As Sarah Jessica Parker dons them in the revival of Sex And The City: Can anyone pull off dungarees in middle age?
By Helena Frith Powell
While shopping with my 22-year-old daughter this August, I recalled how much I love dungarees.
My daughter tried on a dark blue linen pair. They looked fabulous. She suggested that ‘we’ buy them and share them. ‘I’m too old for dungarees,’ I told her. She said ‘Nonsense’ and urged me to try them on, too.
There was something liberating about the shape and deep pockets. They were comfortable and flattering — a loose fit that showed just enough of my contours to make me seem slimmer than I am, and taller, due to the unbroken line of material.
I had clearly tapped into a trend. Sarah Jessica Parker, who has been a style icon for more years than she would care to admit, was spotted in dungarees on the set of the Sex And The City revival, looking splendid.
There are naysayers out there who are dogmatic in their belief that women of a certain age can’t pull off certain items of clothing. Then along comes SJP to prove them wrong.
The last time I had tried on a pair, 15 years ago, was not a great success. While I thought they were rather flattering, my husband said I looked like Andy Pandy, the pyjama-clad marionette from the 1960s and 70s children’s TV series. The dungarees were handed back to the assistant.They make me look both slimmer and taller
As a teenager my light blue dungarees were my favourite item of clothing, the one thing I could rely on to always look just right, be it for a trip to the shops or a night out. I wore them so much the denim started to feel more like thin cotton.
But as I grew older, things changed. My 20s were dominated by power dressing, my 30s by pregnancies (and dungarees are not ideal when you have to pee every ten minutes). Until that day in August when I tried on the dark blue dungarees.
But was I being ridiculous? SJP might be able to pull off anything in middle age, but that didn’t mean I could. I texted a fashionista friend who assured me that age is irrelevant when it comes to dungarees.
She extolled their versatility: they can be worn down with a T-shirt and trainers or up with a luxe blouse or a cashmere roll neck. ‘Go for white and pale colours in spring and summer, and darker shades for autumn and winter,’ she suggested.
‘We’ bought the dungarees and my daughter has only been able to get her hands on them twice — but concedes that, as I paid for them, that’s fair. Now I’m craving Wyse’s dark denim pair that make your legs look long and stomach flat. In fact, how about a velvet pair for Christmas Day? If my husband mentions Andy Pandy again, I’ll tell him he’s showing his age, in more ways than one.
Helena Frith Powell was born in Sweden to a Swedish mother and Italian father, but grew up mainly in England. She is the author of eleven books, translated into several languages including Chinese and Russian. She wrote the French Mistress column The Sunday Times about life in France for several years. She is a regular contributor to the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, The Times, Daily Telegraph, Tatler Magazine and Harper’s Bazaar.
Helena has been the editor of four magazines, including M Magazine, a supplement for the Abu Dhabi-based National Newspaper and FIVE, a high-end fashion glossy, also published in Abu Dhabi. Helena was also editor-in-chief of 360 Life, a quarterly glossy magazine published with the Sports 360 Newspaper in Dubai, part of the Chalhoub Group.
Helena contributes regularly to UK-based newspapers and magazines and holds a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Cambridge. She is working on a thriller set in Sweden as well as a novel about the relationship between Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield called Sense of an Echo.
In 2022 her short story The Japanese Gardener came second in the Fish Publishing Short Story Prize. One of her stories was also shortlisted for the Bridport Short Story Prize. When she’s not writing, she works as a headhunter for the media and entertainment industry for the Sucherman Group.
Helena, who was educated at Durham University, lives in the Languedoc region of France with her husband Rupert and their three children.
More France Please, we’re British; Gibson Square 2004
Two Lipsticks and a Lover 2005; Gibson Square (hardback)
All You Need to be Impossibly French; (US version of above) Penguin 2006
Two Lipsticks and a Lover; Arrow Books (paperback) 2007
Ciao Bella Gibson Square; (hardback) 2006
Ciao Bella Gibson Square; (paperback) 2007
So Chic! (French version of Two Lipsticks) Leduc Editions 2008 (also translated into Chinese, Russian and Thai)
More, More France; Gibson Square 2009
To Hell in High Heels; Arrow Books 2009 (also translated into Polish)
The Viva Mayr Diet; Harper Collins 2009
Love in a Warm Climate; Gibson Square 2011
The Ex-Factor; Gibson Square 2013
Smart Women Don’t Get Wrinkles; Gibson Square 2016
The Arnolfini Marriage; Amazon Kindle December 2016
Smart Women Don’t Get Wrinkles (paperback); Gibson Square spring 2018
The Longest Night; Gibson Square spring 2019