Dressing Your Age When You Naturally Look Young

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Hi Imogen,

I was wondering if you could give me some advice, as my problem is the opposite of one you have dealt with several times regarding “mutton dressed as lamb”.

I’m 38 but look a lot younger (people generally guess my age at 25-28). Should I dress my age or the age I look?

To complicate matters, I recently left a corporate career (think designer suits, fancy heels…) to go back to university full-time with students young enough to be my kids. So I’m finding it hard to adjust to a less formal style than I’m used to. I don’t want people who know my age to think I’m MDAL, but I don’t want to appear frumpy to people who assume I’m in my mid-20s!

When I had my first child at 26, people regularly mistook me for a teenage mum and I resented not looking my age! Now I’m happy to look young, but it certainly makes dressing difficult!

I’m a pretty standard long-wasted X shape (5’8″/173cm and 65kg – a (UK) size 10/12) and live in France where appearance (grooming) and style are very important!

Thanks for any advice you can offer 🙂
Judith

 

Judith, many would love to have your problem.  But I’m getting that you want to be taken seriously.  Back in a casual environment it’s easy to end up looking way younger if you wear the same kinds of clothes that the 18 year olds are wearing.  So how to look more mature, but not old?

The most important factor I can think of when dressing your age is to avoid the obviously ‘young’ clothing styles.  So any sort of tiered frill at the bottom of a dress or skirt will further ‘youngify’ you.  Also, be wary of showing too much skin as it tends to be associated with younger women.

There is no reason why you shouldn’t dress for who you are – whatever your age.  If it bothers you that people think you’re younger then be more mature, but otherwise take it as a compliment!  I know I do, I’ve been taken in the past few months from anywhere from 27 to 38 (though I’m almost 43) and I’m pretty happy about that these days!

 

 

clothes for age

 

You will find that clothes that are more simple and structured in their construction look more mature.  Also think about quality.  When we’re young we usually have little money as we’re at the bottom of the corporate ladder, and our clothes are usually cheaper.  As we gain experience we earn more money and we need to improve the quality of our clothing, plus we expect to keep our clothes for longer (rather than just going from one latest fashion to another that we may have done in our late teens and early 20s).  So we might opt for slightly more classic styles.

Jennifer Aniston casual

Now, what I’ve got pictured in the polyvore above may say more ‘office’ rather than ‘university’.   How do you translate this simplicity and structure to a casual environment?   In many ways, I think  “Jennifer Aniston casual”.

casual grown up style

 

If you dress stylishly nobody will think you’re frumpy! There are many clothes styles that are fairly ageless too.

For example, take a pair of dark denim jeans without distressing and team with a soft structured jacket (not a classic suit style jacket, but more like a soft motorcycle style or leather jacket.

Alternatively a great trench over a beautiful quality knit top, or a waistcoat over a knit can add some structure without saying office or too formal.

In the summer months think about a tailored pair of shorts or a skirt or dress instead of jeans.

Jennifer Aniston summer casual

Don’t forget, the key to casual without looking frumpy is grooming!  Without grooming we can look sloppy and unkempt, no matter what our age.

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21 Comments

  • A very interesting post and topic! What Judith wrote could be right from my pen. I’m also 38 and look a lot younger than my age (some people think I’m 20-22, but mostly the guess is around 25). I work as a teacher (university), so I don’t have to dress according to a strict dressing code. I still want to look polished and stylish, in my own, a little Gothic but grown-up way. A couple of years ago my style was still more dark and Gothic, but nowadays I don’t use any of those more “extreme” pieces of clothing that I had (sold them all on a flea market!). I just didn’t feel myself comfortable in them any longer. Still I don’t want to look too old either, so I try to find a balance in between. I’ve also gone back to my real, brown hair color, having been black for many, many years.
    To parties I still enjoy dressing up and then my “old” style is more evident. 🙂

  • Yes, thank you Imogen! Tho’ I’m much older than Judith (63) I’ve always looked younger as well and prefer a more classic style. Your post will work for me too as I’ve struggled of late deciding how to dress my figure (short-waisted X, 5ft. 5in. and slim) without falling into styles that are too young. The pictures you post are so helpful.

