What if I told you that we’ve got this whole conversation about age-appropriate dressing wrong?
Dozens of times a day, I am asked about how to dress age-appropriate.
It’s the first sentence of every email I receive from readers looking for advice, “Hi, I’m 61, 32, 54 … can I wear …?”
So today, I want to share my rather radical approach to age-appropriate dressing to release you from the concept that your age is somehow restricting your choices.
What if, instead of looking at our age as some kind of limitation, we view it as an opportunity.
I started my career shopping for and dressing women when I was a 22-year-old baby. Today, I’m 40, a mother of three with 20 years of experience, both personal and professional, under my belt.
In the past two decades, I learned so much about the challenges real women face while aging. I know, first hand, that it isn’t easy maintaining our sense of self and style in a world that wants to limit us after we turn a certain age.
Add to that our ever changing bodies, and increased personal responsibilities, it’s easy to see how many of us, myself included, can get into a rut or feel like we lost our way.
So before I get into the nitty-gritty, let me say this: the one thing I know for sure is that we’ve got this whole age-appropriate conversation wrong.
Aging should be a celebration, so instead of thinking of all the things you “shouldn’t” wear, it’s time to embrace the world of opportunity that awaits us with each passing year.
Our site focuses on timeless, classic, ageless style.
Classic style is inherently ageless. You may have to replace a piece I recommend here or there with something that works within your budget or with your body type, but the style tips and theories offered here are all timeless.
I’ve never liked the idea of telling women what they should and should not wear. Instead, I hope you see this site as a guide to achieving a modern, classic style with a bit of a twist, regardless of the year you were born.
Over the years, I’ve created a sort of hierarchy, or checklist to mentally go through for clients and readers when they start to wonder about appropriateness.
Age, as you’ll see, is the last piece to consider.
How to Dress Age Appropriately
A New Way to Think About Age Appropriate Dress
Body type is perhaps the most important “appropriate” factor to consider. Wear clothes that work best for the body you have right now. Take some time to learn about the most flattering shapes and silhouettes for you. It makes all the difference in the world.
Let’s use an example. Say you are 48 years old and look incredible in a pair of faux leather leggings. You already know they work for your body type. Now what?
Consider your lifestyle or the specific event you are dressing for. Can you wear them to church, temple or any religious service you attend? Probably not.
But a girls weekend in Vegas or a date night out in the city? You bet.
Now let’s make sure they look elevated. Buy the best quality you can afford, spend a little more or find a better pair at a discount. At 22 you’d probably grab a cheap pair at Forever 21, today, you’ll buy them at Nordstrom.
Finally, consider your age. Thankfully, for most of us, our tastes evolve with time and we don’t like the same things we did in our younger years.
At 22, you’re wearing a tank top, at 48, pair them with something more sophisticated, like a cashmere sweater or tailored blazer and heels you can walk in. By pairing them with more “grown up” pieces, you’re grounding the look to match where you are in life.
My Best Tips to Timeless, Ageless Style
Quality over Quantity
Get comfortable with the idea of investing in yourself. Buy the best quality you can afford. Start to think strategically about the items in your closet so you get more wear out of fewer, higher quality pieces.
Be Cautious with Patterns
The challenge with patterns is that there are so many in retail that look cheap and flimsy and do nothing to elevate your style. Use them with a light hand. A few dresses, in the summer are great. A fun pair of pants? Sure!
But as a layer or a top they need to make sense and bring value to the outfit. And you need to LOVE It.
Incorporating texture, instead, is a more sophisticated way to elevate your look.
Be judicious with pattern and bring interest to your outfits with textures and layered accessories.
Invest in Your Accessories
Nothing elevates a look more than your bag and shoes. Investment is different for every person. Today, at my age, I would rather have a few better quality shoes than a closet full of heels from the DSW clearance section – which use to be my jam.
Maybe Stuart Weitzman and Jimmy Choo are your kind of splurges, or perhaps it’s Nine West and Sam Edelman, in any case always look to evolve the quality of your pieces.
When it comes to bags, look for simple, clean designs. Avoid logos, studs, patchwork or anything that dangles like charms and chains. You don’t want your bag to fight with your outfit.
And wear your better jewelry every day – what are you waiting for?
Shop in the Right Stores
If you were my best friend, and I found out you where shopping in the juniors department, I would say this: You’re too old. I am too old. Anyone over the age of 25 is too old.
Is that that big a deal? I don’t think so.
Here are my go-to stores and brands for our over 35, 40, 50+ clients, many include plus, petite, and tall options in their inventory.
“Age Appropriate” Department Stores
Nordstrom – has always been my favorite but over the last few years I’ve found them more difficult to shop. I like some of their private label brands like Classique and Nordstrom Collection, if you like St. John they have a decent selection that isn’t as overwhelming as shopping in their stores.
Their shoe selection is still the best out there, as is the range of undergarments they offer. I’m less than thrilled with their in-store accessories and their plus and petite section leaves a lot to be desired.
Service is not what it use to be, but it’s still better than anything else out there.
For your time and money, shopping online is your best bet to get access to all of their inventory at once.
Lord and Taylor – their customer service is abysmal, but they have a nice dress selection for work or special occasions in a range of sizes and price points.
Neiman Marcus – actually has some reasonable prices and better quality. I love their private label sweaters, especially the cashmere. They also have a great shoe selection and better separates.
Brands (that aren’t cut for kids):
MICHAEL Michael Kors
J. Crew Factory
Enjoy Getting Dressed!
Remember when fashion magazines would do Style at Every Age issues and spreads? I read them religiously, and even when I was in my late teens and all through my twenties, I always loved what the 40-year-olds were wearing.
Looking back, I think it was because the women, often times a celebrity, always looked so poised. Like she wasn’t figuring things out anymore. The experimental phase of life was over.
Her pieces were well made, they fit beautifully, and the woman carried herself with a quiet confidence.
That’s what I think we need to celebrate. The confidence, the knowing, the respect we have for ourselves, the not caring so much about what others think.
And how lucky are we to be living in a time when we are finally celebrating women getting better with age?
So when dressing your “age” don’t focus so much on what you can’t do, or what you’re told to avoid. Instead, celebrate where you are in life by investing in better quality, focus on fit, and include sophisticated elements that elevate your look.
Have fun and wear what makes you feel confident. Do that, and you’ll create a timeless, always appropriate personal style no matter your age.
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Recommendations are based on my experience as a personal stylist and wardrobe consultant for over a decade. I worked with busy, down-to-earth women who wanted to look chic and feel confident but were often confused by so much of retail.
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