What to Wear in Your 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s

How to choose clothes that are chic and spot-on at every stage of your life

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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; jcrew.com.

Gisel Florez

#1: Embrace novelty

This romper (an all-in-one with shorts) is totally frivolous and deeply inappropriate for any work-related event. But perched on a barstool, with strappy heels? Go for it. Rachel Rachel Roy polyester romper, $119; macys.com. Prabal Gurung for Target crystal necklace, $20; target.com.

Gisel Florez

#2: Be intrepid about trends

Printed jeans are hot this season, so go ahead and have a fling. For maximum impact, pair with a top in a wild pop of color. Panty-line alert: The leg is super slim, and the fabric is weightless. Michael Michael Kors cotton pants, $125; bloomingdales.com.

Gisel Florez

#3: Play with accessories

At this life stage, more is more. Layer on some glittery gold and add sky-high heels (next slide)—the point is to have fun with fashion rather than invest for the long haul. Buy the things you love right now, wear them into the ground and then move on to something else next season. Simply Vera Vera Wang metal necklace, $80; kohls.com.

Gisel Florez

#4: Play with more accessories

VC Signature crochet sandals, $295; vincecamuto.com.

Gisel Florez

#5: Try boyish shapes

Aah, to be young, lithe and leggy. The shorter length and boxy shape of this shirtdress is perfect for you now on casual Fridays. Then you can wear it even more casually into your forties and beyond, perhaps as a beach cover-up.  Canvas Lands’ End cotton shirtdress, $88; 877-877-1963. 

Gisel Florez

#6: Try more boyish shapes

The cropped, collarless, zip-front jacket puts an amusing spin on a traditional blazer, while the shell makes a startling pattern play that’s just on the right side of wacky. Boss orange cotton blend jacket, $395; hugoboss.com. Joe Fresh cotton blend top, $16; joefresh.com for stores.

Gisel Florez

#7: Swap out your leather

The carpetbag design is slightly structured and somewhat serious but made less stuffy by this multihued stripe. Rafe straw purse, $295; bloomingdales.com.

Gisel Florez

#8: Add unexpected color

Pencil skirts are awfully flattering, but avoid anything vaguely corporate (or aging) by choosing a sunny cabana stripe. Talbots cotton and linen skirt, $99; talbots.com.

Gisel Florez

#9: Mix textures

Unlimited color and pattern? It’s now or never, and textural accessories create yet another dimension of interest. The platforms have a slightly Asian appeal (another strong theme this spring). Via Spiga leather wedges, $250; nordstrom.com

Gisel Florez

#10: Mix more textures

The pebbled bag is a striking emerald, declared the 2013 color of the year by Pantone, the global authority on color trends. Rebecca Minkoff stingray purse, $250; rebeccaminkoff.com.

Gisel Florez

#11: Dare to bare

Let us be clear: Your skin is young, lovely and elastic, so show it off in a big way. The pattern on this dress draws the eye to a trim waist, and the neon yellow stripes give it some exuberance. BCBGMaxazria silk blend dress, $268; bcbg​​.com

Gisel Florez

#12: Dare to bare more

The sheer shell can be worn under a jacket or, if you’re feeling fun and very fabulous, on its own with a black bra underneath. TT Collection silk top, $234; ttcollection.com. Sequin cord and metal necklace, $68; sequin-nyc.com.

Gisel Florez

#13: Weave in some woven

The bag (here) and sandal (next slide) make the most of this season’s love affair with all things ethnic. You should give it a whirl. You should give everything a whirl. Tommy Bahama seagrass tote, $95; tommybahama.com

Gisel Florez

#14: Weave in some more woven

Coach leather slingbacks, $228; coach.com.

Gisel Florez

#15 Invest in the right shape saver

Snug and skimpy call for a bodysuit with a plunging necklin. Cosabella bamboo-fiber teddy, $73; cosabella.com.


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Courtesy of Cosabella

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

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

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; bloomingdales.com, and cotton top, $40, macys.com. Echo polyester wrap, $48; echodesign.com.

Gisel Florez

Vote for versatility

Nothing beats the ease of a knit dress, and the longer length here won’t provide a peep show when you’re in and out of a car all day or chasing after your kids. Rachel Rachel Roy rayon blend dress, $79; macys.com. Coldwater Creek metal and resin necklace, $70; coldwatercreek.com.

Gisel Florez

#2: Vote for more versatility

The genius of this machine-washable blouse is in the styling: The faux wrap is actually stitched in place, so it will stay put all day long. The pretty cuff detail is a bonus. Anne Klein polyester blouse, $99; anneklein.com.

Gisel Florez

#3: Accent with color

Harried and overscheduled? A bright hue can wake up your mood as well as your wardrobe. Pairing two cuffs adds oomph in an instant (we know that’s all you have time for). Lands’ End metal bangles, $34 each; landsend.com

Gisel Florez

#4: Accent with more color

The classic styling of a satchel looks modern in this neon (it’s available in neutral colors as well), and though the price makes it a splurge, we feel you’ll have this bag for life. Kate Moss For Longchamp leather satchel, $1,215; longchamp.com.

