How to Dress for Success over 40

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Wondering what to wear to the office these days? In an earlier post I mentioned one of our loyal Fabulous after 40 readers  Dawn Stanyon. Dawn is from The Emily Post Institute and is is an expert in Corporate dress. I recently interviewed her and she had some gets tips to pass along. Here’s our conversation with her.

Deborah: What’s the biggest mistake you see mature women making in the way they dress at the office?

Business suits for women

Dawn: Some women stay stuck in a look that worked for them two decades before: same hairstyle and color; same jumpers and baggy T’s. A handful of mature women go more sexy – maybe they’ve lost weight or have gone through a major life transition and want to be out there. But lots of exposed legs and decolletage combined with clothes from the Juniors’ Department doesn’t work for a professional forty-something woman.

Other women embrace comfort instead learning what really works for their body type. I often see synthetic knit wear with elastic waists and oversized jackets. And, hey!, I totally get the comfort angle. When I work with a client I tell them that is doesn’t matter your body size and shape – whether you’re a rectangle, pear/dewdrop, apple or inverted triangle – your can look amazing and project a professional image.

Deb: Can you give us some tips to look youthful at work without looking like you are trying to be young?

Dawn: Learn your body type. Work with a knowledgeable clothing store employee or image consultant to find out what style, fit and proportions work for you. 2) Learn what colors work for you. Everyone knows when they are wearing a great color for their skin tone and texture. People say, “You are glowing!” or “You look so beautiful today.” 3) Invest in some quality classic pieces that have amazing fit and make you feel like 10 billion bucks. 4) Follow the trends by looking through fashion magazines (and reading amazing fashion blogs!). Spend some money each season on a few trendy colors and styles – but don’t spend a lot and keep those pieces to the minimum in your look.Deb: Suits are not worn near as much as they used to be at work. How can you still project a professional look at office without wearing suit? 

Gosh, I love a suit. I’m just a huge fan. I work at The Emily Post Institute and you would think that it would be very stuffy and traditional – but not so! On an average work-a-day basis, we’re business casual. But I’m the one in a suit or a dress and jacket. It’s just the look I like for me and I stick with it. But I well know most people would rather be more casual.Everything I said in the previous question applies but then add a jacket. If you’re wearing jeans on a Friday (dark wash, please), wear a button down or stylish (and appropriately fitted) T shirt and put on a great jacket. It kicks the look up a notch. And wear heals or cute flats. And you always have to be groomed. But so much of professionalism comes from a confident manner, the ability to share and show your knowledge and intelligence, and positive attitude.Deb: Your suggestions for business casual dress in corporate office if you are
over 40?

Dawn: 1) Whatever you buy and wear, make sure it’s the right fit for your body type.
Khaki pants are great – unless they are too tight, too loose, too short or just the wrong cut. If you have a pear shape, nix the khakis and invest in dark pants and skirts – black, chocolate brown, navy. Emphasize your assets and minimize your limitations.

2) Keep the trends to a minimum
and invest in classic clothes and cuts that work for you.

Amazing heels or flats, sublime purses and jewelry always fit! And they can really move an outfit from boring business casual to stylish business casual.4) Don’t be afraid of color 
But don’t just go out and buy whatever colors are trending that season. Know the colors that work for you. An oxford shirt is pretty boring…but if it’s the right color for you, people will think that you look wonderful.Thanks Dawn. you’ve given us some great ideas here.All Business clothes from Jones New York



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2 thoughts on “How to Dress for Success over 40

  1. Chicos has excellent style and accessories that are appropriate for women 50+. Many skirts and pants are elastic waistbands, so comfortable for a real woman’s body! (I am not affiliated with them in any way!)

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