This article was written for Annabel & Grace, which is now part of Rest Less.
A very long time ago I met Anna Harvey as, apart from working for Condé Nast for over 30 years, she was also a fashion advisor for Diana, Princess of Wales and I worked for David and Elizabeth Emanuel in the 1980’s. It was Anna that introduced The Emanuels to Lady Diana, as she was then, and the rest, as the say, is history. Her knowledge of the fashion industry and what clothes work on who are unlimited.
Anna’s latest venture is to put down all 0f her tips for timeless style in one book, and as she is now an elegant lady in her 70’s her tips are for the older woman but many younger ladies could learn from them. She has incorporated quotes from some of her ‘fashion friends’ including Donna Karan, Christy Burlington-Burns, Grace Coddington and Suzy Menkes. The tips are from designer to High Street and also include online shopping which she recognises as a popular choice for older women who don’t want to traipse around the shops.
The advice is accompanied by quirky hand-drawn illustrations by the author and they keep the book from being patronising by injecting a sense of fun. It is fun and enjoyment that Anna clearly wants us all to have with our dressing.
Of course she draws on her experience of many years in the fashion industry and the many questions she has been asked or the mistakes she has either made herself or witnessed on others. She recognises that women come in all shapes and sizes and she admits that her rules have mellowed as she wrote the book. She accepts that there are not one set of rules that fit all e.g. her previous ‘no leggings ever’ rule she has tempered. She now says they should be worn tight but not clinging, with good underwear, with a long tunic style top and they should sit on the waist not hips. So it is all practical and whilst many of the tips you may already know and in some cases we, at CountryWives, have written about as with sleeveless dresses, it is always good to hear again from someone so knowledgeable.
“Taking the veil is a wise idea as skin wrinkles. A chiffon shawl is a way of coping with the fact that so many dresses on the racks are sleeveless.” Suzy Menkes
She begins by saying you must first analyse your shape which is topical as we have been producing a series of vlogs on this exact subject. Of course we must accept that our shape changes as we get older and even if we are not fat, our waists do thicken. She then gives some very practical advice on the importance of the right underwear. None of this advice suggests that you spend a fortune. She discusses colour too and finding the right hues. She reiterates the CountryWives’ mantra that ‘navy is kinder to older skin tones’ but also accepts that we inevitably will often turn to black as it is so readily available and does have a slimming effect.
She works through each section of a woman’s wardrobe – Tops, Knitwear, Skirts, Shoes, Jewellery, Bags, Good Grooming etc etc. There is an Internet shopping chapter and she mentions a CW favourite, Winser London. However she also lists some websites that I had not heard of which I will enjoy checking out, as I do trust Anna Harvey’s advice even more so now after reading the book.
She then goes through what to wear to different occasions, suggesting that if it is an event that requires you to be standing for long periods of time then start with the shoes and work upwards as they will be the most important item if you are to enjoy the event.
‘There is no such thing as being underdressed or overdressed – just well-dressed or badly dressed.’ Charlotte Scott
Finally a chapter on ‘After Cancer’ which is poignant as Anna was diagnosed with this cruel disease whilst she was writing this book so she had to take a break from writing to recover.
The subtitle of this book is ‘Dressing Well for the rest of your Life’ which is a great by-line. After reading this book there are many tips that I have taken on board and will be putting to work in my own wardrobe.