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My Style Lessons: Hilda Smith, 66, “I Don’t Give a Damn. Life is For Living”

Hilda Smith, 66, is a style setter from Ireland who is embracing midlife. Known to be a bit of a firecracker who loves fashion and adventure in equal measure, she doesn’t adhere to any limiting beliefs about age.

A 66 years of age, Hilda Smith from Ireland, is a self-confessed fashion enthusiast and experimentalist who is a firm believer that style is ageless.

A retired teacher, Hilda has been married to Graham for 40 years. They have two children together and now a gaggle of grandchildren. If she's not artfully putting outfits together, you'll likely find Hilda playing golf, doing yoga or out with her girlfriends. We sat down to chat all things style, ageing and the lessons she's learnt along the way.

“Growing older does not mean that we need to say goodbye to style,” explains Hilda who runs a blog, Over the Hilda and posts her outfits and musings on her Instagram page.

“I was always been an over-sharer anyway… family, sex, ailments were always discussed with anyone willing to listen, so now I just write my posts as if I am chatting to friends and telling them what I am doing: it could be about my experience of cupping, how I am worried about my memory, how to survive 40 years of marriage and not kill him, or about the wonderful new lipstick I have found or the cream I consider is not worth the money.”

Hilda Smith’s Ageless Style Lessons

Tell the Life/Redefined tribe a little bit about yourself?

We live in a seaside town called, Malahide, just 25 minutes by train/car from the centre of Dublin. I am a retired secondary school English teacher. I loved teaching but took early retirement 10 years ago. It was the right time for many reasons. I took up golf and bridge and continued playing tennis until my back told me ‘enough’ a few years ago.

We also help out with our darling grandchildren, minding them on a regular basis. It is a joy. But my God, boys are exhausting. But we are privileged and lucky they live so close.

We have wonderful friends who mostly live close by and meeting up, socialising with them is one of life’s greatest pleasures.

How would you describe your style?

My style is probably classic with a twist. I would love to be able to wear the boho, floaty style but it does not suit me. I love it on others.

What does ageing mean to you?

I have mixed feelings. It is true that it is a privilege denied to many. I am aware of that. I still feel young at heart, but recently I have had a few issues with my back and hate that I had to curtail some of my physical activities. I try to stay positive. This is not a dress rehearsal, so I try to live in the moment. I get my joy from everyday things like a walk and a good coffee with a friend, playing with my grandchildren, a walk on the beach.

What are the biggest style lessons you’ve learnt over the years?

I think that style is personal. We need to be comfortable in our skin, and our clothes, as we age. Never buy anything that is too tight hoping you will fit into it. As we age, I find that a good fit is best. Wearing the right clothes, styles and colours can give you confidence. If you feel that you are in a style rut, hire a stylist or ask a friend to help.

Have you found a difference in your confidence over the years? What have you learnt?

A bit like Scarlett O’Hara…I don’t give a damn! Not everyone will like what I wear. That is ok. Thank goodness we are all different. The world would be very boring otherwise.

What are some of your favourite shops and brands and why?

On the High Street I find that Zara and H&M will always have some items that suit me. I used to buy my high-waisted jeans in Zara, before they became really fashionable a year or two ago. Just high enough to cover the wobbly bits and suck you in. I also like Whistles and have tops, jumpers and dresses that I love and wear again and again. I also try to support local boutiques in Malahide.

Is there one label to which you gravitate?

I have a few dresses from LK Bennett which I love. Though a little pricey, some are silk, and they fit me well.

What would you say are the must-have investment pieces?

I love a good coat and a few pairs of boots. I bought a lovely classic navy coat from Massimo Dutti a few years ago and I feel dressed up to go anywhere in it. Coats and boots are probably my one weakness.

But you cannot go wrong with a good leather jacket and I have a brown one bought in TK Maxx about 15 years ago, which is still perfect. So, a classic coat, a leather jacket and a few pairs of jeans. I’ve had a Diesel pair for 15 years.

Comfortable footwear is now also a must and one of my favourite brands is Clarks. I own numerous pairs of their shoes and boots.

What do you think about the idea of over-50s being style inspirations for younger generations? Do you find you have followers of all ages?

Yes, my followers range from women in their 30s and up. Obviously, most would be older. I like to think that I inspire them to take chances with their style choices. Experimenting is key. I try new styles and most are never seen in public. But I try them.

We can all get stuck in a style rut. I know that people have bought something because they have seen a similar style on me. That makes me feel good, though I am hardly a style icon. I leave that to others. And there is a huge number of women on social media now showing what they wear and supporting each other. I think that is wonderful.

I have had people stop me on the street that follow me and tell me they love my blog. I really appreciate that.

What’s important to you for your happiness and wellbeing?

I have always been physically active. My husband and I met playing hockey. I try to do some exercise every day. I do pilates and yoga about five times a week – anything from 15 minutes to 45. I walk a lot and I play golf.

I love spending time with my girlfriends who are always there to help, there to advise, there for laughs. I love nothing better than a good facial. I need monthly massages/physical therapy for my back.

Lastly, what’s your hope in sharing your style and images online? What messages do you want to send people?

Growing older does not mean that we need to say goodbye to style. We might need to adapt and change as we age. For example, I have said goodbye to the high heels I used to wear up to a few years ago. But our style continues to evolve. I hope that my followers see that I am more than the clothes that I wear. I want to show that life is for living…we are only here for a short while, so we need to spend our allotted time well. We need to show those coming after us that we can still live very fulfilling lives as we age. Style is only a small part of that.

By Alexandra O'Brien. You can follow Hilda Smith on Instagram here.