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Celebrity News

Why these Kiwi celebs are happy to age disgracefully

They get candid about their sense of style - and why it's okay to be 'mutton dressed as lamb'.

By Nicky Pellegrino
It happened one day last summer. I noticed what I was wearing. Capri pants and a tunic top that hid my stomach, covered my bum and concealed my upper arms... argh, the uniform of the middle-aged woman!
Not that there was anything wrong with the outfit and, to be fair, I am middle-aged; but somehow I’d always thought of myself as more interesting than that.
As another summer approaches, I’m rethinking my style. What I want is to look good and not be that dreaded thing “mutton dressed as lamb”. Or do I?
“I own that phrase!” cackles entertainer Jackie Clarke (50).
“I put it out there before anyone else has the chance to say it. It’s a byword for ‘please yourselves’, which I think every woman should do.” Jackie is all about putting on the glitz. “When I’m out shopping, I’m a magpie. Bright clothes and sparkly things catch my eye and I don’t fight it. For my work, I like to be full glam in sparkly form-fitting gowns that show off my figure. There’s no subtlety at all but I feel great when I’ve got my full regalia on.”
If there is any hint that an event requires formal clothing, Jennifer wears a gown.
Actress Jennifer Ward-Lealand is also a big fan of glamour and laments there aren’t more opportunities to get thoroughly dressed up.
“If there’s any hint of an event being formal, I wear a gown,” she says. “It’s an extremely elegant look and people seem to love it. I always get a huge response when I’m dressed like that.”
At 53, she understands her body better than she did in her youth and has a stronger sense of what looks good on it.
“I don’t like baggy, it isn’t flattering,” she says. “You just look like a pair of boobs in a sack.”
Being a performer does bring confidence when it comes to dressing up in everyday life. But Jennifer doesn’t believe any woman should feel as if they have to disappear into a middle-aged uniform if
they don’t want to.
“Although I do think it’s taking a while to sink into the wider community that it’s okay for women to express their individualism through clothes,” she says.
Peta is into wearing lots of jewellery and says she wouldn’t even open the door without lipstick on.
With her flaming red hair and bold outfits, there is nothing invisible about 66-year-old writer and entertainer Peta Mathias.
“At the moment, I’m into wearing lots of bangles, rings and bracelets simultaneously,” she says. “My favourite outfit is a beautifully cut spotted dress, which I wear with seven Indian fabric ball necklaces.”
Peta wouldn’t poke her nose out of her front door unless she was wearing great clothes and a little make-up.
“In fact, I wouldn’t even open the door without lipstick on. It’s a matter of personal pride – standards are all I’ve got left in the absence of youth and beauty.”
Both men and women of all ages often walk up to Peta and tell her she’s beautiful.
“For a long time, this was mysterious to me, as clearly I’m not,” she says, “but then I understood that they meant they liked the whole look and it made them happy.”
Peta has made some concessions to age – sleeves and hemlines tend to be a little longer – but she is inspired by quirky New York fashion maven Iris Apfel (95) as well as her own 96-year-old mother who wears gorgeous scarves, colourful shirts and lipstick everyday.
“I know lots of women don’t care what they look like but, as Iris says, ‘If you’re not interested, you’re not interesting,’” explains Peta.
Comedian Michele A'Court
Comedian Michele A’Court (55) is definitely interesting. She describes her look as “feminist Minnie Mouse”.
“I’ve worked out I feel great in a retro 1950s skater dress and nana cardigan with chunky boots, and my hair up with a flower stuck in it,” she says.
She maintains that middle age is when women should have more freedom when it comes to their personal style.
“If we’re lucky, we have more time and money, and less baby-spit on our shoulder,” she says.
“We’d be crazy not to have fun with getting dressed in the morning now we’re not off on the school run.”
Michele loves sequins and flowers, and when shopping never stops to ask herself what a 55-year-old woman ought to wear.
“I don’t think there actually is anything in my wardrobe that I wouldn’t have enjoyed wearing when I was 25.”
All four of these stylish, colourful Kiwi women say they feel more comfortable with who they are these days, with their body shapes and fashion sense. And none of them are dressing to please anyone but themselves.
“At a certain age, you have to stop caring what people think,” says Jackie. “Just do what you have to do to make yourself feel great. It doesn’t matter whether it’s trending or it’s age appropriate. Don’t worry about it!”
WATCH: Jennifer Ward-Lealand and her Dirty Laundry cast mates

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