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The 50 best-dressed over-50s – in pictures | Fashion | The Guardian

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The 50 best-dressed over-50s – in pictures

The 50 best-dressed over-50s – in pictures

The very concept of a level playing field is anathema to fashion. This is unfair, politically incorrect, and makes People Like Us very cross. But it is what it is: if you are young, beautiful and slim, you have a head start when it comes to looking fabulous, before we even start on finances.
So when youth and beauty are taken out of the equation, the best-dressed competition becomes a little fairer, and more interesting. Even the most genetically blessed find that while cheekbones may last, the spell cast by youthful beauty loses its power to bewitch. Beauty fades; style becomes more important.
With this in mind, we present the 50 over 50. It's more interesting than your average best-dressed list, because style over 50 has a depth of character with which no youngster can compete, however good she may look in hotpants.
This may be the only fashion feature you read this season that does not include a photograph of Cara Delevingne. For this we offer no apologies whatsoever

Jess Cartner-Morley

@JessC_M

Fri 29 Mar 2013 12.30 EDT First published on Fri 29 Mar 2013 12.30 EDT

  • Helen Mirren, 67

    Platinum-blond hair and a lipsticked smile is a formula movie stars have long employed to devastating effect. (See also: Marilyn Monroe.) Mirren, with her platinum-white soft bob and immaculate makeup, has found a way to make this look work in middle age and beyond. She proves that dressing well after 50 doesn’t have to mean adherence to dry, thin-lipped notions of age-appropriate chic. Instead, her clothes make it clear that it would never cross her mind to bow meekly out of the fashion limelight just because she is an Older Woman. She is still sexy and still powerful, and she dresses accordingly. Nobody puts Mirren in the corner. Like a true movie star, she always appears to be beautifully lit, even when papped on the beach. This is clever use of colour: the shades she chooses for her hair and frocks are the ones that most flatter her skin and accentuate her eyes. The shape is fitted, but never tight. Always ballsy, never brassy

    Photograph: Getty Images/Rex Features

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  • Mary Berry, 78

    Always looks cheerful, yet elegant, which is not an easy combination to pull off. Favours florals because they make her look “approachable”. A floral bomber jacket from Zara famously sold out after she sported it on The Great British Bake Off – personally, I thought the Whistles navy blazer with pink-and-yellow wisteria print an even bolder and better choice. Rocked a blue satin, floor-length gown (just over £200, from John Lewis) to the National Television Awards, proving that some seventysomethings can totally pull off a sleeveless dress

    Photograph: Rex Features/WireImage

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  • Carine Roitfeld, 58

    The only woman on Earth who looks a bit like Iggy Pop, but in a good way. If you are puzzled by the fashion industry’s Roitfeld-crush, let me point out this: neither she, nor her dress sense, is very photogenic. This is a woman whose appeal is amplified in the flesh. There is often an air of vague dishevelment – in the way her blouse is buttoned and her hair falls over one eye – that looks a little scruffy on camera but bewitches in real life. She hasn’t ceded an inch of sexiness as she has got older, but avoids age-inappropriateness with the help of total self-belief, sweetness of nature and daily ballet, which gives her the bottom to rock those Givenchy pencil skirts

    Photograph: Rex Features/WireImage

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  • Barack Obama, 51

    The new issue of American Vogue has Michelle Obama (49) on the cover (her second appearance), but the interview inside is with both of them. They are both, Vogue notes, “tall and great-looking”; he is “not so grey” and doesn’t look as if he is over 50. Flotus makes the fashion headlines, but her husband is never, ever in her shade. Whether in his favoured day look (black suit, white shirt, blue tie), classic tailored coats, white tie or a rolled-up shirtsleeve, Obama brings a Fred Astaire elegance to the presidency

    Photograph: Rex Features

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  • The Queen, 86

    The Queen is presented to us with the edges trimmed for order and neatness, like a crustless cucumber sandwich. Her formula is one block colour, used from hat crown to knee, with a brooch or a string of pearls. There is something poignant about the bag, always clutched in one hand: it gives her an excuse to keep one hand to herself, however many people reach out for the royal touch. On a very personal occasion, such as her grandson William’s wedding, she might be expected to wear something different – but no, she sticks to the exact formula. She may be 86, but she understands the importance of the brand as well as any twentysomething

