Age-Appropriate Fashion: Because Yes, You Can Be “Too Old” to Wear Something

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Can a woman ever be too old to wear something?

Sigh.

Usually, I’m a “who says you can’t?” gal, urging ladies to stand up against commony held fashion beliefs. White after Labor Day?  Who says we can’t? A patent leather purse with patent leather shoes? Who says we can’t?  However, my 38-year-old self has one exception when it comes to certain fashions: Age.

Sorry, but there’s a point when a woman is “too old” to wear certain styles. Something about a woman over a certain age wearing a cat-ear headband that renders her credibility as a paralegal, well, not so credible. The fix? Age-appropriate clothing.

By this I don’t mean creating a tweed-n-turtleneck-only wardrobe immediately following our 35th birthday. By all means, we should flaunt our figures (and hair, and nails. . . ) while staying on-trend, age be damned.  Well, within reason.  What I’m talking about are ladies in their mid 30s or older who:

  1. regularly sport graphic tees with images of a giant M&M, Smurfette or retro Chuck Woolery face
  2. wear sweatpants with suggestive wording sprawled across their rears (good at no age)
  3. think images of kitty cats (cartoon or actual) on sweaters, totes and scarves are rockin’
  4. insist on trying on clothes as they groove to beat of One Direction in the Junior Section
  5. routinely wear an off-the-shoulder, mega-high slit dress (think: Jennifer Lopez at the Grammy Awards)

What to do then, when the the urge to go too tight or cutesy knocks at our closet door?  Go with it, just tone it down a notch (or three).  Here’s how we can show off our playful side while still looking sassy and classy:

Age-Appropriate, Stylish Looks

The Not-Too-Little LBD

“Little” doesn’t have to mean teeny.  Even if we can knock ‘em dead in tight clothes, some serious hoochie and unprofessional vibes get in the way of being taken seriously.  Wear the LBD, but don’t look like 50 going on 20 with these sexy, stylish numbers.

Using Our Head

Trade the ear/face panda hat or tough skater girl cap for these head-turning toppers.  They’re fashionable and still fun, and no one will think we lost our Mommy at the zoo when we wear them.

Say No to Getting High

Sigh.  I love heels (who knew?), so this is hard to say.  Really hard.  But too high is too high.  Heels are still OK, but pass on the ridiculously sky-high ones that have the potential to put our image and our ankles on shaky ground.

That’s Pretty Graphic

Skip the Kool-Aid Man graphic, crude wording and sloppy top designs and opt for toned-down patterns.  Wear abstract styles or other fun looks that turn heads for all the right reasons.

Be Kind to Animals

Puppies and kittens are adorable, I don’t care how old you are.  But declaring your fondness with a feline-embroidered knapsack (at work) takes us from cute to kitschy (bad kinda kitschy) in a heartbeat.  Goodbye, Hello Kitty.  Embrace that animal instinct with subtly.  It’s the Year of the Snake, so why not pay homage to phyton-esque textures?

Pretty in Punk (ish)

Ditch the spikes and bad-ass edge.  We’re grown, not Goth.  Trade it for something that maintains an air of fierceness without looking like tough gal Abby on NCIS.

See more tips on being fashionable after 60.

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  • I’ll wear what I want thanks

    Maybe if designers weren’t trying to dress 20 somethings like they’re either having an extended adolescence or a porn star we wouldn’t have the problem of shops stocked with clothes inpropriate for any woman at any age who wants to be seen as credible. Maybe if older women dressed more innapropriately people might wake up to the fact appealing fashion choices are severley limited once you remove sexy and cutesy from the equation. Now pass me my graphic T from the children’s section and my leather hotpants, I have some youngins to go annoy.

  • Betty

    Sorry but I wear t-shirts with cats on them because I try to help ferals and any cats I can. Yes, I also wear jeans but not ones with glitter or too tight. Being thin, the pickings are slim in pants. As a teen our clothes were British beat and Beatles hats! Don’t tell me what to wear at age 66!

    • Catherine Brock

      Betty,
      Fair enough; nothing wrong with owning your style ? Thank you for sharing–
      Catherine

  • Jet

    Have you never heard the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover”? Because that’s exactly what you’re doing, placing limitations on what you feel is inappropriate for women of a certain age to wear and judging them by their clothing choices.

    I was bullied horribly as a young girl because I was “different”. I was born highly creative and a rebel, liked looking different from everyone else, always set trends rather than follow the crowd and paid the price both with verbal and physical abuse. When I discovered David Bowie (??may he RIP) early on (a few albums before his “Ziggy” period) I not only found my first crush at 10-11 years old, but he helped me realise I could be “different” and it was not only okay, but cool! At 56 I still wear a guitar pick he gave me ages ago on my ear (thank goodness I laminated it!) and there it shall stay until the day I die; as a reminder of what he gave me (confidence) when I needed it so badly, and to always be myself.

