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Ask Lisa: ‘I’m 66 with no waist to speak of – where can I find a flattering outfit for Christmas events?’

Lisa Armstrong
Lisa Armstrong

Lisa Armstrong is The Telegraph’s Head of Fashion. She began her career in fashion at Vogue. She has written four novels, has an honorary doctorate from the University of Arts in London and was awarded an OBE in 2022 for services to fashion.

Each week, she responds to your queries, lending her expertise to help you shop smart. Have a question for her? Submit it below.

Dear Lisa,

I am slowly entering a new phase of working life, i.e. working more from home (I am 66 but not looking to retire yet). I’ve given much of my good working wardrobe to Smart Works (please promote them!) and the rest to charity shops.

I have decent jumpers, leggings, boots etc. But nothing to wear for the festive season, apart from my usual combo of an ivory sequin midi and cashmere jumper which I love but have worn for years, I even got married in a version of it! Strange how it suddenly seems to be fashionable!

I have an evening work event, a posh birthday lunch with my husband, dinner with my sister, small Christmas drinks do at home and Christmas itself. Looking for something as multi-purpose as possible! If only so I don’t have to think for every occasion. I’m 5ft 8in, size 18-20, no waist to speak of, not keen on cleavage. Thank you!

– Veronica 

Dear Veronica,

Thank you for the Smart Works shout-out it’s a charity close to The Telegraph Fashion Team’s hearts. If you haven’t been to one of our big annual sales in aid of them, try to amend that next year. We’ve just had one and the bargains are truly impressive.

The sequin midi and cashmere jumper certainly sound very topical, but for a contrast, how about a trouser suit. With your height you could look terrific and the right blazer, one that’s indented slightly, with strong shoulders, will give you the illusion of a waist. Try this one from Jigsaw, currently on sale for £192.

Jigsaw
'The right blazer, one that’s indented slightly, with strong shoulders, will give you the illusion of a waist', writes Lisa - Jigsaw

Nice to wear it with as much skin showing as makes you feel confident (no need for cleavage if you don’t want). Or just go with the androgynous flow with a straighter cut. Add some feminine glamour with a silky, unbuttoned blouse and gold or silver jewellery especially close to the face as it really helps skin glow up. This look from ME+EM is pricey (£650) but it gives you the idea. They go up to size 16 but their sizes are quite generous.

A good quality cotton corduroy could do the trick too, and this one, from Max Mara (£375) should soften with age, and is sold up to size 18.

ME+EM
For a feminine touch, team your suit with a silky, unbuttoned blouse and gold or silver jewellery - ME+EM

Alternatively, a knitted midi skirt and matching long line jumper like this one from M&S (£49), jooshed up with heels or boots and clean-line jewellery could work a treat and give you plenty of options.

– Lisa 


Dear Lisa,

I’m in my late twenties working in the City and my go-to is a classic (British) look. I have an athletic body type which I am used to dressing and love, however, my breasts have grown! I can’t quite seem to find the right blouse or the right bra to go with the specific blouse.

What style of blouse or style of top/shirt should I be considering? I love a classic feminine look but blouse fits of late don’t quite hit the mark for me. I like to use fashion as a subtle form of communication at work and it also helps me feel confident in myself.

– Mathilde 

Dear Mathilde,

I’m glad you ask as dressing your body shape often gets overlooked by designers.  You’re right, it’s crucial to get the right bras. I’ve always loved Rigby & Peller for their gold-plated expertise generally you need to make an appointment with them which sounds a faff, but it cuts down the waiting time, and once you’re in, they make the whole process painless. Unlike the department stores, their service is consistent.

Fussy blouses and tops are not for you. Avoid yokes, ruffles, exaggerated lapels and high necklines. Wrap blouses are great far better on fuller busts than flat chests. They can also help define your waist, which will give you an enviable hourglass shape.

The Fold
Wrap blouses are great for fuller busts and help to create an hourglass shape - The Fold

This cotton one(£250), with a hip-enhancing peplum from the Fold, in white, black or navy, is perfect and so is this pink silk one (£250). Investments for sure the blouse is your key piece - but if they’re a bit too pricey, use them as a template. Boden and M&S have some good options too.

You don’t have to confine yourself to a wrap blouse. Anything in a soft, silky, drapy fabric could be good. This one from ME+EM with ties (£250) is very pretty leave them undone for a modern, easy take that’s also ultra-feminine. There’s also this glamorous lamé blouse from Wyse London (£195), but selling out fast.

The Fold/ME+EM
Opt for soft, silky, drapy fabrics - The Fold/ME+EM

You could even get away from frills if the cut and fabric are right. This flowy olive blouse from Sézane (£100) is a definite possibility unbuttoning as they have in the picture online could look fabulous on your figure, although you’d have to try it on first.

Wyse London
A dose of glamour: this lamé blouse from Wyse London is a fun option, but it's selling out fast - Wyse London

T-shirts again, look for V-necks as they elongate your neck which creates more balance with a fuller bust. Cefinn, Cos, ME+EM. Or this, from Everlane, £29, looks ideal.

You’ll look amazing.

– Lisa


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