FASHION

What Does Dressing “Age-Appropriate” Mean?

Dear 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 a sexy 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

Fashion for women over 40
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 a much debated question…but my bottom line is no…it’s not about a number.

Style is Ageless. You don’t reach a certain age only to be told you can’t wear something you love. However, I do feel if you want to look your best you need to be realistic about your changing body as well as the message you want to send to the world at this stage of your life.

For me, Dressing at any age should be based on your:  

1.  Figure

2. Personality

3. The Occasion

3. Message you want to communicate

 

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:

Your 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!)

Personality:

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…

The 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 your 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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19 thoughts on “What Does Dressing “Age-Appropriate” Mean?

  1. I believe there’s an age-appropriate fashion. If someone would cater to the baby boomers right now, they’d become a millionaire overnight! Lol! It seems everything is for juniors, grandma, or clowns! It isn’t very good being 48 and trying to shop for clothes.

    I agree that if you’re 50 and don’t have varicose veins or wrinkled-up flab hanging under your arms? Then you can pretty much wear what you want. But if you do have it? Cover it up! Nobody wants to see that junk, which only makes you look older! So to sum it up, like you said, much depends on the shape you’re in. Wear whatever you want if you have excellent muscle tone and no unsightly varicose veins. Otherwise? PLEASE cover it up! Lol!

  2. Thank you for this. I find many women getting older dress like they are still 21 though they are not. An older woman told my 36-year-old friend, wearing shorts and a tank top, that she “looked just like a teenager.” She thought it was a compliment, but I would have been embarrassed. Dressing your age is not frumpy; it is classy. I Particularly like your advice to play up one positive asset at a time, which is good advice at any age.

  3. What do you do when you have a younger husband, and god loves him, thinks you look hot in everything, but when you look in the mirror, you say, no way I’m going in public dressed like this? I’m not too small, but not too big either- Size 5-8 depending on the brand. I get a lot of ideas from your site and do well, but he likes the sexy look. I want to look sexy, but not overboard at my age, 48. I like sexy and classy.

  4. 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 will balance me out and not be too short or too long.

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

  5. 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. Instead, 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, style, or approach will never fit.

    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’m afraid I have to disagree with the list of “do’s” and “don’t”s in this article. Suppose a woman is young at heart, energetic, and confident. In that case, there is no reason 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 are no rules about what clothes you should or should not wear based on your age. Where what speaks to you, what looks right to you, 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 one-dimensional this world would be if everyone did.

  6. Brilliant article.
    I live in Spain, where women are pretty extroverted in how they dress; there is a tendency to be over-dressed here. However, this is also a very sunny/hot climate, so you see some awful leathery-looking women exposed 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. I am in my early 40s and living in a completely different climate; I would love to work with somebody again. I think it’s necessary to get regular objective updates.

  7. I enjoyed your discussion on “age appropriateness.” 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

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

  8. Well said! I was 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 (the mid-50s). We agreed that there is a way to wear the trends in a way that flatters. In other words, if I wear leggings, I ensure they are not too sheer or tight like ballet leggings but a little closer to slim pants. 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 don’t look cool in everything, no matter how young they are.

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

    1. Hi Mary,
      I say shop Macy’s and Nordstroms; 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 it seems like it when you skimp on poorly made items. SO.. be strategic when shopping. Be super picky; buy less and buy better quality. No need to look matronly… there are plenty of stores and items that are age-appropriate, hip, and cool!!

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

  11. 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.

  12. This is my favorite topic that you’ve discussed lately! I 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, attractive…even at my age) Thanks for the guidelines! If there’s a test later…I’ll be ready for it! ♥

    1. Hi Paula! Thanks so much for letting me know, and I am happy for you to share it with others! I realized that I always use the word “age-appropriate” and had no idea how many women have no reference about what it means.
      I even had a hard time trying to come up with an explanation!! Glad to hear that you have found it helpful!!

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