    Photograph: Getty Images

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  • David Bowie, 66

    Many of us go through our entire lives without ever managing to nail even one signature look. Bowie had Ziggy Stardust and the Thin White Duke under his belt before he was 30. But my surprise takeaway from the new V&A show, David Bowie Is, was how some of Bowie’s best looks of all have been his straightest: impeccably cut suits and brilliantly rakish hair. The video for The Stars (Are Out Tonight) shows he has in no way lost his touch in this department. He wears a duck-egg-blue shirt, a beautiful suit, an overcoat and, by the end – in an ode to Ziggy? – a face covered in lipstick kisses

    Photograph: Rex Features

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  • Julianne Moore, 52

    For event dressing, Moore’s look is all about playing up what’s special and amazing about her, rather than competing with anyone else. Key are lots of block, bright colours: emerald and turquoise both look incredible with her red hair and green eyes, but she has scored hits in bright yellow Dior and pillarbox-red Alexander McQueen. She wears dresses by designers who understand how to make a woman look glamorous and refined – Tom Ford is a friend, Lanvin is a favourite

    Photograph: Rex Features

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  • Bill Nighy, 63

    Bill Nighy always, always wears a navy blue suit. Every day. A bespoke navy suit, to boot. In 2011, he told mrporter.com that “puddles [excess fabric] on the top of your shoes, that’s a horror”. This is the kind of commitment to style that gets you on best-dressed lists. Not long ago, he sat next to Anna Wintour at a Nicole Farhi show at London fashion week: he was wearing a navy suit (of course) with a pale blue shirt, a midnight-blue silk scarf with white polka dots, a grey overcoat and thick-rimmed black spectacles. He matched her, chic to chic

    Photograph: Rex Features

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  • Tilda Swinton, 52

    There is an exception to every rule and she is the exception to the rule that beauty diminishes with age, becoming more stunning with each passing year, like a magical creature. Her red-carpet choices are always bold – sculptural Haider Ackermann, the wackier reaches of Dior – and she always delivers. She is also living proof that androgyny can be extraordinarily erotic, if sufficiently badass

    Photograph: Billy Farrell Agency / Rex Featu/BRL

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  • Tom Ford, 51

    Someone once said that Tom Ford dresses – himself and others – to turn people on. His look is that of a fantasy date, and he is always in character. He has three baths a day – four if he is going out after work – and always smells dreamy. (One of his favourite colognes is Blenheim Bouquet by Penhaligon’s, which was also worn by Winston Churchill.) His self-confessed urban “uniform” consists of: white shirt, dark tie, gold collar pin, black or dark grey single-breasted suit, black shoes. He has different uniforms for his home in Santa Fe and holidays in Mustique, and for ski resorts

    Photograph: WireImage

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  • Miuccia Prada, 63

    It is always fascinating to see how female designers dress for their own catwalk shows. Some take pride in wearing the look with unblinking literalism, even if it means shoehorning themselves into a PVC corset (hi, Donatella!) while others make a point of wearing trainers whether their models are dressed in neon sandals or heeled ankle boots (hey, Phoebe!). Mrs Prada (as everyone calls her) takes the more challenging route of finding a way to interpret the catwalk look that works for a sixtysomething woman, incorporating elements of each season’s print or proportion into a wardrobe built around excellent knee-length skirts and a covetable, eclectic collection of jewellery that ranges from vintage emeralds to bright plastic banana earrings. Something to note about Miuccia: before she became a fashion designer, she gained a PhD in political science and spent five years studying mime. Not the life path of a woman who shies away from a challenge

    Photograph: Rex Features

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  • Catherine Deneuve, 69

    I have been watching Deneuve watch fashion shows for years, and I have come to this conclusion: nobody, nobody, does Classy Boredom like Deneuve. Being too cool for school is a tricky look to pull off post the teenage years, but while Deneuve sits through Paris fashion week’s finest shows with perfect hair and impeccable posture, she gives off the vibe of a fifth-former in double maths who can’t wait to nip outside to smoke fags and bitch about someone. Legend

