Far from being a winter warmer, leather, in butter-soft textures and pastel shades, popped up in several summer collections this year, from Tom Ford to Calvin Klein. A friend of mine recently remarked that since she turned 40 and had children, she’s terrified of wearing leather in case she winds up looking like Cher. A couple of years ago, the 71-year-old singer showed up at the Billboard awards in a black and white studded leather biker jacket (below), complete with silver chainmail camisole… For me, like my friend, this outfit is a fashion horror. However, another friend of ours lauded Cher for being, well, still Cher, despite her septuagenarian status.
Having thought a little more about it, I don’t think it’s a case of how old you are when you wear leather, but how you wear leather. As my friend pointed out, Cher is dressed exactly as you would expect Cher to dress – flashy, a bit trashy, and with a dose of bohemian meets rock chic. I think the choice of wide-leg pants was Cher’s attempt at evolving her style – 30 years ago, she would have been sporting skinny leather pants for sure.
The problem with this outfit is that it would look cheap on anyone. Chainmail mixed with studded leather is one piece of hardware too many whether you’re 25 or 65. Texture in an outfit is really important the older you become, but choosing a butter-soft leather in a softer shade than black will be far more flattering than this throwback to Metallica. This outfit makes Cher look like she desperately wishes she was 21 again rather than 71 (which is probably true but nonetheless, appearing as if you want to be someone other than who you are is not a good look). Of course, Cher’s extensive plastic surgery doesn’t exude a strong sense of self or any kind of comfort level with the ageing process, so it makes her entire look feel even more desperate.
I’ve always thought Vivienne Westwood was the perfect example of a woman who has aged beautifully without sacrificing one iota of her personality or spirit. She wears her own avant-garde label better than any woman of any age. Of course, being a fashion designer she has a head start on the rest of us. She understands colour and texture, form and silhouette, and how they work together to create flattering outfits. The mix of burgundy and teal she’s wearing below looks fresh and modern but suits her colouring and her age beautifully. The tailoring is sophisticated, but contemporary too – she’s played cleverly with proportion by pairing a longline jacket with a maxi skirt. The platform shoes and patterned socks inject a flourish that is Westwood’s signature, and the slit in the skirt playfully says, I’m not finished yet! When I grow up, I want to be Vivienne Westwood.