Women Over-40: Discovering Your Fashion Style

My fashion spirit animal, Kate Beckinsale/Credit: WENN

Okay, my fellow women over-40, as I reflect on how best to guide you, give you confidence, or just provide some fresh ideas, I believe there are a few questions that are required:

Do you know what your fashion style(s) is (are)? Do you even have a fashion style? Did you throw in the towel some time back, maybe since becoming a mom or since your work schedule or life in general got so hectic? Are you off-track due to a crisis beyond your control?

Laura Dern has NOT lost her way: perfection!/Credit: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

It’s not too late to get yourself back on the fashion train!

We have to be real, of course: you have a budget, you have a finite amount of time to shop, you may not have the body you wish you had, and/or you may have some specific areas that haven’t held up the way you might have liked.

I’ll be blunt: don’t let those be an excuse to continue to feel bad about yourself or pretend that you don’t care about your appearance.

It feels like society is sending us mixed signals about our appearance these days: youth and appearance are still highly valued, but at the same time caring about ones appearance is perceived as shallow and unempowering. I say: “What a bunch of poppycock”!

I’m here to tell you: it is 100% okay to want to look your best! It is completely fine to want to feel pretty! Or maybe you want to look sophisticated or edgy or sexy or distinct or put-together or some combination of those things.

(Of course, it’s equally fine to go au naturel, but you don’t need my help for that.)

So, please know that I celebrate your desire to spend some time on your outward appearance.

Not at the expense of your internal peace of mind, sense of purpose, or overall emotional and psychological health; rather, as an extension of who you are.

The always captivating, effortless Sade - I’m a big fan of her hybrid of edgy, sleek, chic, and sexy

Which Fashion Type Are You?

(You Don’t Want to Be #8! But If You Are, I’m Here to Help!)

Broadly-speaking, there are a finite number of overall fashion styles that exist, although there is a spectrum within those styles.

For those who feel lost or the need to re-evaluate their style particularly at this point in their lives, let’s take a closer look at the fashion catagories that exist as guidance for your personal style target:

(1) Glamorous, sleek, classic. This is that old Hollywood feel that Grace Kelly personified so effortlessly. Cate Blanchett, Amy Adams, and Nicole Kidman generally fall into this category today.

This woman is probably the most “put-together” of any of the types.

Her shoes, jewelry, and purse aren’t necessarily showy, but look impeccable. She is likely to be dressed a little nicer than most people in the room and she’s comfortable in that knowledge, wearing it with ease and discretion rather than smugness.

Personally, I admire this look, but much of it is a little too formal for my lifestyle and personality.

Cate Blanchett can pull off many designer looks, often capturing the feel of Old Hollywood glam

(2) Girl next door. I’m going to be a bit broad with this category because I think it can fall in a few different directions when played out in a practical way.

Jennifer Garner, Reese Witherspoon, and Rashida Jones come to mind as the prototypical examples of this type. They dress comfortably in their daily lives but look equally relaxed when wearing something formal, more tailored, or slinky.

Miranda Lambert falls into this category, too, but is definitely on the more casual end of the spectrum. She’s more likely to be found in boots and great jeans, but cleans up beautifully.

I suspect this category suits a lot of women out there.

It feels attainable, realistic for a lot of lifestyles, but also has a little extra space for something sexy or unexpected every once in awhile.

Rashida Jones ups the “girl next door” game with a cozy grey sweater, gorgeous bob, and smoky eye

(3) Androgynous, sculptural, minimalist. Katharine Hepburn pulled off this look (and Diane Keaton still does) in a very feminine way. Simple lines, pants, hats, and avoidance of most prints.

Tilda Swinton and Grace Jones take this look further to sometimes mesmerizing effect and, let’s be honest, sometimes crazytown. Strong bone structure helps!

Interestingly, Grace Jones wears the look rather loudly while Tilda Swinton typically has a serenity to her overall appearance. Either way, they wear the look SO successfully!

Overall, there is a simplicity to this look but it has the potential to look quite dramatic.

Goddess of androgyny, Tilda Swinton/Credit: Pascal Le Segretain/Photo: Getty

(4) Va-va-va-voom, sex-appeal. Jennifer Lopez is so obvious that it’s almost embarrassing to provide such an unnecessary example. Halle Berry wears this look exceptionally well and Sophia Loren is STILL showing us how it’s done!

Basically all the rules of being over-40 get tossed out with this look. Too much leg, too much cleavage, lots of back, so much skin.

Still, it can be toned down and minimized to be a successful type for the right women. I think most of us can agree that this type of woman needs to tread carefully post-40.

Halle Berry gets “sexy” right/Credit: Jason Merritt, Getty Images North America

(5) Edgy fashionista. This category skews rock ‘n roll, black, and a little glam a la Debbie Harry OR goes rather quirky, even whimsical like Paloma Faith. Gwen Stefani sits somewhere in between those two examples.

