Best Before: 40/

Most clothes available today seem to be made for young people. There are “old” people shops, but they are either the really, really high end boutiques or the “I’m-old-and-I’ve-given-up-all-hope-of-looking-good-just-give-me-something-to-cover-most-of-these-lumps-and-wrinkles” shops like Northern Reflections or Tabi International.

Maybe it’s always been like this and I’m just noticing because I’m old not that young anymore. The problem is I still like a lot of the fun, flattering stuff designed for the under forty crowd. Even if I could afford clothes from the ultra-chic high-end boutiques, nothing there appeals to me. It’s boring and looks like if you’re not tall, slat-shaped and don’t have a honey-blond bob, you wouldn’t be able to pull it off anyway. (This is where my new friend, Julia, the needle witch, steps in and says, “Hey! You should sew your own clothes – problem solved. Riiiiiiight)

I don’t want to dress like my daughter, or like Cher, but I do still feel 35ish and want to dress 35ish. What does that mean? I’m not sure, but I’ve made this handy table listing things I think people over 40 definitely shouldn’t be wearing and a list of things I’m in a quandary about.

In the interests of simplification, we will assume that the over-40s in question are reasonably well-maintained and want to look fashionable without looking like they’re trying too hard (TTH); and that anything that just doesn’t look good on anyone doesn’t need to be considered.  It would be interesting to compare the opinions of the under-40s to those of the over-40s on this. 

Not to be worn by over-40s?

Can these be worn by over-40s?



Black hair

Spiked hair (short)

Pink, blue, green or other coloured hair bits

Beach hair

Hair bands or other large hair accessories

Platinum blond hair

Pig tails or braids

Just f***ed-look messy hair

Long hair

Big costume jewelry

Exposed midriffs

Tight t-shirts and tops

Exposed butt-crack

Spaghetti straps

Plastic  jewelry


Skirts or shorts more than 1 inch above the knee

Low-rider jeans

Those new tent dresses & tops that are everywhere & look like maternity clothes

Funky shoes (Are there any shoes that look good on young people that old people shouldn’t wear?)

Animal prints

Leggings with short skirts or dresses

Band t-shirts or t-shirt with ironic/stupid sayings on them

Leggings with long shirts or sweaters

Anything with skulls on it

Big sunglasses

Red lipstick

Yoga pants

Pony tails (for men)

Skinny jeans

Bright colours

Vintage stuff

2-piece swim suits

Kurta style tops

Work-out gear when you’re not working out, no matter how funky (e.g.: sweats)


Ruffles & bows





40 responses to “Best Before: 40/

  1. This so hits home as I just turned forty 7 days ago! I have to say though that I do not enjoy seeing exposed midriffs or butt-crack on any age group.

  2. I knew I had grown old when I looked out of my house, saw a 17-year old girl with a muffin top, and thought to myself, “Someone needs to call her parents and explain the dangers of exposing the belly in a sex-driven society.” But I was too lazy and anxious to get back to watching “Pants Off, Dance Off.” Maybe tomorrow…

  3. Women are so funny. We don’t care what you wear, or don’t wear. If you will just smile at us once in a while our entire day is made. If you asked later what you were wearing we couldn’t tell you for our life.

  4. There are ton’s on fantastic clothing for that generation. I love The Bay. They have tons of stuff that suits anyone’s style. 🙂

  5. Xup, I am over 40 and I wear tight low-rider jeans with thongs (but NO whale tale or but crack exposed), spaghetti straps,
    tight t-shirts and tops showing cleavage, and I have long Just f***ed-looking messy hair – I feel very comfortable with my look, but then I am French!

  6. Xup, I suspect that when you’re 80, you’ll wish you’d worn some of the “Not to be worn” items in your 40s.

    Especially 2-piece swimsuits.

    But probably not the maternity look clothing.

    I’m glad to see you bringing issues like this to the blog-o-sphere.

    Perhaps a poll would be on order for this one.

  7. Guys everywhere – Thanks, that means a lot coming from guys everywhere.

    Raino – Really, some of those young hotties look pretty hot with their tight little bellies showing.

    Brad – Time for a cane, so you can stand on your front lawn and shake it angrily at young whippersnappers.

