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Penny McCarthy talks Personal Style

Australia's top fashion stylist, Penny McCarthy may not be French, but she absolutely makes our Favourite French Things list. Like us, Penny is a complete Francophile and journeyed with us on our magical trip to the French countryside. Being Sunday Life Magazine's exclusive fashion stylist, Penny knows a thing or two about personal style, so we asked Penny a few questions... 

Bonjour Penny, 

How did you get one of the best jobs in the fashion industry?

Perseverance and hard work. I knew from a very young age I wanted to work in fashion, particularly fashion magazines. I started in retail and I think learning how to serve people is imperative. I really cut my teeth working at David Jones, shooting all the fashion campaigns and working with great photographers and models. I knew this was the area I wanted to focus on. From there I landed my first magazine job at Mode Magazine and since then I have worked at Marie Claire, Madison, Vogue and now with Sunday Life Magazine as a freelance stylist, which enables me to work with so many different people and brands.

Penny wears left: Faux Trim Shearling Jacket (in-store mid April), right: Long Sleeve Gathered Blouse; Soft Twill Pant.

Having styled so many different body types and personalities, including being a ‘stylist to the stars’, what’s the first thing you consider when putting an outfit together?

I always thoroughly check out people stats, particularly their height and bust. Body proportion is crucial to the way clothes look and fall. I’m like a clothes Dr! I can tell by looking at someone very quickly what will suit them and what won’t. Obviously, everything looks amazing on models, but they are not the norm! If I’m working with a celebrity, I will look at their personal style or taste as a guide, then usually try and elevate it and add a bit of magic.  

Model wears left: Faux Trim Shearling Jacket (In store mid-April) Gloves (In store May)

Blue Illusion is all about personal style and helping women curate their own unique looks. What advice would you give for women that simply don’t know where to start?

Start with your lifestyle. This took me a long time to get right. I kept buying fancy things I would never wear. If you work in an office job you will need tailored pieces, shirting etc. If you’re a stay at home Mum, probably denim, knits and the odd nice evening look. Don't buy anything you don't feel comfortable in, it’s always best to look and feel like yourself. You will slowly develop your own style that way. Sticking with a colour palette helps too. I like muted colours like khaki, grey and navy, that way everything kind of works together and you can build a wardrobe. There is also nothing wrong with wearing the same thing often, like a great pair of leather pants. They can anchor your wardrobe: dress them up with a silk shirt and heels or with a casual sweater and trainers. Every season I usually ask myself, ‘What do I really need, to update my wardrobe?’ This winter I’d like a shearling jacket… It’s a big trend and I don't have one. 

Top 3 style tips for ‘Forever 50’s?

  1. Don't wear anything that doesn’t suit you. For example, I will never ever wear a mini skirt again!
  2. Grooming is vital once you hit your 50's. Hair, nails and for me its my eyebrows. I feel naked if they aren’t properly groomed.
  3. I don’t think now is a time to experiment hugely, as your style is probably quite developed. Stick with cool classics. You want to feel confident and most of all feel like yourself.

Left: model wears: Long Line Knit; Skinny Leg Bengajean, Emmie Panama; Cashmere Blend Scarf (In store April); Ivy Lasercut Boot.

Right: Crew Neck Cashmere Knits (Available in dusty rose, sky & garnet; All in store April)  Woven Cross-body Bag (In store April)

Your favourite place to visit / holiday / work and why? 

Paris - hands down! It’s the most beautiful city in the world… The architecture, light, language, food, shopping, style, art… It ticks every box for me. I hope to live there one day!

What are your top tips for packing the ultimate (useful) travel wardrobe?

I try to be ruthless and don't pack something you are only going to wear once. A well edited travel wardrobe makes getting dressed so easy. Jeans and black pants are top of my list and the Bengajeans are my personal favourite. They’re comfy enough for the plane and easy to dress up. A blazer is a must! It pulls any outfit together and adds polish. T-shirts and knitwear are also essential and I love to pack a couple of dresses. Easy in Summer and great to layer in Winter with tights, boots and a coat. I love that look.

What’s popular this Autumn / Winter 19 season?

Shearling is a big trend for AW19. I would invest in a jacket as it’s a very versatile piece. I’m loving all the dark floral prints and forest colours like burgundy, olive and navy. Leather is still very popular, so invest now if you haven’t already got leather pants or a leather jacket. Update your Winter coat by trying a colour other than black.

Model wears: Reversible Coat (In store April); Raspberry Fur Collar (In store April)

Click to explore our Winter L'édition

3 Comments

  1. Lyn Clapperton

    30 Mar 2019

    I found this article very interesting and useful. Being over 50 and with a frustratingly expanded waistline I have lost may way a little fashion and clothes wise. But I think now I will relax and follow this advice and get rid of all the stuff that reminds me of what I was and focus on what I am and now works! Thanks Penny!

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  2. Ann

    30 Mar 2019

    As a short person standing 5 ft tall, I find it very difficult to buy clothes as they all seem to be marketed for taller people. Very few stores have a petite range. Dresses don’t fit in the right places and of course pants always need to be shortened.

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  3. Pari - Raissi

    30 Mar 2019

    Your tips were great & helpful ! Thank you.

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