What Does Dressing “Age-Appropriate” Mean?

women over 40Dear Deborah,

I personally hate the term, “age appropriate”.  I think you should wear whatever makes you  feel sexy whether you’re 23 or 63. I’m 23 in case anybody’s wondering.

My mom is only 45 and she always feels she has to wear ‘age appropriate’ outfits and she’s miserable in them and spending hard-earned money on them. So, in my opinion, if you feel comfortable wearing for example, a sexy halter top or thigh high boots, then wear them. Don’t let society pick your wardrobe. Age is just a number.

~Bianca

I’m so glad Bianca, that you brought up this point! I get gals writing to me wondering if there really is such a thing as age-appropriate dressing?  For example, here’s a common question…

I am now in the best shape of my whole life and wondered if I should enjoy the fact that almost all clothes look terrific on my new body, or should I take my age into consideration when choosing new outfits…. J. Janet

Are you dressing, too old, too young or just right?

Are you dressing, too old, too young or just right?

Let’s face it … This whole Age- appropriate is a tricky thing to  figure out.  Should you change/limit the way you dress after a certain age? It’s not a black or white issue…but my bottom line is no…it’s not about a number.

Style is style, however, you also need to be realistic about your changing body and the message you want to send at this stage of your life. These things should also influence the clothes you select. For me, Age- appropriate dressing  (classy, youthful, modern) is based on a combination of 3 things:

1. Your body 2. Personality 3. The message you want to send. Think of  that story of  Three Bears…you know, “too hot, too cold and just right!” How do you know if you are dressing too old, too young or just right? You need to take a look at:

sexy woman over 40Your Body Type:

The better your body, the more you can get away with. That’s just the way it is. If you have gorgeous toned legs then a skirt a couple of inches above the  knee, and not at the knee, can look great, but a thigh high mini is overdoing it. Is your waist still there and is your stomach decent? Then you might be able to get away with a two piece bathing suit like Helen Mirren does.

Things to think about when it comes to your 40+ body and dressing it:

  • Are you showing the same amount of skin a 17-year-old would?
  • Are your skirts at your thighs?
  • Do you have large breasts and are you showing too much cleavage ?
  • Are your pants so low we can see your back fat and behind?
  • Are you wearing too many sexy elements at once (super high heels and short skirt and strapless top)
  • On the flip side, if you are curvy, don’t hide in a bag…buying styles that work with your body type  can make you look 10 pounds thinner!
  • For any body type find styles that have darts and shape to them. Wearing boxy, boring clothes is a recipe for feeling unfulfilled with your wardrobe.

A good rule of thumb is, if you feel like you look too sexy or too matronly, chances are you probably are! (It is amazing how our gut feelings can be helpful at steering us in the right direction!)

woman over 40 in wrap dressPersonality:

We all have different personalities and it is important we express our unique selves. If you are the creative type – you can still dress creatively, romantic?..no need to give up romantic looks, sporty?- stay sporty no matter what your age– dramatic?- that’s still who you are, so why change your style.

The key is to just tone it down a touch so you don’t look like you are wearing a costume. Young gals can get away with more costume-like style. You need to dress true to your personality, but classy too. Classy says mature and mature means you know the score.

Bianca (comment above) said her 45-year-old mother was wearing clothes were age-appropriate, but they made her feel old. YIKES… that is NOT dressing age-appropriate!  It sound like she is following a frumpy formula that says I’m a certain age and have to dress it. How sad that she is not  dressing in a way that lets her personality shine through.

Another thing to take into consideration when it comes to dressing in an age appropriate way is…

blonde woman over 40The message you are Sending at this Stage in your Life:

For us the biggest message women over 40 should send out is that they are Age-Amazing™. In other words…mature, smart, classy, vibrant and fun.

  • Mature means not going overboard with trends.
  • Classy = Quality. Try to buy clothes in the finest fabrics  you can afford. Luxury can be comfortable and look great!
  • Smart = Wearing clothes that fit properly-not too loose or too tight & shopping for the right brands in the right stores. (No junior departments) If you scroll through our blog we give lots of great examples of age appropriate clothes.
  • Vibrant=Being true to your personality. By adding color, accessories and interesting pieces you will reflect who you are, where you’ve been and where you plan to go in the future.
  • Fun= Not taking all the dressing “rules” too seriously or taking life too seriously.

I’d love to know you thoughts. Is there such a thing as age appropriate. How do you define it?…. I want to discuss this with you!



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Comments, Feedback, & Opinions:

  1. I just turned forty and I have a question about shorts for the summer i am 5’6 big busted and i do not know what kind of shorts that will balance me out also not be to short or to long

    • Hi Maureen, Aaaah shorts! Shorts can be really confusing because there are so many types of shorts and so many types of bodies! After 40 our legs are starting to change but after 50 and 60 for many of us, they really start drooping! Shorts are great for casual but you have to be careful about wearing them out and about. As for balancing out a busty top, we would agree that a wider short will be better than a short flat front.

