Monday, 24 January 2011


I'm still half-heartedly batting off middle-age. By which I mean, my efforts to remind myself that I'm not absolutely over the hill are certainly more vigorous than they were last year. 2010 was mostly characterised by my devotion to eating cake and feeling morose, and of course, by the time the New Year dawned, the cake had made my pants feel like I was wearing them back to front, and the moping around smacked too much of the horror of my fifteen year old self, when all I did was stay in my bedroom wearing an oversize black mohair jersey, writing bleak, sub-Sylvia Plath inspired poetry to a soundtrack of Kate Bush and The Dead Kennedy's.

There has been some progression, thankfully: the mohair has given way to a black cashmere polo neck (admittedly, I'd much rather the label inside said 'Brora' than 'Tesco Finest', but still), and the awful poetry has been replaced by this blog (less prolific, more self-conscious). Fortunately for Mr Trefusis, I only have The Dead Kennedy's on vinyl, and we no longer have a record player. But even so, the period of appalling self-indulgence would have to come to an end at some point, and God, January is a good a cut off as any.

'Shake it off, Trefusis, and spruce yourself up,' I said to myself over Christmas, 'There's no point in waiting for your second wind, if you're still puffed out from the first, life in the old dog yet and all that.' I'm afraid I've never been one for covert, internal transformations - for one thing,  if I'm going to make an effort to buck things up, I don't want it to go unnoticed and for another, I can't possibly change myself on the inside if the outside looks shabby - it seems so hypocritical, really.

It's not a new or original thought, obviously - about two thousand years ago, Roman poet Juvenal wrote that 'seldom do people discern/eloquence under a threadbare cloak' so now, as then, the externals matter.

Of course, after a certain age, there's no such thing as a five minute fix - one can't shrug off twelve months of intimate acquaintance with the Campari Spritz at lovely Polpo Soho or Red Velvets at Hummingbird Bakery overnight - and it seems to me that, after forty, everything, from reading the instructions on a new gadget to looking halfway presentable, takes an unreasonably long time.

But there are a few rules, I find, to making one look less of a natural disaster -

(1) Decent skincare
The effects of winter weather and central heating, as much as age, make skin seem grey, dry and dull. Harper's Bazaar's Newby Hands said Nubo's Diamond Peel and Reveal 'is the best we've tried for giving refined, clear skin'. It's the best I've tried too - it's like Mr Sheen for the face, getting rid of the dusty look and putting the fresh shine back. It's not a steal at £65, but it is wonderful, and a little goes a long way.
I also really like Clinique's Repairwear Laser Focus wrinkle and UV damage corrector (£35) - I'm a huge fan of serums - I've tried everything from Lancome's Genefique to Creme de la Mer - but this works even better than products I've used at twice the price. It makes my skin incredibly clear and soft, and has all but eradicated the finer lines on my face. I use it with another Clinique product, Youth Surge Age Decelerating Moisturiser (there's a day and a night cream), which again has a performance which belies the price - it's about £28, which is only a few quid more than Olay, and infinitely more effective. I'm a complete convert.

(2) It's all about the hair
Watch any of those make-over programmes, and it's not the zillions spent on botox/fillers/peels/surgery that turns the bags into beauties, it's the hair.  Good colour and a decent cut work miracles beyond comprehension. My beloved Graham, who created the Mrs Trefusis hair (profile picture) and is King of Up-do's, has opened a salon a hop, skip and a jump from the office, so I need never let my roots admit what he tries so hard to conceal, that I'm very far from a natural blonde. Graham also taught me that a professional blow-dry is infinitely better value for money than a new frock if you've somewhere special to go.
Tilley and Carmichael, 5 Silver Place, Soho, London W1F 0JR. 0207 287 7677

(3) Until someone sensible brings vigorous corsetry back into vogue, exercise is unavoidable
I've tried, really I have. There have been a few half-hearted attempts at getting back into running, but really, it's been all about the Spanx and a push up bra since the Tiniest T was born. Apparently, exercise not only puts the zing back into your figure, it also makes you feel jolly. Three mind-boggling Zumba classes and some fiendish gym sessions, I'm still to be convinced, possibly because the programme was designed for me by an infant in trackpants, who talked slowly to me in a 'Does he take sugar?' kind of way, and said 'I expect the gym has changed a lot since you last came: it's all computerised now.'

