Age-Appropriate

Is This Dress Too Short? That Grey Area When You Are Over 40!

How short is too short past a certain age? That’s a question I struggled with when I wore this cute shift dress.

Blue floral shift dress Deborah Boland I bought this pretty navy and a pink floral shift dress for the rewardStyle conference a while back. I loved the colors and the cheery pattern, and it looked great on me in the dressing room. But when I got home and tried it on with a pair of shoes, I wondered about the length.

I’m 5’7″ tall, and I have long legs. This dress is 33.5 inches long.  When I paired it with 3″ heeled pumps, the dress felt a little short. Was I exposing too much leg, and did the dress make my knees look old?

blue floral shift dress sunglasses

In truth, it’s a shift dress which means it is naturally on the short side. That’s the style, and even if I wanted to let it down a bit, there was barely a 1″ hem to play with. I didn’t have time before I left for the conference to get it professionally altered, so I went with it the way it was.

Blue Floral Shift dress necklineYou can see how pretty the print is and how, other than the hem, the dress is quite classic and fairly modest.

blue floral shift dress pink shoes

It’s got a lovely bateau neckline and pretty three-quarter length sleeves. The navy base color gives it credibility and authority, and the touches of pink, light blue, and white in the florals add femininity. I thought it was a great dress for a fashion-related conference where I would be attending seminars and sponsor meetings.

The slit sleeves are my favorite thing about the dress. They’re so unique.

blue floral shift dress and white purse

Most of the bloggers and staff who attend rewardStyle are quite young ( 20’s/30’s), so I wanted to find something to wear that was youthful, but not junior, something fun, but not silly, and something colorful but not loud. This dress checked all the boxes for me.

white kate spade chain link bagI added some beautiful low heel pink suede pumps with the prettiest scalloped edges. Anything higher than 2″ would have been too much. My chain strap Kate Spade tote worked perfectly with the dress and gave it a sporty, modern look.

Short blue floral shift dress

I felt perfect in this ladylike dress, despite it being shorter than I would normally wear. It didn’t seem to ride up at all, and everything worked out o.k.

When I got home, I let down the hem about three-quarters of an inch, which is the most the dress would allow. That may seem like nothing, but I found it has made me feel just that little bit more comfortable and confident, and as we all know, confidence is key to owning a look!

What do you think? Is this dress too short, or is it o.k.? Is there a length we should aim for over 40, over 50, over 60, or is that all nonsense?

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82 thoughts on “Is This Dress Too Short? That Grey Area When You Are Over 40!

  1. Love this look on you. Girl you have the shape for this dress so wear it! I have a bit of the same problem – taller and long legs. You don’t know how many dresses I had sent back in the past because of this. I feel so much better when I have a nice dress on and you sure look like you feel good in this cute dress.

  2. My experience is, if I question whether the skirt is too short, then it probably is for me. Just a personal taste decision.

  3. I think length is a personal choice, so if you like it, wear it. I think it looks fine on you, and you look confident and attractive! The colors and print are wonderful on you. I hear you though. Every time I try on a dress, the length is what I debate most. I have many dresses, and they are not all the same length. Some are longer and some shorter, depending on the style of dress. I am not sure there is a perfect length as I like some styles longer. I purchased a special occasion dress that is the perfect length and style – it hits just below my kneecap, but is still flirty because it is tiered so it feels perfect and I feel confident in it. I liked it so much I purchased the dress in black, royal blue, and coral. That “perfect” length in a shift-style dress would not work on me; I would be tugging it down and worried everytime I sat down. For this dress, you could lengthen it by adding a band of lace. In addtion to letting the hem out as much as you can, you could add a band of navy lace to make it just a tad longer.

  4. Hi,
    I love the dress, earrings everything!!! I’m ready to buy it all however, it is for a college graduation and I can’t wear heals on the grass all day long. I’ve been looking and looking for a wedge or flat that would go with this dress and I’m coming up with zero!
    Please help direct me to a comfortable all graduation day flat or wedge that can be worn on grass. Thanks so much you are the best! I’m also blond and 5’7 with very long legs – love your blog

  5. You’ve got a great figure, great legs, and great style. However, in this case, that is irrelevant: yes, the dress is a bit short, and I wonder how short it was when you were seated or reaching.