There is always an element of chic to this type (whether it’s a monochromatic black palette, cool shoes, or impeccable hair and red lip) but it has some grittier (ripped jeans, one-of-a-kind jacket) or unusual (prints, retro make-up, offbeat jewelry) influences as well to distinguish it.

Black features prominently with punchy details for edgy fashionista Gwen Stefani/Credit: Fameflynet

(6) Boho. Technically the looseness of the flapper era might be considered early boho, but I’m going to fast-forward to the obvious reference point of the late 60s into the 70s.

Stevie Nicks wore this style very distinctly in her 20s and is still rocking it in 2017.

Though a little under 40, Sienna Miller exemplifies this type today. Sheryl Crow typically falls into this category, too.

Coachella has kept this style alive and well! Unstructured, easiness, flowing skirts, prints, hats and accessories are all a part of this look.

I think it can go frumpy very quickly for a women over-40 if she goes too unstructured and lets the frequently lighter color palette wash her out. I also think it can look spectacular for the over-40 woman if done right.

Sheryl Crow looks lovely in the hallmark of boho, flowy hair and dress/Credit: Bauer Griffin

(7) Hybrid. I believe that most women’s style does fall into one category the majority of the time, but there are those who continuously vacillate between two (or more) of these catagories.

Kate Beckinsale is a great example. She runs sexy, but is equally likely to be found in something glamorous or edgy. You can’t pin her down because she inhabits all of those styles.

Vanessa Williams and Elizabeth Taylor fall into this category, too. Vanessa Williams runs structured, glamorous, and sexy. Elizabeth Taylor went through her caftan, boho-esque phase, but obviously was often sexy and exuded old Hollywood glam throughout her lifetime.

Vanessa Williams looking fresh and crisp in white while making a statement with a bold belt

I fall in this category as well: Lilly Pulitzer is a mainstay in my wardrobe, but I’m a fan of long monochromatic goddess style dresses, own too many black dresses, enjoy the occasional embellishment, and like slightly slouchy cashmere sweaters with simple pants. I can run edgy to classic to glamorous to understated elegance.

My B-cup and classic bone structure make it almost impossible for me to look va-va-va-voom. That is a blessing and a curse. I can get away with a very deep v-neck that a larger chested 40-something couldn’t, but other dresses require a chest that I simply don’t have. (For the record: some days I don’t get out of my pjs!)

(8) No type. You are lost! Or you are in a rut. Or you are in the “I’m wearing a t-shirt and shorts because I have a small child who might pee or poop or get dirt all over me. I only wear washable crappy clothes right now.”

I was there until my son was about 5 or 6! Please see types (1) through (7) to find inspiration to get you out of type (8)! No judgment, but it’s time to at least start to pull yourself out of (8) because no one deserves to be stuck there for long.

If you have seriously considered wearing THIS outside of your home, you are #8!

Very important: if you are in (8) because of your size, please listen to me: you deserve to be (1) through (7), too! I implore you! Do not let your size discourage you from exploring (or re-visiting) your style.

EVERYONE DESERVES TO FEEL BEAUTIFUL!

I’m not going to lie to you: yes, it might be more difficult to find the right clothes or you might be somewhat dissatisfied with how you look, but please try to work through that.

You deserve the freedom to explore your individuality and expression through fashion regardless of age and regardless of size!

If you are patient and diligent, you can find clothes and accessories that will suit who you are. I have helped women before. It can be done! I promise.

Melissa McCarthy proves you can be gorgeous at ANY size!/Credit: Frazer Harrison, Getty Images

I’ll be working on exploring specific looks for each of these types in my next story. In the meantime, give some thought to what style you are or wish to be.

Obviously, it’s normal to have some variety to your wardrobe, so you can consider your style within the context of: work, running errands, out with friends, attending an event, and/or date night. It’s possible that you are one style for your work environment and another for the rest of your life.

Maybe you are ready to project a different image at work or in your everyday life. Just because you are one style today doesn’t mean that you can’t evolve. Or perhaps this story sparks an interest in simply tweaking your current style/wardrobe.

As always, my main goal is to discourage you from believing that mediocre, boring, and sloppy are good enough for you. You deserve better! It is possible to feel pretty…or beautiful…or unique…or edgy…or chic at any age and at any size!

If you liked this story, you might also enjoy:

Thank you for reading this story

I know you are busy and have lots of ways you could be spending your time. You using your time to read my work means the world to me — my sincerest thanks!

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music, travel, fashion, & special finds through the lens of my Southern upbringing during the 80s alternative heydey

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Bonnie Barton

Bonnie Barton

Queen of mixtapes. Lover of music, travel, and fashion. Authentic sharer of life lessons and dating foibles.

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