40 Fashion Mistakes You Should Never Make After 40
You've grown up. It's time your style did, too.
By the time you reach your 40s, you’ve probably corrected many of the mistakes that used to plague your youth. You choose better partners. You drink better wine. You floss. But if you haven’t had any fashion epiphanies since the night you turned 25 (or, on the flip side, you decided to hide your body in layers of fabric the day you turned 30), it might be time to make some changes.
From purchasing too much fast fashion to carrying around a crazy phone case, here are the fashion faux pas you need to stop making now that you’re nearing middle age.
You don’t get your clothing tailored
When you first buy a new piece, it’s tempting to want to take it for a spin the moment you get home. But if that means skipping the tailor, you’re making a big mistake. A great tailor can prevent a multitude of style sins, from too-long sleeves to a generally frumpy fit to the cardinal sin of suiting: a boxy silhouette. It’s all to say that, by the time you’re 40, you should have an amazing one on speed dial.
Your jewelry looks like plastic
Hey, we’re not saying it can’t be plastic—just that it shouldn’t look like it. Too-shiny metal, questionably lightweight hardware, and gemstones in colors that don’t appear in nature are all dead giveaways that you snagged those jewels at a rock-bottom price. We promise there are stylish, affordable options out there that don’t look like they’re about to snap in half.
You try to pull off novelty boots
Cowboy boots and studded thigh-highs have no place in your closet after the age of 40, unless, of course, you’ve got a serious costume party coming up. Instead, stick to the classics. Shoe boots, Chelsea boots, and, for women, riding boots are easy to style and will never lead you astray.
You care too much about logos
When you spend a ton of money on something, it’s natural to want other people to know. But after a certain age, purchasing shirts and bags with bold logos becomes a bit, well, tacky. Instead, trust that people will pick up on your piece’s chic lines and impeccable stitching and know that you didn’t pick it up at the local 99-cent store.
You own too many ultra-feminine pieces
Bows, ribbons, ruffles—where to begin?! We won’t say you can’t rock a ruffle here and there, but if your entire closet looks like a trunk full of old bridesmaid dresses, it’s probably time to invest in some more mature styles.
You wear any type of rubber shoe
While we hope you tossed your Crocs years ago, we’d also like to add rubber flip-flops and sandals to the never-own list as well. Basically, your feet should never come in contact with rubber unless it’s in the form of a functional rain boot.
You buy too much fast fashion
We understand the appeal: Fast fashion spots like H&M, Zara, and Forever 21 offer tons of styles at insanely low prices. But by the time you’re in your 40s, you’ll probably want to step it up. Invest more of your hard-earned cash in tailored pieces you’ll get years of use from, rather than cheap tank tops that will rip the second you put them in the wash.
You carry your things in a backpack
Unless you’re about to hit the trails or take a flight, there’s no reason a backpack should be your bag of choice. Pick out a sophisticated brief, pocketbook, or tote, and leave this juvenile style in the kid’s department where it belongs.
You wear a fanny pack
Yes, we know they’re back in style. But just because the kids are sporting these ’80s throwbacks doesn’t mean you should, too. If you need a hands-free option, choose a crossbody bag.
You own too much matchy-matchy office-wear
Nothing says uninspired like wearing a matching pantsuit every day. And let’s face it, the entire look is a bit drab. Mix things up—or, at the very least, stay away from dated colors like grey and brown. People will be asking you for outfit advice by the copy machine in no time!
You wear shoes you can’t walk in
Hopefully, your days of hobbling from one club to another in sky-high heels are over. And guess what? That’s a good thing! You officially have no need for those uncomfortable heels anymore—especially when there are so many other stylish and comfortable options to chose from.
You have a ridiculous phone case
From sparkly stripes to rhinestone cats, there are tons of, um, interesting, phone cases on the market these days. And while it’s definitely possible to find a tasteful case that also shows off your personality, it’s best to avoid some of the more elaborate styles.
Your shirts are sheer
We’ll be the first to empathize with you that’s it’s difficult to find a quality white shirt these days. But difficult doesn’t mean impossible, and regardless of your struggles, wearing a tissue-thin shirt in your 40s is unacceptable.
If you’ve got a bad habit of purchasing shirts that turn out to be sheer, try this: Before you head to the checkout line, hold the shirt up to the light and put your hand underneath one layer of fabric. If you can see your hand through the shirt, it’s probably going to be see-through once you put it on. Pick up a matching cami to be on the safe side.
You borrow your children’s clothes
Obviously, your offspring learned their sense of style from the best (you!). But just because you helped your teen pick out a few of their outfits doesn’t mean you can borrow them. After all, what looks best on him or her isn’t what’s going to make you feel as sophisticated as you are.
You don’t own a well-fitted bra
As we get older, our bodies change. And if you haven’t gotten fitted for a new bra in the past year or so, your body has probably changed enough that you’re no longer the size you think you are. Many experts say you should get fitted as frequently as once every six months, according to Who What Wear. Head to a specialty shop for a bra that will make you look and feel your best.
You buy drugstore glasses
As you get up there in age, you might notice your vision starts to go. Still, that doesn’t mean you can opt for a quick fix and pick up a pair of reading glasses from the corner store. Head to your eye doctor and get fitted for a pair of prescription glasses. Your eyes and your look will thank you for it.
You live in athleisure
Wearing yoga pants to and from the gym is one thing. But if you’re practically living in them—and wearing them to places that don’t feature locker rooms and yoga mats—then it might be time to swap them out. Jeggings, joggers, and other types of real-world pants are just as comfy, with the added benefit of looking put-together.
