How Low Should You Go When Showing Off Your Cleavage Over 40?

How low is too low? What is age appropriate when trying to dress and be a little sexy when you are over 40?

I recently ran this photo of a lovely woman in her late 40s, wearing this overall conservative outfit, except the blouse was low cut.

Is this outfit age-appropriate?
Is this outfit age-appropriate?

In the comment section, one of my readers wrote, “…can you please address the question, how low can you go when it comes to dressing after 40?”You are right; we have not addressed the issue of how much cleavage is too much cleavage. This is a tricky one since there are a lot of things to factor into that equation.

First off, let’s look at Stacey (seen here). She is dressed fashionably yet conservatively (long skirt and long sleeves, nothing too tight, the fabric is not clingy or form-fitting). She is not highly busty, so even though she is wearing a low-cut blouse, your eyes are not going to her bust because she has filled the chest area with a bold necklace that draws the eye up.

She was also on vacation and traveling, not at work, so we think this look on her is appropriate. Moreover, she happens to be single as well!!!  So, she dressed just fine and aged appropriately.

Now, take that same outfit and put it in a corporate work environment, and we would say that she should consider changing the blouse to one that is not as sexy.

Here are some things one should consider before going too low:

  1. Are you busty? (If “the girls” are more significant, make sure you’ve got them into a good-fitting bra, and you will have to be a little more careful on how much to show.)
  2. Where are you going? (Are you on play time or work time?)
  3. What is the fabric you are wearing? (Is it thin, clinging material, or is it stiff?)
  4. How do you look overall in the outfit? What part is drawing the most attention? (Are you showing bulges in your stomach or waist, and how much of your bust is hanging out?)
  5. Where do you live? (Do flashy, sexy women surround you, or would you stand out if you showed a lot of skin?)
  6. Are you going out in a social setting? What message are you trying to send?

There is no easy answer to this, but if your gut is telling you you’re showing off too much, then you probably are.

However, many women have significant figures hiding behind safe clothes and feeling frumpy.

There is a balance to this, and there is no easy one-size-fits-all answer.


Let’s keep this discussion going…please comment below!

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30 thoughts on “How Low Should You Go When Showing Off Your Cleavage Over 40?

  1. I don’t think that outfit does anything for her!…. I’d love you guys to show us ladies over 60 or even 70 (see my photo on my website!) I’m 72, and I do weddings and love jackets loved that red and aqua one online video here wish I could buy them, I live in Australia. Can you dig out some fashionable fitting clothes for us smarties? not old women’s clothes because we are 70???


  2. In desperate need of clothes n help! I am at the age(of 42) where like u say we should know what looks good on us and have a style now. Weill doesn’t bc of my figure. My bust is large n the clothes never fit right. My measurements are 38D 28 38 n 125lbs. Juniors r usually too small or cheapy looking and Misses r too loose in the stomach area. I always end up buying stretchy clothes, bc I have to. Loose clothing makes me look pregnant, bc my bust is large for my body. I don’t know where to shop, and shopping just isn’t fun anymore. I live in Hawaii and we can’t wear jackets, scarves,n layers too much. I miss Weddings and other events, bc of the stress w having to find the appropriate outfit. I’m finally learning to sew, and I know that will help some, but any shopping suggestions would be GREATLY APPRECIATED!! =)

    Thank You, and MAHALO =))
    Great site BTW.


    1. Hi JulieAnn,
      When you have a large top half and small bottom we feel your pain because we know how tricky it can be to find clothes that look good on your body type. The main goal should be to try to balance your body out. FIRST OF ALL, you should have a fresh, minimizer bra!!
      So you will want to try to find more fitted tops (tanks) and then layer with a loose sweater and slim pants with a little flair at the bottom or skirt. You will want to play up your chest without showing too much cleavage. V necks will do the trick! Dressing in all one color will also give you the illusion of being taller. Your pants and skirts should have some flair or width to balance out your top. Also, tops that are off the shoulder or boat neck will look great! Warning, stay away from the short sleeve that hit you at the widest part of your arm. Also, keep your sleeves fitted, no need to add unnecessary volume around your arms. Finally, for formal affairs, you might try to find a drop waist dress with a low square neck. This would balance you out as well! (Good thing you sew, you might have to make one, could be hard to find!)
      The clunky platform shoes that are so in style right now will be PERFECT to help balance you out as well! Try to find celebrities that have your body type and copy what they are wearing. Send us a photo of you in your favorite outfit and we can better suggest how to change things up for you! Cheers, Deborah

  3. I think it doesn’t matter if you’re over 40, it depends on what you’re doing and where you’re going. If you are at work, you should cover up, it doesn’t look very professional. There is a great product out called a B string which attaches to your bra and gives you just enough coverage. It’s great! If you’re going out at night, go for and show a bit of cleavage. It’s all about – Right place, right time.

    1. Hi Gail, That product sounds interesting, I will have to check it out. You are so right, we have to use common sense when it comes to cleavage, not too much but not be afraid of showing it either!!

