7 Easy Ways to Dressing Youthfully but Not Too Young


Hi Imogen,

I was on Yelp today and reading up on reviews for clothing places to shop in NYC. I saw a number of reviewers talk about how difficult it is for the 30 or 40 something to find clothes that still make them look young but aren’t so young looking that make them look silly. For example, a lot of these reviewers were attracted to places like Forever 21 because of the trends and prices, but they find they can’t wear most of what’s in there because, again, they would look like a 35 year old trying to be a teenager.

So, my question is what advice do you give this age group? I suppose it is the question for anyone over 30. The coolest and most relevant clothes that would make you still look great, for people over 30, are often really expensive or designer clothes. Most everything else is a sea of “blah,” with only a blouse here or a dress there after a long search. Is it how things are combined that can make the difference? Knowing when to layer and not to layer (for purposes of staying young and fashionable looking).

Big question, I know, but I think a lot of us struggle with this question.



Firstly, there is a big difference between youthful and young.

Think about:

  1. Situation or occasion – where are you going? What are you doing?  What is appropriate?
  2. What you want to convey – how do you want to be perceived?  What are the messages you are wanting to let everyone know about you and your personality and level of success?
  3. Quality – does the quality of the garment work with the messages (see point 2) you want to convey?

As we get a little older (and 30 really isn’t old at all), we are expected to be getting better jobs, that pay more, thus the quality of our clothing should improve.  Nobody expects a 20 year old to wear expensive clothing, they are likely to be at the bottom of their career ladder, so haven’t got the income to do so (and if they do, we may question where the money is coming from (Mum and Dad paying, or have the run up large credit card bills?).

So where you shop will change.  Plus you will be more aware of what you personal style is, what you want to convey to the world about who you are (if not, it might be a great time to work with a good image consultant to find this information out).  You are now no longer wanting “disposable fashion” from places like Forever 21 (it’s made from cheaper fabrics, not particularly well constructed as it’s not expected to last).  Instead you will need to start sourcing new places to find the clothing that befits the new more grown up you.  You may find it in the local chains (and there are plenty of clothing options out there for all age groups), or you may need to go further afield, from little boutiques with smaller designers to handmade outlets such as Etsy.com.

There are some things to look out for if you want to look youthful but not too young.

Youthful not Young

1. Avoid clothing styles that are typical on kids clothing.  I always think about what my daughter wear, a frill on the bottom of a dress or skirt is a good example.  Shoestring straps (you can’t wear a bra with them and they show off lots of skin), low quality belts that come with garments (take out the cheap belt and put a good quality one on instead).

2. Avoid anything too short.  If you want to be taken seriously, you don’t want to show too much skin.  It says that you are unaware of what is appropriate.  Skits and dress hems should hit no higher than just above the knee.

3. Wear clothing that suits your current body shape, not the shape you may have had in the past.  Bodies change, the way your weight is distributed will change over time.  Understand what suits  your current body shape and dress to flatter it.

ageless style

4. Remain current, but pick the eyes out of the trends and take only what suits you, don’t just wear something because it’s in fashion.

5. Develop your personal style.   The more you know about you and represent who you are through your clothing in an authentic way, the more stylish and confident you will appear.  Even though she’s in her 90s, Iris Apfel is an example of someone who has always dressed to their own tune, not caring if she’s in fashion, but also using fashion as a tool to express who they are, and enjoying the creative expression it gives day to day.

6. Look for quality fabrics, fit and construction.  When your clothes are made from good quality fabrics, fit well and are well made they will last longer and will look made for you (more expensive) and thus make you look more successful.

Iris Apfel always accessorizes
Iris Apfel always accessorizes

7. Accessorize.  You can wear more simple and understated clothes, have less clothing in your wardrobe, but of higher quality, and change up their look with accessories that are interesting, tell a story and express something about you (they could be pieces you’ve picked up on your travels, gifts from loved ones, or pieces that you’ve saved for and purchased yourself because they make your heart sing).

Find clothes that fit your lifestyle and that represent who you are.  If you’re not sure where to start, this post can give you some ideas of what might work for you.

You have probably gotten into some shopping habits which has you only checking out the same stores over and over.  Instead, get yourself out of your rut and spend some time going into every store.  You may find pieces in stores you’ve never even considered  before.  There is so much choice out in stores it is possible to at every age to dress well without breaking the bank.


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1 Comment

  • I found this article to be quite insightful as it’s where I’m at right now. I’m understanding why the frills and cheaper fabrics don’t feel right to me anymore. I do however still work with the shoestring strap by putting a tank of the same color underneath – white on white – and for now it works.

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