15 Style Secrets Every Woman Over 40 Needs to Know
Ditch any outdated rules that limit your fashion options at this age. We have advice and inspiration to help you build a flattering wardrobe and have you looking amazing at midlife.
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Fashion over 40
There are no age limits to style. There are, however, milestone moments when you naturally shift what you wear. Not to follow any age-related “rules,” per se, but rather because personal image is an ongoing journey—you’re not the same person you were at 20 or 30, and your wardrobe should reflect the woman you’ve become as you contemplate fashion over 40. On top of that, so many have undergone lifestyle shifts since the pandemic and may now only be working in an office a few days a week. The clothes that worked for you a few years ago may now be hanging in the back of your closet.
That makes this the best time to reassess your style. It’s not just about how to look younger. Hitting your 40s and beyond presents an exciting opportunity to redefine your personal look, the same way you have fun discovering makeup and hair secrets that work wonders to refresh and revitalize you above the neck. Remember, this is a time when you know yourself better, are clear on your priorities and want to broadcast it all with clothing and accessories that make you look and feel awesome.
The numerous cool 40-plus women providing fashion inspiration through social media and blogs are testament to the fact that when it comes to fashion over 40, anything goes. We’ve tapped a handful of top influencers to share their know-how and tips on looking radiant, polished and timeless. Read on for their tips.
Show your personality with a bright pop of color
As we start looking for fashion over 40, we tend to mute our style, opting for a wardrobe of neutrals, says Donna Means, founder of salondm3athens on TikTok. “Yes, a quiet color palette is totally chic and elegant, but don’t forget the fun when you’re feeling it. A bright piece shows off your easygoing side and also says you’re not always going to play by the rules.” Plus, if you want to know how to look good in pictures, a pop of color never fails as an attention-getter. Just remember to keep the rest of your outfit toned down to balance the look
We love: This satiny pink pleated short from Alice + Olivia. “This lets older women express their fun side without compromising on sophistication,” Means says. She suggests wearing the short with a white cardigan or white or black cashmere sweater to elevate the look. Or, to keep it casual, go with a fitted white T-shirt.
Trade in dated shapewear for modern pants
“These days, there are great options for pants that help define your shape nicely that don’t scream shapewear—perfect for anyone looking for clothes for women over 50,” points out Renate McSherry, founder of Style Alive After 55. “The really nice thing about them is the smooth surface they create—no zippers or buttons to poke through a long shirt or make your best sweaters look lumpy.”
We love: These white pants from Spanx. “They’re really well-constructed and pull on with stretch and a tummy panel that give a really flattering fit,” says McSherry. “The best part—the fabric has a technology built in that makes them totally non-see-through, which is pretty miraculous.”
Invest in a versatile blazer
A good blazer will be the building block for tons of chic outfits for anyone looking for fashion for women over 40, according to Elaine Davis, founder of @squarepearls on Instagram. If you feel a simple tee and jeans are too casual at this age, throw on the blazer, drape some of your best necklaces and suddenly you look completely pulled together. Or wear one over a pencil skirt and—wow—pure sophistication. “A blazer can be used to elevate super casual attire, or just tie a look together in general,” she says. “Pick a length and style that feels good on you, and you can pretty much wear it with anything.”
We love: This bold blazer from ASOS. The color stands out, but it’s incredibly versatile, says Davis. The classic cut can be styled to be understated-chic or make a big statement.
Frame your jawline with an elegant standup collar
This type of collar is so chic and polished, says Means. “The simplicity of it makes getting dressed and looking refined easy because you don’t need much else—let that collar speak volumes! Plus, if you don’t love your neck, this is a super stealth way to conceal it—a total anti-aging secret!”
We love: This Tuckernuck minimal black dress. “It’s one of those wear-anywhere classic dresses,” says Means. “The length gives you footwear options, like kitten heels or ballet flats, but it’s not too short that you can’t throw it on for a more grownup evening. The whole package gives off an air of effortless elegance.”
Play with loud prints
Don a clothing item that makes people second-guess their assumptions of you as a woman in midlife, suggests Means. No one wants to be predictable, and going a little rogue with your outfit in a way that makes you comfortable—with, say, a wild print—is a good plan for staying intriguing. “When thinking about fashion over 40, be wary of falling into the trap of always playing it safe!” says Means.
We love: This Mango satin blouse. Wear it so many ways—toned down with solid slacks or played up with a pink skirt or pants, suggest Means. “It looks like Emilio Pucci,” she says. “But it also gives a psychedelic hippie vibe. The fabric reads expensive, but it’s so affordable. You don’t know if the woman who wears it owns an art gallery or runs a huge company. She’s cool, and I want to know her.”
Curate a sunglass wardrobe
“One accessory we can all wear to add a bit of spice to our outfits is a chic pair of sunglasses,” says Davis. “What’s cool is you can have an entire collection of them at your disposal to upgrade any look, without breaking the bank.” Collect a bunch of various styles, then just play around.
We love: This perfect pair from Ray-Ban. “One of my go-to styles that I feel looks fantastic on absolutely everyone is aviator,” says Davis. “Truly, this classic pair always works no matter what else you’re wearing.”
Rethink your footwear
High heels were a casualty of the pandemic, which is good news for your feet. What should you wear instead? “I love a pair of white walking shoes that feels super neutral, so they don’t clash with anything and look sharp,” says McSherry. Wear them with a pantsuit, dress or your best jeans, and add something colorful like a cocktail ring, or trendy jewelry … anything goes.
