Ask Kat Farmer how she defines fashion, and the answer is very simple.
“Fashion really is just a way of describing things we put on our body to not be naked,” says the stylist behind hugely popular Instagram account DoesMyBumLook40.
But the 49-year-old, who quit her corporate job to launch a personal shopping service and blog, still believes clothing can be powerful tool for increasing your confidence and expressing your individuality – and she’s distilled her wardrobe-honing skills into her debut book, Get Changed: Finding The New You Through Fashion.
“It’s not about dressing to be on-trend,” she says. “It’s about dressing for your shape, your style and your lifestyle. It’s a formula you can follow – I don’t call them rules – to end up with a wardrobe of clothes you love, and you will actually wear and all work together.”
Ms Farmer’s upbeat, no-nonsense guidance is particularly useful if you’re feeling stuck in a sartorial rut. Maybe you’ve recently got a new job, or celebrated a milestone birthday – perhaps your size has fluctuated, or you’re just feeling a bit flat about your current style.
Whatever the reason – and whatever your age – by going back to basics, you can ditch the duds and build a clothing collection you’re actually excited to wear.
Here, Ms Farmer shares her expert tips for a successful wardrobe refresh.
Find your style icon
This “gives you focus”, says Ms Farmer. “Otherwise it’s like walking into a supermarket and saying, ‘What should I cook?’ You need to hone it down.”
Identifying the celebrities – either current or vintage – whose personal style you admire will help determine the kind of colours, silhouettes and garments to wear yourself. Ms Farmer’s personal icons include Audrey Hepburn and Kate Moss.
Read: Five style icons over 50
Dress for your lifestyle
It’s great to take inspiration from celebrities, but ultimately you need clothes to suit “the lifestyle you have, and not the lifestyle you want”, Ms Farmer says.
She recommends “making sure the majority of the clothes you own are the clothes you’re able to wear on a day-to-day basis, and not having 20 ballgowns – unless you’re a Hollywood star”.
Have a wardrobe detox
Before you start shopping, a closet clear-out will help identify what you actually need to buy. That means getting rid of clothes that no longer fit (and can’t be altered), you never wear anymore, or you just don’t like.
“It’s so cathartic,” says Ms Farmer. “And I think there is an element of guilt most women have when they go shopping. You know, ‘I’m buying this and I’ve got three already’. Once you can identify an actual need for things in your wardrobe it’s a more joyous experience, and it’s much easier to come home with the right thing.”
Be open-minded about shops
“Don’t dismiss any shop on the basis of, ‘It’s not my favourite shop’,” Ms Farmer says – unless you’re avoiding certain retailers due to sustainability credentials. “Whether you think it’s frumpy, whether you think it’s cheap, whatever it is – you would be surprised at the absolute gems you can find.”
Be careful with online shopping
Online shopping is convenient, but it can be tricky when you’re looking for the perfect fit.
Ms Farmer says: “You do have to be careful with online sites where you’re unable to try things on, and then have to do a load of returns. Because suddenly, before you know it, you’ve filled your wardrobe with clothes that don’t fit.”
Use the ‘bleugh’ test
When trying on clothes and deciding whether to purchase a piece, it’s best to go with your gut. Ms Farmer calls it the ‘bleugh’ test: “Your instinctive reaction, when you look in the mirror and go ‘bleugh’ – [as opposed to] if you look in the mirror and go ‘I love this!'”
Invest in wardrobe gems
Because everyone’s taste is different, Ms Farmer doesn’t believe in fashion ‘essentials’. But she is a big fan of wardrobe gems, meaning “something you could literally put on with pretty much any of your outfits, and it will completely work”.
For example? “A wardrobe gem could be anything in leopard print, or a statement jacket. They’re eclectic things everybody has, that will really pimp your wardrobe.”
Get Changed: Finding The New You Through Fashion by Kat Farmer is published in hardback by Hachette, available now.
– With PA
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