The 40 things every woman should know about fashion over 40

The 40 things every woman should know about fashion over 40

Posted by Susan Coleman on

Cameron Diaz has said she won't wear boob tubes now she's over 40

The 40 things every woman should know about fashion over 40  

The one thing Cameron Diaz will never wear again, (‘No Way’) according to an interview in the latest issue of Harper’s Bazaar, is …a tube top. This is Good to Know. But as fashion tips for the post fortysomething woman go, it’s disappointing. Most of us over forties last wore a tube top (or, as they’re better known on these shores, ‘boob tube’) on a holiday in Greece two decades ago.

When glamorous women make age appropriate dressing statements (part of the deal once they hit 40) you hope for something more relevant to our daily lives:  ideally a list of cracking tips that will cut through all the confusion.

Forty is nothing, now, by the way. It’s the new fifty, and Fiona Bruce is 52. You barely have to make any adjustments, but it’s a bit ostrich-like to pretend everything stays the same forever, and this is as good a point as any to take stock of your options – going forward.

So: 40 things every woman over fortysomething woman should know about fashion. 

It's time to grade up... 

Your shoes

Do not go quietly into the navy mid heel pump, or the plain loafer, or the really useful (so comfy) trainer. You can always do a fun shoe and display a well-turned ankle. More to the point a shoe is where you score your fashion points when you are past Sex Pistols T shirts and floral coronets (which you are).

Your hair

The just got out of bed, beach bleached hair days are on the way out. Conditioner is everything now. And whatever you do don't over trim. A bob at this stage could put a decade on you, instantly.

Make up, but not foundation

Watch out for the plaster textured complexion which occurs when women panic they need coverage but haven’t got their glasses/replaced the light in the bedroom.

Your sunglasses

As a rule you want to go less mean and edgy, and more glamorous. LAPD. Bono. Billy Idol…these are all looks to avoid, as is Tony Blair, in in some very hot country, wearing white linen.

Your smile

I know that sounds creepy. But the sulky, not bothered expression which you may think cool (see Victoria Beckham) will in your forties start to look sour and a bit ‘my back is killing me’. Perk it up.

It's time to watch out for... 

Your knees

Everyone goes on about arms. It’s your knees that will let you down (see Kate Moss). 


So boring to be told to ditch black because it’s draining on older skin. Happily it’s not quite true. Mat dull black is draining. But lush black is fine (for a few more years, especially if it’s glossy satin or velvet) so long as you ramp it up. Splashy earrings, red lipstick.

Popcorn coloured highlights

Only because you will start to look like every other greying fortysomething in the Western world. Why do you think J Law and Taylor Swift have gone punky bone white blonde? Because safe blonde is the colour of middle age, that’s why.

 Going braless

Just saying it works for some, but don’t cling on to the free spirit ideal at the expense of a sloppy silhouette. Sorry.


I like rough teeth. I missed Bowie’s after the refurb. But there is no doubt that yellowing teeth are not youthful.

Some youthful things you needn’t put away

Wearing bikini tops under clothes in summer

Sounds mad. But it does inject a certain carefree, barefoot vibe. (Don’t try this at work obviously, works best when you are gardening).

Espadrilles and flip flops

Similar result. But, as of now, must be worn with a pedicure. The unwashed look is no longer a runner. (This applies equally to men. David Beckham post match easily tips over into Rhys Ifans the morning after a very late night).


You are never too old for the latest jeans if you look good in jeans. Same goes for leather trousers (but you need the legs).

Shortish puffy sleeves

Quite flattering on the older arm, contrary to rumour, especially if not too puffy and not too short.


No words.


Wore them in ‘76 and you are wearing them again.

Say No to Girly and Cute


Just because.


Hair bows. Bows on shoes. Bows on shirts and dresses.

Anything involving a bib

We’re all tempted by dungarees, especially those of us who have very happy memories of the Seventies/ Bananarama. And obviously Cate Blanchett gave them a go the other day – but in our opinion it doesn’t work. A jumpsuit (quite different!). Less cute.

Dolly prints

As in Scottie dogs or bananas or strawberries.

Mary Janes

Some are not so strict on this one. I say anything Alice in Wonderland does, leave well alone.

Waisted full skirted summer dresses


Other than tailoring, and definitely lace as in broderie anglaise and guipure.

Pie crust collars

No no no. Anything Di would have worn, niet.

Instant Small Cheats (that work from fortysomething forever)

A splash out scarf

Pashmina dimensions, good looking and bold. Sling it on over anything plain and you get instant cool points, plus colour.

Some silver shoes

Or gold. Just a bit of a Oooh so not quite so boring then.

A bare 7/8th

Lower calves and ankles on show at all times, very rejuvenating.

Switching the black leather biker

...for the olive green one and then the suede jacket.

The No Ways that sneak up on you (and all you can do is keep checking)


I had a little black satin dress that I looked fine in until precisely the age of 48. Thereafter. Horrible. All black dresses. It’s almost like a chemical reaction, and it’ll hit you right out of the blue. 

Same for hats

Used to wear them to weddings (fab!). Now look like the mother of the bride’s mother. 


Sometimes ok in small doses. But definitely one to watch. You were Kate Moss, you are now Abigail at her Party.

Leopard print

Tips over into blowsy any day now, wear snake print instead.

Very high heels

All good until you get the bulging snake pit foot. The only solution is go lower.

NOTE: I may say Elle Macpherson (now 52) has broken all these rules in one day on the school run – so rule 40. It’s different for everyone.

Thank you to Shane Watson for this article


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  • Muchas gracias. ?Como puedo iniciar sesion?

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