10 Sure Signs You are Looking Frumpy after 40

Frumpy WomanIt’s a New Year, and many of you are giving some serious thought to a ‘new you style-wise. Maybe you’ve already resolved to make 2018 ‘the year’ you finally tweak your chic and take positive steps to look age-amazing.

Knowing where to start is half the battle – particularly when you look in the mirror and feel like a frump because you know that you’ve let yourself go. If you’re trying to pinpoint exactly what it is that’s making you look so old, then read on to learn The 10 Sure Signs You’re Looking Frumpy after 40.

1. You Look Like You are Wearing a Tent

Baggy ClothesWhether you’ve gained weight this past year or you’ve always been a bigger woman,  trying to hide under oversized clothes in not doing you any favors. In fact, baggy clothes that hide your body make you look bigger, older, and matronly.

Instead, show off the parts of your body you still like, for example, your bust or your slender arms, and choose clothes that skim, not cover up, the parts you don’t, for example, your hips. Don’t use oversized clothes as a gigantic blanket to hide behind. Switch to more fitted – not tight – the clothing if you want to look fresh and ‘with it’.

2. Yellow Teeth

Aided and abetted by coffee, tea, and red wine (sigh), our teeth are yellow as we age. This is a big turnoff and a telltale sign of age despite how great you may look otherwise. Flash a set of shiny white teeth and knock ten years off. These days it’s easy with at-home whiteners or dentist laser treatments that restore sex appeal.

Cat Cat Wearing Glasses3. Dated Glasses

Still, wearing those hokey glasses, you bought ten years ago? Time to tweak your chic with some updated glasses. Glasses are a wardrobe staple. You wear them every day, and they are one of the first things people notice about you, so it is worth investing in a great pair. Heck, you may even want at least two pairs – one that is dressy and one that is casual and fun and switch them around to look modern and fashionable.

Eyewear is similar to fashion in that things come and go out of style. Do your research first, but some general eyewear trends for 2018 include:

  • Thin metal frames
  • Gold accents
  • Soft colors. Think blush, pastels of all sorts, and beige neutrals
  • Tortoise with a twist

Be sure to take a stylish friend along with you when you make your choice. It’s easy to get stuck in an eyeglass rut and end up buying much the same thing you had before.

4. Dull, Uneven Skin Tone

As we age our skin starts to fade and years of sun damage from too much tanning begin to show up on our faces as dark brown spots. Depending on your skin, specific issues, and budget, you can even out your skin and restore its natural glow with cosmetic peels, laser resurfacing treatments, alpha hydroxy acid, and vitamin C. (If you can, make an appointment with a dermatologist to discuss what’s best for you.) A bonus- fine lines and wrinkles also seem to disappear as the new layer of skin are revealed.

Scary Lips5. Scary Lips

Halloween is over! Ditch the dark lips which are too strong a contrast to aging skin and hair and try wearing soft natural shades in pinks and peaches. And as for heavily lined lips that make you look clownish when were those EVER in? When you walk into a room, you want people to think how beautiful your face looks, not how scary your lips look.


6. Juvenile Styles

Some styles, whether you want to hear this or not, look juvenile on women past a certain age. Pinafores, overalls, and anything too fluffy or frilly or with too many bows make grown-up women look like wish they were still little girls.  Avoid juvenile styles like this and steer towards more clean, classic styles that look chic and polished.

7. Old Lady Handbag and Shoes

You’ll look like an “old bag” if you carry an old handbag. Dated purses and shoes are a sure giveaway you’ve fallen into an old lady’s fashion rut. Study the magazines, see what younger gals are carrying and wearing on their feet and copy them. This is one area where you can be a little more trendy and fun.

A sure-fire, never miss style recipe is: Classic Styles + Funky Accessories = Modern and Youthful

8. Too Much Denim

Old rockers may never die, but sometimes it’s good to give them a rest! Sometimes, as it has recently, the style pendulum swings to head-to-toe denim but tread carefully; after 40 it can look tacky unless you’re skilled at putting together just the right pieces. I recommend playing it safe and sticking to a well-fitting pair of stylish jeans. I also recommend you experiment with different rises to find the one that works best for you. Super low-rise jeans account for a muffin top and look trashy. “Mommy jeans” with wide legs that are cut too high can emphasize a bulging tummy or hips. Dark, mid-rise jeans are always elegant and so much classier if you are 40+.

