How do you strike a balance between looking elegant but not boring? Lisa Welden Lennkh from The Sequinist has some good ideas.
Lisa is a 46-year old blogger from London who spent 20 years in finance before switching to fashion. She married late, had a baby at 43, and found herself suddenly out of touch with her personal style. Determined to make a change, Lisa started a blog, fell back in love with fashion and has been having fun with it all ever since.
I recently got a chance to chat with Lisa about her love of fashion and unique style. Here is my interview with this Fabulous After 40 Styleblazer.
Deb: You say that style is a language. What do you think your style is communicating to others about you?
Lisa: I think my style communicates that I am confident, adventuresome, interesting, and a little quirky. I enjoy combining elegant pieces with offbeat pieces; the juxtaposition feels right to me. I feel stuffy if I’m wearing only elegant things with nothing fun. I enjoy it when something I have on is a conversation starter, whether that conversation begins “Where did you find that crazy fox clutch?” or “You are nuts for wearing those shoes in this weather”. I’d rather be described as “that blonde lady with the insane shoes” than just “that blonde lady”.
Deb: You’ve spent time in New York and now live in London, two of the most stylish cities in the world. How do approaches to fashion differ between the two cities, and how have adjusted your way of dressing since living in London?
Lisa: It is hard to make generalizations, but New York style is much more polished and put-together than London style. Women in New York are usually more ‘done’ and glossy. Londoners may spend just as much time putting together an outfit or getting ready, but they try to make it look as if they haven’t. New York is Olivia Palermo, London is Kate Moss. London is mix, New York is match. I was working in finance when I lived in New York, so I was definitely more glossy and polished then than I am now. London allows me to be a little more undone and funky, and I particularly enjoy that at this stage of my life.
Deb: You neglected your style when you first became a mother and became “rusty”. What kinds of things did you do to rediscover your style?
Lisa: I started devouring magazines and style blogs to catch up on what I’d missed during my ‘years in the wilderness’ of new motherhood. I also took a keen interest in the clothes of my next door neighbor, who is UK ‘fashion royalty’ at Vogue. At first I would think “Is she REALLY wearing socks with those silver platform heels?” I had missed that chapter of fashion during my pregnancy! Now I think nothing of wearing socks with heels, and I enjoy experimenting with fashion and taking more style risks than I did in my pre-motherhood banking days.
Deb: Favorite trends, why? Trends you would never touch, why?
Lisa: My favorite trends always involve anything sparkly, and anything reminiscent of the late 50s and early 60s in fashion; you can’t get more glamorous than Jackie O and Grace Kelly. This is a great season for sparkle-loving magpies like me; I love the more-is-more eclecticism that Alessandro Michele is bringing at Gucci. I also adored the sequin-filled final collection of Hedi Slimane at Saint Laurent because he went digging through the archives at Yves Saint Laurent, and brought back the subversive side of sequins that Yves himself did so well in his era. I love any trend that makes women look unique, strong, and powerful.
Trends I wouldn’t touch? Any trends lacking elegance, so anything that falls into the category of Festival Chic, anything involving cowboy boots, anything covered in logos, and anything ’normcore’. Also, I would never wear ripped jeans; I don’t think this trend is very elegant, and I firmly believe elegance comes before fashion, whether you’re 25 or 85.
Deb: What about your aversion to pink, lace, florals, ruffles. Why are they not for you, and has it always been that way?
Lisa: I’m averse to overtly girly saccharine style because it doesn’t reflect my style or personality at all. I’ve always had a very strong personality, and I’m a little bit of a tomboy, so I can’t bear to wear anything too sweet. I don’t like prints (I tire of them very quickly, and they aren’t as easy to style as solids), but I especially don’t like florals. I grew up in the florals-and-lace-loving-South, so floral dresses and lace collars still cause an allergic reaction in me!
Deb: Do you consider yourself a fashion risk taker? If so, what is the biggest risk you have taken and did it work out?
Lisa: Yes, of course. The “riskiest” thing I’ve worn on the blog was what I wore in the Spring Has Gone To My Head post, and it was one of my most popular posts. I was just bored with my wardrobe and felt like mixing some very disparate pieces together.
