Style secrets of the fabulous fashionistas

By Charlotte Williams

Sue, Daphne, Lady Trumpington, Jean, Gillian and Bridget star in the new documentary Fabulous Fashionistas. Photo / Channel 4
Sue, Daphne, Lady Trumpington, Jean, Gillian and Bridget star in the new documentary Fabulous Fashionistas. Photo / Channel 4

Take six singular ladies, each with an individual style, indomitable spirit - and an average age of 80. That is what director Sue Bourne has done for new British documentary, Fabulous Fashionistas, showing that the ageing process needn't be grim. She has found the perfect women to prove her point.

Gillian Lynne has been working full-time since the 1940s, first as a dancer, then going on to choreograph Cats and The Phantom of the Opera. The 87-year-old is still working - and is still unbelievably bendy (despite two metal hips and a metal foot), thanks to her daily exercise routine.

Then there's Daphne Selfe, 85, Britain's oldest model, who was signed up by a top London agency at the age of 70. Bridget Sojourner, 75, is a spritely campaigner whose current bugbear is ageism. Her fashion-forward outfits are regularly snapped by street-style photographers. Jean Woods, also 75, found her life taking on a new direction after her beloved husband of 56 years passed away. She wanted to find a job but couldn't believe anyone would want her. Her sons suggested she approach Gap - they offered her a job on the spot.

Sue Kreitzman, 73, also embraced change. She was a successful cookery writer and television chef - the Times described her as "the queen of low-fat cookery" - but gave it up to become an artist.

And finally, Baroness Trumpington, 91, the oldest woman in the House of Lords, who made headlines when she was caught on camera giving one of her fellow peers the V sign. Fiercely independent, she lives on her own and believes "it's frightfully important to look after yourself. The moment you start letting yourself go is the moment when you are old".

As Bette Davis said, "Getting old is not for sissies." Here, the fabulous fashionistas reveal their style secrets, and philosophy for living. Their advice is inspiring - to any generation.

1. Find your style.
"Knowing yourself is very important," says Daphne. "Most of my clothes are from my past. I've built up quite a collection over the years."

2. Look chic but not crazy
"Everything I wear has a story," says Sue. "I take my art out of the home and wear it. But, at the same time, I try to keep a certain amount of elegance with me."

3. Think colour
"Wear orange, pink, yellow," says Bridget, "sometimes all at the same time. You don't want to blend into the background. Older people often feel they're finished so they fade away."

4. Stay ahead by not slavishly following trends
"I've always loved jumpsuits and now they're fashionable again," says Bridget. "I find that I love a certain style and then it is suddenly back in fashion."

5. Comfy shoes are a must
"The oldest part of my body is my feet," says Sue, who's a fan of sequinned high-tops and Crocs.

Daphne Selfe, 85. Photo / Channel 4
Daphne Selfe, 85. Photo / Channel 4

6. As are scarves - although belts should be avoided
"I'm inclined to wear a scarf to hide the strings of my neck," says Daphne, who also points out that, since shrinking slightly with age, she has stopped wearing belts. "The shrinkage means your hips are closer to your ribs and belts become uncomfortable."

7. Adopt inspiring role models
"Vivienne Westwood, she's my girl, I adore her," says Jean. Bridget is a fan of Helen Mirren.

8. Find inspiration in unusual sources
"I'm interested in art and often find my inspirations there, especially in the Pre-Raphaelites and in Klimt," says Daphne. Sue loves the website Advanced Style.

9. Learn simple dress-making skills
Says Jean, "I don't like anything that clings to my bum, so I often buy things a size larger and then take them in at the top."

10. Keep on learning
"I had my eyebrows done properly at a makeup counter recently," says Jean. "I'm now learning to do them myself. One of my friends said, 'You're 76, why are you worrying about eyebrows?' But I like to keep on learning."

11. Don't let grooming slip
Gillian swears by facial massage - "it gets the muscles going" - while the Baroness gets her hair done every week. Daphne never leaves the house without makeup: "A little for everyday; more for the evening. And I always take it off before bed."

12. Embrace change
"I went from being a successful cookery writer to being an artist," says Sue. "My agent thought I had lost my mind; my family thought I had gone mad. But there is no such thing as retirement. I switched from one career to another - you have to keep on going and have a purpose."

Bridget Sojourner. 75. Photo / Channel 4
Bridget Sojourner. 75. Photo / Channel 4

13. View young people as inspiring, not alien
"I live in the East End of London and find it so inspiring," says Sue. "All the young people and the graffiti." Jean, meanwhile, admits that her grandchildren love the way she dresses - "their friends say, 'I wish my grandma dressed like yours,"' - and a friend's 17-year-old daughter recently wanted to know where she had bought one of her dresses.

14. Stay in shape
"There's no point buying fabulous clothes if you haven't got a fabulous body," says Gillian. "You have to keep the spine supple. I believe in floor work - you can be more flexible on the floor and you're less likely to hurt yourself."

15. Watch your diet - but enjoy the odd vodka
"It can be a pretty dreary landscape," says Gillian, "but when I feel sorry for myself, I think, 'Well, I ate those croissants in my 20s and 30s, when I could eat what I wanted'." Her treat is a dry martini. "When my first hip went, a doctor recommended I do yoga every morning, drive through the pain and then, at 6pm, pour myself a large glass of the purest, most expensive vodka. It did the trick!"

16. Keep on working
"I have no intention of ever retiring," says Gillian. "When I hear that someone is retiring, I think, 'Urgh, now they'll go'. And then they drop off the planet. We need to have a purpose in life."

17. Take risks
"I don't give a damn if I shock people," says the Baroness. "I was much more careful when I was younger." Jean agrees: "You need to be bold." Her fashionably short fringe is a case in point. "I wasn't worried about taking the risk - it's hair, it just grows back."

Sue, Daphne, Lady Trumpington, Jean, Gillian and Bridget star in the new documentary Fabulous Fashionistas. Photo / Channel 4
Sue, Daphne, Lady Trumpington, Jean, Gillian and Bridget star in the new documentary Fabulous Fashionistas. Photo / Channel 4

18. Turn heads
"I have always dressed like this," says Bridget. "When I was in my 20s, no one used to stop me in the street and gush, 'You look marvellous!' But as you grow older, a lot of women don't like dressing up. They should - it's still fun."

19. Don't think about your age
"You have to pit yourself against the ageing process," says Gillian. "The moment you give it an inch, life or illness will take a mile."

20. Avoid beige
As Sue says: "Don't wear beige - it might kill you."

- The Telegraph

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