  • Thanks for this Imogen! I like the dressed up jeans look. Do you think it would also work with a denim skirt?
    I own a lot of dresses which I’ve been “dressing down” with a denim jacket, but I still can’t bring myself to wear casual shoes! I’m looking forward to winter and being able to wear boots with everything 🙂

    I guess I’m not worried about being taken seriously, so much as appearing ridiculous if I dress too young for my real age, or too old for the age I appear! It would seem that somewhere in between is a happy medium…

    Thanks to the other commenters too – it’s nice to know I’m not all that strange 😉

  • I think these are great guidelines. I’m one of those who looks about a decade younger (47 look 37) or so I’ve been told.

    I follow the rules no obvious teen or young 20-something party clothes, never a lot of skin, the most you’ll see on me is shoulders, calves and cleavage, but not the trashy kind. In fact, I’ve never been a member of the too short, too tight, too bright club or the super frilly girly clothes.

    When it comes to dressing youthfully, having a sense of uniqueness, an open neckline, wearing color and not dressing too stiff or fussy are key.

  • So glad to hear this. People get upset with me for complaining that I look so young. I’m 24, 5’0″, 110 pounds, and between an H and an I, I suppose in shape. I recently went out to dinner with my husband and parents, and the hostess offered my husband (who also looks young for 24) and me kids’ menus. It’s due to situations like this that I want to make sure I dress like a young professional, which I am, rather than the tween that people tend to think I am.

    With my body type, I’ve found that most of the “clothes that make you look more mature” from your first graphic make me look like I’m playing dress-up, even when I do find them in my size, which is rare. I love the “Casual grown up style” outfits you point out, and I think I’m wearing something similar in my avatar, not that you can tell – a light scarf, 3/4-length shirt, classic vest, jeans… but that was nearly 4 years ago and I don’t own that outfit anymore.

    I’m so glad I found this site, though. Hopefully it will make future shopping trips much more productive and I can stop feeling out of place among other young professionals.

  • I suffer the same problem, I’m almost 27 and people often think I’m only 18-20 if not younger. I also suffer from being very slim and struggle to get clothes to fit, which often ends up with me being stuck in kids clothes. This post was just what I was looking for though, and I hope it gives me some inspiration to update my wardrobe accordingly.

  • I’m 30, and a week ago I had a teenage boy ask me what school I went to. I was wearing a simple black hoodie at the time with work pants. I’ve NEVER been able to wear revealing clothing even as a teenager, because I just never had the body for it. So in that sense, I don’t miss something I never had. Another problem I have though, is that I’m short-5’1″
    Women’s clothes are woefully tall for me, and I’ve only seen oceans of expensive, ugly prints. Then I go to the petite section, and I STILL see oceans of expensive, ugly prints. My strategy is just to still shop juniors, but just avoid revealing clothes (which I could never ever pull of to begin with), and the cutesy cartoony animal t shirts. They actually do produce a fair amount of conservative clothes that I can pull off. My recent purchase is a grey, cable knit sweater with a rounded neck, which is in no way revealing. You just have to sort through all the skank clothes, and use layering if needed.
    Incidentally, this kind of reminds me of some cultural differences. If you have any exposure to the Hispanic community, you’ll notice virtually ALL the women in their 30s, 40s, 50s ect., break all these rules. I’ve seen many a mature latina woman wearing a Hollister hoodie or t-shirt, looney toons t shirts, or platform knee high boots. Oh, and the rhinestones are everywhere, from their nails to their jeans and hats!
    Even mature Asian women will wear and use accessories decked out with Hello Kitty. I once read an article translated from Chinese that mentioned that Chinese men think it’s cute/sweet when women wears cutesy things like HK, but it acknowledged the fact that ‘western men’ think it’s sad and weird for a grown woman to do that.

  • I was about to ask this very question. I’m 34 and I’m often mistaken as someone under 25. My son is 18 and in college and ppl think he’s my boyfriend, brother, cousin and everything in between. I’ve always wondered if I should dress the age I look or the age that I am when I’m not at work. There are some items that I wouldn’t even try just based on the fact that they feel to young or too old. Im 5’11 and 200 lbs with an hourglass shape and I like to be comfortable…I know exactly what to wear for occasions but that trip to the mall/grocery store/movies always turns into a hoodie and some Uggs.

