Everywhere we look, we’re bombarded with slick advertisements featuring stick-thin, adolescent models effortlessly rocking this season’s sexiest fashion trends. For women in their thirties, forties, and beyond who spend most days struggling just to keep their metabolism going, wearing micro-minis, sky-high heels, and teeny bikinis can feel like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Fortunately, according to Sarah Logan, buyer for GUESS by Marciano, “there has been a recent and welcome shift in the world of fashion: no longer is it focusing on trend-obsessed twentysomething girls to define and inspire what is fashionable; instead, there is a new and refreshing movement that embraces the class and confidence of women thirty-five and over to define what is stylish.” With that said, an outfit that makes one woman shine may do another a great disservice, especially when trends that fashion experts consider age-sensitive are involved. So when it comes to the following types of apparel, how old is too old?
When Are Women Too Old to Wear …
When it comes to wearing short skirts, the general consensus among fashion aficionados is that the condition of a woman’s knees should determine her hemline. Former Marie Claire editor Liz Jones wrote in the Daily Mail in August 2008, “When I wrote about how old is too old for a miniskirt a decade ago, the cut-off point was 25. But women now look better for longer, so we can show off our thighs into the cusp of middle age if our knees have stood the test of time.” Logan agrees, adding, “If worn with opaque tights, women of any age can wear miniskirts. Footwear choice also plays a role here. Paired with flat boots, a miniskirt can be chic and understated. If a lady decides to bare her legs and wear stilettos with her miniskirt, she should have amazing legs and be prepared for attention.”
Logan declares, “If a woman works tirelessly to get her body in bikini shape, then age should not matter.” Case in point: Dame Helen Mirren, who, just a few days shy of her sixty-third birthday in 2008, appeared in publications around the world baring enviable curves in a red bikini in southern Italy. Logan also notes that pairing a particularly revealing bikini with “the right sheer cover-up or wrap” makes all the difference between trashy and tasteful: “No fashion-conscious woman should wear a tiny bikini without an additional layer of clothing unless she is sunbathing or swimming.”
A Midriff-baring Top?
Crop tops can be especially tricky to pull off, although Logan concedes, “Midriff-baring tops can be highly appropriate and chic when worn with a high-waisted short or jean so that the belly is not exposed … Crop tops worn with high-waisted bottoms are very trendy at the moment, and when they are layered with a tank, they can be a very forward and confident look for an older woman.” As with miniskirts, however, the wearer’s particular body shape should be the deciding factor. In other words, a forty-year-old woman with six-pack abs might look sexy showing off her hard work, but she’s likely the exception, not the rule.
Logan emphatically declares, “Women are never too old for heels!” But that doesn’t mean wearing five-inch stilettos is acceptable at any age—as Jones explained in the Daily Mail, “Unless you are the editor of French Vogue, you are best avoiding bondage shoes and lots of constricting straps when you are the wrong side of 50. Let’s face it, your fingers aren’t as nimble as they once were at doing things up, and those tiny holes on the straps are miles from your bi-focals. Far better are slim platforms, flattering thin ankle straps, or pointy courts in bright colours (but avoid navy colours unless you want to look 100 years old).”
“Leather pants can be extremely chic when paired with the right outfit,” Logan remarks. “I recently saw a woman in her sixties wearing leather pants with a tunic blouse, and she looked stunning.” Even leather biker jackets, Jones claims, can be hot on older women; as she reported in the Daily Mail, “No, seriously, a nipped-in leather jacket can look fabulous at any age—just check out Joan Rivers, 75. My friend Caroline, who is 65, wears hers with everything, and looks great. Best not to team it with an old-lady perm, though.”
If You’ve Got It, Flaunt It
In September 2008, legendary 1960s model and longtime fashion icon Twiggy sat down with the Daily Mail to promote her new book, A Guide to Looking and Feeling Fabulous Over Forty , a motivational guide for women nearing and in middle age that gives them ideas for remaining on-trend and flattering their figures. “I don’t understand people getting depressed about growing older,” Twiggy said. “There is nothing you can do about it, so you might as well embrace it … [And aging] doesn’t mean giving up on style and individuality.” Logan concurs, stating, “I believe women get sexier and more fashionable with age, so no clothing item is off-limits if it is worn with confidence and class.” Making careful fashion choices and knowing what styles best complement our body type are essential as we get older, but with a little forethought, it’s never too late to dress to impress.