My heart is going pitter patter as I write this because I’m worried that I won’t do justice to this incomparable lady. Karen, who has just retired from her job as a book keeper, turns 71 in January. She’s a supportive wife, a spectacular Mum, a loving Granny, and a fabulous friend. When we first met I was immediately captivated by her stunning, glass green eyes, porcelain skin, warm smile, and the hip grey streak in her hair. Karen is no doubt a natural beauty, but it’s her quiet elegance, effortless grace and tactful wisdom that are the most powerful things about her. 

When Karen first asked me to be her fashion stylist I said, “Karen! You are so very stylish. Why do you need my help?” She chuckled and explained that she needed help dressing down her style, and paring down the large amount of black in her wardrobe. Semi-retired life meant no more formal corporate wear, and because Karen has never really worn jeans, dressing for a more relaxed life in Seattle was tough. She desperately wanted to add a casual vibe to her style, but staying dressy, polished and fashionable was also of utmost importance.

We have many style preferences in common, so Karen and I swiftly saw eye to eye on the next leg of her style journey. Although introverted and shy, she is a very strong person with a wicked sense of humour. On the one hand, she loves neutral, crisp, classic clothing, but on the other hand she is often excited by a bold item or new trend. Outfits that are clean and structured, but with an element of surprise, work best for her persona. Karen also prefers to have fewer better-end quality items, so we mix up her outfits with both high and low end pieces.

Marrying the lady-like and glam dimensions of Karen’s fashion persona with denim and a touch of drama is a look that is close to my heart. One of the first items she introduced into her wardrobe when we started working together was a pair of dark wash premium denim jeans. After wearing her David Kahns with dressy tops, jackets and ankle boots for precisely one month she was hooked. Smart Casual dressing became Karen’s new daily uniform. The right pair of jeans made her feel youthful and casually appropriate for almost any occasion. It wasn’t long before Karen had a super assortment of premium denim.

Age appropriate dressing frequently comes into our conversations. Karen wants to continue having fun with fashion and shopping, without worrying that she’s too old to wear a look. I appreciate her concern and we thrash out the topic with a lot of passion! My guideline is always the same: pick the right trendy item and ground the outfit with a no-nonsense classic integrity. 

This guideline struck a chord with Karen and she successfully integrates solid classics with the latest trends. For example, we chose a very tailored moto jacket in a merlot instead of black and kept the hardware to a minimum. Karen likes to wear her moto jacket with classic bootcut jeans and a sweater. A scarf adds extra chic and softens the look.

Karen found the sassy black leather dress above on deep discount. She had it altered for perfect fit, and enjoys wearing it with soft knits and silks. The fashion forward frock is completely grounded by luscious classic pieces like the silky scarf, boyfriend cardigan and suede black pumps. To top things off, Karen sometimes adds her classic black DKNY trench coat.

My 70 year old client in a leather dress. I LOVE it.

Ralph Lauren designs pull at Karen’s heartstrings. Years ago we bought the black velvet Lauren jacket below. This item is going to stand the test of time. She wears it with her formal skirts, AND with jeans and low heels. We especially love the jacket when matched with her late Mum’s 6-strand pearl necklace — an exquisite vintage piece that will stay in the family.

When Karen asked me whether she could wear tapered straight leg jeans at her age (then 69), my reply was, “Of course!”. Karen took to her new straight leg jeans like a duck to water. Matching them with an animal print blouse and wool blazer is one of her favourite combinations. She finishes off the outfit with ankle boots (the Paul Green numbers from this year’s Nordstrom Anniversary sale) or black ballet flats.  On colder days Karen tucks her straight legs into flat riding boots, which is a great practical look for wet Seattle. No soggy bootcut hems.

Being on the tall side, Karen is perfect for the midi skirt trend. When we took these photos she had just bought the red animal printed skirt and was really excited about it. So at the last minute we popped it into the photo shoot with a retro cardigan, complete with faux fur trim and wide waist cinching belt. We added her slim fitting black Stuart Weitzman boots for extra elegance. These boots always bring a smile to my face. Karen bought them four years ago and was only prepared to make the investment if she could also wear them after 70. I rest my case. 

Dear Karen, you are an inspiration to me, oozing style inside and out, from head to toe. I treasure our moments together because we have a ball, and because you teach me so much. You rock my style world with your love for fashion and the conviction with which you wear your killer outfits. Thank you so much for doing this fashion shoot and for braving the windy day. You are a beautiful person and I adore you.