  6. I’m 47 and I appreciate younger women who are working to get away from having a certain butt, waist, legs, or are a certain size equals being “allowed” to wear certain things. It rubs me wrong to hear things like “you can’t pull it off because of your age” or “you can pull it off because of your legs.” It’s as if we have these standards and, if you fit the body profile and your drivers license has the correct year, then you can wear something. It’s crap. A leg is a leg, why is a certain leg allowed when another isn’t? My vote: if you’re comfortable and feel confident then age and the radius of your calf or knee should be irrelevant!

  7. You have lovely legs and a great figure and its a lovely dress but a block heel sandle and a couple of extra inches on the hem would have made all the difference for me. The high heeled pumps age the loveral llook in my opinion.

  8. It’s a lovely dress! With heels it seems a bit short, but with flat sandals it would be just right for a seaside brunch. With higher heels I can imagine it looking sharp with white cropped leggings, maybe some strappy sandals and a sunhat!

  9. In my opinion this dress is not too short, and more so because the top half is modest. I personally would have worn a lower heel. You look great. Lise

  10. The conservative neckline and sleeves balance the length of the dress to give it an overall classy look.. Not too short in my opinion.

  11. Hi Deborah. I know just where you’re coming from.
    The dress is lovely;y, but feeling it is a wee bit tooo short will forever spoil it for you every time you wear it. And what’s worse is, when you sit down it becomes even shorter!
    I’m a professional designer dressmaker (from NZ, age 60 !) and if I bought this little number, considering the lack of extra hem, I’d find a matching piece of plain pink shade fabric , (perhaps in a sheer silk chiffon, or a similar fabric to the dress) and cut the blue stripe off the bottom. Add the new pink stripe of say 4cm wide, then attach the blue stripe to the bottom again.
    It’s amazing what a wee tweak does to a hem length.
    Love your style.!! but I often wonder just how tall you are, and size

  12. I do not believe that it is too short because of the fact that the arms are covered and that dress is not showing cleavage at the chest. I have read one day that if you want to show some skin and stay classy, you have to choose wich part of your body you want to expose. In this case, youchose legs. It is a good thing to remember in my opinion.

  13. You look great in everything and have nice legs, but, yes, I think the dress is a little short. That said, it is very hard to find dresses that are not too short.

  14. I came to look at the comments, expecting a chorus of “of course it’s not too short.” I’m 46, and I’m astonished that anyone actually thinks it is too short. I think you look elegant and polished and not at all like you’re trying to “look young”. It’s flattering, it’s a beautiful design and fabric, your legs look great, the proportions are great, and you look flat-out fabulous. I’d argue that making the dress much longer would change the style and possibly even make it look frumpy.

    But then, if anyone complained about my knees or my arms I’d tell them to look someplace else. I’m not going to apologize for aging or stop wearing fun clothes because of it.

  15. Deborah- I love this dress, I don’t think it’s too short! I love all your style choices. However- I feel many of your examples are too costly/high end. I can’t always shop Chico’s or Bloomingdales!! I do shop Macy’s and Kohl’s.I enjoy your newsletter very much. Keep up the good work! Thanks- Jean Targett

  16. Deborah, I think it is not a question of whether the dress is “age appropriate,” but rather whether it is “leg appropriate.” You have great legs, and the dress looks wonderful on you.

  17. It’s all about the context. It’s a cute dress, and your legs look great, but I don’t think I’d wear it to a conference. It would be better for shopping when you’re at the seaside or a summer BBQ. I’d probably wear it with cropped leggings.

  18. The dress is lovely and you look lovely in it…and it is a tad too short. The issue is the wide horizontal pink band which cuts a borderline too short dress into an even shorter visual. It creates a focal point right where you are uncomfortable. Cover the pink and your eye goes to the neckline instead. Add more navy to the bottom and it looks more balanced. As many have said, lower, more casual shoes in a neutral would not draw the eye down. Worth working on.

  19. You know what? I think you ROCK that dress! If you have great legs (and knees), like you do—I say: Go for it. I wouldn’t go any shorter, though. I think it looks fabulous, and I do not think it looks like you are trying too hard. The neckline saves the day. I’m 54 and very conservative, btw.

  20. You are a beautiful woman and I love the dress, but in my opinion, the dress is a little short with the pink high heels; maybe a cute flat or strappy sandal

  21. You have great legs, and the dress looks beautiful on you. As a 56 y.o. female, I would’ve worn a flat with a dress that short.

  22. You’re so lucky with your height, your nice knees, and ability to wear good shoes. You look as good in that short-ish dress as the First Lady of France does! But yes, an inch lower is probably better.

