Styling tips everyone should heed from the web's most stylish 54-year-old 

Sophie Fontanel 
Sophie Fontanel 

Former Elle France fashion director Sophie Fontanel started chronicling her outfits on Instagram by accident. Mid-fashion shoot and frustrated with the mood on set, Fontanel put the clothes on herself and showed the 16-year-old model how to pose - "Be yourself, act natural!" Needless to say, a 52-year-old style star was born. 

Fast-forward two years and Fontanel’s selfies have garnered her 69,000 followers on Instagram - and a profile in Vogue. Now brands, she tells The Telegraph, give the Parisian, who is still a fashion journalist, clothes from the showrooms to take home and photograph herself in. “When you do it, we sell it!” labels keep telling her. And are you surprised? A quick scroll through her feed is sartorial inspiration for everyone - whatever your age. 

Her style - an eclectic blend of menswear, over-sized vintage shirts, pastel tailoring and a healthy dose of Céline - hasn’t always riffed off the same confident formula. Ten years ago, she tells The Telegraph, she had a wardrobe epiphany, and decided to break away from the simple, largely all-black dress code of peers - “Everyone in the fashion industry in Paris dresses exactly the same!” She started dressing for herself, stopped dying her hair brown and followed her intuition. 

Here, Fontanel shares the other style lessons she's learnt along the way...

Don’t demand too much from your body

“One day you can wake up and think your body is marvellous. One hour later in front of the mirror you can feel horrible - our opinion fluctuates all the time,” she explains, of keeping a nonchalant approach to getting dressed. "Don’t worry about the details. The most beautiful girl in town will have a lot of troubles.”

Don’t be afraid of proportion

Think big! “I love big skirts or pants that sit below the waist, and mannish shirts with voluminous sleeves,” says Fontanel, who believes they allow her to belt things differently and experiment with shape and silhouette. 

It’s more interesting to avoid black

“When you avoid black, you enter a new era of colour,” says Fontanel. “I now love wearing white, baby blue and pastel pink - very soft colours that are the polar opposite of the all-black outfits I wore in my youth.” 

Mix masculine with feminine

“I imagine myself as a mixture of Jackie Kennedy and Clint Eastwood,” the the 54-year-old tells us. “My look can be very feminine but also masculine, with large garments in soft colours.”

Comfort is key

“The key to all my looks is comfort,” she explains. “But not ‘comfort’ as in I have forgotten my femininity or elegance. If you feel comfortable, it is as if you are naked, and it is sexy! And if you feel sexy then everyone will know you have a good relationship with your clothes and with your body.”

Never take yourself seriously

“In the below picture I think I look like a nurse!” she laughs of the clinical white palette and starched separates. "Remember not to take fashion too seriously. If I feel too serious, I can start to feel pretentious," she explains. 

Shop vintage

The striped Ralph Lauren shirt above cost Sophie £2 from a flea market. And that's what makes Sophie love wearing it all the more. 

White shoes make a great punctuation mark

Fontanel has a thing for white shoes, as they make a striking contrast to filthy pavements. Keep them pristine and they will draw the eye immediately down, elongating the legs (see her white Kicker boots above).

Blend high and low fashion

A leather Valentino skirt over a £5 nightdress? That's the Fontanel way. And, as she puts, it helps her feel a bit better about the fact that the skirt was "extortionate" even in the sale. 

And break the rules: skirts can be worn over dresses

"This Valentino skirt can look a little matronly - it’s not very modern, I can seem very old in it," Fontanel says of why she's paired the more formal skirt with a breezy nightdress.

Put your shoes in the wash

Fontanel puts her Gurkee sandals (below) in the washing machine every week to keep them pristine. And that simplicity and practicality is exactly why she recommends the style.

Know when to experiment with out-there fashion

“I look like a cow, or perhaps a cowgirl,” Fontanel says of why she wouldn't wear this all ACNE menswear look on a date. Instead, she saves it for experimental friends who appreciate daring dressing. 

Always shop abroad

En route to the Louis Vuitton Cruise show in Rio, her friends told her she would not find a single thing to buy in the city. Fontanel proved them wrong by taking this selfie of her brand new Osklen swimsuit, the best swimwear she has ever found.

Try on as much swimwear as you need to find the perfect piece

“When you try on a swimsuit in a fitting room, you feel uncomfortable and you just want to die,” Fontanel says of why you must persevere and have patience when shopping for swimwear. “When I found this Osklen one, it was a breakthrough moment.” 

Never underestimate the power of a smile

"I wore the below sequinned Sonia Rykiel jacket and nightgown to Cannes, but I was almost not allowed past the red carpet controller into the party - he was hesitating over my nightie!” What swung it? Fontanel says it was the oldest style trick in the book - smiling. 

Look to the past for inspiration

This sequinned look was, in fact, inspired by a vintage photograph of Audrey Hepburn in a Givenchy dress. 

Don’t be afraid to alter garments

The striped shorts in the below picture did not start off life as a pair of striped shorts. In fact they were a pair of Céline trousers. “I saw them in the Cruise lookbook and gasped, they were perfect for me!" she says. "But then I started wearing them, and I did not feel sublime. I felt like I was in costume, it was too much!” As much as it pained her to cut away 80 per cent of the fabric, Fontanel reasoned that it would actually mean she'd wear them. And she does. 

Stock up on coloured tees

“It is very hard to find a good tee,” Fontanel acknowledges. "So stock up! Look for soft fabrics in the right length for your torso, and buy in a myriad of colours." Her punchy yellow tee is from a stall in Argentina.

Punctuate pastels with hard-edged black accents

“I like baby blue,” Fontanel tells us. “I found my lover because he was wearing baby blue!” This outfit, she likes, because the heavy-duty black boots undercut the rest of the pale palette. 

Make sure expensive investments are versatile

“I can wear the below Céline dress on the red carpet with heels, or pared down with a jumper/jacket and sandals.” And that's why Fontanel says she was happy to spend money on it. 

Adapt clothes with age

Deciding that her leather pants were too rock ‘n roll for over 50, Fontanel cut them into a pair of city shorts. The modern cut now shows off her legs, and she wears the flea market buy to dinner with low-block heels.

Be wary of 'young' fashion

“When you get older, you can still wear ‘young’ clothes, but you have to choose them carefully,” she muses. “I like fresh, playful pieces that are often a little unladylike, like this Mickey Mouse jacket (below), which was £10.”

Shop with friends, and trust them!

The cheeky Insta snap below is Fontanel’s personal thank you to a friend, who urged her to purchase the leather skirt. “I thought it was old, dirty leather and that the fit wasn’t quite right, but she forced me to buy it!” 

Don’t hide your body because you feel old

As Fontanel puts it: “You can show your body, it is important to be proud of it whatever your age.”