What Does ‘Age Appropriate’ Style Mean?

Let’s unpack a loaded topic – what is ‘age appropriate’ when it comes to style? I’m going to be honest, I’ve struggled with how to answer this question through the years. What I can do is share what I use as my own personal litmus test, what works for me, and what questions I ask myself when I’m looking at clothing.

This question has come up more frequently since I turned 40 than it ever did before and I know a lot of our Outfit Formulas® members are in the same boat. For a lot of us there’s this alarm bell that goes off in our heads once hitting 40, this unexplained magic number, where we say — Oh my gosh, can I still wear this? How should I be dressing? Where do I shop? This store feels too young but this store feels too old. There’s this feeling of being stuck in between. Sound familiar?

Common questions I’ve received over the years include…

Are ripped/distressed jeans ok to wear?

Can I wear a skirt above the knee?

Is an over-the-knee boot appropriate?

Can I wear tight jeans or a figure hugging dress?

I will tell you this – I don’t have a definitive answer. But I can share with you a general framework that will help answer these questions for YOU specifically and the best part is these questions take age entirely out of the equation. After all, age is just a number, right?

1. Does this make me feel more confident and stylish when I put it on?

At the end of the day this is what truly matters. If you aren’t comfortable wearing something out of the house then it’s probably not the right piece for you. However, if you look in the mirror and say this totally feels like ‘me’ then it’s likely something you should be adding to your regular wardrobe rotation.

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2. Does this fit and flatter my body?

As we get older we tend to err on the side of wearing baggier and looser fitting clothes and it’s not always the best look. Rather than hiding your body as you age, try to embrace the parts of your body/figure that you love and showcase those in a tasteful, classy way. We do not have to cover our bodies completely in order to be age appropriate.

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3. What are my motivations for wearing this piece?

This is my gut check question if I feel uncomfortable in a piece. What is your gut telling you about this piece of clothing? Your gut is never wrong and a selfie never lies – so take a picture in the mirror and if it’s something that isn’t working for you then trust your gut. Perhaps your motivation is to cover yourself up and feeling the need to be invisible. It may be worth examining that motivation a little deeper. The flipside may be true for you if you are drawn to overly revealing clothing.

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4. What do I want to tell the world about myself through my style and how I present myself?

Remind yourself that what we wear tells the world something really important about us. I always ask my daughters when they are picking clothes “What do you want to tell others about yourself with your clothes?”. We are in control of that message and we tell the world a lot about ourselves through our style. Are you sending the message that you want to send into the world with what you are wearing?

I’m not claiming to have all the answers here but I am all for empowering you to decide what is appropriate for YOU and when you look at it that way it takes age completely out of the equation.

It doesn’t have to be age appropriate, it just has to be YOU appropriate.

What factors do you consider when choosing clothing? What does it mean to you to dress age appropriately?