    Photograph: Rex Features

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  • Lucinda Chambers, 53

    On the fashion front row, it is not Alexa Chung who makes me proud to be British, but Chambers. The fashion director of Vogue has the kind of style that is utterly innate and impossible to copy. A childlike love of colour and fabric is tempered by a natural elegance. She wears lots of print, lots of Marni, any colour so long as it’s not black. Her shoots are about story and character in an industry driven by bald commerce, and the same is true of her own style: it’s about personality rather than ego

    Photograph: Linda Nylind

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  • Emmanuelle Riva, 86

    The oldest-ever best actress nominee was also one of the best-dressed on the red carpet at this year’s Oscars. She swapped her mousy onscreen persona from Amour for a sassy shorter hairstyle, a bright red lip and a Lanvin dress and cape combination. At the Oscars, wearing a Lanvin cape? Way to do octogenarianism, madame

    Photograph: Getty Images

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  • Aung San Suu Kyi, 67

    Admired, of course, for many things before her dress sense. And yet her way with subtle combinations of print and colour is Very Prada, if I may say so (see: the rose pink, black and silver outfit she wore when meeting Prince Charles during her visit to the UK last summer). Her love of traditional Burmese tailoring details and colours has been credited with helping to brake a trend towards western dress among young women in her country

    Photograph: Rex Features

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  • Lee Radziwill, 80

    It is her sister, Jackie Onassis, who rules the all-time best-dressed lists. But last time I saw Radziwill, she walked into a Paris salon, for a couture show by Giambattista Valli, and half the fashion editors in the room turned to admire this vision of chic, her hair swept into a chignon as intimidating as any gladiatorial helmet, her dress supremely simple and elegant. Her clothes are cut with decorum but never nun-like: balletic necklines give a glimpse of collarbone, three-quarter-length sleeves of delicate wrists. The aesthetic she represents may be out of touch with the modern world, but it works because to her that world is still absolutely real. She does not do casual, ever. Perhaps this makes her a dinosaur, but surely there is something galvanising about those who keep such exacting standards

    Photograph: Getty Images

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  • Paul Weller, 54

    Because Bradley Wiggins did not invent sideburns, despite what today’s young people may think. And because it’s only when you notice how ridiculous this look is when done badly (hello, Liam Gallagher) that you begin to realise how well Weller does it. Because he proves that silver grey can be as glamorous as platinum blond, in its way. Because he is a connection between a younger generation of musicians and the intense style tribalism of the 1960s and 70s out of which street fashion grew. Because he has the eye for detail – to note when a coat collar should be buttoned or left open, when a suit jacket needs a pocket square – that gets you on best-dressed lists

    Photograph: Getty Images

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  • Anna Wintour, 63

    The minute Queen Anna walks into the room in a Prada banana-print skirt, or a Marc Jacobs dress of laser-cut daisies, or a Missoni graphic sheath, or a monumental fur, the force of her personality is clear. She is a medium-height, very slight woman of calm, undemonstrative demeanour who favours bright prints, statement necklaces, rich textures. And yet her clothes never overwhelm her. Choosing recognisable prints from a designer’s current collection adds variety: the streamlined silhouette, usually based around a snug T-shirt-shaped top section and an A-line, knee-length skirt, remains the same. As, of course, does the hair

    Photograph: Rex Features

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  • Chrissie Hynde, 51

    A tomboy Cleopatra: long fringe and heavy kohl; jeans and a sleeveless vest Grace Jones, 64Where to start? She would earn her place on this list simply through her services to millinery. And then there’s the tailoring. And the leotard-based stage outfits, which would make Rihanna blush. Signature accessory: the hula hoop. Respect

    Photograph: Rex Features

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  • Nick Cave, 55

    Nick Cave is the world’s only chic goth. The soul (and, for a long time, the narcotic habits) of a romantic poet; the style of a Tarantino gangster. His appearance is all about extremes. He wears fitted three-piece suits that emphasise his tall, whip-thin body shape. Instead of hiding a receding hairline, he has made it part of his signature look, emphasised at times with a handlebar moustache. He always, always has one too many buttons undone on his shirt, but it works. And he has the best signature on-camera expression in the business – an arch scowl, eyes twinkling

    Photograph: Getty Images

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  • Queen Margrethe of Denmark, 72

