Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Q&A with Maggie Cox

Maggie Cox is the author of the new book It's Never Too Late to Look Great!: Style for the Young-at-Heart. She worked as a newspaper reporter and a commercial writer, and then owned dress shops in England. She lives in the Cotswolds, UK.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for this book, and who do you see as your primary audience?

A: I owned and ran a dress shop for many years, and when I turned 50 (and a bit more!) I started to think, “I don’t know what to wear.” And so many of my customers and friends said the same. Main Street shops and online outlets were full of flirty, bare-as-much-as-you-can, slinky numbers – gorgeous! But only if you were young. So what to do about this?

And I had in a previous life been a journalist - so my mission became to come up with an answer to what to wear as a
“young oldie” and write it down! So the idea for It’s Never Too Late to Look Great! - Style for the Young-at-Heart was born. Fashion advice for the over-50s (and not counting) who are my target audience.

Q: You write that two of your fashion idols are your friend Judith and the Egyptian queen Cleopatra. What do they have in common, and how do they inspire you?

A: My friend Judith, in her 70s, so enjoys clothes. And they clearly give her loads of pleasure. She told me recently she had ordered a bright pink cashmere dress and couldn’t wait to wear it. And she always, always turns heads, even, as I say in my book, in the middle of the Amazonian rain forest!

Cleopatra, by ancient Egyptian standards, was a mature woman when she seduced Anthony. So, the message is - it’s never too late to live to the full! And she was magnetic not because of looks alone. She was, allegedly, not beautiful – but knew how to make the most of herself, dress like a goddess – and she charmed by wit, and knowledge. She inspired me to think we don’t have to be invisible as we get older.

Q: You describe a STAR style concept: "Surprising, True to Themselves, Artistic, and know how to Reinvent themselves." Can you say more about those attributes and how your readers can apply them to their own fashion choices?

A: The STAR concept is central to my book. I thought a lot about what the word Style really means. We bandy the word around all the time to describe the best biscuits or high-rise skyscrapers - as well as the latest fashion fad. So, what is it about a “stylish” woman – that makes her, well, stylish!

I came to the conclusion that she has to Surprise, be True to Herself, Artistic, and know how to be Reinventive. All four, but not necessarily in that order!

Surprise is probably to go a little bit out of your comfort zone - with an amazing hat if you don’t usually wear hats.  Being true is exploring your own persona – it’s no good going for a sporty look if you have never in your life worn a pair of shorts, and only ever feel comfortable carrying a handbag. 

Artistic doesn’t mean you have to paint like Michelangelo – but to consider colour and form. A surprising hat that looks like a grey hedgehog probably doesn’t have much artistic merit. And we must be prepared to be reinventive. That’s just life. It goes on. It changes, and we have to make at least some concessions to what is currently in vogue.

If that all sounds too daunting, it’s not. If you read my book!

Q: The book includes many photographs. How did you choose them, and what do you feel they bring to the book?

A: The photographs have been chosen to represent “normal” women. I am not a celebrity or fashionista with thousands of followers, so I wanted to represent the millions of ordinary, older, women who want to look good, stylish, and fashionable, but who don’t necessarily have the smooth skin, and svelte bodies that they once had.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I am looking at the, very, tricky issue of “sustainable” fashion. Can it ever be sustainable? And what will the future look like?

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: I am very aware that we don’t all have the same ideas – about life, about love or anything! And the suggestions and tips in my book are very varied, sometimes controversial.

But I love the chaotic mix of contemporary fashion. And the way it can change our lives for the better if we embrace the choices out there and figure out our own individual style.

And I want to give out the message that if we have confidence, we can take on the Youth Culture of fashion. Not to replace it with “Old Culture.” Heaven forbid! We know that youth is amazing, inspiring, uplifting – but it is not everything, and we want part of the action.

I would love comments from my readers on Twitter or on my blog.

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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