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“Style is innate”.

Whether it’s for her powerhouse performance on stage and screen, or her signature kohl and red lipstick, 62 year-old Lillete Dubey is always a standout. Calling the 50s a “liberating” time when you can dress to suit your personality, the elegant actor shares her style secrets.

How do you define style?
I don’t define style in terms of fashion nor do I find the latest trends to be style statements. Style is innate. I love saris, but during the day I prefer jeans. I’m a lazy shopper. I see my daughter shopping online but I am not yet net-savvy. There was a period in my life when I opened my own boutique; I used to design at that time. But I got so bored of women coming and always complaining that, after some time, I closed it!

Has your sense of style changed over time?
With age everything changes—your personality, body, perspective. But that should not limit you. I like experimenting with colour but, in my heart, I am a classicist. I love jeans and would wear them even when I turn 80. It’s a test to keep my weight in check. I am genetically slender, and lazy when it comes to exercise, but I love walking. Treat your body as an instrument and maintain it.

Where do you generally buy your clothes?
I am an eclectic shopper. I choose the store depending on where I am. But I am not a high-end shopper; I often go for Mango or Zara. For heavy things, I would choose Sabyasachi, Adarsh Gill, Anamika Khanna, and Shantanu and Nikhil. And I get my saris from everywhere.

Should one tone down the makeup and hair with age?
Once you are older, your makeup should be balanced; it should not shout. Enhance your face rather than trying to change it. I think kohl and mascara are enough because Indian women have beautiful eyes. I have a weakenss for red lipstick and nail polish. Being from a theatre background, I think it puts a little drama back!

What are the essentials you won’t travel without?
Very simple things: lipstick, kohl, a hat, sunglasses, shoes or chappals, a sling or tote bag, a nice shawl, maybe a pashmina. And, honestly, I cannot travel without my medicines now!

Name some favourite things in your closet that you would never throw away.
Saris and shawls—a typical south Indian sari, for instance, and a Mekhela [chador] from Assam. At the same time, I don’t get very attached to clothing and will not hang on to something for the sake of it.

What are your go-to looks for different occasions?
It depends on my mood. On a nice evening, I prefer my saris, unless I have recently bought a gown. On a casual lunch, I would wear trousers. I just wear whatever I find, from a jumpsuit to a loose pair of pants. I find it boring to decide beforehand so it’s usually a spur of the moment decision.

Any advice for our readers?
Frankly, your 50s are liberating. When you reach 50, your attitude and personality will reflect in how you dress and you stop worrying if others like it. It’s a marvellous feeling. Keep experimenting with the parameters of your personality and age; follow fashion to the extent that it suits you; use different colours; and, most important, have fun.

—Aakanksha Bajpai

Photo courtesy: Lillete Dubey
Featured in Harmony — Celebrate Age Magazine
June 2016