Why Women Over 40 Love (or Hate) High-Low Maxi Dresses

When it comes to high-low maxi dresses, what team are you on? I’ve found that women either love them or hate them; there’s no in-between.

high low maxi dresses


The lovers say the high-low, which is high in the front like a regular dress and low in the back like a maxi, gives you great coverage but still allows for a bit of a leg. This makes it sexy in a tasteful way.  Plus, it’s a lot of fun.  After all, fashion can get a little boring once you are over 40 since many of us have already tried almost every trend there ever was.

The haters of the high-low think this is a dress that can’t make up its mind. They dislike it so much they’ve nicknamed it “the mullet dress,” which you have to admit is pretty funny even if you are a fan.

I think some of these dresses are quite pretty. I like the subtle ones, the ones that are not very high in the front. They’re fun if you are going down south on vacation or if you are entertaining in the backyard.  There are also a lot of beautiful high low gowns out there for special events.

peach floral high low maxi dress

Do you like the High Low Maxi Trend?

Here are some handy tips for how to wear a high-low maxi dress.

orange keyhole neckline high low dress

1.  Shave Your Legs!

I’m not kidding.  Wearing a dress like this pretty, delicate orange and pink floral maxi is like shining a spotlight on your gams. Everyone is going to be looking, so don’t think you can get away with legs that have even the tiniest bit of a dark shadow. Your legs need to be shiny and smooth to pull this off. Wax or exfoliate them, so they look lovely and lean.


2.  Apply Self-Tanner

If your legs are pasty white, you may be tempted to wear sheer nylons. Don’t, as they will look silly. Dresses like this are supposed to look easy-breezy and stockings, no matter how sheer, are like wearing socks with sandals -horrible.

Just throw on some self-tanner to give your skin a beautiful glow, and you’ll look great. I like Jeurgen’s Self Glow because it makes you look slightly golden, not fake orangey-brown!

high low maxi dress

3.  Wear the Right Shoes

The high low has its roots in Bohemian style, so you don’t want to wear any serious closed-toe kind of pump or a conservative day shoe. I think these dresses look best with something summery, strappy and natural.

You can wear flat sandals for a casual, earthy look or wear heels to take it up a notch and give your dress a sweet and sexy vibe.  Even a peep-toe wedge can work. Just make sure any shoe you choose is light and airy. Clunky sandals drag down the look.

A nude or metallic shoe lets delicate high-low gowns like these grab the spotlight. Or, you can pick up on a color in the dress and wear a shoe in the same hue.

You can also color block your outfit, which means you can wear a shoe in an entirely different color than the color of your dress. For example, a plain red dress with a plain blue shoe.

4.  Add Some Great Jewelry

Flowy summer dresses like this call out for pretty necklaces, bangle bracelets, and dangly earrings. So have some fun, and start experimenting. Accessories can make all the difference.

Will you be wearing a high-low dress this summer? I’d love to know which team you are on?

Join the Conversation

21 thoughts on “Why Women Over 40 Love (or Hate) High-Low Maxi Dresses

  1. I have a navy and white print I bought last year in Europe. The fabric is a soft stuff it into your suitcase and no wrinkles one with a beautiful hand. The length difference is close, just below the knee in the front, and maxi in the back, which is a lot more flattering than mini in the front and I love it. It goes with a navy cardigan, stands on it’s own as a sundress with flats, and goes to dinner with a string of pearls and some strappy heels.

  2. I’m tall thin long-waisted and 60. And my backside is not as “perky” as it once was. Combined with not a lot of lumbar curve, some dresses make me look too flat in back. The soft drapey fabrics in a hi-lo hem tend to look droop-y from the back unless there’s some stucture and/or flare to the fabric. And too big a difference between the high and the low looks “just plain wrong” on me (and I see I’m not alone) both in tops and bottoms.
    But… I just found a dress that is at the knee in front to about 7″ longer in the back, fitted top, bell shaped bottom (not stiff, but not droopy-flowy) and it looks great! And the good news is it shows a little leg that still looks good and hides flaws without looking too “covered up”. I guess it’s all about relative proportions. (That said, I’m not sure it’s a style for petite type bodies.)
    I do want to put ribbon or seam tape or something over the inside mid-seam and hem of the “tail” (not an expensive dress) to make it look a little more finished for wearing to a wedding.

