I have found at 52 I no longer like the way prints look on me. Printed tops were once a significant part of my wardrobe, but as my hair and colouring have cooled they now overwhelm me. Can you explore the types of style changes one may need to make?
What are the changed I can expect as hair and skin transition away from the colour of your youth? So much can change with your style as you age.
Does your style change as you age or do you stay the same?
This is a great question as it’s multi-faceted and there are a number of changes you may experience as you move through your life that will have an impact on your style choices. What you wear at 20 is not what you’re likely to be wearing at 70 – not just because fashions change. But because you are not physically the person you were all those decades ago.
There are a myriad of changes – from colouring changes, to skin, body and values changes that impact on your choices.
1. Your Colouring Changes
As I’ve discussed before here, your colouring changes as you age. You may have been born with dark hair, then it all fell out and grew back blonde, then as you went through your teenage years it got darker and then in your 40s or 50s it started to go grey… Along with these changes, come accompanying pigment changes in skin and eyes. Skin becomes less clear, a little more muted, and eyes lose some pigment and go from brighter to softer.
This is why as you age the colours that suit are softer than the ones that flattered you in your youth. The warmth in skin often starts disappearing and some people move from warm to cool palettes with age – see Jamie Lee Curtis image a few points below (not everyone – some remain warm their entire lives).
You may also find with your colouring changes comes contrast change – as hair lightens for many, this lowers value contrast. You may also change in colour contrast. I would suspect that this is possibly why the patterns of your younger years no longer work so well – but there may be other patterns that work for you now that are lower in colour and value contrast. It’s not that the garment is patterned per se – but the specific patterns on those garments may not be the right kind for you anymore. It could be either (or both) too high colour contrast, or too high-value contrast for you now. I’ve written a whole post on this topic here.
With Eliabeth Taylor (above) you see she changes from a high value contrast to a much lower one. Her intensity moves from brighter and clear to softer and muted. Her skin goes from solid to more patterned (which I’m sharing more tips on below).
2. Your Body Shape Changes
From pregnancy onwards, bodies can change – the hormone relaxin that loosens ligaments during pregnancy that allows your body extra space for your baby to grow means that rib cages can go from being tapered to straighter, thus making your waist less defined post-pregnancy.
Menopause and the hormone changes that come with it also affect body shape. Oestrogen dominance of youth which tends to make women put on weight on the hips, bottom and thighs disappear at this time and weight gain shifts upwards to the torso. If you look at the image below of Dame Judi Dench, you can see how in her youth she had a defined waist and was a curvy hourglass shape. Now in her advanced years, her waist has disappeared and body shape has changed radically.
Having had a lifetime of dressing one body shape to then have to learn a whole new way of dressing your body can take time to adjust. You need to learn a whole new set of figure flattery guidelines – and this can take time and a lot of experimentation. Learning to embrace the body you have today can be mentally challenging too.
What you want to wear – how much you want to cover up may also impact on your style choices. Often as you age, you may start to develop a more sophisticated style, one that covers up your body a little more. You may prefer to wear slightly looser rather than totally fitted clothing as well. You might find some extra structure in your garment construction helps to keep you looking smarter.
If you’re not sure of your shape – you can take my free body shape calculator and download your Body Shape Bible that will give you tips on dressing your current shape. Or if you’d like my professional opinion I give it as part of my 7 Steps to Style program (along with a personal colour analysis – so you can also find the colours, contrasts and ideal value that suit you today.
3. Your Face Changes
Age and gravity have skin stopping being so firm and the most common side effect of this is that a more square jaw can become softer and more curved in appearance – this may change your defining features and the details and shapes that work best for you.
Your skin also changes. In your youth, it’s more likely to be clear and brighter. As you age, skin dulls and sun spots and marks can become more apparent. You may find that patterns appear – notice how Elizabeth Taylor’s skin changed with age in the image above.
Alternatively, those who were covered in freckles during their youth may find that these disappear with age!
The sheen of your skin may also alter. When young, you may have had a glow, sheen or shine. With age as skin oils diminish, you may find your skin becomes more matte.
Textural changes to skin also appear – from the smoothness of youth to the textures of older age – looking for more textured garments may be something to consider. Alternatively, a print can work as a texture if it’s not large in scale and is more blended, working with your colouring.
For example – if you look at these prints in the image above. The high-value contrast prints on the top row would have suit Elizabeth Taylor when she was younger (or Betty White) as they had dark hair and pale skin. With age, as hair lightens and contrast diminishes, they would be better suited to a more blended print that is multi-stepped between the light and dark elements – such as the prints on the bottom row.
You may find that with light hair, and an ideal value that is now overall light – you need to go for a light background print, rather than one with a dark background. This alone will have a huge impact on how well the print suits you!
Then, consider colour contrast – if, for example, you had red hair and blue eyes in your youth, but now your hair has faded or gone grey. The high colour contrast print would have been more flattering in your youth, but now the low colour contrast print will work better.
Freckled skin always works better with a blended print rather than a stark print too.
4. Your Hair Changes
Not just the colour of your hair that goes from coloured to grey and possibly to white, which may change your value and colour contrast and how you put outfits together based on colour. You may move through a multi-tonal stage (just as Jamie Lee Curtis did in the image below) as she went from blonde to grey to white. Multi-tonal hair – such as when it’s greying – looks great with multi-tonal patterns – patterns that have light, medium and darker shades, that have a blended feel – rather than a stark feel.
