Why I don’t believe in “age-appropriate” dressing

why you should wear what you want

This week a clickbait article from 2014 somehow managed to revive itself and start doing the rounds on Facebook. You might have seen it.

I’m not going to link to the article here because it was very obviously clickbait, and I’m not a big fan of the whole “say something outrageous just to get attention” thing, but the gist of it was that once a woman turns 30, she should essentially make herself invisible, by eliminating anything the author of the article deemed “too young”. Women over 30 shouldn’t wear crop tops, for instance. They shouldn’t wear hoop earrings. They shouldn’t wear oversized sunglasses (SAY WHAT?).

Now, I almost didn’t bother even mentioning this, because, honestly, it’s just so ridiculous, isn’t it? The idea that a certain item of clothing can be totally acceptable when you’re 29, but suddenly shocking the second you hit 30 is something I’d like to think no one in their right mind would subscribe to – but, sadly, I know that’s not the case. I can think of plenty of times when friends have asked me if I think they’re “too old” to wear a certain item: in fact, just a few weeks ago a friend of mine posted a picture of a pair of shoes on Facebook, asking exactly that. I was absolutely dismayed to see how many people answered her question by saying, “Yes, you’re too old for them,” or “If you have to ask…” How rude, and unnecessary! And how ON EARTH can someone be “too old” for a pair of shoes?!

The fact is, people DO think this way. I can also think of countless times when I’ve heard people (mostly older people, interestingly enough…) tut-tut over the idea of an “older” woman having long hair. “It’s just so awful!” someone told me recently. “You see them from the back and think, ‘Oh, there’s a young woman with lovely long hair!” and then she turns round and you see this old face – yuck!”

why I refuse to dress appropriately for my age

Honestly, I think that’s a horrible thing to say about someone, and every time I hear people say it, I have to struggle to suppress that little inner voice that always pipes up to tell me that maybe it’s time I cut off my OWN long hair: because surely people will be saying the same thing about me?

I’m not going to, though. The fact is, I like my long hair – and I’m going to keep wearing it like that until such a time that I DON’T like it any more. If other people think it’s “inappropriate”, well, I guess that’s their problem – it’s not like it’s harming them, after all, and I happen to disagree that long hair looks bad on women over 30, or that it ages them: in fact, I think it can often make someone seem younger. You might agree or disagree with that, but at the end of the day, it comes down to personal taste – and no one has the right to dictate what someone else should like or wear.

That’s why it makes me really sad to read articles like the one I’m referring to here. These lists of silly “rules” only serve to reinforce our society’s strange idea that older women should be invisible, and to shame those who aren’t. Going by the “rules” laid out in the article, for instance, I should be feeling really bad about all those over-sized sunglasses I own, but what a strange thing to try to make someone feel bad about! Isn’t life hard enough sometimes, without giving ourselves even more things to feel guilty or ashamed about? And what does it really matter if someone a few days past 30 decides to wear a pair of hoop earnings, anyway?

It’s particularly sad to me, because I feel like it was only when I turned 30 that I gained the confidence to be able to wear what I want. It was only then that I started to discover my style, and to really enjoy fashion – which had previously always been a source of some anxiety to me, as I tried my best to “fit in” with everyone else, and never quite managed it. It seems a shame that I only really discovered the joy of fashion at the exact moment I should have been giving it up for good – throwing away all of the fun clothes I was starting to buy, and exchanging them for …. I don’t know: beige trouser suits? “Slacks?” What ARE women over 30 supposed to wear, anyway?

Well, I’ll tell you what I think women over 30 should wear: whatever they like. Because, seriously guys, life is way, WAY too short to be worrying about this kind of thing: don’t you think?


  • It amazes me that there are people who would say things like that to someone and in such a rude way. Maybe you don’t agree with what they’re wearing but if you see that person truly enjoying their long hair/sunglasses/pastel hair (whatever floats THEIR boat) why do you have to be nasty to them and say something “but you’re aware that you favourite thing makes you look awful”? I just don’t see the point of such negativity.

    • Me neither… I occasionally get comments on my other blog from people telling me they don’t like my outfit, or don’t think it suits me, and I always wonder what they feel the point of their comment is? I know they’d defend it by saying they’re entitled to their opinion, which is obviously true, but I think you have to ask yourself whether your opinion is truly going to help someone, or if it’ll just hurt them. If I’ve worn something and taken a photo of it, I obviously liked it and felt happy in it – why spoil that by telling me that YOU don’t think I looked good in it?

  • I turned 55 in March. I still love fashion, beauty, clothing, and I’m still in shape and have taken good care of my skin. People,are always quick to judge, and people like to think if you care about these things, it means you’re shallow. I cut off my long hair last year to a pixie. While it looked cute, it wasn’t me. I missed being able to do different thinks with my hair and I’m in the process of growing it back out. I don’t wear everything I did when I was 20 because my taste has changed and some it doesn’t look good on me anymore. My husband would still like me to wear cut off shorts and tube tops, but he’s delusional. I wear what I feel good in and what looks good on me. These people making these stupid rules will be my age or older, if they’re lucky, faster than they can imagine. Thanks for your post.

  • I fully agree with you and the comments above. I am in my mid fifties too and enjoy dressing as I please. I find more and more that I am choosing to wear what I like and what I feel suits me regardless of what is on trend or what others say is appropriate. I hate it when certain on trend colours or styles dominate the stores but the great thing about buying online especially is the amount of choice we now have. I feel there is more diversity than before in the way people are dressing and that’s great.
    I have always had below shoulder length hair then had it short in my forties for a few years. At fifty I grew it long again as that just feels more me. Life is too short not to wear what makes us happy.

  • Most stylish woman I ever knew was an older woman, a work colleague at the time. She had Audrey-Hepburn-in-her-heyday levels of poise and style. She was 60 and she could capture the attention of everyone in the room (especially the men) just by entering it. She had long, bright white/faded blonde hair that she would either plait or wear down, and always worse immaculate pencil skirts with shirts and heels. She also had a wicked sense of humour, a quick wit, and was a fundamentally kind person.

    Everytime I see the article you’re talking about I think about her, and then think ‘nah’. Life would be SO BORING if we all turned into drones after 30. Isn’t fashion supposed to be fun at the very least? I mean, Iris Apfel has been rocking fashion for decades.

  • I, think older women in their
    late 60′
    Can still be fashion conscious. I know i am. Long hair never look good on me..but shoulder length hair on some women is attractive, being a haidresser, I feel u cut cut hair to flatter the face…not those who judge
    The length. As far a fashion, wear what looks good on on..I wear shorts for my pleasure! A attractive older woman appears to have style and grace in whatever she wears.

  • You should wear clothes and your hair in a way that makes YOU happy. Nothing ages a person more than unhappiness. If you can’t be yourself, who can do it for you? I’m in my sixties and am grateful to be able to express myself every day. One of the many women in Seth Cohen’s “Advanced Style” documentary said something about her body being the armature. That idea gives a basis for amazing creativity and happiness.

  • You are so right! One should never listen to people, who are too coward to wear interesting clothes themselves and that’s why try to make others feel uncomfortable in nice bight clothes.
    I have never been wearing what the other people of my age used to wear; didn’t want to conform to “teenage rules”, “young adult rules”, “40+ rules” and so on. And often got compliments to my appearance,- people used to guess, that I was much younger, than I actually was. And if you are slim and have long hair at 41, and young men say: “You must be 29, aren’t you?” – then it means, that you are doing all right!

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