian fashion enthusiast – Devon-based Martine Colombe: “70 years old, but 30 in spirit” and Judith Howard: a retired B&B owner living in Kent – who loves travel and jewellery and hanging out with her four granddaughters.

Lucia Whitehouse, or Grandmother Pukka

Mrs M&S: fashion, style and the older generation - theearlyhour.com

Lucia Whitehouse (@grandmother_pukka on Instagram – with nearly 2000k followers) is mum to Instagram favourite Mother Pukka. She, too, has perfected the wall pose…

1. How old are you?
64.

2. Where do you live?
A small village near Buckingham.

3. How do you spend your days?
I get up early to start my chores and make breakfast (including smoothie with lots of nuts, grains, veg and fruit). I may go for a walk, bike ride or do a Pilates class. I try and do some exercise every day, which may include gardening and housework. I try and meet friends every week and we go away regularly, abroad or in UK.

We may watch films or recorded programmes late in the afternoon before making dinner. I like to read too – especially by the fire. I also love decorating and there is always something to be renewed. I like listening to the radio and enjoy music of all kinds. Oh, and I love to dance – even if it is whilst listening to the radio doing my ironing.

4. Describe the way you dress…
I like good basics with a twist of the new. If you have good basic coats, trousers, shoes and boots you can add the odd fun bit of jewellery or cheaper fashion.

5. One item you couldn’t live without?
Clothing item: my black skinnies. Non clothing item: my moisturiser!

6. Favourite place to buy clothes?
Oxford.

Gillia de Pass

Mrs M&S: fashion, style and the older generation - theearlyhour.com

Gillia de Pass worked in fashion for ready-to-wear fashion label Susan Small, as well as Jean Muir. Her daughter, Zoe, is the founder of Dress Like a Mum – a brand to show that mums can wear cool clothes, too (and her mother was going to be the Queen’s dress maker, before the war got in the way). So fashion clearly runs in the blood… 

1. How old are you?
68.

2. Where do you live?
Elstead near Guildford Surrey.

3. How do you spend your days?
I am a freelance wedding florist and run wreath workshops at Christmas. I try to go to exercise class and Fitsteps once a week and am currently going to a weekly art class. I come to London weekly to look after and play with the grandchildren.

4. Describe the way you dress…
I tend to dress in a casual, fairly young way and quite like things to go with each other.

5. One item you couldn’t live without?
It all starts underneath and good underwear is a must!

6. Favourite place to buy clothes?
I like to buy clothes from various shops or online and mix and match. I visit Marks and Spencer, Gap, Jigsaw, House of Fraser and Matches, depending on my budget.

Sally Feldman

Mrs M&S: fashion, style and the older generation - theearlyhour.com

Sally Feldman was a journalist and editor on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, then a Dean at the London College of Communication and Westminster. She now works part time as a humanist celebrant and dresses mostly in bright colours or black – depending on the occasion.

1. How old are you?
68, I think.

2. Where do you live?
East London.

3. How do you spend your days?
I was a journalist for many years, and an editor Radio 4 Woman’s Hour. But I retrained four years ago as a humanist celebrant – leading funerals, weddings and baby naming ceremonies. I do two to four a month, and some media training. But my life is much more relaxed now – I have a good balance. Lots of reading, shopping, friends and seeing my kids. Reading by daylight is the best thing about retirement.

4. Describe the way you dress…
I like to look stylish. I like bright colours or black. I suppose I don’t want to look over trendy but I’ll buy culottes, or a velvet jumpsuit – which are on trend. I rarely buy jeans. Above all, I despise ripped jeans – I think that whole fashion is really insulting to people who don’t have money. I loathe and despise ballet shoes and flip fops. I’ve always worn heels, but now I’m in wide-feet M&S shoes. You have to make compromises as you get older. I love sequins. I probably over dress – or else everybody else underdresses.

5. One item you couldn’t live without?
Jackets. The best jacket I own is a designer velvet one, it’s wine-coloured crushed velvet.

6. Favourite place to buy clothes?
Depends how much I want to spend. I’ve got really good designer stuff – but also John Lewis and M&S. I wait until some of it’s on sale then buy it, or get it secondhand. I recently bought a velvet trouser suit at Topshop, which I love. Armani clothes are too small on the tits, they’re designed for younger women, but it’s older women who have the money for it.

Julia Davies

Mrs M&S: fashion, style and the older generation - theearlyhour.com

Julia Davies works part time as a person-centred bereavement counsellor. She grew up in west London and fully embraced the swinging 60s (fashion-wise) – to the point of walking the streets of London bare foot (until she trod on glass – just 10 yards from her home). She is mother to the editor, Annie Ridout.