    A formidable Mary Poppins figure in the mostly beige lineup of European royalty. Wore a red and white print dress with matching red and white hat for coffee with Michelle Obama in the White House. This lady is fearless. Has given her yearly address to the nation in, among other looks, a scarlet houndstooth YSL-esque pussy-bow blouse, and a graphic knit that could pass as 1980s Versace. As that other Queen (Bey) would say: Bow Down Kirsty Wark, 58Proving night after night that, contrary to popular opinion, a woman who knows her Miu Miu from her Mulberry can, astoundingly, still have sufficient brainpower left over to be well informed on other important issues

    Photograph: Rex Features/Getty Images

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  • Iris Apfel, 91

    Apfel is Manhattan’s oldest and coolest It girl. Her extraordinary, oversized, owl-frame glasses are the touchstone of a look that is a celebration of personal style as an expression of who you are. The piled-on necklaces, bangles stacked high as totem poles and kingfisher-bright flashes of colour are just her way of being Iris. “No amount of money can buy you style,” she said recently. “If someone says, ‘Buy this – you’ll be stylish’, you won’t be stylish because you won’t be you. You have to learn who you are first and that’s painful… I don’t try to intellectualise about it because it tightens you up. I think you have to be loose as a goose.”

    Photograph: Rex Features

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  • Joanna Lumley, 66

    The fashion police can try as hard as they like to kill off the pashmina, but they’re no match for Lumley. Her TV journey down the Nile was a masterclass in how to look thrilling in simple, comfortable pieces accessorised with swathes of gorgeous fabric and snazzy earrings. Lumley’s way with a wrap brings together two of the bits of her heritage for which we love her most: the posh, daughter-of-empire bit and the saucy 60s bit. Does not shy away from edgy catwalk fashion for evening (see her red peony-print Jonathan Saunders dress at the recent TV awards), but for day is a big fan of that staple of the mature wardrobe, the longer-line jacket

    Photograph: Getty Images

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  • Zaha Hadid, 62

    If style is self-expression, then the way Hadid projects her aesthetic passions through her clothes – bold, organic shapes with a modern, international feel – is perfect. Most women play with fashion in a small-scale, decorative sense, but Hadid – architect through and through – is all about the statement coat or sweeping line

    Photograph: Rex Features

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  • Arianna Huffington, 62

    The Huffington Post founder has forged a professional image situated at the exact point where serious, smart Washington player meets glamorous, social Manhattan woman. Key to the look is that grown-up, expensive-looking blow-dry, always matched with a pair of grown-up, expensive-looking earrings. For daytime, an open-necked white blouse with a great tailored blazer is a staple: think two-thirds Carolina Herrera with a dash of Hillary Clinton (the better, later years). She loves to dress up for evening: for the recent Vanity Fair Oscars party, she had Valentino custom-make a version of a floor-length black lace gown, with half-length sleeves added to the original sleeveless design. True power dressing

    Photograph: Rex Features

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  • Jil Sander, 69

    Sander pretty much invented minimalism as we know and wear it today, and she’s still going strong. Now back at the helm of her own-name label, her catwalk bow after February’s show was a masterclass in how minimalism can be bold and subtle at the same time: a perfect black turtleneck, pin-neat black trousers, polished black lace-up flats, offset not with a scraped-back bun but with baby blonde hair falling softly around her face

    Photograph: Getty Images

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  • Charlotte Rampling, 67

    Rampling’s look is all about “The Look”, Dirk Bogarde’s phrase for her haughty hooded stare. In Helmut Newton’s iconic 1973 portrait, she is sitting on a table in a Paris hotel, nude, with a glass of wine and a packet of cigarettes, gazing at the viewer in such a way as to make you feel it is she who will judge you, not the other way around. The image is symbolic of her style, which has always been about sex and power, rather than clothes. These days, open necklines hint at that bohemian youth, while the absence of decorative touches keeps her dressed look as sleek and powerful as her naked image

    Photograph: Rex Features

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  • Madeleine Albright, 75

    A dark suit. A round necklace and a brooch at the left shoulder, to brighten. Hair swept back, giving the smooth outline of a head carved in marble. Proof that a signature look does not need to be complicated David Hockney, 75Hockney isn’t dapper at all. Far from it. There’s that mop of hair: once Boris-blond, now silver, never styled. The colours: what other Englishman would wear duck egg blue with red? And those baggy trousers, the kind you wear to walk the dog, or go for a pint. And the knitwear, which has a loved, lived-in feel that seems perfectly right for the wardrobe of a man who lives in Yorkshire and spends a lot of time outdoors. Living proof that there is another template for male style, which owes nothing to urban chic