John Travolta Hairspray9. Saggy Bust

If your breasts are heading south, it’s time to perk them up with a good supporting bra. The older we get, the more this is needed to help hold everything up that’s fallen out of place.

And while you’re in the process of updating your foundation pieces, throw out your boring white underwear. Go out on a limb and get some lingerie that is colorful and fun. Age is a state of mind, and if we’re feeling sexy underneath, we’re going project vibrant, youthful energy to the world.

10. Helmet-Head Hair

The most glaring sign you are stuck in the past is hair that resembles a hair-sprayed bubble. Remember the helmet head hairdo John Travolta sported in the movie Hairspray? Don’t be caught looking like that! Keep your hair, loose, soft, and shiny, and style it in a modern way. Update your style every six months and make sure your color is multidimensional, not flat and phony.

Got any other good tips for dumping the frump? Pass them on by commenting below!

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64 thoughts on “10 Sure Signs You are Looking Frumpy after 40

  1. If you wear foundation, select a medium coverage, anything too heavy will settle into fine lines and try to choose a shade that most closely matches your own.

  2. Hi Deborah,
    Gosh, I love this post!
    Thank you.
    I am in the process of writing a post about tweaking an outfit to de-frump it, and I’m going to pop a link to this post in mine.
    You sum things up perfectly, and I couldn’t agree more about helmet hair!
    I’d already written my section on helmet hair when I read your helmet hair comments and laughed out loud.
    Never a more accurate word.
    Great post!!

  3. I would gladly not have plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, and heel spurs, but I do, so I must deal with it. I have worn a pair of Sketchers that work for me, with unique support socks. I’m pleased with the look of them. I’m delighted with how they feel. I never did wear ridiculous shoes for fashion. I do not need unsolicited opinions if anyone has an issue with that. There are far more pressing matters in the world right now.

  4. Good tips! The only two I can’t agree with are the lipstick and teeth ones. I love dark berry/red lipsticks with a bit of gloss over the top and feel undressed with pale lipsticks! I am letting my hair go grey, and I don’t think dark lipsticks necessarily look aging if they are not too matte – I’m thinking of Teresa May, who often wears dark lipsticks and, in my opinion, looks good in them. I don’t believe in overstressing the teeth either; of course, these treatments are expensive. I would rather spend the money on exercise classes.

    I think your dog is so sweet, and I am very envious – my husband is not ready for a dog just yet…

    1. Hi Fiona, I guess I should clarify that. Some deep, rich berry lipsticks can look lovely. I see a lot of women wearing dark brownish, mauve shades that make them look like they have one foot in the grave. Same with lining your lips in a dark heavy brown/mauve shade. It’s not attractive. As for teeth, another reader just gave a tip about baking soda which is a good one.
      Glad you are enjoying my puppy, Bella. I wasn’t ready for a dog either, but my daughter babysat her and couldn’t part with her. She is a taciturn, cute little gal!
      Cheers, Deb

      1. Bleaching your teeth is entirely safe. A study was done on a person who had their teeth extracted for 365 days. They bleached one half of the mouth, and the other half did not get bleached. When removed, they sliced the teeth up and examined them under a microscope precisely the same…it can cause sensitivity during the treatment, but it will resolve. Crest white strips work great.

  5. Any “holiday” themed sweater/shirt = frumpy. You don’t need a jack-o-lantern or reindeer to dress festively.

  6. Hi, I love your blog. I read a suggestion (probably here) a couple of years ago that said to keep a “go-to” outfit in your closet to be ready anytime you have to run out to do errands. Something nice keeps you from running to the shops in your gardening clothes or worse! I loved that idea. I also love that cute workout clothes are acceptable (even trendy) for some occasions. Keep keeping us from frump-Ville, Deborah!!

