What is Age Appropriate Dressing?


One of my lovely commenters asked if I could do a post on age-appropriate dressing, as she’s one of the many over 40s who would like some help.



So What is Age Appropriate Dressing?

I think that as we age, rather than being really trendy, and following the latest fashion, no matter how much it might not suit us (as we may attempt to do in our teens and twenties), what we need is to develop our own style – a style that suits us, our lifestyle and our time of life.    Ignore the old rules (such as cut your hair short after 40 and stop wearing jeans or leather jackets), and instead develop a style the moves with you as you move through your life and mature.
Developing your own style recipe with an understanding of how you want to express your personality through your clothing is the best way of creating your own ageless style.


  1. Dressing like a 20-year-old won’t keep you looking young.  Dressing in clothes that fit and flatter and that show an understanding of the latest fashions will keep you ageless.  Develop a look that has more sophistication as you age, but retains some fun elements if that’s your personality.
  2. Develop a style that is you from the inside out – if you’re feminine, look for fabrics which drape and have some softness, it doesn’t have to be frills and flounces to be feminine.

    Feminine without the frills
  3. If you have a casual life, look for fabrics that move easily with your body, that are comfortable but are great quality, so they don’t stretch out and look baggy and saggy.
  4. Make sure your clothes fit your body, have them altered to your shape.
  5. Jeans are a great staple in many wardrobes, look for darker denim in plainer washes (rather than ripped or torn or distressed or whiskered), these are dressier and more classic and won’t date too quickly.  Hem one pair for flats and another for heels.  Wear them with a funky ankle boot or a ballet flat, a strappy sandal or a cowboy boot, whatever is your style.  If you like comfort, look for ones with some stretch.  Throw out or donate jeans that are 7+ years old, they will be out of style and ageing you.
  6. Higher quality fabrics are really important as you age.  When you’re 20 and your clothes are the latest fashion, they’re more disposable, as you get on you want your clothes to last longer – quality over quantity – so look for be best fabrics you can afford, this will make all the difference in the long run with how well they wear, wash up and keep their shape and colour.    Think like a French woman, fewer clothes, but of higher quality.
  7. Be aware of the fashion trends and include some new ones regularly in your wardrobe, only the ones that you enjoy, but there is no need to pander to the whim of every latest trend.
  8.  A new, modern haircut and a great latest season shoe and handbag will go a long way to making your look modern and timeless, without looking like mutton dressed as lamb.
  9. Many go for comfort over style as they age, you don’t have to lose all sense of style to be comfortable, not every attractive shoe is a torture device,  try some on and see for yourself.
  10. Remember the classic of 2019 is not the classic of 2009, nor 1989, classic pieces will stay in fashion longer but still won’t last forever.  Get my top tips on what dates and what becomes timeless here.
  11. Most importantly don’t show off too much skin, mini-skirts will make you look like you’re trying too hard, too much decolletage will make you look like you’re grasping for your youth.
What are your tips for remaining stylish as you age?

When is it Time to Let Go of the Trends You Love?

Understanding Where You Sit on the Fashion Continuum

Your Colouring and The Ageing Process


I'm not sure if it's for you but how would you feel if you learned all about the colours and styles of clothing that suit your individual personality, shape and style? Just imagine what it would be like when you can open your wardrobe and pull together fabulous outfits that make you look and feel amazing every day? If you'd like to stop wasting money on the wrong clothes and accessories plus join an amazing bunch of very special women also on their style journey - then my 7 Steps to Style program is right for you. Find out more here.

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  • Looking muttony is one of my biggest fears. Great post, Imogen. Thanks for inspiring it, Metscan.
    p.s. I LOVE that red bag. Great eye, as always, Imogen.

  • Good point about the classics! Even pieces that seem timeless DO age.

    I think a key to ageless style is to keep your clothes slightly more conservative, but indulge in some trendy shoes and accessories to keep yourself from looking outdated or dowdy … just as you've suggested here, Imogen.

  • I think the greatest problem is where to window shop to find out what is on trend. Too much sameness out there and most of it youth-oriented. More conservative stores like Boden are, IMO, [ducking] dowdy for all their bright colorways.