1. How old are you?
63.

2. Where do you live?
North London.

3. How do you spend your days?
Working part-time, with my family, enjoying my grandchildren, seeing my sister and travelling with husband and friends in the UK and abroad. I enjoy leisure activities such as trips to the cinema, theatre, visiting art galleries and exercising – power walking and Pilates.

4. Describe the way you dress…
I’ve been learning Italian for a number of years and frequently visit the country. I absolutely love Italian style – it’s modern and stylish. So I try to emulate this when dressing.

5. One item you couldn’t live without?
Camisoles.

6. Favourite place to buy clothes?
Massimo Dutti, an Italian chain that uses a lot of silk, accessories like scarves and belts and a good collection of stylish clothes. But I’m also a regular at M&S and shop at Zara and John Lewis too.

Judith Howard

Mrs M&S: fashion, style and the older generation - theearlyhour.com

Judith Howard runs a B&B in Kent – in a converted stable at the end of her garden – loves to travel, likes a “quirky brooch or eye-catching scarf” and is grandmother to four girls who you may have seen on Instagram (the daughters of Clemmie and Simon Hooper – mother_of_daughters and father_of_daughters).

1. How old are you?
I am 66.

2. Where do you live?
Whitstable, Kent.

3. How do you spend your days?
I spend my days greeting my B&B guests as I have a converted stable at the end of my garden. And of course ironing endless duvet covers along with the necessary admin. This is now my source of income since retiring last Christmas. My breakfast hampers are gaining a small degree of fame in the review section on my website. Being my own boss allows me to juggle work and socialising.

Travel is a delight – both to European cities with girlfriends and every other year an exciting long haul trip. Next February it’s Jaipur. Local monthly book club meetings and trips to the fabulous Curzon cinema in Canterbury are a regular occurrence. Pilates and a gym session each week aim to keep the slightly achy body working. Friends. Both local and dear life long friends come and stay. They all love Whitstable and I am treated to meals in this foodie town.

I visit my 95-year-old mother, who continues to live independently, regularly to take her out. Let’s hope it’s in the genes. And most importantly of all: I’m an involved grandmother (aka Gaga) to my four granddaughters. Joy.

4. Describe the way you dress…
I dress informally and now predominately wear trousers. As I get older I focus on accessories to add my own stamp to my clothes. A quirky brooch or an eye-catching scarf and always a bracelet. Occasionally I get the chance to dress up a bit but it’s hard to find the appropriate items in my price range.

5. One item you couldn’t live without?
One item of clothing I can’t live without. Difficult. Do my string of pearls and a bright pink lippy count?

6. Favourite place to buy clothes?
No word of a lie I shop mostly at M&S. Except my closest store has recently stopped stocking the Autograph range. Agh. Madness. For my birthday and Christmas presents I have chosen to receive a generous M&S gift voucher annually and by spending time really hunting for ages I have found some great items. Hobbs is a favourite too. And for shoes, ankle boots and sandals the amazing revamped Clarks is now my first port of call. Sadly feet change shape with age but Clarks have proved you can be fashionable as well as comfortable.

Martine Colombe

Mrs M&S: fashion, style and the older generation - theearlyhour.com

Martine Colombe lives in Devon and spends her days teaching French, making art, tending to the vegetable garden and exercising. She shuns online clothes shopping and couldn’t live without her jewellery.

How old are you?
I am 70 years old but more like 30 in spirit!

2. Where do you live?
I live in Devon in a small hamlet. I have lived in the countryside almost all my life… in France, in Ireland, in England, in Spain.

3. How do you spend your days?
I have a wide range of interests and occupations. I used to teach French full time and have kept a few classes going. I have always been artistic and love the arts, so in the last few years I’ve started to create and sell felted art work. I love to be outdoors and tend to a very large garden that produces many vegetables. I stay active by walking our dog every day, do yoga and Pilates regularly, go on rambling holidays or walks on the Devon coast. At the end of each day my greatest pleasure is a glass of wine…or two…

4. Describe the way you dress…
It varies a lot according to what I am doing and where I am, but I can say that on the whole I love bright colours and relaxed garments. I always wear trousers and have done so for many, many years. I have always disliked high heels. I love unusual jewellery, ear-rings and rings mostly, and the bigger or brighter – the better!

5. One item you couldn’t live without?
My jewellery.

6. Favourite place to buy clothes?
Wherever the fancy takes me… I prefer small shops and also find some good stuff in charity shops. I don’t shop online as I don’t like the concept and I like to feel and see what I’m getting in the flesh.

What are your views on fashion? How should we dress as we get older? We’d love to hear in the comment section below…

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