    1. Hi Kathy,
      Yes, I remember saying that! A go-to outfit you can throw on, like going to the grocery store, ensures you always look fabulous. Glad you enjoyed this article, and yes, Life is too short to be frumpy! When you look good, you feel good, and Life is so much more fun, and don’t we all deserve to have some fun? Thanks for your kind words. Cheers!

  7. As always, I love your newsletter and website. I wanted to reinforce the hair thing — I highlighted my hair for a while when it was growing in a horrible dishwater blonde, but I am so happy with it now that it’s natural. After a mixed-up year or two, it came in silvery blonde; my hairdresser gave me a great cut that lets the wild waves do the work, and I spend five minutes on it in the morning and look great all day (ah, thank God for the spritz curl products! used with a light hand they don’t make hair stiff). Now it’s on to the handbag — I hate shopping for purses but have seen some great ones lately and can’t wait to try them out.

    1. Hi Judi, Isn’t it great when you’ve got your hair all figured out? One less thing to worry about. It sounds lovely with the silvery blonde and waves. Thanks for stopping by, and good luck with your purse shopping!
      Cheers, Deborah

  8. Hi Deborah,
    I enjoy your site & posts and find them inspiring. I wanted to add to this one as I have recently discovered the world of online glasses and I am so thrilled to now have a collection of 6 fabulous new pairs that have changed how I feel about dressing and my wardrobe! I am so happy with the prices, service, quality of glasses, and quality of lenses, and my six new pairs have cost me half of what I paid at the eye doctor for 1 team! A new lease on fashion for me…I highly recommend !!

  9. This is “over 40,” right? Not over 70! Good grief! You make it sound like we should cover up and focus on hiding our aging. I’m 46 and in the best shape of my life! Heck yes, I wear over-the-knee skirts and dresses. And even sleek overalls with heels. Look at a fashion magazine. Women over 40 can still be gorgeous, fashionable, and in fantastic shape. Why should they hide it? Let’s not bury us all before our time!

    1. Hi Susan, Yes, that’s a good one. There is no need to chop it off into a dull, old lady cut. Stay up with current styles no matter what length and keep your hair looking shiny and healthy, Older hair tends to fade and lose shine, and shiny is fit and youthful! Cheers, Deborah

      1. Hi Deborah,

        Thanks for responding! Fortunately, great hair runs in the family. My mom actually “forbade” me to get a “mom” cut. Mom’s almost 70, but she still has excellent hair even though it’s grey (she looks a little like Emmylou Harris).

        When my best friend had a kid a few years ago, I jokingly intervened, telling her not to get the “mom” cut. She has great hair too.

        As for me, I’m turning the big 4-0 in July, and I love your website.

  10. No bright lipstick or vintage hairstyles?? I think you’ve got that wrong.
    Check out photos of Carmen Dell’orefice for some glamorous mature style inspiration.

  11. I am interested in more information comparing chemical peels to laser treatments or other options to help get our youthful skin back. Any advice?


  12. Some women after 40 develop androgenic alopecia hair loss where they don,t have any style option for their hair . as I do so, I experiment with different wig styles that make me look ten years younger than I am. And you also feel prettier with them going through the change of life when you have that terrible hair loss problem in families.

  13. I am 45 and dating a younger man (33) who asked me to wear a mini skirt. However, I would feel ridiculous wearing a mini dress at my age, but I want him to feel happy about what I’m wearing.

    I mostly wear leggings and jeans when with him, with an occasional dress just over my knee.. any suggestions?


    1. Hi GiGi, We would not suggest you wear a mini shirt unless you do it privately at home. If you are dating a younger man, he needs to understand that you are a mature woman and respect that. No matter how youthful you look, wearing a mini look silly when you are over a certain age. A dress over your knees is delicate, but a mini crosses the line. Leggings and tight straight-legged jeans can still be sexy, youthful, and age-appropriate. We suggest you stick with them. Good luck!