    Once you figure out the SILHOUETTE of the current era, you can get in line with that. For example, if jackets are shrunken you can get a closer fit. If baby doll tops are everywhere and are unflattering to you, you can suggest that fullness with a loose hanging lightweight scarf. It'll move enough that everyone can see you are not pregnant.

    You can pay attention to what KIND of colors are everywhere. If it's neon, you can add one of those colors in a non-neon version or simulate it with a touch of patent or a satin shirt. I think that copying colors and patterns exactly tends to make a person look like they're trying too hard to fit in, which suggests adolescence.

  • It's also good for a mature woman NOT to be among the first to adopt a style, say from runway. My reasoning is that many styles are just recycled fashion and if you are the first it will look anachronistic on you, as though you are wearing your very old clothes!

  • Christian Dior said, "As far as age is concerned, there are only two ages- girlhood and womanhood. There are also grandmothers– but it is only necessary to dress like a grandmother if you have a certain kind of figure and lead a certain kind of life."

    Quality, more than any other factor, is the key.

  • Great post Imogen, and I love the examples of outfits. I think I have taken the 'find a style that suits you' too far though, as I have a developed it into a uniform of sorts. My look now is based on two or three different looks, with interchangeable items that all follow a theme. I could probably put together 5 or 6 outfits that look similar but with different colours, but it's hardly inspiring is it? More on this subject please!

  • Hi Imogen,
    The past year has given me the chance to experiment to see which shapes and colours suit me. I have allowed myself to go bad and make (lots of) mistakes.
    But I think I now have an idea of what is my style now and will concentrate on developing that over the next year.
    Your comments and advice has been one of the major influences – so thank you.

  • Thank you Imogen for replying so quickly and thoroughly. I really do like jeans and until now I have felt that they are very ok for me ( I´m very slim, 5ft 10 and have long legs ). I guess I just had to be reassured that it´s ok for my age, to wear them. I don´t need special clothes for work. Yes, I do like boots, a generous coat, a stunning bag and just a few special pieces of jewelry. And I try to place quality before quantity. I still haven´t found a way to use my leggings. 🙂

  • I appreciate your thoughts but… every single time I look at these fashion composites the first thing which goes through my mind is, "I can't wear that!" Forgive me, because I suspect you have little choice which photos to post, but all these pictures are so elongated that they look like Barbie clothes, especially in the legs. I'm not trying to fuss, really, but is there any way to see pictures which are human-proportioned?

  • I think the key to age appropriate dressing is to dress according to your shape and style with confidence regardless of what is actually in fashion. I also agree if you can use accessories to update your look with what is "trendy", is a great way to ensure you are in fashion without blowing your budget on fads that will only be in for a season.

    I also think quality fabrics is a key too. Recently I was out shopping for a classic trench and the prices ranged from $80- $500. The upper end coats were definitely better made and structually fitted better too. I suppose regardless of age a well fitted coat looks better ofcourse but when you are "older" there is something stylish about a person wearing a well fitted or tailor made outfit.

  • Thanks for the post, Imogen. Very appropriate for me, since I'm 43 and searching for "age-appropriate dressing".

    One of the keys for me is finding out what really looks and feels good on my body-not what I think or hope will look good. That calls for a realistic assessment of one's body.

    On the other hand, I think we need to keep a sense of fun in dressing! Accessories and colors are a great way of doing this.

  • Belette – you are a long way from mutton!

    Sal – one of the issues with classics – they don't remain the same.

    Vildy – great advice – yes fashion silhouette is very important.

    Duchesse – I have plenty of clients who are grandmothers, but I do not dress them as identifiably such – but in a more ageless style. No need to look frumpy or dowdy.

    notSupermum – what else would you like to know – email me some specifics and I'll do a post.

  • Jane – thanks so much – I look forward to seeing how your style changes and grows once your challenge finishes!

    Metscan – happy to help – think of leggings as hoisery for warmer weather – or a way of making a shorter dress or skirt look a little longer

    Bee – just click on the clothes and it will tell you where it's from – the beauty of Polyvore!

    Carla – sorry that you find the pics so elongated – the clothes are from shopping websites and I try and sit the top over the bottom at the point that you would wear it. Email me with some direct queries specific to you and I'll do a post.