  3. High low dresses can look romantic, stunning – for summer and those special occasions worn with strappy sandals.
    It is newish style and some look awful and some look gorgeous – just like any clothing item.
    Saying that wearing this dress, you can’t make up your mind about the length is ridiculous! It would be like saying – Culottes can’t make up their minds if they are a skirt or pants!
    Lighten up, have fun.. xxx

  4. I have bought a few of this style. Mine are knee length at the shortest and ankle length at longest. Two have a ruffle type hem, which give them more of a Latin look to them. I find they are very flattering on and certainly cooler than a regular maxi. Since I live in the Phoenix area, I am always looking for stylish options that feel cool. I have seen some with a very short (thigh high) front and would never attempt them, but the knee length looks proportional and I get many complements when wearing mine. My arms are still pretty toned, but sometimes I top my dresses with sheer cap sleeve sweaters. They look a whole lot better than the mainstay workout wear I see on a lot of women and loads better than shorts.

  5. I am not a fan of the hi-low look. It looks like you just could make up your mind what you wanted – short or long. It always makes me think of droopy drawers and poor sewing skills. Just looks sloppy, no matter how expensive or where worn.

    1. Hi Wanda,
      I know what you mean. I find the same thing when there is an extreme difference in length between the front and back, but I don’t mind a subtle high -low for a casual affair like a pool party or BBQ.
      Cheers! Deborah

  6. I like these dresses but not sure how they will look on me, I guess trying some on will be the deciding factor. Deborah, would something like this be appropriate to wear for my daughter’s grad in May?

  7. I was just reading your article about women dresses and trust me you have mentioned every point really well.I was all worth written.thanks for sharing such an interesting post here.

  8. I love them!!! Thank God for somebody publishing something that is feminine for those of us that are over 40 years old!!!! My arms are a bit ‘fluffy’, so I would opt to use a short sweater which is fitted to my body in order to somewhat cover my arms, and to enhance their curves vs. being offensive.

    Regarding the high-low maxi dresses being a trend, I have a Carolina Herrera dress from about 10 years ago with the same lines. If it becomes too trendy, then stuff it in the back your closet (or storage) for a while and then pull it out a few years later and then add something updated with it.

    As long as you invest in good pieces, meaning better ready-to-wear, then you can keep those pieces in your closet for many years, and you can continue to add updated items to good pieces. They will always look lovely on you as long as they flatter your body type, your skin color & texture. Just be sure of who you are and then trends won’t matter (again, as long as they are good pieces vs. being low-end ‘in your face’ trendy). And, most importantly, it’s all in how you carry yourself.

  9. I love your site but wish there was more info for us larger shorter ladies over 40…. once again we see images of beautiful willowy women wearing beautiful willowy clothing that either a)doesn’t go up to our sizes or b)if they do, look horrendous because the manufacturer hasn’t put any thought into our curves. Then they price us out of the market because we need more fabric…*sigh* Sorry for the grumble but I would love to see some outfits on rounder models!!

  10. I don’t care for this incarnation of the high-lo hemline. It’s not flattering to see the inside of the back of the skirt. No matter the finishing quality of the garment. High-lo hemlines which are higher on one side than the other, are much more slimming and flattering for the average woman. Diagonal lines on a garment slim in general, but at this angle they just look choppy and awkward. Here’s hoping this trend passes quickly.

  11. I don’t think they’re a work look. I like them instead of those long maxi-dresses because they’re more interesting and you don’t look like you’re trying to approximate a burka. I will say that I prefer the ones where the fabric has the design woven in. In the blue knit above I can see that the pattern is printed onto the fabric because the longer part of the hem, that shows when you look at it front-on is plain on the underside.

  12. I think these dresses are beyond ugly. And again, I feel like women who are well over 40 are being left behind. At 60-something, I wouldn’t be caught dead (literally) in this style.

    1. Hi Emily, It’s good to know what you like and don’t like! I find many women don’t have a clear understanding of who they are and what they want to communicate and end. So they end up latching onto every new trend that comes out and end up looking like a fashion victim. I suggest women experiment a bit, find out what works for your unique self, and stick to it.

  13. I love hi-lo dresses and only have one which I wore out to dinner with hubby for our 22nd Wedding Anniversary. However, I don’t think they are appropriate for work – what do you think?

  14. Frankly, I don’t see the attaction in a high-low dress. To me. it’s just another trend best left in the closet. Looks like a rat’s tail that needs to be snipped off and apparently Yahoo Shine agrees with me. These OMG dresses have neither the flowing lines of a maxi, nor the attraction of an above the knee mini. With so many better ways to dress. you have to stretch your credibility to promote this trend. Hopefully it will be gone soon. Fashion it may be, but style, I don’t think so

    1. Hi Tasi, They’re not for everyone but I like the ones that are more subtle. If they are really short with a long tail I think they look better on the young gals but when they at the knee or longer and gently slope down I think they are kind of fun for summer.

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