Fashion Dos By Decade

How to dress fabulously at 30, 40, 50 and 60

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In your 30s...

This is the time to experiment. Short, sheer, skintight--for you, nothing is out of bounds.


Kerry Washington (left) loves bold, dramatic prints.

Whimsy in your 30s

Mix prints, play with proportion, give texture a try. J.Crew wool top, $298;

Gisel Florez

Your 30s are the right age to try...

A trendy nail polish. Yves Saint Laurent nail lacquer in Jade Impérial, $25;

Bryan McCay

How 30-year-olds dress now

Today’s 30-year-olds let their moods dictate their choices, and the only rules are that there are no rules. (Left: Lauren Santo Domingo, founder of luxe e-retailer Moda Operandi.) 

Amy Sussman/Getty Images

How 30-year-olds dressed in the 1950s

Long on prim, short on individuality, this was not a time of self-expression in fashion (or anywhere else). Dresses were the norm, and they were generally fitted, belted and full skirted.

Condé Naste Archive/Corbis

In your 40s...

You're swamped by the great work-family wave. Clothes that are stylish and practical can help.


Gwyneth Paltrow (left) has made a uniform of skinny jeans and classic blazers.

John Kopaloff/Film Magic

Flexibility in your 40s

Say yes to classic styles; punctuate with brights. Lauren Ralph Lauren wool crepe blazer, $270;, and cotton top, $40, Echo polyester wrap, $48;

Gisel Florez

Your 40s are the right age to try...

Lash enhancers. Dior Diorshow Iconic Overcurl mascara, $29;

Bryan McCay

How 40-year-olds dress now

Forty-somethings want style and comfort that go from day to night. Gloves? Only if they’re fun—or it’s freezing. (Left: J.Crew president Jenna Lyons.)

Charles Eshelman/Filmmagic

How 40-year-olds dressed in the 1950s

Women adhered to strict rules, which included lots of fitted, tailored suiting. (Comfort was not a concern.) Hats? Expected of a lady. Gloves? De rigueur. 

Condé Naste Archive

In your 50s...

Your kids aren't little anymore. Time to sex it up, make some investments and add some edge.


French editor and global style consultant Carine Roitfed's look: Sleek skirts, silk button-downs, animal prints.

Mark Piasecki/Wireimage

Your 50s are the right age to try...

A skin illuminizer. Laura Mercier Bonne Mine Healthy Glow palette, $48;

Bryan McCay

Fashion Flashback: How 50-year-olds dress now

Buh-bye, dark and drab; there’s a new attitude in town. Today’s fifty-something is power dressing in bright colors with, yes, a slightly sexy vibe. (Here: designer Lisa Perry.)

Neil Rasmus/

How 50-year-olds dressed in the 1950s

At that age, women were officially deemed old and were therefore expected to keep their bodies shrouded. On them, bright colors were considered garish; loose hair was out of the question.


In your 60s...

You know who you are--and which body parts are holding up. Flatter the best, camouflage the rest.


Diane Keaton, a colorful character, lives her life in black and white.

Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

Classicism in your 60s

Invest in quality—and highlight your best feature. CH Carolina Herrera cotton shirtdress, $660; 212-744-2076.

Gisel Florez

Your 60s are the right age to try...

A signature fragrance. Balenciaga Paris eau de parfum, $95;

Bryan McCay

Fashion Flashback: How 60-year-olds dress now

Whether with sleek suiting or luxe loungewear, today’s styles offer polish and versatility. The hair? Wash and go. (Here: Hollywood powerhouse Sherry Lansing.)

Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

How 60-year-olds dressed in the 1950s

Styles were shapeless, colors were drab, and the choices were ridiculously limited. Hats kept that wash-and-set ’do in place.


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