    Bandobras – What on earth makes you think we are concerned over our attire because of men?

    A&J – The Bay? Do you shop at The Bay or are you just recommending it for us oldies?

    Woodsy – We’re twins! I wear the same stuff (except for the thong, they never feel too comfortable). This is exactly why I brought the topic up.

    4D – I wear most of the stuff from the Quandry list, and I wore most of the stuff from the other list in the past, and I don’t miss it yet. The 2-piece, yes, maybe, but it’s just not as flattering anymore as a swanky 1-piece. I’m trying to think how such a poll could be formulated. Would a vote have to be held for each item or are we just voted on the lists?

  8. 2-pc vs. 1-pc: It is extremely likely that you are not assessing yourself properly. You could follow Megan’s lead and bring along an adviser next time you shop for a swimsuit.

    Poll: Each item. And perhaps have a poll that only women answer and another that only men answer.

  9. The key word is the “tight, little bellies”. Okay, key three words. Very important and you can get away with so much if you still have that when you’re over 40.

    Except the ruffles and bows. Never that.

  10. 4D – That sounds like a lot of work. I’ll think about it, but if you’re keen, be my guest. You did a great job on the Cool Over 40 thing.

    Violetsky – Ya, no matter how well you look after yourself it’s hard to maintain that teenage tautness after 40+ years of gravity and housing fetuses and stuff in there for months and months.

  11. I am fast approaching 50 and I don’t think I’ll dress any differently than I did when I turned 40. No, hang on, yes I’ll probably dress differently because I really found “my” style AFTER I turned 40.

    XUP, if you go to Montreal, you must go to Simons. Their stuff is great. I don’t usually follow trends, I prefer style. You won’t find me in stores that cater to teenagers, like H&M, not even for little pieces. It’s not worth it. I shop at The Bay, Winners, Jacob (and of course Simons whenever I go to Montreal). It’s how you put it together. My motto is “less is more” applies to makeup, accessories, mix of colours, everything. Cleavage is nice when needed but not essential.

    I guess deep down it’s how you see yourself and how comfortable you are with your body. I’ve got to like what I see before I go out.

  12. What constitutes Vintage clothing? There comes an age that the clothes from your youth in your closet (yeah some people never throw anything away or move it with them across country) are vintage clothes. Of course you some of us can no longer fit into them. BUT IF WE COULD they would be cool vintage crap.

    I have spiked my hair since I was in my early 30’s I decided to stop last year and I have decided never to cut my hair again for the rest of my life. Or until I hear for the ten thousandth time, “You need a haircut.” Which ever comes first.

  13. I dunno … accuse me of being a prude, but I think being too revealing is unattractive on either sex at any age. Other than that, where what you like! As long as you’re comfortable and like it, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.

  14. UA – I like Winners, too, but I usually gravitate to the junior section. I can’t bring myself to dress like a grown-up yet. I’m afraid it might never happen!!

    Cedar – do you colour your hair? Is it straight or curly? Curly can get away with a lot more, I thing. I’m kind of tired of spending hours in salons that never do what you want them to. I may follow your example and never get my hair cut again.

    Tania – Agree. That’s not being a prude — just having a bit of class. There’s a time and place for flinging your bits and pieces about and the frozen food aisle at Loblaws ain’t it.

  15. I think once you start dressing sensibly you’re done for. Sensible shoes? Navy blazers? Roomy pants? Get out the blue rinse!

    Funny. When I used to be the size of a BC Lion, I had to wear “mom jeans” and depressing stuff like sweatshirts with a dumb pattern. So really an age-based division seems senseless to me these days. Why should your tastes evolve to allow for a boring, mature respectability can kick in? Now that I am fit I will wear whatever I want, including camo, until I’m into my 80s.

    But I agree with one poster about being too revealing. Bad for any age. Call me a prude too. I just think that slinky shit’s for when you’re cleaning the house, drinking gin & and listening to Maria Callas.

  16. Personally, I think that people should wear clothes that they feel comfortable and look good in, and that there aren’t hard and fast age barriers when it comes to dress. You dress for yourself, not an audience, so rock on with your bad self; people who feel the need to criticize women over 40 for wearing short skirts or dying their hair in funky colors clearly have nothing better to do.