    2. GiGi, you shouldn’t have to wear anything that makes you uncomfortable… it sounds like he needs to grow up!… How about you suggest something for him to wear? He should be proud to be seen with you in whatever YOU decide to wear, not him…Please don’t do this for fear of not finding anyone else.

    3. Hi Gigi,
      Please consider wearing only what you want to wear and not wearing it for anyone but you.
      Your young man hopefully dates you because you’re you and not because of what you wear.
      A lot of women over 40 (and even older!) have fantastic bodies and are often in the best shape of their lives as we have more time and money on our hands than when we were in our younger years and can still look great in shorter skirts and if you are comfortable and it’s what you want to wear, then why not! I don’t like any hard and fast rules about dressing/fashion as this is the modern age, and women are free to wear whatever they feel looks best on them, not what a blog dictates/advises them to do. Similarly, men don’t get a say, either!

  14. Some sound advice here, it is a tricky balancing act to not look like a “mutton dressed as lamb” or a fashion victim once you are over 40.

  15. I’m new to your site and LOVE your advice and down-to-Earth tone. I saw a comment above about silver hair and wanted to add my voice to the choir. After a horrible (HORRIBLE) coloring SNAFU 5 weeks before my wedding (2011), I stopped covering up the grey in my naturally light blonde hair. At the time, I thought this would make my hair look much worse and much older, but I was just DONE with the dye. Much to my surprise, I am now happier with my hair than I have ever been in my entire 48 years. It is healthier, shinier, softer, smells better, and even LOOKS better. I rarely got compliments on my hair until I let it go silver; now, at least twice a week, someone will stop me on the street or at the gym to say how much they love it. AND–more than half of these people are handsome MEN! Who knew? PS–I’m so committed to “silver at any age” that about five years ago, I was a guest of Oprah Winfrey’s at a televised dinner. When her producer asked if they could darken my hair for the cameras, I respectfully declined! ;-)

  16. Also just wanted to point out that not all cultures emphasize accentuating busts and hiding hips. There are those of us who like our hips and round bottoms. I prefer to highlight the figure, the waistline, and the hips. We are women, after all.

  17. Just had to comment. I love your website and get some great advice here. But this one left me feeling a little blue. Teeth whitening isn’t always as easy as it seems! I went and had a laser procedure done when I turned 40. (I saved up the money and splurged and treated myself.)At the time, my dentist told me that results differ depending on the individual. Some people have great results, while others have no success. After sitting under the lasers for an eternity, I was happy with my results, although I can’t say they were terrific. The dentist told me that sometimes the effects of the laser didn’t last. Well…mine did not. So much so that I went back a few days later. And the dentist agreed! He reimbursed all the money that I had paid out. I was lucky that I had such a great dentist. But I just thought you should let your readers know that not everyone sees success with laser treatment. It’s not 100% effective for everyone. (and it’s not very good for your teeth and gums, either.) This push for super white teeth is a little sad. Not everyone has super white teeth, even when they are young!! I think this tip is a little too rough. Not everyone can afford laser treatment, and it doesn’t work for everyone.

    1. Thanks, Josie,
      Yes, teeth whitening is not for everyone. We have tried several ways, including over-the-counter whitening strips and buying trays from the dentist that do work. However, some people might have sensitivity issues that will prohibit the use. If you can’t whiten your teeth, avoid wearing red lipstick. Keep lip color more natural.

  18. The one point you forgot to mention is EXERCISE; if you carry extra weight, you will look frumpy no matter what. It is also great for your skin and makes you glow.

    1. Debi!

      Absolutely exercise is essential. I try to hit the gym a few nights a week, and I love to go hiking in winter. But my favorite time is summer when my husband and I hit the bike trails. We’ll do a 30-40 mile ride on the trails.

  19. Hi Frumpfactor!

    I am not to take myself too seriously! It’s more fun to try something fresh. Don’t you agree??

    When you feel frustrated and bored with dressing, you probably think that way about life too!

    So I try to inspire and give you the tools to lighten up and dress as you feel! Youthful and chic!!