You show off too much skin
We’d never tell you that women above a certain age can’t show off their shoulders or pull off a high hemline. But once you hit your 40s, it’s probably best to pick one or the other. If you’re sporting an off-the-shoulder shirt, pair it with bottoms that reach your knee. And if you chose a miniskirt, opt for a sleeve up top.
You don’t own a classic watch
If you don’t have a watch that you feel great about yet, it’s time to go pick one up (or put it on your birthday wish list!). A great timepiece can pull an entire outfit together and show that you take your style—and your punctuality—seriously.
You feel ‘blah’ in your so-called favorite cocktail dress
A night on the town should be an opportunity for you to feel amazing about yourself—not one you dread because you hate everything in your closet. If you don’t have a perfectly tailored, confidence-boosting cocktail dress yet, pick one up ASAP. It’ll be the gift that keeps on giving.
You own too many midriff-baring tops
We won’t tell you that you should never attempt this look, but it’s probably not something you should try on a regular basis. At the very least, save these tiny tops for vacations and trips to the gym.
You wear a sickly sweet scent
If a fragrance reminds you of the inside of a candy shop, it’s probably not one you should be wearing in your 40s. Instead, choose a scent with more complexity and depth. You don’t have to go full-on musk for an age-appropriate fragrance, but you shouldn’t go straight-up vanilla, either.
You leave the house in free T-shirts
No matter what your T-shirt says—whether it’s a humble brag that you completed a marathon or an homage to your favorite charity—it’s probably not the most stylish top you could be wearing. Save these shirts for doing chores around the house and heading to the gym. A classic white T-shirt or Breton top is just as simple to throw on and looks ten-times better.
You still wear the band tees of your youth
Okay, yes, sometimes these are cool. But if your entire closet consists of T-shirts with obscure musical references, it’s probably time for a refresh.
You throw on a trucker hat to disguise a bad hair day
Once upon a time, trucker hats were popular among celebs and street-style fashionistas. But, alas, you should probably never wear one of these after 40—unless you’re an actual trucker, that is.
You opt for super-skimpy swimwear
We’re not saying you have to banish your favorite bikinis altogether—only that super-stringy, revealing styles are best suited for college students on spring break, not the family pool at Walt Disney World.
You feel pressured to adopt an ultra-conservative style
Just because you’re getting older doesn’t mean you have to relegate yourself to mom jeans and muumuus. In fact, doing so is likely to age you even more. Stick to classic, tailored styles you feel great in and you’ll be good to go. And never be afraid to show off some skin or try out a wild pattern.
You try to pull off wacky denim
We know, there’s so much denim out there! From different colors to different levels of tattering, you could find a new pair of funky jeans to wear every day of the year. But just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Find a few classic cuts and washes you like best and stick with them. Quality beats quantity in this department.
You try to wear rompers
You could have the most killer legs on the planet and we’d still advise you avoid the romper look once your turn 40. After all, there are so many styles that are just as easy and look even better. If it’s a summer look you’re after, try a breezy sundress or a tailored jumpsuit.
You step out in silly socks
No one at the office needs to know about your lifelong obsession with Halloween or Flag Day. Which means you can leave those funky socks at home.
You run errands in denim cutoffs
The time for Daisy Dukes is not now. If you can’t eliminate denim shorts from your wardrobe entirely, opt for a more structured pair with a longer hemline and no fraying, recommended etiquette expert Diane Gottsman to the fashion pros at Who What Wear.
You don’t dry clean your dry-clean-only items
By the time you’re in your 40s, you probably know that it’s not just about the clothes you own but how you take care of them. That’s why when an item says “dry-clean only” on the tag, you should never throw it in the washing machine. Take it to an actual dry-cleaner or, if the tag says it’s appropriate, hand-wash it yourself.
You lean into too many trends
It’s not that trends are bad. It’s just that, by 40, you might want to redirect your monetary resources from choker necklaces and bustiers to, well, pretty much anything else. After all, trends will pass, but that cashmere sweater will never go out of style.
You own a matching sweatsuit
To the benefit of society as a whole, Juicy Couture sweatsuits are officially out. But if you’ve still got one of these (or any other brand’s!) monochrome getups in your closet, you should probably never leave the house in it.
You wear leggings as pants
We know they’re comfy, but now that you’re past 40, it’s time you start setting an example for the youngsters who look up to you. And if there’s one example we hope you set, it’s that leggings aren’t pants.
You lose your personal sense of style
Just because you’re 40 doesn’t mean you have to overhaul your sense of style. If you’ve always loved bohemian styles, stick with them. And if jeans and sneakers have always been your go-to, don’t feel you need to swap them out for blazers and pantsuits. Simply upgrade your pieces to reflect a new-and-improved you.
You don’t treat your clothes with care
Expensive sweaters and tailored blazers are totally worthless if you let them pill or leave them in piles on the floor. By the time you’re 40, you should have an organized system for hanging and caring for your clothes.
You haven’t masted a mature makeup look
There’s no shame in wanting to try a little glitter here and there. But if your everyday makeup look involves shimmer sticks and frosted lip gloss, it might be time to hit up the beauty counter for an overhaul.
You hide your body under layers of fabric
So what if you gained a few pounds since your last trip to the mall? That doesn’t mean you have to hide your body under layers and layers of clothing. In fact, the experts over at Stylecaster advise against it. “The area just under the bust is a woman’s smallest torso measurement, so emphasizing it with a structured waistband that hits higher than your natural waist will make you look a size smaller,” they write.
You always follow the fashion “rules”
See what we did there? If you’re always following the rules—even these ones we’ve run through right here—you’ll never develop your own personal style. And what are your 40s for if not establishing your signature look? Get fun, get creative, and enjoy the decade! And for more amazing style advice, learn the 40 Common Fashion Tips to Always Ignore.
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