    Me, I’m short (5′), wear petite 4, have horrible knees and can’t wear any decent shoes, so my fancy outfit is a long black skirt, good top and jewelry, good jacket or cardigan if necessary, and either black Uggs or black Easy Spirit Traveltime sneakers that no one can see but I’m standing and dancing the whole night!

    FWIW, finally found and ordered high-waist flare/boot-cut white jeans at Talbots. Ordered 3 different ones. I hope they all look great. Bad knees means no skinny or even straight leg jeans for me. TMI with the knees! Why flare? To camouflage the Traveltimes!

  23. It’s a beautiful dress that is absolutely not too short, and your legs look great. Enjoy wearing it all summer.

  24. Such a pretty dress and as always, you look amazing! I think it’s too short though especially with the heels. Almost like your trying a bit to hard to be like the 20 and 30 year olds at the rewards conference.

  25. Your legs look great so you can definitely pull this off. It’s probably a little short for us mere mortals but you rocked it!

  26. Deborah,
    You have great legs. Not everyone does.
    Knee length is always appropriate and never goes out of style for older ladies.
    Heels are another item that we say “Goodbye “ to as we age.
    Enjoy wearing heels while you can.

  27. I agree with the previous comment. You have the legs for it so why not! You look nice in this dress. I think women get too caught up on a number and I wish it wasn’t so. There are many fit women who look young for their age. I believe we should let fitness and good taste be our guides rather than an arbitrary number. Otherwise we risk entering the frump zone where all we’re allowed to wear are pull on pants, long tops and sensible shoes.

  28. The only question that matters is-How did it make you feel wearing it?

    You clearly have a slim enough figure to work it. However, if you have to ask the question then you probably know the answer that suits you.

  29. I think the problem with the dress is the proportion of blue background vs. where the pink banding hits toward the bottom. If you use the rule of thirds, the banding should visually be in the bottom 1/3 of the dress — it seems a little “high” to me. So I bet it helped when you added even a bit of length from the hem to balance out the bottom 1/3. Ideally, I think it would help to have the pink banding hit just a tad lower, but that’s not possible. BTW, your knees look great and I don’t think the dress is categorically too short — just the placement of the print on this dress didn’t do you any favors. Gorgeous print and love the styling.

  30. You have great legs, and a terrific figure. . But, I do think this dress is a little to short. In my opinion, a dress that just skims the knee is the best length for women over forty.

  31. I understand your hesitancy and think it’s well founded. The dress is pretty, and you are slender and fit – but there’s truth in ‘just because you can doesn’t mean you should’. Another inch or two would make the difference between classy-casual and trying just a bit too hard to hold onto a young look.

  32. Hi Deborah……..I think it looks fine! I would try a little self tanner on legs & see if that helps you feel better. Sometimes you can use a self tanner in spots alittle deeper to create a muscle toned look. I use that trick on my arms. I absolutely love the dress on you!

  33. I agree that you have the legs for short skirts. I don’t think it is your age that makes it look a little short but more the shoes. I agree with the poster who thought a more on-trend block heel sandal would look better and actually more youthful.

  34. You have lovely legs, but yes – I think the dress should end at your knees. One consideration is when you’re sitting down: dresses always raise up and show too much thigh.

    1. I agree with this comment. I also wish I had legs like yours! I think a dress hitting at or slightly above the knee would have been perfect especially with the cute heels.

  35. The dress is very pretty and you look beautiful as always! I don’t think the dress is too youthful on you nor do your knees look “old”. That said, I do think the dress is just a smidge too short. A lower heel might help. A rule of fashion I’ve made for myself is this: If I have to question if a garment is too short, too tight, too low cut or too young looking, it probably is so put it back on the rack and find something perfect!

  36. It’s a pretty dress and I can understand how it met your criteria for what you wanted to wear. My concern is what happened when you sat down. I think anything shorter than just above the knee is too short for anyone, old or young, unless she is under 5. Personally I do not wear anything that exposes my knees, I feel it is inappropriate for my age.

  37. Hi Deborah,
    The dress is beautiful on you. You obviously take very good care of yourself and are a perfect example of classy dressing. The hem line is a little short but I don’t think anyone would have noticed if you hadn’t pointed it out. You are a tall woman and it is tough to find things the “right” length. I’m 5’9” and I understand this fully. Dress for you and for your body type. You are beautiful and brilliant.