  20. It was not until recently that I realized that well.I am over eight years!!!.. sure, I knew. But I didn’t ever think of one of “those women”..that being said. I constantly am “working on myself” regarding my appearance and not looking matronly. Sometimes I slip a little bit and need to get back on track. I think observing the younger set does help..not that I want to look 20. b ut I don’t want to look 80!.. I am one of those women whowwhoide the fence on misses/ times, it can be fun being able to shop in two departments, but it is distracting when one size is too small and the other too big. I must confess just yesterday; I purchased a slim-fitting pair of jeans and a not-so-long mom and sister (both Petites) said I looked 20 pounds thinner!!!.. I have been watching those young chicks..and have noticed the straighter jeans are headed back..and I will be the first 48 years old to try them!

    1. Hi Ann,
      Thanks for taking the time to write in! I love that you are a real woman looking to keep her appearance youthful and age-appropriate. You are right on track with trying those straighter jeans and longer tunic tops! However, since you are between a miss and size, slim-fitting bootcut jeans with a shorter-fitted top might also flatter your figure! There is a fine line between keeping up with the trends and dressing to flatter your body type!

      If you have thin legs and hips, you are lucky and will look great in the straight-legged pants, and even if you have some hips, the long tunic can hide that too. But if you are busty, beware..tunic tops can make you look pregnant!

  21. Hi! Do you have suggestions for what to put with nice khaki pants? They’re comfortable and practical but can be oh so dull and bland. I like to wear them with flats. I work in an elementary school…need to be dressy casual to look professional and still be able to handle recess duty.

    1. Hi Julia,
      I like to give teachers, nurses, and those who have to be on their feet all day a break when dressing FAB!
      Khaki pants do look best with flats or loafers. Check out my latest post on dressing up a pair of khakis… I love it with a striped t-shirt and colorful cardigan or jacket, topped off with a casual scarf! Please make sure the style of your khakis is up to date and fits. (beware of not being too tight and not too baggy). Also, most women over 40 looks best with their tops tucked out. So a scarf can add some fun and hide the tummy area too.

  22. A great tip I heard the other day from Dr.Oz was to drink cranberry juice after meals. It keeps your teeth from turning yellow.

  23. Yes, I am guilty of the non-white teeth, and it’s been bugging me. But I don’t want to risk damaging my teeth. Does anyone know of any natural teeth whitening products?

    1. Wow, Marian, that is a great question! Teeth whiting can make your gums sore, and that can’t be good! We hope someone will come up with a solution, but we have not heard of one yet!

      1. Something I’ve learned: Certain fluoride toothpaste can cause a film, resulting in graying of the teeth. I was in a panic, thinking my teeth were aging, until I discovered this. After removing the film by scraping, I switched to Crest original toothpaste (which doesn’t build up) and an electric Sonicare toothbrush. Hello, white teeth, again!

    2. I have always read that plain old baking soda is an excellent natural tooth whitener. Just wet your brush and dip it in the soda.

      1. I use baking soda on top of my arm & hammer whitening toothpaste! I am a coffee drinker & it seems to help whiten teeth. I can tell when I slack off!

  24. Hi: As a designer, for over 20 years, of plus size clothing, I’ve seen and fitted every possible body type. FACT: As we age and experience childbirth, weight gain, and all the rest, our body becomes more unique and challenging to fit. SOLUTION: Plus Size Couture. Clothing that is made to your measurements looks and feels best. At Peggy Lutz Plus (, you’ll find unique occasion solutions for all budgets: Couture, Classics and The Outlet, and personal attention.

    1. Peggy,

      I work with a couple of women who are “plus size” and have great fashion sense. They wear clothes that look great on them.

  25. …I am fifty-four and feel every bit of it in my dress style on a tight budget. I work with children, so I am most comfortable in trousers and just regular tops, blouses, tees, etc. I am an excellent candidate for a makeover, I think. I am 5’3 1/2 inches and tip the scales at over 185 pounds (UGHH!!)…any recommendations would be most appreciated.