  17. I actually agree with most of it except the length of shorts. It’s been 108 degrees here for what seems like a year. I feel like as long as my shorts aren’t TOO short, it’s all good and no one has to look at my legs anyway. And please tell my husband about the pigtails thing. I wear them around the house for him and he wants me to wear them out of the house and I refuse. I keep saying, “Sweetie, this is ridiculous on a 47-year-old!” I don’t know if you ever watched “Frasier” but Martin’s girlfriend Sherry (played awesomelly by Marsha Mason) was a walking textbook on what women of a certain age should not wear.

  18. Grumpus – Good for you for getting fit and leaving the kitty sweatshirts behind! You’ve made a good point in that it’s really more about what you feel expresses “you” best and what you feel comfortable in than it is about age.

    Meloukhia – Clearly, I have nothing better to do than fret about skirt lengths and hair colours and, of course, blogging about them. And then reading other people’s comments about them. And then responding to the comments. It’s probably a deep-rooted cry for help.

    Geewits – In 108 temps, I wouldn’t even be bothering with shorts anymore — too much fabric touching the skin. I’d opt for a very thin, very loose dress of some sort with nothing underneath. (Mr. Geetwits- Please DO NOT encourage your poor woman to wear pigtails in public. People will point and laugh — and not just at her, at you, too, because they’ll think you have some sort of fetish for schoolgirls)

  19. hmmm, i’m 35 and i cling to my punk rock days in sad sort of way. i hope i don’t have to give up my skulls and rethink how i dress when i am in my 40’s! what i have noticed, and have to work with, is that my body has changed drastically in past two years. so, some things that may have looked sexy in the past just looks silly or plain old bad now.
    items on my ick-list are:
    -mini skirts on “mature” women; exposed butt-crack; too much sun-damaged cleavage exposure and long icky painted fingernails; anyone who denies their body shape and tries to jam themselves into something that doesn’t fit (and trust me, i have tried doing this on a few occasions!)

  20. here via Noha. I’m 45, so I’ve given this somethought. I was just talking aout this with my boyfirned – wondering what it is that makes some women seem to just give up and go full-on matronly. And others go to the other extreme and hold on fiercely to their teenage days. I think it depends on your body, in part – I wear low rider jeans, for instance, because they are more compftable and fit me well. But I won’t be waering those awful ballon-like dresses that have reappeared. Basically, though, I think women of all ages ought to wear what they feel good in.

  21. Three pregnancies have left my belly a little too wrinkly for low-rise jeans, I’m afraid. I’d move those to the “out” side, but I’d move “long hair” back to the “in” side — as long as you don’t have too much grey, and you aren’t wearing braids with big coloured bows, it can definitely look tasteful.

    I’m 37 (soon to be 38) and I also still gravitate towards really young styles and colours (I’m a sucker for candy pink). Lately though I’ve tried to force myself to dress a little more “my age,” and I agree, it’s hard to find clothes that fit into that middle ground. Lately I’ve had success finding trendy-but-respectable outfits at Suzy Sheer, Eddie Bauer, and Cotton Ginny (for pants and skirts). I suck at outfitting myself in general, so I find it’s a good idea to just stick with two or three stores — that way, everything is sure to fit and match!

  22. I think a key word is “appropriate” but then we’ll have to go define that. I think more people should watch “What Not to Wear” and read “Go Fug Yourself”, to see what works and what doesn’t. Too many female celebrities dress like hosebags and too many young things emulate them. And then Hollywood dresses young women “lawyers” in tight, short skirts and low cut blouses and we’re supposed to think that’s professional. Ack. And the guys who don’t shave and look like unmade beds make me crazy. I’m with 14 Tania and I just don’t want to see that much of someone’s naughty bits. We need better role models.

    There’s a woman probably 60 who goes to my gym and her hair is a beautiful silver white and she has dyed a shock in the front a bright navy and I think it looks terrific.

  23. Hate to sound too old to even comment here, but I get embarrassed and shy just watching female beach volleyball players at the Olympics, so don’t ask me. Will they be adding ‘completley nude female beach volleyball’ as an Olympic sport soon?

