A few weeks ago, one of my friends asked me to write about dressing for your age.  It was a great suggestion, as I think it’s something a lot of people question as they age out of college/grad school, begin professional jobs, have kids, or just generally hit a new phase of life.

I’ve taken a little while to think about it, even doing a little research (by the way, there isn’t much out there that’s useful), and while I don’t think there are any hard and fast rules – whether about dressing your age or just about dressing in general – here are a few of the tips I’ve come up with:

  • Dress for the occasion.  As we mature, there’s more of an expectation to show up to events appropriately dressed.  Whether that’s “dressing for the job you want” and wearing a (pressed, well-fitting) suit to an interview (even to wait tables…); following the rules on wedding invitations (if it says black tie, wear something fancy); or wearing something a little nicer than a J.Crew cardigan to meet the Queen of England (looking at you, Mrs. Obama!), it’s important to know what the social situation dictates and follow those norms.  College students get passes; we don’t.
  • Dress in flattering clothes.  When we’re in high school and college, it’s easy to get into a rut of wearing whatever we can find.  I mean, we eat whatever we can find, so we might as well wear leftovers, too.  I have no problem with recycled clothing, but as we get older, it’s important to wear clothes that actually fit us well, rather than just hang on our bodies. Tailoring is the mantra of Stacy London from What Not to Wear, but if that’s not in your budget (it’s never been in mine), be choosy with your off-the-rack selections and if it really doesn’t do anything for you, don’t bother with it.
  • Keep modesty in mind.  Hemlines get longer, cropped tops become less cropped, inseams in shorts become more comfortable…it’s just a fact of life that these things happen (or should) as we age and fashion becomes more modest.  Notice I in no way said frumpy – believe it or not, you can look cute without wearing daisy dukes. But, if something begins to feel uncomfortable, it’s probably time to retire it or pass it down to a younger sister.
  • Figure out who you are.  I think this is one I’m still working on, but a lot of the women I’ve noticed who are definitely NOT dressing their age also seem to be having an identity crisis. They’re 50, dressing like they might have when they were 25 because they are stuck in that age of “figuring it all out”.   Learn who you are and what your style is – eclectic, feminine, edgy, hipster, traditional, etc.  Once you’ve discovered that, then you can learn how to adjust as you mature and still feel like yourself.
  • Choose quality.  You know I’ve always been a fan of “fast fashion”.  I like trends, and I don’t have a lot of money…therefore, I must buy inexpensive clothing in order to maintain my habit.  However, I’ve noticed that as I’m getting older, the stores I’m buying from are changing.  Sure, I still look in Old Navy and Forever 21, but now, most of my wardrobe is from boutiques or department stores. Of course, I’ll never buy without a good sale, but I now consider the fabrics and cuts, rather than just the style and price.  Shopping at better stores also helps with some of the above points – I tend to find clothes that flatter (since they’re made better and not for 12 year olds), and they tend to be more modest (again, because they’re not made for 12 year olds).
  • Choose trends wisely.  Not every trend will work for every age, body type, or personality.  So, rather than running after the latest thing, know yourself (see point 4) and pick the trends that best suit you. Then, you’ll own the look, rather than it owning you.

No matter our age, fashion is a part of life and it really is possible to be stylish until we’re 110 years old (my Granny was well-dressed until the day she died, just shy of her 92nd birthday). I think a lot of women, though, get so bogged down in the realities of life – job, kids, etc – that they lose sight of themselves and get stuck.  Don’t get stuck.  You are smarter than your clothes, so figure out what works for you, and embrace it!

Fashion can be overwhelming sometimes, but if it ever gets that way, find a good friend (with good taste) to go shopping with you.  Two heads are always better than one, they can talk you down from the panic ledge, and at the end of the day, you’ll feel so much better knowing you’ve conquered a fear.  And of course, I’m always happy to help!

What do you think about these dressing your age tips?  Any you would add to the list?  Any you disagree with?  How have you observed your style morphing as you’ve gotten older?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!