3 Reasons 'Dress Your Age' Deserves Banishment From Fashion Discourse

We've all heard the supposed rules of fashion: no white after Labor Day, wearing only one pattern at a time, and the age-old decree to "dress your age." What does "dress your age" actually mean, though? When we were little, it meant cartoon T-shirts and Velcro sneakers. We were allowed to run around with holes in our jeans (not as a fashion statement) and wear mismatched clothes, but as adults, the rules are more constricting.


While the fashion blog Fabulous Over 40 states that "style is ageless," it suggests that women over 40 shouldn't wear miniskirts or show too much cleavage. Another blog, Colorli, posits that a low neckline worn by those over 30 "creates a negative impression with just about anyone" and that shimmery or bedazzled clothes are a no-no for this age group and above. But why? Who makes the rules on what is age-appropriate? We believe you make your own rules when it comes to fashion, and we'll tell you why. Besides, telling people what not to wear has been long outdated (no matter what Clinton Kelly used to say on his makeover TV series).

Telling people to stop dressing 'younger' is ageist

As we age, we're somehow faced with more constrictions when it comes to our clothes when it should be the complete opposite. Telling people older than 30 to stay away from cleavage-bearing clothes and short hemlines inherently suggests that our sexuality wanes as we get older. We're led to believe that we need to look prim and proper — whatever that means — in order to be taken seriously. However, we shouldn't let our clothes dictate what people think of us, nor should we care. In fact, psychologist and epidemiologist Dr. Becca Levy explained to The New York Times that ageism can even affect one's physical and cognitive health, including a heightened chance to develop Alzheimer's disease or heart conditions.


What's more, being labeled as "too old" to wear certain clothing perpetuates the harmful stereotype that people of a certain age need to fade into the background quietly. "A career as a stylist has taught me that women feel pressure to dress in an 'age-appropriate way' throughout their lifetime. When we're young we want to be perceived as cool, stylish, and older; as we age we don't want to become invisible, we want to be seen," founder of the Australian Style Institute Lauren De Bartolo told the Fashion Journal. If you want to wear rhinestones and shine bright like the star that you are, defy the rules and dress your personality, not your age.

Dressing your age limits you from trying fun trends

Trying different styles is a fun way to spice up our wardrobes, but being told to "dress our age" can limit what we can wear if we take it to heart. Take the neoncore and Barbiecore looks that have been taking over the fashion world. If you're told that wearing bright pink is just for the younger crowd — and you listen — you'll miss out on fun fashion, but you don't have to. TikToker @studiomucci, for instance, regularly rocks colorful garments and accessories, such as rainbow-colored braids and a pink babydoll dress. "I'm 40 and someone recently told me that I didn't dress my age ... What does a 40-year-old dress like? I'm 40 and this is how I dress and this is how I look. Therefore, I look my age," the user wrote via in-video captions.


Celebs over the age of 40, such as Jennifer Lopez and Sofia Vergara, have rocked crop tops, so why can't you? We bet they didn't think they were too old to wear tiny tees. Lopez has even bared it all on Instagram in sexy blue lingerie. While many praised her, one responded, "You a grown a** woman with kids what you trying to do." A fan replied, "It's funny how people [are] angry at her because of her bikini posts and expecting [her to] act her age?? Act how, old and decrepit??? This is a healthy beautiful woman." As far as we're concerned, J.Lo can do no wrong when it comes to fashion over 40, and we were happy to see many supportive comments.

Your style evolves over time — and age shouldn't dictate what you wear

Sure, you may not wear the same clothes you wore in your younger years, but just like fashion trends, your style is constantly in flux. Perhaps you loved wearing all black as a teen but now like bright colors, or maybe you rocked oversized floral prints in your 20s but prefer looks with more structure as of late. If you want to dress more conservatively as you get older, there's certainly nothing wrong with that. However, you may feel more confident with age and, therefore, choose more daring fashion choices. Or perhaps your body has changed and you want to show off your curves or toned arms. Don't let so-called rules stop you from your personal fashion revolution.


"I don't think a number defines your age. Your lifestyle and energy do. I've met many women in their 50s who are in amazing shape and can pretty much pull off any outfit. What's appropriate for one person can be very different for another," designer Marissa Webb told Harper's Bazaar, though we'd like to add that your fitness level should never determine whether you experiment or not. Another designer, Veronica Swanson Beard, added, "Dressing your age means feeling comfortable in your own skin and working with what you've got." 

So, if you want to wear leather pants or a bodycon dress, choose what makes you happy — and own whatever style does just that no matter your age.