Fashion For Women In Their 40s - Why We Need Help

I just read an article called “How To Dress If Your In Your 40s”. It said no short skirts, encouraged wearing black and said wearing a lot of colours looks “tacky”. Key items it recommends purchasing are a blazer and white shirt. As a 40 year old woman I found this article a little offensive. There seems to be this idea, supported heavily by the media, that women in their 40s are old. I’m frequently told “oh you don’t look 40” but I think look my age. It's just that people seem to expect 40 year olds to look much older than we do. 

What made the article particularly frustrating was it was on a personal shopping website. If even the people whose job it is to advise us how we can dress better are suggesting 40 year olds should dress conservatively and opt for “slimming” colours then what hope do we have? 

Me laughing while wearing a large leopard print dress
I might need help choosing clothes that suit me in my 40s, but I don't want to look boring

Are women only allowed to show off their bodies and wear bright, fashionable clothes until they hit a certain birthday? Or is it that we are expected to have a perfect body if we want to stand out for what we are wearing? I am hopefully less than half way through my life and I’m not going to spend the rest of it trying to blend into the background. What I do want though is well cut, quality clothes that suit my body shape and shoes, like Birkenstock NZ, that are comfortable. 

I think a lot of people in their 40s, myself included, are stuck in a fashion rut. I need fashion advice more now than I did 10 or 20 years ago. I want to feel stylish, but I also want my clothes to be comfortable, not to fall apart, to be made from good quality fabric blends and to suit me. Everything from the colour to the cut matters more now than the clothes I was happy with in my 20s. I want great pieces I can wear time and time again. 

Why 40 Year Olds Need Help Buying Clothes

Changing Fashions

Fashions change. I’m not talking about fast fashion where a style is in one season never to be seen again, few of us have ever had the time or money to keep up with that. I’m talking about the general shape and style of clothes that have a longer life cycle. 

Take jeans for instance. Every pair in my wardrobe is currently a skinny fit style, an elasticated material designed to fit close to the body. Some of these jeans are pretty new, others are older than my children so I know they have been in fashion for a while. The cut of jeans is starting to move away from this skinny fit with a push towards bootcut and more flared designs. Like every woman my generation I remember these styles from the last time they were in. I remember soggy, scuffed jeans dragging along the floor in my teen years and twenties and while I’m not excited about these flashbacks I recognise that in 5 years the skinny fit is likely to be out of most wardrobes. 

Cropped tops and long cardigans are in. Colours and patterns change. Necklines. Sleeve lengths. The type of accessories. These are all subtle changes that can be easy to miss, but they can make the difference to an outfit. The last time I went clothes shopping I actually got a little scared. It was predominantly cords, sequins and expensive dry clean only jumpers. I didn’t know how to make any of these work for me. Even the cords which should have been accessible were in a range of cuts I didn’t recognise. So I went back to the clothes I was used to. As a “middle aged” woman I need advice on how to introduce the new styles coming in, how to mix them with my existing wardrobe of timeless pieces and how to wear them for my body shape. 

Lifestyle Changes

Many women spend a large chunk of their 20s and 30s with young children. I became a mother for the first time at 30 which means my clothes for the last decade were primarily about comfort and washability. These are still priorities, but as my children get older and I have more childfree time I want outfits that are more stylish. I want to go out for a meal with friends and feel good about how I look, to be fair I want to feel good about my clothes even if I’m just wandering around Lidl. I don’t spend all day every day cuddling children with sticky fingers or snotty noses so maybe there is the opportunity for something beyond a sweatshirt and jeans?  My lifestyle of a parent with older children allows a different wardrobe and I don’t know where to start.

Working Clothes

I work exclusively from home, many people work a hybrid model with a mixture of office days and home working. Workwear in many companies has become more relaxed with a reluctance to go back to full on suits after a year working in PJs. The difference in work wear and casual wear now seems to be a subtle one about styling and cuts. If I had to go back to work in an office tomorrow I wouldn’t have a clue what to wear.

Body shape

After a fluctuating body size throughout my younger life and multiple pregnancies my body shape is now pretty consistent. I don’t love my body, but rather than constantly trying to change it I have accepted I have other priorities and I try to work with what I have instead. I don’t want to cover it up in baggy clothes all the time because I don’t think it’s flattering, but I also know that wearing low cut jeans that show my crack whenever I bend over won’t look good on my body shape either. It’s very easy to stick to styles we have found which suit our body shapes, but an outfit as a whole still needs to be refreshed if we want to feel old before our time. So find me a shopper that can show me high waisted jeans with a modern cut in the legs. Find me t-shirts or jumpers that come down below my belly button. Oh and find me boots that look great and don’t have a heel, my hips can’t cope with heels after my PGP.

With less patience and free time I want the convenience of personal shoppers to select a range of items I can try on that will make me feel stylish and look great while still being practical and good quality. I don’t want to do it all on my own so it would be helpful if personal shoppers didn’t consider those over 40 as ancient.

Personal Styling Help

This wasn't the purpose of this post, but if you are like me and want help with choosing some new clothes I can recommend:

  •  The Instore Personal Styling at John Lewis. You can book an appointment online. At the appointment they will ask you what you are looking for then bring you a range of items to try on. I found there was no pressure to buy anything, but it really helped me explore some of the styles in store. This service is free and to get the most out of it I recommend booking at one of the larger stores which will have a wider range of clothes to choose from.
  • Stitch Fix. Set up an account, tell them your clothes sizes and preferences and a stylist will select items for you to try. You get to view the items online before 5 are sent out so if there are any you really don't like you can tell them not to include it in your package. There is a £10 fee for the service, but if you buy anything the fee is deducted from the cost. If you buy everything they send you there is a 20% discount. You can also go on the website (or app) each day and rate various clothes and accessories so they learn more about your style and you can feedback about each item they sent you as well. Stitch Fix claims to have 4 million active clients in UK and America.
    If you want to try Stitch Fix use this link and you will get £15 off your first purchase (and I get £15 too). Stitch Fix work with men and women.
  • Lookiero. This service is pretty much the same as Stitch Fix but it is smaller and has been established less time. The company is Spanish and has clients in UK, France and Spain. I felt the information they asked initially gave me more opportunity to share my tastes, although the ongoing feedback isn't so good. Lookiero also charge a £10 styling fee which is deducted from any items you purchase. You get to preview a selection of 10 items and you can choose up to 5 to be sent. If you buy everything they send out you get a 25% discount on the total cost. 
    If you want to try Lookiero use this link and you will get £15 off your first purchase (I get £15 too). Currently Lookiero only advises women.
  • You might also want to consider getting your colours done, this is a review of one person's experience of having a colour consultation which helped her move away from her 'safe choice' of black.

1 comment

  1. I 100% agree with all of this, as a woman in her 40s I've struggled with clothes for some time and constantly feel daggy and uncomfortable in my clothes. It's hard to shop when the trends don't suit your body shape and the ones that do are very expensive.


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