Monday, December 5, 2011

Who Speaks for Us?

Mary Portas is not sitting down on the job

Despite two months of steady blogging one thing is still gnawing at me. Who speaks for us? Where is that stylish guru who tells-it-like-it-is and is not about to see Baby put in a corner, even if Baby is rounding 50, 60 or 70?

Oh, yes, she's in England. I'm talking about Mary Portas who previously made an appearance here with her take on QVC shopping. Mary is to retail in Britain what Gordon Ramsay is to restaurants. She is known as Mary Queen of Shops for her ability to analyze why a retail operation is not working and re-tool it to fit the marketplace. She recently took the challenge to create her own shop in the venerable British department store House of Fraser for "grown-up style conscious women"— not girls or chicks. We're talking 40+. It might surprise Mary to know, since she's not there yet, that 60+ and 70+ are still sashaying fashion's byways as well.

Mary's philosophy is summarized in what she calls the Pret a Portas Checklist:
1) Avoid dressing like a teenager.
2) Edit your trends.
3) Work with your proportions.
4) Keep it low maintenance.
5) Don't buy crap.

May I suggest you cut-and-paste and access her website ( to read her style philosophy and take a gander at the goodies she has gathered in her House of Fraser sub-shop. There are basic pieces interpreted in interesting fabrics. Many of the dresses look to have some ease in the construction, and everything has a sleeve! She's not afraid of color or some pattern as well. The pieces look like they would play well with each other without being matchy-matchy. 
The collection also offers handbags, shoes, jewelry, hosiery, scarves, belts and a section of home, food and beauty products that Mary loves. Only a small portion of the clothes have a Mary Portas label, so think "curated" for her shop.

We in America are not being served. I have praised Chico's for hiring Diane Keaton (age 65) as their model/spokesperson this winter. The campaign works because she is more than just a token model. The ads, particularly on television, are a platform for her fashion philosophy as relates to Chico's and are both slick and believable. But she is not driving the company. On the other hand do you believe for one minute that Demi Moore (49) really shops at Ann Taylor and Julianne Moore (51) at Talbot's? They're attractive women, but we have no idea of their personal style beyond what we see on the red carpet (and that most likely styled by someone else).

I really hope someone with passion steps up to the plate. None of us are getting younger. One out of every nine Americans is over 50. Quick calculations mean 25% of American women are over 50. And some former baby boomer turns 50 every 8 seconds! 

Martha Stewart (70), were she not so busy cooking, gardening, crafting, entertaining, writing books and helming an empire could be our Mary. Think if Martha had decided that we were heading down Dowdy Lane and decided to do something about it fashion-wise. I think we all respond well to a little tough love when doled out by someone whose accomplishments we admire.  
Martha would tell us a thing or two


  1. how about lines like: RALPH LAUREN ADULT or



    In case you are making a gift list, have you seen this woman's blog, and/or this book? Just thought I should pass it along....

  3. Yes, I know this blog and book, and it's charming.

  4. Michelle Beth: Another style/fashion history blogger pointed me to your site yesterday, and I'm so glad she did. Your blog is incredible! Great subjects, writing and point of view. Congratulations! I work in the fashion industry, and have a new women's wear line sold exclusively online: I also write (although I'm quite behind!) a fashion history/business blog:, and most recently had a consulting business: I'd love to chat further via email (I'm and look forward to reading more!