Gisel Florez

#5: Break up with old jeans

’Tis the season for white denim, and the tux stripe is the right trend for you to try. These jeans are made with lots of stretch and a patented hidden-tummy-control construction—you can thank us later. Word to the wise: Buy a size smaller to get the fit just right. NYDJ cotton blend jeans, $130; nydj.com.

Gisel Florez

#6: Keep shoes casual

Oversize gingham in red and white would look campy (and show every scuff), but in navy it’s a chic option. Kate Spade New York gingham wedges, $258; katespade.com.

Gisel Florez

#7: Put a twist on a classic

The peacoat is back. In this flashy version, the dark lower third works its color-blocking magic by hiding a tummy bulge or wider hips, if that’s of any interest. Wear this over something narrow, such as pants or a pencil skirt. CH Carolina Herrera cotton jacket, $645; 212-744-2076.

Gisel Florez

#8: Be a stripe tease

Don’t fear horizontal lines. The dress is roomy enough that it won’t cling (though if you’re short, skip it). Twenty Tees rayon blend dress, $158; twentytees.com. Target plastic sunglasses, $17; target.com.

Gisel Florez

#9: Be more of a stripe tease

This slightly A-line skirt is flattering to all. Pair it with a T-shirt and thongs for day; dress it up with a white blouse and kitten heels. Anne Klein polyester skirt, $129; anneklein.com.

Gisel Florez

#10: Don't be dull

When a top designer (Milly) collaborates with a cult favorite (Sperry), here’s what happens: style and comfort in one chic package. Milly For Sperry Top-Sider canvas espadrilles, $100; millyny.com.

Gisel Florez

#11: Update your basics

You’ve worn chinos in black and khaki for years, so now opt for a youthful pop of something bright in a slightly-roomier-but-still-narrow leg. The cotton blend is practical: shrink and wrinkle free. L.L.Bean Signature cotton blend pants, $79; llbeansignature.com.

Gisel Florez

#12: Invest in a good bag

The bucket will hold every little thing and then some. The navy hue is a lively alternative to black that will hide all those random smudges. Coach leather purse, $398; coach.com.

Gisel Florez

#13: Find elongating toppers

This one is grab-and-go chic. Black Label By Chico’srayon blend cardigan, $119; chicos.com.

Gisel Florez

#14 Invest in the right shape saver

Wear the whisper-thin Power Panty under all. Vanity Fair nylon blend briefs, $10; barenecessities.com.


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Courtesy of Vanity Fair

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

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

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

Sexiness in your 50s

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

Gisel Florez

#1: Step away from dainty

Only a style-savvy, self-assured woman could make a rocker bracelet like this look posh, not punk. Yes, you. Rebecca Minkoff leather and pavé cuff, $128; bloomingdales.com.

Gisel Florez

#2: Don't overlook leather

Everyone, and we mean everyone, should invest in a shapely, chic leather jacket. This color flatters skin tone, and the open neckline shows it off. Donna Karan New York leather jacket, $3,495; dkny.com for stores. 

Gisel Florez

#3: Go for the gold

After a few seasons of square heels and rounded toes, designers are shifting back to pointy. Wear gold now and with all your whites and tans this summer. Kate Spade New York patent leather flats, $258; katespade.com.

Gisel Florez

#4: Spend on core items

Now is the time to buy well-made, highly designed pieces that can be worn a multitude of ways. Cases in point: the dress and blouse (next slide) are ruched at the midsection and in colors and luxe fabrics you won’t tire of. Helmutsilk blend dress, $345; bloomingdales.com.

Gisel Florez

#5: Spend on more core items

This blouse is also ruched at the midsection and in a color and luxe fabric you won’t tire of. Donna Karan New York silk blouse, $895; dkny.com for stores.

Gisel Florez

#6: Skimp on the sly

Paired with the right clothes (anything on these pages), this clutch will look like real leather even though it’s faux. We won’t tell. Liz Claiborne faux-leather clutch, $20; jcp.com.

Gisel Florez

#7: Don't forget the drama

If you’re still experimenting with novelty sunglasses (cat-eye, etc.), stop it. We declare the hexagon shape super chic, and we love the decidedly retro vibe. Warby parker acetate sunglasses, $95; warbyparker.com

Gisel Florez

#8: Throw caution to the wind

From the department of  “You only live once”: Pair these with a black knit top for day; add heels for nighttime glamour. The only thing missing is the cocktail. Chico’s cotton blend jeans, $99; chicos.com.

Gisel Florez

#9: Acquire some iconic bags

The shape isn’t new, but the materials of this version (rubber and leather) make it unique. Furla PVC and leather purse, $428; furla.com.