  4. How does everyone feel about skin-tight clothing? I am a C and if I wear anything form-fitting, I feel cheap because men of all ages are staring.

    However, sometimes it makes me feel sexy. but asking for tight clothes is not always appropriate. Feelings?

    1. Hi JoAnne,
      I don’t like skin tight, but I like fitting in the right way. First of all, most of us gals will need to wear SPANX or some type of bodyshaper to keep things in place. Also, if the very fitted dress or skirt also has a plunging neckline, it will be too much…
      You sort of have to pick your spot to show off… a Very fitted skirt….not too tight up top on the top. Very Fitted top…more flowing on the bottom.

  5. Yes, I agree with those who said that the condition of the skin is one of the most important factors. Nice smooth skinned cleavage is one thing but if it’s crepey & sun-damaged then probably best to keep it covered.

  6. If you have C’s or bigger, and you wear a neck, or you bend over, you risk observable cleavage. Yeah, I know it’s there, yeah I know it has its fans, and some people probably do not like it. But necks flatter me, I hate turtlenecks, and crews don’t always look nice. My dignity is that this is me. I’m too busy to be worried about hiding myself all the time. More to the point I think; I try to keep my decollete sunscreened and moisturized so that it looks as good as it can for as long as possible. I suppose when I’m finally too wrinkly, crewnecks will start to look better!

    1. Hi Bethinela,
      I don’t see a problem with lower necklines on women over 40, as long as it’s not too low or at work. I agree that unless you have a long neck, most women will look better in “V” necks. Also, great advice about keeping the chest area moisturized and sun screened. Many of us don’t realize that this area is very delicate until it is too late!

  7. Interesting post and discussion. I have to admit that when I read the original linen article that was attached to the above photo, I thought that the top was cut too low for the woman’s shape, the time of day, and the ensemble. I agree that the matronly cut is a bit frumpy and therefore, in contrast, the low cut is jarring. I disagree that the eye is not drawn to cleavage in this photo: it did mine because it is discordant with the rest of the outfit. I do see cleavage in the office (pharmaceutical company), and it’s not at all professional nor does it gain points for the women who “own” it and display it… at best, they look merely silly and so are not taken as seriously; at worst, it’s a career derailer. Why risk it? Wear a flattering top instead, one that’s not distracting.

    I think that the best rule of thumb for the appropriateness of cleavage is a social setting. Then what is most flattering, in terms of proportion and depth. Agree that showing top AND bottom of cleavage is not flattering.

    1. Hi Magdalene, Social setting does have a lot to do with it. At work, the more skin you flaunt, the less authoritative you appear. There are other places to show off “the girls”.

  8. As far as men are concerned, Ladies, you know that cleavage is “the weapon” and don’t you ever forget it! Therefore, determine who you are dressing for? If you are dressing for women or work, then I agree with Deborah completely. HOWEVER, I say “use what you got until you don’t get it no-mo” there is no man who will ever complain about “too much” cleavage! BTW, love yourself and your cleavage will follow.

  9. I totally agree with Adrian. In my opinion any cleavage is inappropriate and screams “Look at me, I’m trying to be sexy.” I think not having the need to show cleavage is a lot more attractive. And since the picture at the airport keeps popping up, I’d like to say I think the long skirt looks dowdy.

  10. Women would look better if they strived to look pretty, not sexy. What someone wears in their own home for their special someone is one thing, but once you step out into the world, cleavage becomes inappropriate. It makes a woman look like she is desperate for attention. Who wants that kind of attention anyway. Be secure enough with yourself to dress with dignity. We as women have so much more to offer than cleavage!

  11. Hi, I’m a busty broad. No matter how hard I try anything V will eventually show cleavage. I believe it would be great if I had a tailor or could sew my own tops. Better yet it would be great if they made a line of tops with extra fabric in the bust area.


    1. Hi Tsollenne,
      I have heard of a company that makes a little piece of fabric for JUST that reason. I will have to look it up and let you know about it! Meanwhile, anyone else out there know of that company??? Please reply!

  12. Hi Elle and Lara,
    In this photo, I agree it does look wrinkled, but this was after a long cross-country plane trip. I should have taken her photo when I first spotted her, getting ready to get on the plane. That being said, I just wish you could have been at the airport when everyone else was dressed so sloppy and very casual. She was such a standout that I had to take her photo. There are many ways to dress and this woman looked very pulled together and lovely. And for the record, her shoes were wedges and looked great with the outfit!

  13. I mostly agree with Elle. The cleavage issue isn’t the issue … it’s everything else! The ankle-length dress would be fine but paired with something other than that awful too long (and yes, matronly!) sage-colored jacket with the little Johnny collar. (Ewwww!) The Johnny collar competes with the big chunky necklace, and not in a good way.

    To add insult to injury, the jacket doesn’t even fit properly. It appears strained at the single front closure. It’s also wrinkled enough to appear to have been slept in. Stuck all night at the airport? That jacket might be better tossed into the rag bag at this point. The outfit would have been better paired with a shorter, brighter-colored, and collarless jacket that fits properly.