Deb: Age-appropriate dressing – Your thoughts?
Lisa: I don’t personally believe there is such a thing as ‘Age Appropriate’, there is only ‘You Appropriate.’ People should wear clothes that they feel great in; life is far too short to waste one second being concerned with what other people think of what you are wearing. I know an 80+ year old woman who has better legs than most 20-year- olds, and I love that she still wears clothes which showcase her legs. Wear what makes you happy and never stop experimenting with style.
Deb: What’s your style recipe for finding that fashion sweet spot between not too boring and not too overdone?
Lisa: This is a great question, and I think it varies from person to person. What looks casual on me would look dressy on my sister, for instance. I will always veer towards being more overdone than boring, because that’s my style… not going overboard on the hair and makeup is what keeps it modern. Having overly-done hair and overly-done makeup is aging (particularly with my coloring). Don’t try to hold on to your beauty queen crown by spending three hours in front of the mirror.
Deb: One of the reasons you look so fabulous is you wear clothes that flatter your figure. Tell us about your particular body type with tips on what works for you.
Lisa: I have a tricky body type for fashion; I have a slightly exaggerated hourglass figure. I can’t wear anything too loose because if fabric goes out at my widest points and doesn’t go back in again somewhere with a belt or a seam, I look like a sausage! I don’t like anything too tight, because I don’t like to be uncomfortable, and I don’t want to look like Joan from Mad Men.
My ideal clothes have some shape or tailoring, and skim the body. An above the knee sheath dress that is not too tight is my ideal ‘shape’. For anyone with my figure, emphasizing the thinner parts of your body (legs, arms, waist, ankles, wrists, neck, etc) is key to not looking bulky. This is why I love a long lean tailored coat so much; it straightens out my curves and elongates my body.
Deb: Sequins. You love them, and they are a fun fashion element, but many women over 40 don’t wear them since they can seem dressy. Any tips to share to help women easily incorporate them into their everyday wardrobes?
Lisa: I ADORE sequins. The way to wear them for everyday is to mix them with less dressy things that you own already. I firmly believe that everyone needs a sequin skirt; that was the title of my very first blog posts. I love wearing sequins with a big, chunky cardigan and boots or with a sweatshirt and heels. I also like sequin details on sweaters and tops, as long as they don’t look cheap or faux-boho. I’d recommend matte sequins to anyone afraid of looking like Liberace.
One of my favorite items of clothing is a black matte sequin blazer; it goes with everything. Sequins are a lot more versatile than you’d think as long as you style them for everyday-wear and not for a cocktail party. One reason I enjoy sequins is that anytime I wear them I get so many comments; I know other people enjoy them too. They just lift your mood. You can’t have a bad day in sequins!
Deb: You are a collector of coats and feature them in many of your outfit posts. I loved the color block coat you most recently featured on your blog. Do you have a favorite coat in your collection?
Lisa: The color block coat is one of my favorites too! It is hard to choose one favorite, but the black Miu Miu faux crocodile coat I’ve worn a lot recently would have to be it. I can’t imagine a coat I wouldn’t wear, except for a fur coat.
Deb: Best fashion advice or style tips you may have picked up along the way as a fashion writer or blogger that you want to pass on to my readers?
Lisa: Put color around your face whenever you can, be it an earring, a necklace, a scarf, or a coat.
Experiment. Don’t get stuck in a rut or a style uniform. It is so easy to wear jeans, a Breton tee, and Stan Smiths like everyone else, but where’s the imagination in that?
Think about what makes you YOU. Are you funny? Are you elegant? Are you serious? Are you outdoorsy? You’ll feel great if you dress in a way that really reflects who you are and what you love.
Push up your sleeves or wear 3/4 length sleeves whenever you can; it is a styling trick that makes everything look modern and shows off the thinnest part of anyone’s body.
Deb: Thank you, Lisa for sharing your personal fashion philosophy with us. Ladies, be sure to visit Lisa’s aptly named blog, The Sequinist, where she shares more of her favorite outfits as well as fashion and beauty advice for women 40+.