We love: This classy pair from Eileen Fisher. “Best sneakers—I wear them all the time,” says McSherry. “They’re made from recycled netting, with a platform design that makes them look so chic. They’ve taken me many places and never let me down.”
Keep it simple with a classic T-shirt
Solid white or black T-shirts will never look dated. “They don’t take much to look great,” says McSherry. “If they’re nice quality, a polished pair of jeans and a blazer, and you have it. Or take a T-shirt higher-end by tucking it into a fancy skirt or chic pair of trousers.” Invest in a collection of the best bras that won’t be bulky under the thin fabric.
Slip on a kaftan
The beauty of this flowy-style dress is it’s the world’s easiest way to look instantly fabulous. “There’s just something so effortless and graceful about a kaftan,” says Means. “You throw it on and you look somewhat otherworldly, but totally appropriate for any occasion. Add some nice jewelry and you dress it up, or keep it simple and you look low-key polished.” Plus, the drapey cut works with any body shape.
We love: A classic black-and-white kaftan that makes a statement but stays neutral enough to be paired with bold accessories or killer shoes. “The sleeve length shows off the prettiest parts of your arms,” points out Means, “and the front panel gives some shape without creating a constricting waist. It feels flowy, but there’s enough structure that you’re not drowning in it. I love it so much!”
Shop for a new favorite pair of jeans
“Every woman needs a great pair of jeans,” says Davis. “But I know that sometimes it can be difficult to find that special pair that fits you perfectly and is flattering. My suggestion is to block out a shopping day just for jeans. Go to your favorite large department store and try on as many pairs as possible. Pro tip: Size up slightly to get that relaxed elevated look, or go for a looser fit. Also, belts are our friends—they add a nice dimension to a jean look.”
We love: This loose style from Banana Republic. They’re super soft and comfortable, the fit is relaxed but classy, and it has a midrise and a straight leg that suits everyone.
Learn how to rock a suit
You’ll find a slew of occasions where this is the perfect outfit—the look is grown-up, and depending on how you style it, presents an image of either elegance or still-got-some-rock-and-roll. “You can wear the pant or skirt suit as one look for work, a party, a wedding, a dinner. … Add a printed or floral shirt for some fun, or go with a sexy lacy top. Or stick a cool T-shirt underneath for more edge. It takes on a new life if you wear the top and bottom separately. I promise once you have one, you’ll fall back on the sleekness, the ease and the sophistication over and over,” says McSherry.
We love: A solid basic Calvin Klein suit that gives you many different styling options. This would look so great with a printed T-shirt or lacy feminine top.
Pick a multipurpose, all-weather jacket
When considering your wardrobe, don’t forget to factor in your lifestyle at this age. Many women in their 40s are at the point when they want to travel, be able to throw some stuff in a carry-on without laboring over packing and still look smart at their destination. “A not-heavy but still warm jacket that can be bunched up and shoved in a case is a very freeing item,” says McSherry. “Go with something that has a sporty feel so it’s multipurpose, but also looks polished. Consider it part of your outfit—add a pretty scarf, wear it open like a sweater.”
We love: This super lightweight Amazon Essentials puffer. “It almost acts like a cardigan, but it’s warm enough to brave colder temps if layered with a sweater. The cut is long and thin and interesting. This isn’t your average winter coat, it’s so much more.”
Invest in super comfortable sandals
Your feet deserve love at any age. But particularly when looking for fashion over 40, few of us have the desire to torture ourselves. And hobbling around in painful footwear is not a chic or sexy look. “A fabulous pair of open walking shoes for spring, summer and early fall lets you carry yourself with grace, ease and confidence,” says McSherry. “Which is more stylish than any clothing item out there.”
We love: These simple, classy Mephisto Belong sandals. “The clean lines are so chic, and they come in color choices,” says McSherry. Plus, they’re engineered to be super foot-friendly, with a shock absorber on the sole, Air Relax technology and sturdy treds. In slightly cooler weather, they’d look great with a light jean jacket.
Embrace a black turtleneck
“This is a timeless piece that’s been worn beautifully by pretty much every fashion icon over decades,” says Means. “A tailored, high-quality black turtleneck can instantly dress up casual pants, balance out a super fancy skirt or create a sleek monochromatic look when paired with a black bottom. It goes with absolutely anything—picture it with white jeans, the way Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis wore it! Of course, it’s also the best way to cover your neck, which makes many of us happy.”
We love: This Naked Cashmere sweater. “It’s absolutely ageless,” says Means. The cashmere makes it high-end and super soft, and the oversize cut is oh-so-comfy.
Upgrade your sweats
There are days when you need pure comfort—you’re running around, lazing around or a combo of the two. Sweats can make you feel schlumpy, and workout leggings don’t always look like you’re actually dressed, says McSherry. “A pair of simple, stretchy pants that feel like leggings are a savior. Plus, they’re ideal for travel, since they’re not constricting, don’t wrinkle and still look like you’re wearing grown-up clothes.”
We love: These high-waisted pull-up Lululemon pants that are made to move in. “The quality is great, they don’t bulk under your longer tops and they’re so comfortable,” says McSherry. “I swear, you’ll want to wear them every day.”