    The angle of her feet looks like the white sandals may be high-heeled. Better to go with a low heel with ankle-length dresses, or even better a low wedge or even flats. High heels (especially thin-stiletto types) look too spindly with ankle-length dresses. The Fuschia bag is shockingly bright and makes every other color she’s wearing look dull by comparison.

  14. This woman looks perfectly age-appropriate, whatever that means! Better questions are is body-appropriate and situation appropriate.

    In my opinion, she could lose the floor-length dress and go mid-knee. A long jacket and long dress is a matronly and sloppy combo best avoided. In this case, it also makes the cleavage look all the more jarring, IMHO.

    I have cleavage rules for any age. If you’re at work, NO CLEAVAGE. PERIOD. PTA meeting, church, funeral, NO CLEAVAGE. Glamorous evening, Oscars, black-tie charity event, dance club, vacation = cleavage. Wear a good bra.

  15. I loved this post. As someone with more than above-average “girls”, I feel quite qualified to weigh in.

    First I’d like to point out that my standard business attire includes twin sets (I own four in different colors) with NO cleavage showing paired with matching dress pants and accessorized with funky jewelry to keep from looking like the president of the PTA.

    However, I do have one top that I wear to business functions that is very low cut (compared to the twin sets). It is fairly fitted on top but is lost below (to hide my above-average middle). It has a wild pattern and perfectly matches my favorite dress pants. I wear minimal jewelry with it (I consider the girls to be enough accessories).

    When I wear the top I feel confident, beautiful, and professional.

    Of course, as mentioned previously, I always wear a good bra. In fact, with the exception of my best suit, none of my outfits ever costs as much as the bra I wear with it. Yes it’s pricey, but the girls are worth it.

    I agree, if you look and feel good, and the first thing people notice about you is not the girls, then wear what you like. And if your girls are above average, don’t bother trying to hide them. You can’t anyway, so you might as well enjoy your assets.

  16. I never think of cleavage as an age thing – only a situation thing (i.e. work vs. romantic date).

    We make blouses for busty women and the neckline is so important. You can’t show cleavage (breast tissue rising from the ribcage), but the neckline has to have some direction to give the large bust-line some slimming definition.

  17. Hi Mary and Sue,
    Great to hear that you had a bra fitting. That is a long-lost art and sometimes can be surprising how our bra size can change over the years!!!
    As far as the shoe question goes (Sue)… I will do a separate blog post about that topic. It is a good one for discussion, so thanks for bringing it up! Keep on the lookout for it, soon!

  18. I thought your criteria for answering the cleavage question were excellent – reasonable and well thought out. As one of those large-busted women I do find it to be a special challenge. I used to be very self-conscious and even try to “hide” them (HA – as if I could!), but I have become more comfortable with my figure, and when the occasion is appropriate to do like to do a little “displaying.” Recently had a bra fitting; one of the best things I’ve done for myself in a long time.

    The shoe question is also a good one. For me personally, 3 1/2 inches is now as tall as I will go. I have found that anything over that just doesn’t look right on a woman of my age (48) and would make me feel like I was trying too hard.

  19. This was a helpful post and is an issue that I think about every time I get dressed!
    Another question: “How high should you go with heels over 40?” The older I get, the more time-consuming shoe shopping has become…constantly searching for cute and stylish shoes that I can walk comfortably in and not look ridiculous wearing…there seems to be an over-abundance of shoes in the stores with heels over 3 inches.

  20. Hi Cindy,
    Yes, as we stated in our blog post, we mentioned being extra careful and aware of showing your cleavage when you are largely busted. This is not to say, you have to hide them, but wearing a good support bra is the first thing (you don’t want them drooping!) and then remember that shiny fabric can look cheap.
    You want to dress in good quality fabrics and styles especially when you’re trying to look youthful!

  21. Hi,

    as implicitly mentioned above, balance and proportions seem to be the deciding factor here. I feel if the eye still goes up to the face first, cleavage is shown tastefully and makes you look more feminine. But if what people see first is your “rack” there’s a problem.

  22. That was a great way to explain how to decide about cleavage, but about other questionable fashion issues, too! I do want to say that I think if you can see the BOTTOM of your cleavage like you can on the woman in the photo – THAT’S TOO MUCH CLEAVAGE!! Just the beginning of cleavage is enough thankyouverymuch. Unless you’re a presenter at the Grammies or something.

  23. A woman who is secure in who she is doesn’t have the need to put her breasts on display. Who cares anyway?
    When you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all.

  24. A little bit of cleavage is sexy and glamorous. Agreed, that depends on a lot of factors. My one and only peeve is ‘deep’ cleavage in the office. A tiny bit is fine as it’s sort of ‘part’ of the ensemble but anything more than that is just inappropriate. In the office environment, one can look glamorous without the girls pouring out and have them pouring out look just the part ‘more boobs than brains’ hahaha ….

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