Gisel Florez

#10: Use fit and flare wisely

A good dress is hard to find, so look right here (left). It’s deceptively structured—seemingly simple but actually engineered to lend control in all the right places. Zspoke Zac Posen jersey dress, $490; neimanmarcus.com

Gisel Florez

#11: Use fit and flare more wisely

The peplum top, so popular last season, is trendy again, and for good reason: It’s sleekly feminine and tummy concealing. Eileen Fisher silk georgette top, $158; eileenfisher.com. C. Wonder stone and gold-plated necklace, $98; cwonder.com.

Gisel Florez

#12: Replace you tote

Yours may last forever, but it looks its age. We suggest this one: beautifully designed, perfectly sized, deliciously soft. Come on, it’s time to treat yourself. Furla For Saks Fifth Avenue leather shopper, $745; saks​fifthavenue.com.

Gisel Florez

#13: Resist staid pumps

You own all the classic shoes you need. Add an edgy surprise. Vince Camuto leather and lacquered-cork sandals, $118; vincecamuto.com.

Gisel Florez

#14: Ditch your trench

Instead of the same old, same old, choose something singular and, dare we say, artistic. This oversize duster will look great over everything from sheaths to jeans. Tracy Reeselinen coat, $448; amazon.com.

Gisel Florez

#15 Invest in the right shape saver

Laws of physics, meet the breast-boosting bra. Spanx custom-fit foam balconette, $68; spanx.com.


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Courtesy of Spanx

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

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

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/BFANYC.com

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

#1: Enjoy soft fabrics

The narrow folds of this skirt create a textural look and keep bulk at bay (you say pleats aren’t for you? Then follow your instinct). Choose a blouse to keep top and bottom similarly voluminous; a formfitting upper will make you look bottom heavy. Coldwater Creek polyester blend skirt, $100; coldwater​creek.com.

Gisel Florez

#2: Embrace the ease of pants

The palazzo style is plenty comfortable, and this striped take is more polished than, say, a floral print. Worn with flats, it’s a smart evening look (and forgiving enough that you can eat your dessert and his, too). Coldwater Creek polyester blend trousers, $80; coldwatercreek.com.

Gisel Florez

#3: Substitute a sweater

This cardigan, an homage to Chanel, looks just as rich as the famous tweed jacket but can be had at a fraction of the cost. The lack of a lining will keep you cool and leave you feeling less constricted. Load up the pearls and make Coco proud. Ann Taylorcotton jacket,$98; anntaylor.com. R.J. Graziano glass-bead necklaces, $55 to $75 each; rjgraziano.com for stores.

Gisel Florez

#4: Free your feet

Let the young ones flop around in rubber thongs; you’ve earned something snazzier (love the feminine details). Simply Vera Vera Wang synthetic sandals, $28; kohls.com.

Gisel Florez

#5: Retire your old-lady bag

We know: If you buy another purse, it’ll just hang in your closet. But ask yourself, Is your current, long-beloved bag aging you faster than fine lines ever could? This one (lighter than it looks) has stellar hardware and is versatile (carry it by the handle or over your shoulder). BCBGMaxazria leather satchel, $428; amazon.com.

Gisel Florez

#6: If you need room, get room

The allover print hides quite a lot, if that’s your issue, but this also looks great when cinched with a wide belt (two inches is ideal). The fabric is divine—so soft and silky—that you’ll wear the blouse repeatedly. For the slenderest silhouette, try with slim, ankle-length pants; for fun, choose a colorful shoe. Lafayette 148 Nysilk blouse, $728; lafayette148ny.com.

Gisel Florez

#7: Say yes to a statement coat

Enjoy an Audrey Hepburn moment in this Parisian-inspired beauty. And why would you suffer buyer’s remorse? You’ll wear this three seasons out of four. Kate Spade New York cotton and silk coat,$628; katespade.com.

Gisel Florez

#8: Try the new florals

No need to splash blooms across your body when a trendy accessory will let you do more with less. Wear either the cuff or the shoe (next slide) but never both at the same time. H&M plastic cuff, $15; hm.com for stores.

Gisel Florez

#9: Try more of the new florals

Talbots patent leather pumps, $149; talbots.com.

Gisel Florez

#10: Add one pretty dress

Got great arms? This shows ’em. Arms not your favorite feature? Then top the dress with a jacket or cardigan. We’re mad for the dots and appreciate the lack of frump here. If you’ve RSVP’d to a spring or summer fête, you’re set. Strenesse Gabriele Strehle silk dress, $820; Anik NY, 212-249-2417.

Gisel Florez

#11: Bag the extraordinary

You already own basics and classics, and if you take home one more sensible tote, you’ll scream. Well, you don’t own one of these, and it will make you happier than it should, we promise. Kate Spade New York rubber basket, $198; katespade.com.

Gisel Florez

#13 Invest in the right shape saver

Avoid overheating with these lightweight firming bike shorts. Commando microfiber shorts, $58; wearcommando.com.


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Courtesy of Commando

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

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

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.


First Published Thu, 2013-03-07 17:43

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