Instagram is packed with them; they’re claiming the blog zone as their territory, and fashion is finally catching up. Watch out for the fierce fiftyplus fashion bloggers!
Great style has no age limit as Hilda Smith keeps proving. Wearing what she loves because she loves it and damn the begrudgers, she’s causing a stir in the fashion industry with her involvement in the Fierce 50 Campaign (#thefierce50).
Hilda provides an inspiring reminder to us all that fashion is not just a young person’s game – it’s an expression of one’s individuality, whatever your age. It’s a ‘stick it to the man’ kind of revolutionary attitude and above all else, it’s fun!
Ruby Deevoy caught up with Hilda in an exclusive interview…
Fashion is so often looked at as a young person’s game. Did you feel nervous stepping into the role of fashion blogger later in life?
I see myself more as a lifestyle blogger and, of course, fashion is a big part of life whatever your age.
My move into blogging came about through my frustration with the fashion industry and media who tend to ignore the older woman, despite the fact that we’ve often got more disposal income than younger generations (having paid off mortgages etc). I spend more on fashion items now than when I was working and rearing my family.
I am not an expert in the fashion stakes, but I admire others who display their personalities through what they wear and I am always careful not to ‘preach’ to my audience. Fashion is a way to express your personality and so show your individuality. There is no one-size-fits-all.
You were one of the women responsible for launching The Fierce 50 campaign – can you tell me a bit about what that is?
I became involved in the Fierce 50 Campaign because of an amazing woman, Catherine Grace O’Connell, from LA. I made an effort to connect with other mature bloggers and after finding her on Facebook, we became friends. Like me, Catherine despaired of the dismissive attitude fashion brands have towards women over 50, so she asked if I would join forces with her in the launch of the Forever Fierce Revolution to try to change such attitudes.
I was honoured to be the only Irish woman and only one of a few Europeans in the original 50. The movement has grown beyond all our expectations and now is known as The Midlife Revolution. We’re really making waves! In America, brands like Chicos have embraced the idea and now champion the older woman, using them in advertising campaigns. It has been slower to take off here and I don’t go out of my way to promote myself, but I am now getting two to three requests a week to work with different brands in the beauty, fashion and travel arenas.
It is important to me that I only work with companies/brands that I feel I can endorse honestly. If a product doesn’t suit me, I decline the offer to be involved. I recently worked with Shaws Department Stores on promotional videos and I will be shortly collaborating with a top travel company, The Travel Department.
Retirement is so often seen as a time for slowing down, but you appear to have sped up! Do you feel being free from the constraints of work has allowed you to explore a new side of yourself?
Absolutely. I retired as an English teacher six years ago and was a complete technophobe. Turning the computer on was scary enough initially, but I have mastered that fear and am more comfortable on the keyboard now. My blog means I have a discipline to my week to ensure I research and write about a variety of topics while also enjoying Golf and Bridge (two activities I would never have thought about seriously years ago!). I also have more time to enjoy my grandson Logan (20 months old) – unashamedly besotted with the little man! Freed from the shackles of work, I can now enjoy more traveling with my husband Graham (known as GG on the blog) at home and abroad.
Has this influenced your fashion choices?
If anything, I have become more daring in my choices. During the day I tend to wear skinny jeans (mostly bought in Zara who do lovely high-waisted ones) and a T-shirt or jumper, boots in the winter. While I spend much of my days in casual gear, our active social life means we dine out a lot so I enjoy getting dressed up on these occasions.
Do you follow trends or do your own thing?
I don’t do most trends, but I try to stay current. I embraced the cold shoulder with gusto when it first appeared and have several cold-shoulder items in my wardrobe. I don’t do frumpy!
I shop in boutiques and shops like LK Bennett for dressier items, but was delighted to find wide off-white trousers in TopShop last year, which I wore to Ladies Day at The Horse Show where I was the guest of Qatar Airlines.
My one concession to ageing is shoes. I am unable to wear the very high heels I wore 10 years ago. Devastated!
Was a career in fashion always something you dreamed of?
Not at all. I actually fancied being a barrister when I was in school and then decided on teaching and feel that was my true calling. I love the vibrancy of young people and their enthusiasm, and feel privileged to have been a teacher. I remain friends with many of the young people in my classroom and follow their lives with huge interest.
Your daughter, Courtney Smith, is also a trend-setter as an international stylist. Despite the age gap, is there anything you share in your passion for fashion?
I was always interested in fashion but Courtney is very much in a league of her own. Unlike her, I never wanted to make my career in that field. Courtney was cutting up and sewing clothes when she was seven years of age and even when she was 16, she cut up an expensive pair of my leather trousers and res-styled them into a jacket for herself!
I shopped in second-hand shops when I was first married (money was tight back in the 80s) and found some wonderful bargains; Courtney is also an avid vintage shopper and loves trawling through such shopping meccas, especially when abroad.
Many people face the phenomenon of a ‘transitional style crisis’ when you suddenly realise that you have aged and now you have no idea how to dress. Have you ever experienced this?
I feel that there is no such thing as age-appropriate dressing. It has to do with being confident in your choices and being comfortable in them. I don’t hold with rules for dressing when you reach a certain age. My advice is to try everything on, look at it from every angle in a good mirror and trust your instincts.
If I am unsure about a purchase, my daughters soon put me right!
What has been your biggest fashion faux-pas?
I have had a problem thinking of any! Seriously, even the pink bell bottoms I wore in 1970 are fashionable again now. I have bought items of clothing which I have had to return because my daughters say ‘No Mum’! But I don’t look back and cringe at any photos and say, “What was I thinking?!” It is FASHION and fashion is meant to be fun!
I loved wearing minis, paisley patterned maxis, big shoulder pads, floral leggings and so on. They defined a time, a decade.
Who are you biggest fashions icons? Do you have a favourite fashionista?
My current favourite woman is Brigitte Macron, wife of the French President. She looks amazing! She dresses how she likes and is still a very sexy woman. She rocks whatever she wears and breaks many of the so-called ‘rules’. I also follow many wonderful over-50 bloggers who dress how they want and damn the begrudgers!
When it comes to style, are there any ‘rules’ you follow or are rules only made to be broken?
The older I get, I probably break more rules, take more risks and am less conservative! I don’t dress to please others, just to feel good in what I wear. I subscribe to the ‘Age is just a Number’ belief and the ‘I will wear what I damn well like’ brigade.
Recently, I was part of a world-wide ‘Rock Your Jeans’ movement, featuring in a video with over 100 other ‘older’ women rocking their jeans in answer to some ridiculous so-called style rule in some magazine, stating that women over 40 should not wear jeans.
What is the ‘style not age’ challenge? Is this something we can all get involved in?
Last month we chose to be inspired by the colours of the rainbow and this month is ‘Jumpsuit for Joy’! The age range between us is about 20 years and we have a lot of fun. Your readers can comment on our blogs and tell us who answered the challenge best. And of course, accept the challenge themselves at home!
What’s the one item in your wardrobe you can’t live without?
Probably my raincoat! Living in Ireland, you can’t live without one and I wasn’t going to be frumpy just because of a practicality! I have an Ilse Jacobsen, Danish design, black, bought in a boutique in my home town Malahide and cost-per-wear, it’s been one of my best buys in recent years. It’s stylish, lightweight and waterproof.
Do you have any top tips on how to pull an outfit together? Is there a hack that makes a good outfit great?
Throw a kimono over a pair of jeans and a top and suddenly you are dressed to go anywhere. I own several. It can be a real statement piece and add drama to a very simple outfit, plus my daughter has dozens and I have on occasion borrowed one or two. Nothing else in her wardrobe fits me!!