  24. Meanie – at 35 you can still get away with a lot of stuff you can’t at 45, I think and you’re right — it’s the body that will determine when/if you move into mom jeans and fleece.

    Anonymous – Ya, what’s up with those balloony dresses and tops? It’s all they’re selling anymore. And, like you, I also wonder when a person gets to the point of just surrendering to the matronly look? Will we dress in our low-rider jeans at 60? 70? 80? (or whatever the equivalent current style might be). And when we’re in our late 40s or 50s or so and are wearing trendy stuff, do the young folk think of us as saddoes?

    Lynn – I guess we have to define “long hair” – shoulder length, fine. I’m talking about middle of the back and waist length. And, nothin’ wrong with candy pink.

    Julia – Ya, I’m rethinking the coloured hair thing. The navy thing sounds interesting. And I used to work with a mid-50s woman with short spiked hair and she’d have it a different colour every other week and it looked cool.

    Kitty – Nice to hear from you again. You are definitely an exception to the animal print thing. In fact, that’s another one I’m re-thinking because there are some very tasteful things in animal prints these days.

    JB – Do you? They’re pretty hot young things out there doing their volleying thing. Is it more embarassing than watching Olympic wrestling? I always find that one kind of hard to take seriously.

  25. Probably not more embarrassing than the old Greco-Roman style of wrestling, and grown men grappling in unique and intimate ways, but to be fair – that wrestling style was an Olympic sport from the beginning, I believe – where practically-nude-female-beach-volleyball has been added only to keep a new generation of people satisfied first by eye candy, and then (maybe) by athleticism, watching.

    Baseball and softball might be removed as Olympic sports, but this continues to be in the mix? Pardon me for being an relatively older fuddy on this one, but I think there might be about fifty other summer sports which would require a higher level of skill than two-player beach volleyball, but they simply don’t have skimpy enough uniforms.

    There are probably about a million other places I could find scantily clad women, if that’s what I was lookng for. If I’m watching the Olympics, I’m watching to see the most talented athletes in the world.

  26. I’m with JB on the sports things. But then, I have always thought boxing was not a “sport” and we really shouldn’t be encouraging people to beat each other senseless in the Olympics (or anywhere else). I would do a huge revision of the sports that are currently listed in the Olympics. “Better, faster, higher” indeed. And aren’t those shorts they wear for basketball ridiculous? Of course, we still use tape to hold up our hockey socks. Or do we?

  27. Exposed buttcracks should not be seen on anyone at all, ever, including the plumber crawling under your sink.

    Leggings are ok for lounging around but not for leaving the house. At any age.

    As for ruffles and bows, they look stupid on anyone over 5.

  28. JB & Julia – Now it’s a post about the Olympics and athletic wear. I agree though, there are way too many events in the Olympics that shouldn’t be there. One of us should do a whole post about it.

    Jazz – Very definitive!And mostly I agree — though I do sometimes wear leggings with a skirt because they don’t seem as confining somehow as tights are.

  29. Agree with your very first commenter! Guys got it right.
    Wear what you want …
    I still hold the power on whether to look or not. By not looking, it brings no value to me.

    Best thing about being a flyswatter manufacturer is you never have flies around to deal with, for long anyway.

  30. I have discovered Le Chateau..the one in Billings Bridge, not the Rideau Centre. Lately all my clothes have come from there. Funky without looking stupid on someone my age. The Lion gets very excited when I come home with a Le Chateau bag because it normally means I have bought something sexy and sassy.

    I have to totally agree on the ‘other coloured hair bits’. But then, I let my natural silver shine forth. And hair clips! Those butterfly clips. What is any female over the age of 5 think they are doing sporting those?! Other than that, my clothing rule is when I try it in on in the change room I absolutely have to say “Wow!”. Not ‘ya, looks okay’, or ‘it will do’. Nope, has to elicit a WOW because then I know it totally suits my personality and I am going to wear it with confidence and sex-appeal. Bottom line, if it flatters a woman’s body shape, and makes her feel sexy in a classy not sleazy way, then I say go for it. BTW, this ties in nicely on my 3-part series of what men find attractive on women. If you haven’t read it yet, go check it out!

