What should you wear over 40? Anything you damn well want

It’s a question that pops up far too often: “Am I too old for…?”

This time it was dungarees, from a women on Facebook in her 50s, but I’ve seen many others. Jeans, slogan tees, bobble hats, mini skirts – at some point, some woman somewhere has been told she’s too old to wear it.

Don’t believe me? Then check out this post from Everyday Health of the Top 10 items you’re too old to wear.

To save you reading – and deny such ageist material the click! – their list of what we shouldn’t wear is: 

  • message T-shirts, 
  • too-trendy denim (obviously only old-fashioned denim will do), 
  • costume shoes, 
  • micro-mini skirts (nothing more than 4ins above the knee), 
  • anything showing excessive cleavage (too much saggy skin, apparently), 
  • white vests, 
  • hair accessories, 
  • oversized, decorated hobo bags, 
  • cheap, unflattering underwear (who buys underwear they consider unflattering?), and
  • loud accessories (sorry, Prue Leith).
Prue Leith rocks loud accessories

Rules are great when it comes to not getting knocked down crossing the road. But fashion rules seem to forget one important thing: the fashion world doesn’t like anyone over the age of 29. 

Fashion is all geared for trendy Wendies in their 20s. The rest of us – forget it!

Well, I’m calling out the fashion rules. Just like widows being expected to dress in black for years has gone out the window, it’s time to put these antiquated ideas behind.

Why? Well…

Older women are still sexy – and sexual

For a start – do you want to tell Elle Macpherson she’s too old for anything this short?

Elle Macpherson fashion for over 40s
Elle Macpherson shows she is still “The Body”

That’s because older women are still sexy – if not sexier, because age brings confidence with it.

When I go out now, I want to rock my socks off in a way I never did when I was in my 20s, when I had no self-esteem or confidence.

And yes, the perimenopause can put a dampener on our enthusiasm and energy. But once we get that sorted, it’s a case of: “World watch out!”

Who you really are is ageless

Madonna is 60, but there is no way she is going to settle down with the People’s Friend and a bag of humbugs.

Because she’s never been that sort of woman.

While I’m older and wiser than I was in my younger days, inside I’m still the same: someone who doesn’t want to do what everyone else is doing.

In my teens and 20s, that showed itself by listening to Indie music and wearing dark colours.

I’ve changed in many ways but at heart, that is still me, just as Madonna will always be the Material Girl even when she’s rocking it in her 80s.

Our spirits are ageless; it’s the language used about us that’s old.

We’re punks and new romantics

At this time of the year, magazines, adverts and newspapers are filled with fashion trends for the next season. Each one modelled on someone young.

As far as they’re concerned, women over 40 don’t care about trends and catwalks. We’re supposed to wear quality classics that you buy in those shops just off the high street – you know, the ones out of sight so we don’t sully the shopping experience for the rest.

Of course, “quality classics” is really code for “expensive sacks in a shade of meh”.

Forget Zara and H&M, we’re directed to the likes of Debenhams and M&S. Instead of bright colours and prints, we’re told to wear camel and neutrals.

Time to wake up, manufacturers, because we’re the generation brought up with punk and new romantics and we have never followed fashion’s rules.

Add a few rips to those nice smart white jeans and I may consider them. With a Depeche Mode T-shirt, of course.

Jennifer Lopez looks incredible as she breaks just about every fashion rule in the book

Bodies are bodies

A few years ago, Mr 50Sense and I went on holiday in Valencia. Filled with the sunny spirit (aka vino) one night, we dared each other to go to the nearby nudist beach the next day.

Come 9am the following morning and neither of us wanted to back down. So off we trotted, beach bag minus swimwear in hand.

Giggling and slightly nervous, we made our way to a sandbank and disrobed – sitting down sharply to avoid being seen in our un-ironed birthday suits.

But then…

But then nothing. Much as I’d like to dream my naked body could stop the traffic, nobody took any notice of us. They were all too busy laughing and talking and playing bat and ball (what is this fascination with bat and ball in Europe?).

When they saw us, they just saw a body anatomically the same as theirs. Yes, there were a few lumps and bumps and jelly bellies on display (mainly me) and one man did throw a particularly large shadow from a certain part of his anatomy, but when it came down to it, we were all the same.

So wear the cleavage regardless of how saggy your skin may be or go a cheeky five inches above your knees with your skirt.

Because they’re only bodies.

We already have a style

A couple of years ago, I featured in an article in The Sun about women who don’t dress their age. Being a journalist, I was well aware of what I was potentially letting myself in store for – these pieces are inevitably hit by negative comments. But I felt the message was important enough to take the risk.

Mercifully, it escaped the attention of trolls – except for one man (it’s always a man) who commented: “They each look their age.”

Duh, yeah! That was the point. It wasn’t about not looking your age; it was about not being defined by it.

But as with Grace Jones being defined by her age and the idea that we should age gracefully, we were seen as wanting to hide how old we really are when in truth, we were simply loving who we are.

We’d all learnt that fashion is about expressing who you are. That it’s about taking trends and fads and making them work for you. And that doesn’t change just because you hit 40. 

Because all these women…

I’m going to leave the last word with these fabulous fashionistas – breaking all the rules and I love every one of them for doing it. Enjoy…

Advanced Style: Growing older stylishly (with Iris Apfel)

So what do you think? Should we tone it down as we get older? Or do you max it out in minis? Let me know below…

Photos: Elle Macpherson. Jennifer Lopez. Prue Leith

Sign up for regular updates and your free gift!

Get your free guide to midlife!

Sign up for updates and your free guide to a happier, healthier life!

1 thought on “What should you wear over 40? Anything you damn well want”

  1. Breast cancer at 49 (Sadly the first breast cancer, but I didn’t know that at the time), eight surgeries for that first breast cancer. At about four surgeries in, or maybe five, my husband and I were traveling and I took a black string bikini that I had shoved in the drawer for many years, and I wore it… we were with our French friends (Family) on the French Riviera on a small beach nowhere. And I posted that picture of me on Facebookwalking out of the surf, wearing that black string bikini, and saying ‘check out my scars!’ (you can very easily see them between my breasts,). The amazing, positive, uplifting, caring feedback I received was wonderful and I think I needed to hear it.
    Here’s to those of us over 40, 50 and in two years, over 60, who still feel a lot like that little 13 year old girl playing dress-up. But now when I try on all of those crazy outfits, I can show them to my grandchildren, and laugh with my children, and yes, I can even post them on Facebook As I wear them wherever I want!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top