Iris Apfel once said, “The key to style is learning who you are, which takes years. It’s about self-expression, and above all, attitude.”
Are there times when you stand in front of your closet and secretly hope that the perfect outfit will magically jump onto your body? We feel you.
Getting dressed has gotten harder, for all sorts of reasons. Lifestyles have changed, work attire has relaxed, new trends are coming at you fast and furiously, and, well, you may be reckoning with something we call body evolution (ahem). You’re not alone if you’re asking yourself “How can I look stylish over 40?”
Our advice? Little tweaks pack a style punch: A slightly different shape jean, the right bra, trying a new color or two. Let go of what doesn’t work on your body, kiss the rules goodbye and find the things that make you feel like YOU.
Fear not, we’ve got 10 style tips for women over 40 to help you get comfortable in your clothes and in your skin.
Hear this: Old jeans will date you faster than crow’s feet. While it still has a place in a wardrobe, it’s time to branch out from skinny. Instead, try (midlife-middle flattering) high-waisted wide-leg jeans–they come in all washes (and even different colors of denim, which we like-y) and at all price points. The boyfriend style is another to consider. Leave the versions that are super distressed or way oversized for the young ones. You might even explore what the makers call “girlfriend” jeans, which means it’s boyfriend jeans that are not quite so low-slung and oversized. Not into one of these shapes? Do a classic bootcut style in a high waist (key!) and a dark rinse. (We’ll know it can be difficult to find the right pair of jeans. That’s why we’ve made a guide on how to find the best-fitting jeans for your body type.)
Who, among us, isn’t tempted to reach for loose, oversized clothing to deal with all the shape-shifting that’s a part of life? We get it, but we’d like you to resist the urge to disappear in a curtain of fabric. Structure is good. Structure is your friend. Structure can both camouflage and accentuate in all the right places. Try tailored styles (blazers, sheath dresses, slim skirts, trousers) in fabrics that have structural integrity (they’re often of a thicker material, sometimes with a bit of stretch). The result? A more supported and shapely silhouette.
No matter what clothes you put on your body, providing a firm first layer is the best line of defense against your old pal, gravity (they’re called foundation garments for a reason, duh). Do yourself a solid and get a proper bra fitting from a reputable salesperson (most department stores have one, ditto for specialty lingerie stores and even Victoria’s Secret). Get rid of all the old stuff that has lost its shape and elasticity (#IYKYK). Create some depth to your lingerie collection so you have the right undergarments for whatever you’re wearing. Boobs need lifting? It’s called a push-up bra. Belly more lava lamp than washboard? Shapewear to the rescue. Still sporting panty lines? Get a (comfortable) thong, once and for all.
There’s something chic and sophisticated about a one-tone look, and we’re here to say you’d be wise to perfect it. Fool-proof examples are wearing all black or all winter white…but it can be pulled off in any color you choose. There are tricks, of course: 1) Don’t worry about a perfect match in colors, shades are great; 2) Vary the textures–sleek, shiny, nubby, soft, etc. for added interest; 3) Keep accessories simple and in one color (all black, all metallic) so that the monochrome stands out.
The yin to the monochromatic yang of dressing is to go for it on the color wheel. Just because you’re in your 40s doesn’t mean color can’t still be a powerful tool when it comes to building a look – not only does it make a style statement, but it can be incredibly mood-boosting. Think of that bright yellow scarf or cherry red blazer as a little dose of fashion Xanex. Want to start slow? Opt for a bright accessory.
By now, you have a pretty good idea of those pieces in your closet that gather dust in between outings and those pieces you wear all the time (the go-to’s, if you will). Like your everyday bag, a well-cut blazer, a dress that bridges the divide between work and weekend, or one great evening ensemble. It’s time to spend some money on better fabrics, better construction, better color saturation, and better details. You’ve earned it.
The days of being a style chameleon are behind you and thank goodness for that. Experience breeds confidence, so by now, you have a handle on your body and your lifestyle. Do yourself a favor and hone a signature look–one that leaves you feeling comfortable and confident, that you don’t have to overthink (grab and go!), and that presents you as the best version of yourself. After all, you’ve earned it! Those investment pieces we just talked about? They’ll play a key role here. Want to mix it up at times? Swap out the accessories to keep it feeling fresh.
Once again for those in the back: Accentuate the best of you, camouflage the rest of you. Great arms? Go sleeveless and bare them. Long legs? Try a pencil skirt, a midi dress, or some awesome shorts. Whittled waist? Cinch it. Killer clavicles? Open up that neckline.
How does a grown-up embrace seasonal trends? Thoughtfully. Each season, designers fill the racks with new styles, and it’s your job to do the choosing. We say, choose wisely. It’s a fine needle to thread; you want to stay current, but you want to look appropriate. You want to try new things, but you don’t want to blow money on something you won’t wear. Trust your gut here and steer away from anything that doesn’t feel like you, and use sites like ours to help you decode the “of the moment” pieces worth giving a try.
Because there’s nothing sexier than confidence. Full stop.
This is one of the best style tricks in your arsenal. Proper fit is EVERYTHING. A great tailor will work magic. From nipping and tucking your latest finds to reworking a beloved item in your closet, a tailor can help you customize your wardrobe and make any piece look like it was made just for your body.