  31. I have discovered Le Chateau..the one in Billings Bridge, not the Rideau Centre. Lately all my clothes have come from there. Funky without looking stupid on someone my age. The Lion gets very excited when I come home with a Le Chateau bag because it normally means I have bought something sexy and sassy.

    I have to totally agree on the ‘other coloured hair bits’. But then, I let my natural silver shine forth. And hair clips! Those butterfly clips. What is any female over the age of 5 think they are doing sporting those?! Other than that, my clothing rule is when I try it in on in the change room I absolutely have to say “Wow!”. Not ‘ya, looks okay’, or ‘it will do’. Nope, has to elicit a WOW because then I know it totally suits my personality and I am going to wear it with confidence and sex-appeal. Bottom line, if it flatters a woman’s body shape, and makes her feel sexy in a classy not sleazy way, then I say go for it.

  32. Cleavage always works for me. Biggest turn off? Workout gear or sweats when you’re not working out. And… sneakers on women any age! And don’t be afraid to let the gray take over! That can be awfully sexy!

  33. This is my favorite post of yours so far!! (Keeping in mind I haven’t been here long so I’m still going through archives to read All The Fabulous Posts I Missed Before!)

    My immediate thought is that the Exposed Butt Crack look should not be worn by ANYONE unless you’re a toddler with a droopy diaper and that wouldn’t be your fault anyway. (Guys Everywhere might disagree with this but I’m pretty sure I’m right.)

    But overall, I think age is just a number and you should wear what you feel. Whatever makes you feel sexy and womanly and strong will make you look the same. Spaghetti straps for sure! Cleavage? Yes! (The girls just need to be properly supported and displayed.) Messy hair? Helllll yes. That is never un-sexy or inappropriate.

    All the things I say “no” to are the things I say no to whatever your age. (Like skinny jeans? Those are never pretty. We need some flare at the bottom to complement the natural, womanly curve of our hips.) Tent dresses? WHY???

    I bet whatever you wear, you are WORKIN’ it and looking F-O-I-N!!

    Thanks for this post! Love it!

  34. Hunter – I don’t get the connection between the flyswatter and the male oogling instinct??

    UP – I’ve had a few Le Chateau things, but I find a lot of their stuff is rather poorly made and tends not to look so good after being laundered once or twice –maybe you’ve been lucky? And I love your grey hair. I’ve left mine alone for a few years now, too. It’s still sort of in transition to that really nice shade of greyish-white.

    UL – Well, I DO sometimes wear scoopy necks, but it’s takes quite a bit of effort to find cleavage; I don’t wear sweats and my hair is au natural, but I do wear sneakers when I walk to work because they’re most comfortable and I can get a good clip going in them.

    Lesley – Why thanks, honey. I think a lot of male types enjoyed the butt-crack/thong look. I think it’s over now, though. It only enjoyed a brief fad blip in time. I think I agree with most of the rest of what you said. My daughter and her friends look really good in skinny jeans though. They have them in a multitude of colours and they’re all pretty skinny themselves. I actually have a pair, too. I’m not crazy about the way they feel, but they don’t look too bad. Maybe the secret is not having those womanly curves you speak of?

  35. I’m 39ish (turn 40 next June). My two cents:

    1. Black hair – maybe. I have a business associate who is 50 and wears it and she looks wonderful. But she also has amazing, wrinkle -free skin, so she may be the exception.

    2. Long hair? Not sure. I’m torn. I do think it drags down the face at a certain point, but I wouldn’t automatically say no for women over 40.

    3. Spaghetti straps – If you have toned arms, yes. If they are flabby no. This rule applies to all ages.

    4. Cleavage – hell yes! You can’t take this away, it’s one of the few things that remains hot even as you age.

    5. Tent dresses/faux maternity wear – No. This rule applies to anyone who is not actually pregnant IMO.

    6. Low rider jeans – yes. The alternative are Mom Jeans and that’s just giving up on life.

    7. Two-piece bathing suit – maybe. Look at Helen Mirren. She rocks it.