Grandes Dames of Modern British Fashion

BSIA Tilda Swinton[1].jpg

Aug 11, 2014 by British Blog

Think fashion is just, or even predominantly, for the young? Think again - it takes life experience and a hard-won understanding of what works and what does not, in terms of clothes, colours and styles, to make a merely well-dressed woman into a fashion icon. Perhaps that is why the greatest fashion icons that the UK has to offer are all over 40 (and bear in mind that the UK is a world leader in terms of design). Say "hello" to the real grandes dames of British fashion, each with a sense of style that is envied worldwide. 

Tilda Swinton

Born in 1960, Tilda Swinton is a Scottish actress who has a degree in Social and Political Sciences from Cambridge University. A mother of two, she has explored androgyny in both film and fashion. Her style is bold, striking and often futuristic - she has cited both David Bowie and her father as her own style icons.

Swinton favours strong, clear colours and uncluttered lines, and has worked with designers including Viktor and Rolf, and Alber Elaz. Bold and fearless in her style, there is simply nobody else that dresses like her.

Dame Vivienne Westwood

If there is an ultimate grande dame of British fashion, then surely it is Dame Vivienne Westwood. Born in 1941, the mother of punk is every bit as outspoken now as she was in the 1970s, and fashion is all the better for it. Still working as a fashion designer, and still politically active, she is an inspiration to fashionistas of all ages, shapes and sizes.

Mary Portas

The queen of shops is also a queen of style. With her distinctive bobbed and coloured hair and love of brightly coloured, but pared-down, fashion choices, Portas stands out in any crowd. What is more, she has recently taken to designing clothes specifically for the over-40s, claiming that this demographic is 'invisible' to many of the mainstream fashion houses. If the clothes she is selling are as distinctive as her own, that can only be good news for UK fashion fans.

So it seems that the conclusion is clear: to be a real fashion icon, one has to have “lived” and experienced enough to understand the language of fashion and how to use it to good effect. Thankfully, with the likes of Dame Vivienne Westwood and Mary Portas influencing the fashion on the high street, it seems likely that being an over 40s fashion icon will soon become that little bit easier.

Helen Mirren

It is with good reason that Helen Mirren is often hailed as the quintessential style icon for the over 40s. Never restricted by ideas of dressing 'age appropriately', Mirren has shown that when the cut is good and the skirt length right (generally just over the knee), the figure-following dress can look every bit as good on a woman over 60 as it does on a 20-something.

Mirren does glamour very well and knows instinctively what to cover and what to reveal. She also keeps her hair sleek and simple, which helps. Mirren tends towards simplicity but is not afraid of bright, clear colour - she uses both to great effect in both her clothes and her make-up.