Hair texture often becomes coarser as it goes grey, adding an extra textural layer to your appearance. Thus making more textured garments more flattering.
5. Your Personal Style Values Changes
You grow and change through your life. What may have mattered to you when you were young may no longer matter. Your values influence what you choose to wear.
For instance, commonly in teenage years, there is often a high value placed on being like your peers. Wearing what is fashionable for your group or community. With age as you discover more about your own personal preferences this can alter, you may want to remain like your peers, or you may prefer to create your own unique and individual style.
Comfort often becomes a key driver with age. No longer will you tolerate uncomfortable clothing or shoes, instead the need for your clothes to please you on a kinaesthetic level may increase and become a dominant player in your clothing and style choices.
If you’d like to understand more about your personal style values – this is Step 7 of my 7 Steps to Style program and it will enlighten you as to why some things matter to you with regards to your style, and others are unimportant (but may be important to others around you – these values can create conflict when they are not understood). It’s often in your values that when you are out of sync with your values, that conflict within yourself arises too!
6. Your Lifestyle Changes
As you move through your life many changes occur – grow up, move out of home, start working, change work environments, have children, retire, move locations and environments.
These are just a few lifestyle changes that can impact on your style choices. What once worked may no longer work for your environment or lifestyle.
There is often a need to reassess the contents of your wardrobe for what your current lifestyle demands so that you have the clothes you need to feel and look authentic as you go through your day. Discover more about how your lifestyle influences your clothing choices here.
As you can see from these examples, there are lots of potential changes that may go on for you as you move through your life. And embracing the changes as they happen, rather than railing against them (or ignoring them and pretending it’s not happening) will keep you looking stylish, modern and feeling confident as you go through life.
Thank you for the wonderful article. I do appreciate all the work it took to get such an informative and well laid out piece. I just love the comparison photos and you pointing out the differences. You are my style guru!
Thanks So much Donna! Really appreciate your kind words.
Thank you for such an informative and comprehensive response. I’ve bookmarked it for future reference and will be sharing with family and friends. You have taught me so much about how to shop for and dress myself in this middle stage of life, which has greatly increased my self-confidence and happiness. I appreciate how generously you share your expertise and I thank you from the bottom of my heart
Good article – thank you. I have recognised that I have gone from warm (spring) to cool (summer)colours – but have not taken into account the value and contrast issues. This is helpful for me going forward.
Great article! The piece that really is sticking with me is that multi-tonal hair looks best with multi-tonal patterns! Very helpful right now.
So glad to have helped you Juhlin, it’s always about the harmony and repeating the textures and patterns within!
This is the best summary of the changes I have experienced as I moved from career to retired, from natural brown to silvery, white hair, from a more formal, structured lifestyle to a more relaxed one, all the while digging out who I am now! Thank you so much. I do hope you can spend some time on each of the areas going into more detail – especially the lifestyle area. The options between structured career and relaxed, and reflective of who I am inside but not sweats are vast.
Tell me more about what you’d like to know about lifestyle? What are your issues?
Great article with some very interesting and helpful information. You mention that “You might find some extra structure in your garment construction helps to keep you looking smarter.” Could you expand on this a little bit?
Do you mean that with a less defined body shape it’s helpful to choose garments that have some built-in shape like back waist darts or princess seams? Generally fashion at the moment is for very loose unstructured garments and T-shaped tops, so are more shaped garments a better choice for ladies “of a certain age” if smart is the look they are aiming to achieve?
Thanks so much for a very thoughtful and helpful piece; this subject deserves so much more attention than it gets elsewhere. The biggest shock for me has has been how much my eye colour has changed. From darkest, dense, matt looking, olive green during my twenties to fifties and now in my sixties a mixture of grey blue and yellow gold spots, which read as medium, shiny, bright greenish. I felt my previous warm, darkest brown hair, with grey getting more and more, needed to come lighter to match the eyes, so have now gone to a warm light gold brown/dark blonde. My skin appears much the same warm ivory, but one degree less pale in terms of foundation shade. I now find I am not so high contrast as before, but still need some richness and warm in the colours, black, which I lived in before, is now totally draining and I go for a dark warm navy instead. Still working it all out, colour is the most challenging aspect, as fortunately my body has not changed so much, although going from a very slim hourglass to a slightly less slim one. It is much harder to find stuff that looks OK though, shapely without self consciously sexy, which all articles seem to put hourglass figures into. I want to look good, but age appropriate and finding casual but stylish clothes that don’t hide the waist is a bit of a thing, as again, most waisted stuff seems to always look dressy. A challenge, but getting there!
This is a home-run, Imogen. Comprehensive, and as usual packed with detailed, useful information. I like the examples you’ve chosen to illustrate your points. It must be hard to find well-lit photos!
i think the article is very informative but could definitely use some consideration to diversity. all of the images are of caucasian women and all of the skin and hair feature references are too.
You’re right. I’m caucasian and have a lot more caucasian clients than those with darker skin tones and I live in a country that has only a small population of darker skin tones. SE Asian colouring, of which I see a lot, works similarly to Caucasian, it’s really only the African skins and the darker Indian skin tones that age differently. I do try and include different skin tones where possible – including in this post https://insideoutstyleblog.com/2014/11/real-life-examples-of-dressing-to-your-contrast.html#1548907273337-8eebc376-21f6 and some other posts such as this one https://insideoutstyleblog.com/2017/04/value-and-contrast-with-darker-skin-tones-the-celebrity-version.html