    I’ll fully admit I’m not your typical 56 year old woman, as my life has been immersed in rock n’ roll and fashion from a very young age. I’d love to see you amongst my friends, your eyes would be opened to something called “personal style” as none of us have a “rule book”. I guess you’d say I look like a rock n’ roller, but I’m complimented every time I step out by those who don’t have the guts to show their personality sartorially (they’ve outright said so, and many were decades younger); personal style doesn’t die unless you decide to kill it off. If you feel you should become a drone, good for you. But don’t put down those of us who are peacocks and wear our personal style with pride. What a boring world it would be if there weren’t people who dared to look different; celebrate individuality, don’t squash it!

  • Sanette

    I totally do not agree with this piece. Who are we to tell anybody else what to wear and how to look? I might not like what some people wear, but it is their right to self-express. You don’t have to like it or try it, but don’t judge people who refuse to conform to an idea of what is age appropriate.

    I was taught this valuable lessen by my 16 year old. Wear what makes you feel pretty and happy, and damn all those who think they know better and think they are in a position to prescribe to others.

    My 2cents…….

    • Jet

      Thank you for saying what I was going to say! Kudos to your 16 year old! I always taught my daughter (same age) that every one of us is unique, not another on earth like us, yet we are all connected through humanity. We were both bullied terribly when young and I’m proud she never caved and tried to “fit in”. The bullying left its scars as it does on all of us, the last thing we need is to be bullied as adults for how we choose to dress.

  • Toshi

    I just want to say there is an age we want to show our assets by wearing less clothes and there comes an age we wana hide our sagging skin by covering it all 🙁 🙂

  • Granny

    I am looking for something to wear to my Grand daughter’s wedding BUT I’m 83 years old !

    • gail taylor

      I know how you feel, what to wear when we get older, Do you remember those classic semi fitted clothes that came from Magnin’s ? I think that they may have been called Jones something, but they were mostly knits that fit beautifully and they were tailored with beautiful buttons and colors. There were no frills, just class all the way. Some fit tighter than others, but most just clung to the form without being cheap. Older women just looked gorgeous and Moneyfied in them. That is how I plan on meeting the world in my 80’s. I am in my 60’s now and it is always a challenge on how to look. OH they were outrageously expensive too. But…so elegant and beautiful. Congrats on your Grand Daughters wedding. 🙂

  • stoptheagepolice

    There are no age-inappropriate clothing, only age-inappropriate style. Dressing like a six year old, a teenager or a sex worker when you’re an adult woman is inappropriate. Clothes items are not age-stamped. It depends on who is wearing what and how.

  • On one hand, I think too many older women use their age as an excuse to dress dowdy. That’s just wrong. You can still wear clothes that fit you and flatter you. On the other hand, there are too many older women who are so afraid of getting old that they dress too young. That’s wrong too. Basically, the older you get, the fewer gimmicks in your clothes. But they should still fit you and flatter you.

    • stoptheagepolice

      It’s not about age, it’s about style. Grown women of every age should not be wearing anything gimmicky on a daily, work-a-day basis. Also, older women are not the only ones with body flaws. Every 20-year-old does not have a perfect figure and every 40-year-old is not a fat, wrinkled mass. That’s why this age crap is stupid.

      • Amen! Thank God for Betsey Johnson, Iris Apfel, Cicely Tyson, Tina Turner, Iman, Madonna, Tina Knowles and a whole slew of ageless fashionistas out there who don’t believe this crap! It’s all about style not age and it’s about how you look and feel in your clothing. If you have fabulous legs (free of varicose veins) and you want to feel sexy then show them off. In other words, we have the right to flaunt our best assets no matter what age.. No one has the right to be the “hall monitor” for what should and should not be worn.

  • fashionfive0

    Absolutely. If you have baggy knees, either wear tights or skip the microminis. If your cleavage is age-spotted, wear something slim-cut but without showing skin. And if your tween daughter bought it at Forever 21, just don’t go there. We can look great (and often have the income to buy nicer pieces) without having to try to look like a teenager.

  • Soniabld72

    I don’t agree. I mean the whole Baby Phat logo was feline based and it was cute. JLo looked fantastic in her dress. I say if it makes you feel good and you look good in it rock it! Just because you’re 38 or 40 as I am doesn’t mean I now am relegated to sturdy heels and a pill box hat. I’ll save that for my retirement years thank you.

  • I’m an older blogger and I absolutely agree that those of us on that demographic have to think very carefully about what looks good on our bodies and at our age.  That doesn’t mean we have to give up OR resort to shapeless apparel and flat shoes.  Your comments are another important step in helping us all avoid the pitfalls put in our place by the retail universe and look our very best.