(4) Bugger being young: be sophisticated.
(Actually, this is points 4, 5, 6 and 7 all rolled into one, partly because it's taken me a month to get round to writing this blog, and we'll be here all night if I go on much longer.)

Why bother to épater les jeunes when this season's ultra-groomed glamour looks utterly bonkers on the under 35's. If you try to do the current  'done' look, all blow-dried hair and proper lipstick, and you're in your mid-twenties, you risk looking like the Tiniest Trefusis after a raid on my wardrobe.

Ha! Quick, quick, Middle Youth, I call upon you to rise up: our fashion moment has finally come.

Anyway, the quickest short cut to sophistication is a bold lip, which seems to be very now, thankfully - Sali Hughes has it bang on in this lovely piece from the Guardian. Unconsciously, I've been working up to this moment for a while because at the last count I had fifteen red lipsticks, all different, but then with red lips, it's all about the nuance. It's not especially easy to pull off - a strong lip doesn't really work if the rest of you is a bit laissez-faire - but on the days one can be bothered, it's pure beauty prozac.

It's also probably time to develop a signature look, as recommended in one of my favourite books  - Backwards in High Heels - I'm still working on this, but I'm told it's not only sophisticated, it's most youthifying.

I was also told the other day, by someone who knows, that fast fashion is over and it's all about 'considered shopping' - for example - no one needs three expensive handbags - invest in the one you really love and look after it. Don't buy six cheap white shirts, find the definitive white shirt, and so on and so forth.

But really, the apogee of grown-up chic is the ability to eat oysters. In my head, I am exactly the kind of woman who could perch elegantly on a high stool and lunch on a half dozen Duchy Natives and a glass of champagne - not only is this sublimely elegant, it's also only 4 Weightwatcher Pro-points, the same as a couple of slices of toast but infinitely more impressive.  Reader, I have yet to manage more than two oysters, because secretly they rather revolt me, but I am practising hard, helped by the opening of fabulous new seafood restaurant, The Wright Brothers on Kingly Street in Soho - just walking in makes me feel impossibly stylish, like Alexis Colby, but in a good way.


Michelle Trusttum said...

Yes, hair is a huge part of pulling the whole post forty thing off, and your post has reminded me it's high time to take myself in hand.

Thank you too for the Clinique recommendation. While so many women swear by Olay, I just can't bring myself to go there. I remember when it was Oil of Ulan and, well, need I say more?

So pleased I found your blog.

Miss Underscore said...

So glad you mentioned Alexis Colby. Of course, one of her anti-aging tips would be to find yourself a much older oil magnate to drape yourself across, one with a dicky ticker ideally. By comparison you will always look as fresh as a daisy, as this clip proves.

(warning - there is gratuitous sax in this scene)

This is an approach I am hoping to adopt. Oil magnates are thin on the ground in Sunderland, so I am setting my sights on the chap who owns the local garage.

Christina @ Fashion's Most Wanted said...

Dear Mrs T, thanks so much for the tips. I haven't been to a Clinique counter since I bought their three step programme when I was eighteen. It's always great to hear about something that works and is affordable.

You are so right about the blow dry being much more important than a new dress.

I've been feeling quite dreary for the whole of January and have only just perked up a little now it's nearly over.

I will definitely test some of the lipsticks Sali recommends, I've been using the same ones for years.

I'm embarrassed to say someone told me about Zumba recently and I had to Google it xx

Make Do Style said...

Truth be told I'm scared by this zumba thingy! I've revered to a good old fashioned bracing of oneself and a swim outdoors which is wonderful for the skin on the body.

