Norwich woman proves you can look good whatever your age

Debbie Barrett from Norwich wrote to Life Matters to ask for help finding an evening outfit that didn't make her look like 'mutton dressed as lamb'. Emma Harrowing helped her find a look that suits.

When you get to a certain age trying to find an outfit to go out in can be a challenge. Shops can cater for teenage clubbers but not necessarily the middle-aged where mini skirts and bodycon dresses are a no-no but jeans and a top can sometimes feel too frumpy.

This is the dilemma facing Debbie Barrett, from Waterworks Road in Norwich. The 49-year-old finds shopping for evening wear a nightmare with an abundance of clothes in her price range that look like something her 18-year-old daughter would wear and the choice for people of her age expensive or limited.

'I feel that I cannot go to the cheaper high street shops any more as there is nothing on the rails for someone who is almost 50,' says Debbie. 'Knowing what to wear on a night out when you are 49 years old is tricky. I don't want to look like I am dressing too young for my age.'


The key to finding the type of clothes that suit you no matter how old you are or what the occasion is to get to know your body shape. Dressing to suit your shape can make you look stylish, slimmer and confident in your appearance.

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Throw-away fashion that is cheaper on the pocket is generally tailored towards teenagers who want the latest looks but cannot afford to buy a continuous stream of fashionable clothes. As you get older it is worth investing in a few key pieces that will last you forever and that you can mix and match with cheaper and easy to buy accessories in new patterns and colours to update your look each season.

House of Fraser personal shopper Claire is on hand to show Debbie what dress shapes suit her.

Claire says: 'Debbie is a very petite size eight and her body shape is quite straight and in proportion, therefore she can wear almost any style.

'However, the straight 1960s-inspired tailored tunic dress is ideal for her as it works with her petite frame.

'The dress has also got flashes of bright colour on it which is fashionable this summer and will still be on-trend in the autumn.

'The dress can be dressed up with heels for a night out or over jeans or leggings for a more casual look. Wearing the dress in different ways will make it an invaluable addition to Debbie's wardrobe.'

Claire teams a knee-length tunic dress with a pair of pinky red heels and a black clutch bag. The look is accessorised with the layering of different silver bracelets on one arm.


Debbie likes the colour of her hair but is fed up with the shape. Reegan and Hannah from Saks hair salon on Orford Hill are on hand to give her a new look.

Reegan says: 'I'm going to bring more richness into Debbie's hair colour. As she likes her colour I'm going to stick to these same shades but use a richer tone to the base.'

Hannah says: 'Debbie's grown-out bob needs an update with more layers and a sharper cut to give a modern geometric look.

'I'm going to cut it into a very graduated bob with more layers to give height to the crown.

'Debbie likes the 1960s style so this cut will make it easier for her to get more lift in her hair.'


Debbie has been applying the same make-up look for years when she goes out. Bobbi Brown make-up artist Steph shows her how to update her look.

For the base: Create a flawless looking complexion by concealing any dark circles around your eyes, nose and mouth. Then starting at the centre of the face apply a foundation that matches your skin colour and blend outwards with a brush. Finish your base with a loose powder – Steph uses a Bobbi Brown powder that had brightening particles in it to illuminate Debbie's skin.

For the eyes: There are many ways to create a classic evening smokey eye look. For a look that is easy to do for beginners Steph uses a cream coloured eye shadow over the entire eyelid from lash line to brow bone, then uses a grey eye shadow to contour the eye to create a smokey eye effect. To contour your eyes take the grey eye shadow along your top lash line from the middle to the outer edge. Take the line upwards and back along the eye socket to the middle of the eye creating a C shape. Blend the grey over the outer edge of the eyelid to create a smokey look. Finish your eyes by using a black eyeliner along your top and bottom lash line, black mascara on your lashes and fill in your eyebrows with a soft brown eyebrow pencil to frame your face.

For the cheeks: Bring some colour to your face by using a coral pink blusher on the apples of your cheeks. Blend upwards and outwards towards your hair line to create a natural flush.

For the lips: Match your lips to your cheeks with a coral pink lipstick. Line your lips first with a lip pencil, then fill in with a pink lipstick. Finish with a coat of clear gloss for a polished evening look.

The verdict

Debbie says: 'Thanks for an amazing eye-opener of a day, I loved every minute of it. The side of the box has opened and I have stepped completely out of it so I cannot thank you enough. I've learnt so much and Claire was spot on with the clothes. As for the photo shoot I had a brilliant time. You made me feel and look like a model!'