  26. Oh- about the shoe thing… No, I cannot and refuse to wear ANY shoe that is not comfy! Pain is not worth being “sexy”!!! I need a WW shoe- and not many stores sell them. I used to think I was an 8 or 8 1/2 size, but I was NOT- I am a 7 1/2 WW. When I discovered this, my feet were impressive. I found mail-order places like Zappos or Footsmart have many very stylish shoes, even for those of us with problem feet. And YES to the silver hair… I am sick of coloring. I LIKE silver hair! I want to go all silver.

    1. Hi Debra,
      I feel your pain…when friends with wide feet have to
      shop for shoes, it can be challenging to find ones that don’t look geriatric!
      But you are right, there are some great resources out there, and you must be picky.
      I LOVE silver hair and think it can be so attractive on those that try it!

  27. This is great. Being recently unemployed and not being around other people or in a working environment, the frump factor kicks in quickly. I suggest an amazing stay-at-home wardrobe of jeans, a nice tee, sandals, paint your nails, wear nice loops and moisturize! I also agree you need more articles on silver hair- mine rocks.

  28. Love your site! I am new. Have you done any articles on color? e.g., looking classy and classic but not dull.

    Keep up the great work.

  29. Love this!!
    Eat healthy for good skin. Make sure you use SPF in the sun and get a good moisturizer. Supplements are good. We could all use a few because it is so hard to get everything we need through food.

  30. I agree with natural products! Always try them before anything invasive and expensive! For instance, dry skin lacks nutrients=not having to purchase any moisturizer. Also, if you wash with nature, it will not dry out your hair or skin, thus possibly eliminating the need for conditioners/moisturizers. (For great supplements, try”Market America.” Of course, if you eat organic, you most likely won’t need accessories.

  31. The best tip I can offer is to splurge on an excellent moisturizer for the face and a unique all-over body lotion. Hands and feet age the fastest and are the hardest to keep out of sight. As early on as possible. Moisturize!

    1. Hi Helene,
      Yes. There are great moisturizers, and we like those with Shea butter in them. However, I’ve found that sometimes it’s not how much you spend on moisturizer but that you moisturize regularly. Natural ingredients are important. I like Emerita products. They are specifically made for older skin and are all-natural.

  32. When I updated my eyeglasses last year, I liked them so much I didn’t mind wearing them and didn’t try to hide in them or apologize for wearing them. I hardly wear my contact lenses because it’s so much easier wearing special glasses and my eyes feel much better.

  33. Great tip about the bras… have you published any articles on the specific best bras? General guidelines exist, but I’d like to know *which* bra I can find *where* that will do the job for this full-figured gal.

  34. The comment about shoes is true, but having had foot surgery just after 40 and wearing orthotics leaves very few affordable choices. Other than the really ugly SAS oxfords and walking shoes the flats are not flat and are not wearable. Most shoes that accommodate orthotics are awful and certainly not wearable with anything but pants. Career killer.

    1. What an ageist world we live in, you know? Vintage styles are great unless you are a vintage age and look frumpy. Mom jeans are great unless you’re past the age of being a mom, and then you look old. Everybody is so busy trying not to look their age, coloring hair, hiding wrinkles and sags and bags. Wear the right shoes, and don’t wear the wrong glasses. Don’t let your droopy boobs droop. It’s all such a bunch of garbage. You know what? If you’re 55, you are not 25, so why are you so caught up in looking like someone you once were? I get caught up in this, and I enrage myself. Can I still leave home in these jeans this year, or will the fashion police arrest me? My mother didn’t do this. My grandmother certainly didn’t. They aged. And they were beautiful. Can’t we embrace it and be respected for it? L

  35. Great tips…gosh, I am so glad I don’t look like Aunt Bea. How old was she anyway ??

    I would like to see some thoughts and things about being a natural ” silver”.I have never colored my hair and I absolutely love it. I get so many compliments. I thought of it with your tip and having multi-dimensional coloring done in the above. Over the years I my hair has been a topic of conversation, as it went from dark brunette to my present silver hair. Notice I don’t say gray, and actually, if I was gray, I would probably have colored it long ago.

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