On a recent trip to Melbourne, I hit the streets looking for inspiring stylish women to complement our previous reports on grown-up Sydney fashionistas. They weren’t hard to find.
And although each of them has a unique philosophy of what they find appealing and how they want to look, one thing unites all these gorgeous women – when it comes to fashion choices, age is not a factor. Amen to that.
If there’s attitude Melissa would like to banish, it’s the thinking that a woman has to change the way she dresses when she hits a certain age.
As owner and curator of the Albert & Victoria boutique in Albert Park, she is constantly encountering women who come in to her shop and sigh, “I wish I were still young enough to wear this.”
And they are usually years younger than Melissa, whose shop is filled with beautiful limited-edition vintage and modern pieces sourced from abroad that she would want to wear herself. The irony is not lost on her.
“It’s as if hitting 50 is the beginning of the end of their youthfulness and individual style, and that is not the case,” she asserts.
“It’s a matter of dressing for your shape and personality. You’ve got to be able to say, ‘That’s gorgeous, it would suit me, but I just won’t wear it the way the kids are wearing it.’”
Melissa, who reminds me of former Paris Vogue editor, Carine Roitfeld, is rocking a cotton men’s T-shirt, Indian scarf and delicate gold-and-lapis bracelet all featured in her shop along with Sportsgirl jeans and fabulous Italian gold woven-leather boots she found in an op shop.
She gleefully bucks the trend of covering her grey roots by lightening the ends instead. “I own my grey hair and wrinkles,” she pronounces. “I am what I am. I’m quite happy to be my age.”
Jennifer emerged from a dark Elwood organic grocery store as fresh as a summer breeze.
In Melbourne on one of her twice-yearly visits from Queensland to see her daughter, Jo – who described her mother’s look as “regal” – Jennifer was effortlessly casual-chic in a crisp cotton tunic top she bought from Zara in Edinburgh, a floaty cotton scarf from an outlet store in Bridge Road and Target jeans.
She is a discerning shopper. “I’m quite fussy,” she admits, her blue eyes twinkling. “And I don’t want to have to mortgage the house for a dress I’m going to wear just once.”
It was Jennifer’s bright open smile and stylish silvery bob that really caught my eye. “I’ve had my hair grey for about a year,” Jennifer tells me.
“I was hesitant to do it, but it’s just so expensive to have it coloured all the time and it grows so fast, so I always had dark roots.
Now people stop me in the street and say, ‘I love your grey hair!’”
Even though she says this is her “going to Costco and hanging out with the dog” outfit, Georgie and her gorgeous three-year-old golden retriever, Otis, made a striking pair out strolling near Albert Park.
She was working some killer colour combinations, pairing an aqua jacket she bought in Nice with magenta Blank NYC skinny jeans, both expertly complemented by a playful Urban Jungle scarf.
Georgie describes her fashion aesthetic as “eclectic” and prefers to shop outside the mainstream.
“I like Victoria & Albert and I buy heaps of stuff at the South Melbourne Market, and a little bit of Zara and online.
If I’m dressing up, I’ll go to Who Fish – they have Ted Baker, Rebecca Thompson, a lot of designers I like.”
Georgie switches up her style according to her mood. “If I’m having a bad day, I might wear all black,” she says, “or I might dress in bright colours to cheer myself up.
But I never think I need to dress for a certain age. I just dress for how I feel.”
While accompanying a friend on her afternoon school run, I couldn’t help but notice Sarah standing out from the crowd of fairly hip mums not only because of her height – just shy of 178cm – but also her elegantly quirky style.
A travel agent living in St Kilda West, Sarah’s wearing a Gregory Ladner sunhat, glasses by Theo of Belgium, jumper by New Zealand designer Aliza, necklace from Laila’s in Noosa, an old Gap skirt, Sancho boots and a striking mustard Jimmy Choo knockoff bag she bought on a recent holiday in Vietnam because she loved the colour.
Sarah dresses, she says, with her daily routine in mind – “I have to go between school and work every day.
I’m always walking, so my footwear is always for comfort” – and she’s attracted to natural fibres and a neutral palette.
One of her favourite Melbourne shops is Nordic fashion emporium Dansk. “I’m very northern European in my styling,” she says. “That’s what I aspire to.”
*Bonnie Vaughan is a regular contributor to Good Health and has written about lifestyle, wellbeing and anti-ageing for Body+Soul.com.au and Sunday. She loves to challenge ageist style conventions and likes to think of her own fashion ethos as “selective street chic”.