28/11/2011 05:52 GMT | Updated 27/01/2012 05:12 GMT

Patsy's Fashion Advice For Young at Heart Isn't So 'Ab Fab'

The quest to find the secret of eternal youth is something which has taxed the minds of scientists for millennia.

People were fascinated with the idea of preserving life and looks long before the current age of celebrity. For some, however, recent technological innovations have made the desire to avoid the physical toll associated with advancing years even more of a compulsion.

Neither the Ancient Greek historian Herodotus nor even Hungarian countess, Elizabeth Bathory - infamous for having killed hundreds of young virgins for their blood in order to keep her wrinkles at bay - had to contend with mobile phones capable of displaying their laugh-lines and grey hair to millions around the world in an instant.

Cosmetic surgery has, of course, become fairly democratic with nips, tucks and enlargements no longer the preserve of Hollywood's elite but relatively routine.

For others, though, it is not the cut of the skin but the cut of the cloth which is important to retaining a true appearance of youth.

So, it was with some interest that I read recent comments from Joanna Lumley encouraging middle-aged women not to dress their age. Instead, she advised the over-40s to embrace the so-called "mutton dressed as lamb" look.

For someone who has built up such affection with British audiences, it is possible to get away with saying almost anything. Being a glamorous former model, popular TV actress and campaigner for numerous charities in her mid-sixties can't exactly be a hindrance either.

She may have felt "fabulous" (or even 'Absolutely Fabulous') wearing an old pair of Jean Muir shorts but many people reading her comments would be ill-advised to follow her lead. One person's svelte, daring sexagenarian is a sight for sore eyes to most others.

It is true that we seem unable to accept the idea of youth and vitality slipping away from us. The eternal adolescents who surround us may feel wonderful in clothes intended for their children but can look frankly ridiculous.

Whether in or out of the office, the results can be catastrophic. Even in those creative industries where more casual and - dare I say it - trendy clothes are the norm, there comes a point at which growing old gracefully can be done with more panache and earn more respect than clinging to studded or ripped jeans, hi-top baseball boots, crop tops and dangerously short hemlines.

The older that we get, the more we should understand the importance of place. Whereas younger people can be excused the odd fashion faux pas as the result of exuberance or inexperience, as we age, there is less margin for error.

Possessing a number of good quality items which fit well and flatter one's figure speak of style far more than mere mimicry of the latest season's trends. I am not vouching for anything that makes you look old or unflattering. On the contrary, it is scientifically proven that wearing 'younger clothes' and being involved in our children's teenage activities does keep us physically and mentally younger as well. The key is knowing what to wear - and where and when - to making the right impression and feeling at ease in any social or professional occasion.

It is the sort of skill which only comes with experience and, sadly, the passing of years. However, learning to be comfortable in one's clothes and one's surroundings is surely something that no plastic surgeon - or Joanna Lumley, for that matter - can provide.