    • Finally a helpful article. I am very, very close to being 40. I’m not ashamed of it. Though time sure went by quick! I am a single mom of three. My oldest is almost 16. Now, most of you get between 5 and 10 years younger age guesses. Me? People think I’m, not even a legal adult. 18-20. I don’t mind getting carded at the store with alcohol. But most of the time I’m treated like I’m stupid and couldn’t possibly be a mom of three much less one who is 16 and who is my height. I’ve constantly had doctors look at me in horror when they realize I’m the mom. Like I’m this tragic teen mom. I’ve had people ask my kids where their mom is at in front of me. Don’t ask about the cop incident. No. I’m far from a teen mom. And teen moms shouldn’t be treated that way anyway. I guess I’m considered short. 5’4″ and I’m 120lbs. I’ve always been slim. I can’t help it. I get it from my German grandfather who was very thin. So none of this helps. And I guess those will naturally oily skin look younger. No clue how accurate that is. So I learned how to do my makeup to look older. I do sell makeup so it’s a good thing to know. But then I decided to dress more my age. And this article is helpful. I’ve had an unfortunate wardrobe today. It’s very hot so any of the suggested pants I will not want to wear. So I’m in shorts but a much more grown-up shirt. Because of the shorts I know I look younger. But it’s hot! Thank you for this article. Many people think this is a good thing for me. Please don’t try to convince me of that until I reach 45 or 50. Because if I look 20 years younger now than my age, I would rather look 25 when I’m 45. And be believed to be a mol of three and one that would be 26. It really isn’t fun when people treat you horrid for how you naturally look.

  • Great topic! I have looked about 12 up until a few years ago so I basically “solved” the problem by living in yoga wear around the clock so it wouldn’t matter. Recently, I did think hard about upgrading my look and coincidentally chose the Aniston pics you show here to model my new look after. Isn’t that crazy? They are in my style folder. Now I feel right on target, thanks for the reinforcement.

  • Thank you as always for these great articles. Would you say the “Jennifer Aniston Casual” (aka “Casual Grown Up Style”) looks you put together would be a blend of the Classic and Relaxed style personalities?

  • Hi Imogen. I appreciate your blog post. Helpful! I am 36 years old; 4’9″ Hispanic who enjoys a classic and relaxed/comfy style. People tell me I have a “baby face”. Anyways, the important fact is each one of us women are unique and we must embrace and value our uniqueness like Ms. Imogen has stated before in various blogs. We were made wonderfully. Blessings.

  • I think you should wear what looks good for occasion and have fun with clothes. Classy when appropriate. Fun and fashionable when the day or night calls. Always have the basic black white and blues when you need them. Look around and ask your buddies but always try to keep yourself the best you can. And keep your hair and face fresh and clean and wear the most important accessory…a SMILE

  • Thanks, Imogen! I just found this article and am so excited. This is an issue for me too (mid-thirties but look early/mid twenties), so appreciate all of the useful tips.

  • Hi Imogen,
    I love this post; Jennifer Aniston is my go-to style icon.
    I’ll be 50 in a few months and I’ve always been told I look very young for my age. I’m usually guessed at being 35-40. Now that I’m much older I love it but it’s very hard to dress my age when I feel and look so much younger. I’m 5’3”, 125 lbs with a slim build. I tend to shop in the juniors department because misses fit me very odd. I work in a very casual office so I don’t have to dress up though I like to be more on the dressy side (more dresses than pants). I also live in Florida which makes it even more difficult to dress like a grown up.
    Do you have any additional advice?
    Thanks so much!

  • Hi my name is Erica Brodie and I am 40 I look like I’m in my 20’s and people still asked me how old are you? Or I looked so cute and I want to know how to dress, apply make up, wear hairstyles or, act or carry myself as mature? I have tried applying make up, dressing more mature but people still see me as younger trying to looked grown.

  • Finally a post that actually helps, I’m 50 but look 35ish my husband is 7 years younger but people always assume he’s older.
    I’m 5ft 5 and 118lbs and a dancer (still dancing classical ballet fit and flexible) I never know how to dress mature clothes make me look odd. My sister also has the same problem she works visiting schools and was actually told to get to class when she was 33. I too like Jenifer Aniston’s casual style, simple no fuss outfits. Thank you x

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