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Yes, You Can Be “Too Old” to Wear Something

Pretty older woman smiling

Can a woman ever be too old to wear something?


Usually, I’m a “who says you can’t?” gal, urging ladies to stand up against pointless fashion rules. White after Labor Day? Who says we can’t? A patent leather purse with patent leather shoes? Who says we can’t?  

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But my 38-year-old self has one exception when it comes to certain fashions: Age.

There is a point when a woman is “too old” to wear certain styles. Consider a 48-year-old woman wearing a cat-ear headband to the office. It just renders credibility as a paralegal as, well, not so credible.

That’s why I say yes to the idea of 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.  Within reason, that is.

What’s Not Appropriate

It’s easiest to address the age-appropriate fashion question by describing what’s not appropriate. 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 (not good at any 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 juniors department
  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 too cutesy knocks at our closet door? Maybe just think about toning it down a notch (or three). Here’s how we can show off our playful side while still looking sassy and classy.

Age-Appropriate Fashion

The Not-Too-Little LBD

age 1

“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

age 1

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.

age 1

You can still wear statement shoes. Just make the statement with pattern and style — not with height.

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.

age 1

Embrace that animal instinct with subtly. Try a snake print shoe, leopard accessory or zebra-striped belt.

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. (Yes, she is over 40 IRL, but Abby is not student of age-appropriate fashion).

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I'll wear what I want thanks

Wednesday 21st of September 2016

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.


Saturday 6th of August 2016

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

Saturday 6th of August 2016

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


Tuesday 17th of May 2016

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!


Tuesday 26th of April 2016

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.......


Tuesday 17th of May 2016

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.


Thursday 22nd of October 2015

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 :( :)

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