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 love or hate them; there’s no in-between.

high low maxi dresses


The lovers say the high-low, 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.

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 must admit is pretty funny even if you are a fan.

I think some of these dresses are quite pretty. I like the subtle ones that are not very high in the front. They’re fun if you go down south on vacation or entertain 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 will 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

You may be tempted to wear sheer nylons if your legs are pasty white. 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 Juergen’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 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 simple blue shoes.

4. Add Some Great Jewelry

Flowy summer dresses like this call 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.

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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 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 much more flattering than mini in the show, and I love it. It goes with a navy cardigan, stands on its 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 many lumbar curves, some dresses make me look too flat in the back. The soft drapey fabrics in a hi-lo hem look drooslackm the back unless there’s some structure and flare to the material. 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 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 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 and stunning – for summer, those special occasions are worn with strappy sandals.
    It is a newish style, some look awful, and some look gorgeous – just like any clothing item.
    Saying that you can’t make up your mind about the length is ridiculous wearing this dress! 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 these styles. Mine is knee length at the shortest and ankle distance at the longest. Two have a ruffle-type hem, which gives them more of a Latin look to them. They are very flattering and certainly more relaxed than a regular maxi. Since I live in the Phoenix area, I always look 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 compliments when wearing mine. My arms are still pretty toned, but sometimes I top my dresses with sheer cap sleeve sweaters. They look much better than the mainstay workout wear I see on many women and loads better than shorts.

  5. I am not a fan of the hi-low look. It looks like you could decide what you wanted – short or long. It always makes me think of droopy drawers and poor sewing skills. It 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 am unsure how they will look on me; I guess trying some will be the deciding factor. Deborah, would something like this be appropriate to wear for my daughter’s grad in May?

  7. I was reading your article about women’s dresses and trust me you have mentioned every point well. Thanks for sharing such an exciting post. Here was all worth writing.

  8. I love them!!! Thank God for somebody publishing something 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 fitted to my body to cover my arms somewhat and enhance their curves vs. being offensive.

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

    As long as you invest in reasonable pieces, meaning better ready-to-weaken, you can keep those pieces in your closet for many years and continue adding updated items to good works. They will always look lovely on you as long as they flatter your body type, 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) don’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-low 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 are generally slim, but they look choppy and awkward at this angle. 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 exciting and 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 material because the longer part of the hem, which 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 clearly understand who they are and what they want to communicate and end. So they latch onto every new trend that comes out and look like a fashion victim. I suggest women experiment a bit, find out what works for their unique selves, and stick to it.

  13. I love hi-lo dresses and only have one 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 more subtle ones. If they are short with a long tail, I think they look better on the young gals, but when they are at the knee or longer and gently slope down, I think they are fun for summer.

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