  2. While I agree that there is a line between tasteful and tasteless in terms of fashion, I don’t agree that it has anything to do with age. Rather, I believe it’s a unique combination of an individual’s personality, style, beliefs, attitude and environment, and that what is “tasteful” or “tasteless” differs from person to person. Fashion is art, and one type or style or approach will never fit all, nor should it.

    For example, I don’t think there is anything wrong with a 40, 50, 60 or 70 year old (or older woman for that matter) wearing a skirt that hits mid-thigh, particularly if she has fabulous legs, so I disagree with the list of “do’s” and “don’t”s in this article. If a woman is young at heart, energetic and confident, there is no reason in the world that anyone else should judge her negatively for making that choice, or any other choice that might break “fashion rules for women over 40″.

    The reality is that there really are no rules about what types of clothes you should or should not wear based on your age. Where what speaks to you, what looks right to you, what gives you confidence and makes you feel happy and good about yourself. By 40, we are all quite familiar with our bodies and their strengths and weaknesses, and sure, we’ll take advice on how to highlight or downplay those parts respectively, but there’s no reason I should be told as a 42 year old not to wear mini skirts if they look great on me, and I feel great in them.

    Don’t be scared to be yourself. Don’t live within the confines of other people’s opinions. Don’t hold back who you are. Imagine how boring and terribly one dimensional this world would be if everyone actually did.

  3. Brilliant article.
    I live in Spain where women are quite extrovert in the way they dress;there is tendency to be over-dressed here. However, this is also a very sunny/hot climate so you see some awful leathery looking women who are exposing to much “barbequed” skin; it just ruins whatever they are wearing.

    I would love to have a make-over or work with someone who could give me some tips. I had a consultation when I lived in London, and it was so great to get some fresh eyes to look at me and my wardrobe. That was when I was in my 30′s. Now I am early 40′s and living in a completely different climate, I would love to work with somebody again. I think it’s necessary to get regular objective up-dates.

  4. I really enjoyed your discussion on “age appropriatness”. It cleared up some questions that I have been struggling with. At 76, I can still wear size 6 or 8 and you told me what to watch out for so I don’t look like I’m trying to be young again. I’m proud of my age. Thanks

    • Hi Rhea,
      If you are still in shape at 76 it is great that you can dress youthful! I show lots of pictures on this blog of 74 year old Jobee who lives in LA and has a terrific figure and dresses amazing! Very classy, yet she can still dress sexy and youthful but does it very tastefully!!

  5. Well said! I was just having this conversation today with a 60-year-old saleswoman in a boutique. She admired my leggings (tucked into a pair of boots) with an above-the-knee tunic and scarf. It is a youngish outfit, but proportioned to work with my body (slim) and age group (mid 50s). We agreed that there is a way to wear the trends in a way that flatters. In other words, I make sure, if I wear leggings, that they are not too sheer or tight like ballet leggings, but a little closer to a slim pant. And my tops MUST cover my backside and most of my thighs. My boots have a low heel, and aren’t classic in style and trim.

    I’ve seen both young AND older women in leggings and very short tunic tops that reveal backsides that ought to be covered discreetly! As you put it, it’s not just age, but body type. Some people, no matter how young they are, don’t look cool in everything.

  6. Mary Wilson says:

    Hi, Can you recommend stores for the over 40 to shop? Some of the stores that are for adults and not teens seem to matronly for my tastes.

    • Hi Mary,
      I say shop Macy’s, Nordstroms, just make sure you stay out of the junior department. I try to shop at stores that sell clothes of better quality. After 40, you want to look classy and when you skimp on poorly made items it looks like it. SO.. be strategic when shopping. Be super pickey, buy less and buy better quality. No need to look matronly… there are plenty of stores and items that are age appropriate and hip and cool!!

  7. Dressing “age appropriate” can be such a precarious subject. I’ve found it really difficult to define and really enjoyed this post.

  8. Totally agree with your guidelines. I also have to throw in something about skin texture– you may be toned and in the best shape of your life but if you’ve spent your youth in the sun and your knees look like crepe paper, I say cover them up.

  9. This is my favorite topic that you’ve discussed lately! I actually want to print it out to keep! Because…I am so afraid of looking older than I am, being frumpy! I feel great and want to look cute! (yes, cute…even at my age) Thanks for the guidelines! If there’s a test later…I’ll be ready for it! ♥

  10. Perfect–could not have said it better myself! I will share this blog with all my friends~

    • Hi Paula! Thanks so much for letting us know and we are happy for you to share it with others! We realized that we throw out that word, “age-appropriate” all the time and had no idea how many women have reference of what it means.
      We even had a hard time trying to come up with an explanation!! Glad to hear that you have found it helpful!!