Growing older doesn't mean you can't stay stylish - but make sure your mutton radar's on: Linda Kelsey's diary of going grey

Linda Kelsey

Facing the future: Linda Kelsey is giving up tinting her hair

A month into my going-grey adventure and I've had a stay of execution. This was the week I was scheduled to have my hair chopped and lightened, but hair guru George at Daniel Hersheson called in sick just as I was about to leave the house for my appointment and  -  I have to admit  -  I breathed a long sigh of relief.

Some people love to play with their looks. They see it as a fun game to experiment with hair colour and style. It depends on a level of confidence I simply don't have, and the fact is that I prefer to blend with the crowd rather than stand out from it.

Neither do I have oodles of hair to play with. It's not exactly my crowning glory, being fine, wavy and worryingly thinner than it used to be.

Once I get a look I like, I tend to stick with it, hence my concern about the 'kick-a**' haircut the salon has been promising me, without actually having spelt out what it has in mind...

I'm exactly the same with clothes. Definitely on the conservative end of the spectrum when it comes to what to wear. But I do think I've picked up a fashion modus operandi that's worth sharing.

Over the years, I've learned that it's perfectly possible to keep up with fashion at the same time as sticking to classic clothing.

I have worked out what suits me  -  body-skimming rather than baggy  -  and my highly sensitive mutton-dressed-as-lamb radar ensures I'm not at all tempted by age-inappropriate trends, especially ones I've lived through and regretted before, including harem pants and playsuits.

As I scan the style pages, my eye quickly edits the new looks into 'don't go there', 'good, but not for me' and 'right up my style street'.

But just as you don't want to be mutton, I do think as a middle-aged woman you have to be wary of clothes that make you disappear from view altogether  -  the battalions of middle-aged women in beige being a case in point.

As Linda Grant, author of a fascinating new book about clothes, The Thoughtful Dresser (Virago, £11.99), told me: 'Grey hair and beige clothes make women invisible. If you don't mind that, it's fine. But if you want to have some kind of presence in the world, and unless you are a beautiful Italian woman with glossy dark hair and olive skin, beige is to be avoided.'

GET NOTICED: Grey hair can make you look paler, so update your make up with complexion-boosting pinks and corals

For the past couple of seasons, grey has been the new black, and because it suits me, I've been buying lots of it. When jeans went low-rise, I did, too, but only because they flattered my figure.

Shift dresses ( fortunately my arms haven't quite given up the will to live) and trench coats are cool again this summer, and tempt me fashionwise. But I'm thinking that as my hair goes greyer, my clothes will need to give me more of a lift.

With little black shifts and beige trenches giving way to every colour in the spectrum and at credit crunchconscious prices, this could be the season for freshening up my look with colour without compromising my style principles.

Being in Paris last weekend with RM, my snowy-haired lover, reminded me of Rudyard Kipling's wise words: 'If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two impostors just the same...'

Linda Grant

Linda Grant, author of The Thoughtful Dresser

The triumph was the ambiance of the place, the lingering over cafe au lait at pavement cafes  -  at €5 a throw, you can't afford not to linger  -  the comfortable chat while walking hand-in-hand along the Seine and the gorgeous art.

The disasters came with nightfall. On the first evening, following what tasted like a fabulous meal at the time, I developed serious stomach cramps and barely left the bathroom until dawn.

The second night, I cricked my ageing neck while reaching for the toothpaste. I woke at 3am, unable to lift my head from the pillow. Luckily for me, RM is an osteopath, and emergency treatment from my bed-buddy had me semi-functional by break of day.

Not so much of the romance, then.

To cheer ourselves up, we raided the food hall at Galeries Lafayette. Sitting at a bar in the centre of the hall, drinking fruit cocktails, RM pointed at a woman even older than me  -  a good-looking, sixtysomething blonde  -  and said: 'I think I have found your kick-a** haircut.' He was right. I grabbed my BlackBerry and switched to the camera setting.

For the next ten minutes, like a bumbling amateur spy, I tried to take pictures of the woman with the cool haircut while trying to pretend I was taking holiday snaps of RM.

On the Eurostar, I asked RM for an update on this going-grey business. 'Well, you'll still be you, won't you,' he smiled. I think he may be right.

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