    Zizzy – and well tailored can hide a multitude of sins!

    Cciele – yes – we need to be realistic about our bodies and how they are today, not wish them to be how they were at 20. they are still beautiful, we just may dress them a little different.

  • I like to mix simple, modern styles with vintage pieces. This is more fresh than trying to embrace a trend, and it's less "costumey" than dressing head-to-toe in vintage.

    I also try to keep the trendy stuff limited because it's too easy to look Forever 21 (teen clothing store) but Fighting 41.

  • One thing that strikes me is the depressing amount of clothing for the 40+ woman that screams either "cougar" or "Boca".

  • Imogen, I just subscribed to your newsletter (well I had to get the tips right?) Anyways, I have been trying to figure out how to set that up myself? Did you get a graphic designer to help you or is there a way to do newsletter subscriptions with the automatic emailed report with blogspot? (I couldn't find your email on your site but a comment is always better anyways)

    Loved this post, especially your advice at the end!

  • Great post as usual, Imogen. I especially like the reminder about good quality, as other have also said here.

    It's more challenging for me to dress now that I'm older but maybe more fun. Hmm. Maybe. Your blog has certainly helped me a lot. Thanks.

  • I agree with Duchess and M. Dior respecting age. There's girlhood and womanhood and it's only necessary to dress like a grandmother if you have a certain body type and live a certain life.

    Also, nobody seems to really know what "age-appropriate" is – or it least it can't really be explained or hasn't been beyond "don't dress like your daughter" or "don't wear anything trendy."

    At the same time the clothes that are marketing to 30+ women, the presumably "age appropriate" styles the same women hate and say are too old-looking.

    A grown woman is really stuck between the proverbial rock and hard place, and the designers and retailers I'm sure are frustrated. We say we want age appropriate clothes but many of us refuse to wear the age appropriate offerings.

    Beyond children's attire and teen sytles, I don't believe in "age-appropriate" clothes. As long as the appropriate bits are covered up for the occassion, the clothes fit well and flatter, who cares? And I wonder why so many women seem to care so much about it.

    It's not up to us to police how someone chooses to present herself as long as she's not inappropriately showing too much skin at the office or PTA meeting. If some forty year old with sagging knees wants to wear a miniskirt that's her business. I've got other things to worry about.

    I'm 45 and I wear what I want. Some wise acre sight unseen suggested that I'm dressing like a slut, far from it. (And isn't it sad that dressing youthfully is equated with sluttiness?) I just don't dress like a stereotypical middle-aged woman. I actually follow the trends (that look good on me).

    I am neither "trying too hard" or "desperately trying to hold on to my youth" or "competing with my daugher" or nieces in my case. I've always taken pride in my appearance, I've always loved fashion, and I have no idea why that should change now that I'm no longer 20.

    So my advice to all is this. Forget about the age stuff. As long as you're not shopping exclusively in juniors or forever 21, it doesn't matter. Be yourself. You're an individual not an age.

  • As I age, I cover up the parts of my body that I know others don't really want to see (bunions on my feet, for example). Still, I try to keep my style up to date so that I look like I belong in this decade. The worst thing a woman can do is try to dress like a teenager OR to dress older than she actually is. Either way is bad! Also, I would like to see more articles about dressing appropriately for the occasion. There's nothing worse than going to an awards program at my daughter's school and seeing parents show up looking like they just walked in from mowing the lawn. Some people don't seem to understand the need to dress differently for different events or occasions. They just wear the same old stuff everywhere they go.

  • My mother used to say, “Be careful you are not mutton dressed like lamb.” That is getting harder and harder to do on a budget. Just try finding a nice dress for a wedding and you will see what I mean. The stores are full of sleeveless, skimpy dresses and the cover all ones are made for Miss Marple. Horrid material, floral prints in ugly colours, and the assumption that being older means you are also over weight.
    Add to that the fact that you are only 5 foot in height and it becomes a real problem.

  • Hi Imogen,
    Your fashion blog is the most useful and efficient I have ever seen. Thank you so much for your great style and fashion tips. People rather underestimate the power of personal image. It’s so fun to express oneself via clothes.

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