Finding Your Style over Forty
If you’re in your forties, I’m sure you can look back to all your fashion themes. There was likely a retro and thrift clothing stage, perhaps a beach-bunny period, a utilitarian mommy time, and now.
What is now, for you? By the time you reach forty, you should have a fair idea of what your style actually is, instead of looking to trends for answers. For me (and this is my style, I’m not advocating it for anyone else), minimalist clothing in lots of denim and black, strategic bits of leather here and there, some flats, Jack Purcells and biker boots, and some military pieces all fit my everyday attire. And every time I deviate from it, I’m sorry.
Take, for instance, my most recent shopping excursion. I decided that, given that I have two weddings to attend in the next six months, a new cocktail-ish dress was in order. I went to Diane von Furstenberg, figuring that the price point (fairly reasonable) and the choices (versatile) fit the occasions. But what I came home with was a style departure.
It’s not that anything was wrong with the dress. A tight, black, fairly severe piece, it evoked ladies who lunch and Victoria Beckham (in her current classier incarnation, not Posh Spice). It looked good on me. But when I got it home and tried it on, I realized that I had been playing dress up in the store. I should have just tottered around in it then and there, gotten it out of my system, realized that there was no way I could wear any undergarments underneath it, and then gone with a better choice. Instead, I had to have my nine-year-old daughter tell me the dress didn’t work, haul the thing back to the store, and exchange it for what fits my style perfectly: an army green silk shirt wrap dress. Lesson learned.
I have friends who definitely have a wider style range than I. One good friend dresses like Anthropologie’s best customer, except her style is real and garnered from her life experience. In a week’s time, I might see her combine preppy, hippie, ethnic, and modernist elements into outfits that look perfectly fantastic on her. I stress the “on her” part, because if anyone else I know tried to pull this off, they’d look absolutely absurd. The fact that this friend is an artist only adds to her funky fashion cred.
And then there’s the friend with the completely simple and limited style. She can get away with wearing basic jeans, basic flats, perhaps a man’s style button down or one of those boxy, French striped t-shirts and rarely varying it. Why? Because she’s drop-dead beautiful, tall, and requires nothing to distract from her natural attractiveness. Really, anything else would be just gilding the lily. Lucky her.
I think one trick to style over forty is letting go of the past. Once you’re over a certain age, those vintage dresses you loved paired with cowboy boots just make you look silly and unkempt. Micro miniskirts are probably best left to girls of a micro age (it’s not the legs that are necessarily the problem here, it’s the skin. And fake tan doesn’t help). My friend terms the flouncy, babydollish fashion trends as being too “assey kissy boo boo” for over-forty bodies (I’m not sure what this means, but somehow it makes perfect sense to me).
Here’s some other helpful, if snarky, tips. Exercise wear (including a tennis dress) is not a style, it is work wear. Anything requiring pantyhose isn’t a style, either; it’s just work wear of a different sort. Those over-the-knee high-heeled boots don’t do anyone of any age any favors, unless you’re trolling for favors of a sexual nature. Nothing that has “Juicy” imprinted on it is anything other than a trend. And once you’re over forty, any extra flesh that Spanx compresses is guaranteed to pop out in an undesirable location; avoid outfits which require severe foundations at all costs.
Above all else, when solidifying your style, ignore the fashion magazines. The fashion industry does not sell style, it sells costumes which must be reinvented every six months. Perusing fashion magazines is for amusement purposes only; sometimes it leads to fashion distress. Like the other day, when I realized that, apparently, flared and bell-bottomed jeans are coming back into vogue. My style works with skinny, straight, or even bootcut jeans, but flares are a no go with my curvy legs; for some reason, flared jeans always make me think of the way a camel’s legs curve in and out in that ungainly way. Most unflattering.
So, stick to your fashion guns. Find what works, don’t deviate, don’t give in to stupid trends, and enter into your forties looking fabulous. And, most importantly, like yourself.