I'm also a complete convert to Arbonne so much so I'm selling the stuff, which is slightly sad but once I got over this fact I am now nose deep in finishing my feature length film script as I can take some of the pressure off my financial mire. Plus I get to spend more time with the petit garcon which is a joy. The serum and make up primer are my best sellers - apologies as I turn in to a car salesperson!

The lipstick video was great and I'm longing for a night out to try the recommended hairdresser for an up do.

Also still marvelling at the King's Speech.

Anonymous said...

Oooooh - Dead Kennedys! I can lend you a CD if you...

... no - perhaps not...



Alison Cross said...

You're so right about the hair making the difference. I also think that the teeth make the difference too.

I've always felt that I had someone else's teeth in my mouth - they are crowded and getting more crooked as I get older. 2011 is the year of the invisible brace for me. I don't care how much it costs, I want to be able to laugh without having to put my hand up to my mouth :-D

BTW - I read that exercise is no use for losing weight. You'd need to run from Sheffield to Leeds to lose a pound of fat. Or just cut down on your portion sizes and snacking for a week. Bugger the running :-)

Ali x

Sarah said...

Love the tips. I have a real thing for red lipstick and work on the premise that even if the rest of me is a complete disaster (frequently the case), if my lipstick is bright and bold and fearless, that will be all anyone notices. How deluded I am.
Have you tried oysters at the bar in J Sheekey? Though there's no escaping the fact that oysters taste like a slimey mouthful of seawater, I reckon it's the most romantic spot in London (flattering lighting helps).

Unknown said...

I think this is my favorite post you've ever written. So funny, relatable and wise.

S said...

i love all your tips- and have always bought all the creams and serums you have suggested. Mrs T- you are exquisite and beautiful- i know you. there isnt anything ageing on that face.

as for the idea of 'considered shopping', you wont believe me, but i learnt this living in Rome- from the Romans. i had friends who were not uber wealthy, but they would buy *one* Pollini or *one* Sergio Rossi shoe a year and wear it to death- i like that philosophy. i am still wearing my 20 seasons late D&G pumps to work- and they will always last me. no, theyre not the super a la moda platforms, but, hey ho, i dont care... :)
x shayma said...

Mrs T, loved this post and realised (with horror ) as I was admiring your procrastinations that you are not on our sidebar of favourite blogs. Hw did that happen? All is now sorted and you are up in your rightful place. Ax

Jeanne Henriques said...

I am a new this post. Had to Tweet it although I am new to that as well!

Talking age...I posted on a few of my favourite 'new 30' looks for the SAG Awards..I assume you are much younger than I any age, we can use tips like this, especially on a Monday morning.

Jeanne xx

Unknown said...

Same as Christina, hadn't been to the Clinique counter for years. Went this evening, looked up your recommendations and came home with fab gift set that includes the moisturizer PLUS free small pots of serum and night moisturizer for £40. Looking forward to waking up looking like a teenager tomorrow morning. Minus the spots, obviously.

Rose said...

great tips Mrs T. Gone are the days when I think I have good genes I'll be okay. My Mother still has wonderful skin- and now less lines than me on her forehead and around her eyes- I don't know how she does it.

I'm sure the city doesn't help- though I love it devotedly- I think I should be sent to Italy for my health for a time

Unknown said...

I could not agree more with you on all the points you made, but as I'm still trying to pull off the rock chick look (because I basically live in jeans), it's the hair that makes all the difference to me (I hope).

On occasion when I wear one of the dozen or so forgotten dresses in my wardrobe people make such nice comments I think I should do that more often but then on a dark morning the jeans are the only thing that look comfortable.

Helena xx

Katherine said...

Dead Kennedy' have to give my vinyl an outing now. I taught a Y3 class a coule of years ago, I started talking about records and the class didn't HAVE A CLUE what I was rambling on about...apart from one little dude who piped up that his grandad had 'some of those things'. That's not helping the anti-aging theme is it? Sorry...

Skechers Shoes said...

I'm sure the city doesn't help- though I love it devotedly- I think I should be sent to Italy for my health for a time...thank you for sharing your information...

clothing said...

It is great to know that your happy with what you have right now.and to know that your thankful of it.