    Photograph: Rex Features

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  • Mick Jagger, 69

    The man who set the bar for front men from now till the end of time. No matter whether he is with his band, or with his much-taller wife, the spotlight is always on Jagger. His clothes are all about swagger: the velvet jackets signifying dandyism, the skinny tailoring to show off his ridiculously boyish figure. The silk scarves, because – well, just because he can Segolene Royal, 59Shoulder-length hair that is youthful, not helmet-like. A jacket and dress in contrast colours. A white shirt with a silk scarf. How do the French make this style look so easy?

    Photograph: Getty Images/EPA

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  • Kristin Scott Thomas, 52

    Scott Thomas does navy, and black. She does floor-length Lanvin satin. She does trenchcoats with chignons. She does classic diamond tennis bracelets and simple gold earrings. She does white shirts with the collars flipped. She doesn’t do sportswear, hippy chic, grunge or asymmetry. Perhaps a slightly austere, chilly formula – but KST through and through Bryan Ferry, 67The cooler counterpoint to the Jagger swagger. Ferry is only two years younger than Jagger, but while the Rolling Stone’s enduring style was born in the 60s, Ferry’s style has more classic roots. Ferry in a white suit is pure F Scott Fitzgerald gin-soaked chic; Ferry in a cashmere overcoat and scarf is Rat Pack panache

    Photograph: Getty Images

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  • Nelson Mandela, 94

    One word: shirts Baroness Valerie Amos, 59Proves that with hair, as with all things, less can be more. A dab hand with a tailored jacket and a simple necklace. Mistress of the daunting over-the-spectacle gaze

    Photograph: Getty Images/Rex

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  • Sir Christopher Lee, 90, and Birgit Kroencke Lee, 77

    After 53 years of marriage, Christopher Lee and his Danish wife, Birgit Kroencke, have found a way of elegantly mirroring each other that proves couple-dressing does not have to be of the Beckhams-in-leather variety. A typical evening look: Sir Christopher in white bow tie, perfectly setting off his white hair and beard; Birgit in a glossy dark dress to match the neat outline of her glossy dark hair, always lightened with a sparkling brooch or necklace that connects her yin to his yang

    Photograph: Rex Features

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  • Sonia Gandhi, 66

    Understands that proportion and colour are what matter when dressing as a public figure, and keeps it simple. Has spoken out against the lure of Bollywood bling, imploring younger generations to find inspiration in the elegance of traditional Indian dress Gilbert and George, 69 and 71An idiosyncratic double-take on East End style: check coats with wide-boy fur collars and cuffs; windowpane-check suits worn with chequerboard ties (very Louis Vuitton SS13) Judi Dench, 78Owning the pixie cut since before Anne Hathaway was born. Also, owner of the best collection of luxe embroidered evening coats since the Ming dynasty began to slide

    Photograph: Getty Images/David Levene/Rex Features

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  • Patrick Demarchelier, 69

    One of my style mantras is: shoes and hair. These two are all you need for impact. Demarchelier knows this. He often rocks a box-fresh white trainer in the front row, and amazing, international-level hair (great for raking one’s hand through to assert artistic dominance on a shoot) Diana Athill, 95In her own words to this paper three years ago: “However old one is, one still feels inside like the person one used to be. It’s a foolish mistake to try too hard to look like that person, but it would be a bit sad to look very much like something else.” Linda Gray, 72After all these years, still (a) the best fringe in the business and (b) rocking block colour dresses

    Photograph: Getty Images/Murdo MacLeod/Rex Features

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  • Willem Dafoe, 57

    Nobody looks better in a black T-shirt Marina Abramovic, 66Always wears black, white or red; keeps it simple, although occasionally partial to a fancy shoe Ratan Tata, 75The late Gianni Agnelli aside, most business moguls are proof that money can’t buy chic, but we make an exception for Tata Joan Rivers, 79Only Rivers has the moxie to turn a standard-issue Botoxed brow into a personal look, right?

    Photograph: Getty Images/Rex Features

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