  38. For myself, I just think the shoes are too formal and high heeled. I live in the south. That’s the kind of dress that would look better with flat sandals or small wedge sandal. Pumps are for business attire down here.

  39. What’s the problem. You look great. Perhaps it’s my perspective as I live in Mexico and the shift dress is commonly worn at that length by ladies at all ages. . If you want more length, why not wear a skirt/dress extender. A little lace at the hem will make the dress even more sexy

  40. You look fabulous! I’m so tired of hearing that after a certain age the hemline shouldn’t be more than barely above the knee! Shorter styles can be worn in taste, and you nailed it. It’s very classy, in my opinion. You have the legs to wear it and you say you felt comfortable, so…end of story!!

  41. Love the print, the dress, and accessories. But it is a little too short . I’m thinking when you sit down it would really show too much. I would feel uncomfortable in it.

  42. I think you look awesome! You have fabulous legs and the dress is modest enough in other aspects for it to work. Love your blog!

  43. When I’m not sure if my dress is too short, I usually ask my husband . I can’t remember him ever saying “yes, it’s too short” Hmmmmm. Maybe he can’t be trusted. 😜

  44. I remember hearing once that if you worry something is too short, then it’s too short. But in this case, I’d disagree. That dress looks classy and appropriate (and no, your knees don’t look old). The real question here is what are you using to have such good, firm skin on your neck?

  45. Hello Deborah,
    Your dress is beautiful. Really like
    the colors and floral design. It looked good on you. For me personally, I’d like it a little longer. I usually wear the hem either just above my knee or just a little covering the top of the knee cap. That is how I feel comfortable. I’m 72 and want to look in style but not like I’m trying too hard to look way younger than I am. Thanks for all the style tips. I’ve added quite a few to my wardrobe and always feel confident when I go out. Also, I’ve gotten lots of compliments on how nice I look. Thanks again.

  46. JUST TO ANSWER YOUR QUESTION….is it too short?

    You are a beautiful woman….you can wear most anything! I think you would have looked younger with flats of some sort. Strappy sandals or cute flats would have made it look effortless.

    I enjoy your blog!!!
    Thank you!!!!

  47. I think over 40 (really at any age) you need to be realistic about your shape and you have the legs for this dress! Looks great!

  48. I think if you find yourself tugging and pulling continuously then it is too short. I would say for any age.

  49. I prefer hemlines to be right at or above the knee for me. One trick I’ve learned is to see if a particular dress is available in a Tall option — frequently found with Ann Taylor, Banana Republic and others. Oftentimes it’s the perfect length. And if it’s too long, at least then I have enough hem for use in altering. Worth a try!

  50. I think you looked fabulous. You’ve got the legs for it so why not?
    I don’t believe age should be a factor in this situation.

  51. I think you look great. You have good legs. If you felt it was too short a lower heel would help, maybe a block heel sandal (1-1 1/2 inch).

  52. A really beautiful dress, but definitely 2-3 inches too short. Over 40 we have to be careful of looking like we are grasping at our youth. A conservative length is so much more elegant.

  53. I think right above the knee is the perfect length. You can pull off wearing something shorter occasionally depending on the event, and in good taste.

  54. You are right, it is “youthful” and that’s the key. Even though it is a beautiful dress and you look beautiful in it, at the age of 53, I would not wear it because it is above my knees and think it is inappropriate for me to wear.

    1. Hi, you could always match the PINK in a ribbon or material and add on about 3″ or so. I think with the right color that would look fantastic.

  55. I think the length was fine, but like you I struggle with the same thoughts on length of dresses, Even find myself pulling and tugging with some. You wore this very well , no problem !!!!

  56. Your knees are fine. If you try to hide them, what’s the use? Trust me, we are all shapes and sizes, and I complement women when they are comfortable in their skin and take a fashion plunge, the pics don’t lie, you look really nice. Flaunt what you got!

      1. You have the legs for short dresses, so yes! I’ve never had pretty legs, so I’d never wear a short dress. Age hasn’t a thing to do with it in my opinion.

      2. Deborah,
        I am dealing with the exact same issue. I, too, am 5′ 7″ and wear a size 10. This weird length happens all the time. I think you have very nice legs. It is a personal choice. It used to not bother me up until this year. I turn 60 in one month and that is definitely is playing a part. My advice is to do what makes you feel good. For me, I feel more comfortable a couple of inches longer.