Dress Rules for Women over 40

Another summer, another list of rules for women on what they should and shouldn’t wear. From the ‘how to get a bikini body’ articles (top tip – buy a bikini, put it on your body, done!) to this incredibly stupid list of rules for women over 40 years.

Here are my dress rules for women over 40.

1. Problem Zones

I try to hide my problem zones. This is generally done by throwing a dish towel over the un-washed dinner dishes or shoving the ironing basket into a cupboard when visitors are due.

If you have bits of your body that you don’t particularly like (and let’s be honest, most of us do) treat them the same way. Hide them if you want to and don’t if you don’t. Don’t feel obliged to shield innocent children from the sight of your wobbly arms, but if it makes you feel more confident to cover them up, go for it.

2. Colours

Ok, this is actual proper tip, and not a snarky jab at the article that annoyed me. If you can afford it, go to a colour expert person. If you can’t, then have a look online, and get a friend to help work out which colours suit you best. I always hated purple so it was a revelation when a colour consultant told me that it was my best colour. I took the leap and tried out some lilac and purple-blue shades, and found that I actually loved them. It doesn’t mean that I only wear these colours, but if I’m looking for something special for an event, I bear it in mind.

At the same time, ignore anyone who tells you that women over 40 can’t wear black or white, or that a certain shade of hair colour is ageing. If you like a colour, wear it. If you like ALL THE COLOURS, wear them.

3. Shoes

Jane Lynch giving no fucks with her sneakers on the red carpet

You can’t beat a comfy pair of sneakers with a decent foot support and room for your toes to move. Unless of course, you adore wearing high heels and strappy sandals, in which case wear them instead. I can’t see any reason why anyone should change their choice of shoes because they’ve passed an arbitrary age milestone. I do tend to pay a bit more for shoes now than I used to, because I like comfort but that’s personal preference, not a rule to be followed.

Ok, I might make an exception for jellies, which are probably best left to toddlers and teenagers, but they are basically just uncomfortable Crocs, and what’s the point in that?!

4. Make-Up

If you are over 40, you’ve spent the last 20 years being scared witless about getting OLD and having WRINKLES by cosmetic companies desperate to sell their products. It’s time to face the truth – no cream or potion can stop the passage of time. It comes down to genetics and too much exposure to sunlight but who the hell wants to live in the shadows? Pick a day-cream that you like and that has a SPF, smother it on in the morning and forget it.

There are women who love make-up and those who hate it, and a whole lot of us in the middle who sometimes make an effort and sometimes don’t bother. A lot is made about Barbara Cartland’s fake eyelashes and heavy make-up, but did you know that she was also an aviation pioneer? What we smear on our face has nothing to do with what is in our heads. We are not one-dimensional!

5. Hair

When I was in my twenties, a friend said that when she reached 30 years, she’d cut her hair short. Where did this idea come from that women over a certain age aren’t allowed to have long hair? Who makes these rules?! And since awesome women like Julianne Moore and Mary Beard are happy to ignore them, I’m going to follow their lead.

I could go on, but frankly I’m bored already, and I’m sure you are too. The bottom line is that for everyone who might sniff at inappropriate attire worn by an 40+ woman, there are plenty more who applaud her confidence and give-no-fucks attitude.

From the time we are teenagers, women’s bodies and what they put on them are policed. First our skirts are too short and distracting to school pupils and creepy teachers, then they are too long and unflattering. Our hair should be natural until we start to go grey, then we should dye it, but only accepted colours not red or GOD FORBID purple. We are wearing too much make-up, except when we are ‘caked’ or have ‘put it on with a trowel’, but don’t go out without make-up as that would be ‘unkempt’.

I’m calling bullshit on all lists of rules, including this one. These are my thoughts on the topic, and everyone has their own opinion. Treat these lists like a tin of Quality Street that your auntie gave you for Christmas. Take the ones you like out of the tin before passing it on to someone else.

Perhaps the best rule to have is this one, which a friend shared this morning on Twitter.



Featured Image by Alisa Anton/Unsplash




  • Lorrie

    Love this. As if women who’ve reached the age of 40 have the time, space or need for some made-up rules about what to put on their bodies!

    Agree completely with you, anyway: pick the bits you like, chuck the bits you don’t and tell anyone who minds to bugger off.

  • Vikki

    As a woman approaching 40 I currently have 5 different colours in my hair right now. I’m of the ‘no fucks given’ camp. Great post Lynn.

  • Susan

    As someone who is approaching 50, I not only don’t care what other people think of my clothes, I’m pretty fucking proud of being able to get up and get myself dressed each morning. We either get old or we don’t. I’m praying for old age, no matter what I wear.