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Dressing Your Age: What Women Over 45 Shouldn’t Wear

Read what NOT to wear when you're over 40

by Paula Sheamus,

The following is an interview in which Paula Sheamus of the UK interviews her mother about what clothing tasteful women should not wear after the age of 45:

I remember there have been some major differences between my mother's and my own personal taste when it comes to clothing and accessories since I was a teenager. These differences have often been the reason why my mother and I ended up screaming at each other without realizing that each generation has its own fashion trends and it is completely normal not to like the same things, even being a mother and daughter.

I must confess that after entering my twenties, and especially after I turned 25, my relationship with my mother became more relaxed and we even started ending up with the same opinion about some matters. Of course, the tension when it comes to clothing has not completely disappeared but I noticed that my mother takes my opinion and has even started to trust my taste, which resulted in my mother letting me buy her a few pieces of clothing.

And, now, after my teenage years came to an end more than half a decade ago, I can proudly say that my mother and I talk more calmly on different matters, including fashion. Here is her opinion about what women over forty-five shouldn't wear:

What to Avoid After 40

We have all heard that nowadays the forties are the new thirties, and we have seen some TV ads showing women over forty, and even over fifty, showing wonderful bodies. However, in the real world, things are quite different from what we see in the ads. Although my mother is endowed with great genes and Mother Nature has been kind to her, she always says that turning forty, and especially forty-five, is indeed a boundary that changes many things once passed. Of course, this is not a cause for any drama, because women of our age must be able to highlight the advantages of her age and hide the disadvantages. And, this is particularly important when it comes to clothing and make-up, because, after all, every woman wants to look at her best no matter the age.

clothing for baby boomer women

What Shouldn't Women Over 45 Wear

My mother used to say that there are a lot of temptations that a woman over forty-five must give up. Here is her personal list.

  • Shorts: A big no, no, no! Shorts are supposed to show appetizing legs right to your butt and are definitely made for young girls and women. No matter how great you look, if you are over forty, you should definitely forget all about putting yourself in a pair of shorts.
  • Mini-Skirts: There are women who can show a great figure and a healthy pair of legs at any age. No matter this, putting on a longer skirt will make you look better. Think about something about your knee, otherwise you may look ridiculous.

  • Motorcycle Jackets: Leather may make a mature woman look sexier than ever when it is on a dress, suit or trench coat. However, if you are over forty-five, you better stay away from motorcycle jackets.
  • Dresses with Floral Motifs: You don't want to look like your great-grandmother when she herself was over forty and fifty, right? If the answer of this question is positive, then don't buy any clothes with floral motifs on. Dresses like these ones are a privilege of the younger girls but they may become a true nightmare when put on by mature women.
  • Transparent Clothes: Leave them to the 20-year olds. And, do not be mistaken with the concept of transparent clothes and airy pieces of clothing. If a part of a blouse or a dress is designed in chiffon or lace, this may become a wonderful accent to your femininity. If however, you put on a fully transparent dress, you go to an entirely different category of women, so do not do it.
can older women wear over 40 or 50 wear shorts

Chic Woman Over 50 in Shorts

Note from Tina Boomerina:

I agree with most of this, however I am in my early 60s and I wore miniskirts up until a few years ago. Well, I sometimes wore a black wool miniskirt with black tights, but it was not a micro mini, so I was well covered. I also take a different point of view on a couple of other issues:

  • I believe that the right florals (especially Asian prints and some folk patterns) can look great on older chicks.
  • I believe that some rockin' older women CAN wear shorts if they know what they're doing fashion-wise, if they take their time looking critically in the mirror, and if they get a good second opinion. The wool city shorts (worn with tights) in the above photo are a good example of a cute shorts for older women.

On the other hand, I think we all understand what Paula’s mum is trying to say. Heaven help us, we don’t want to risk looking like our great-grandmothers... or our great-grandmothers when they were half blind.

More Articles for Baby Boomer Women:

Best Swimsuits for Women Over 40 or 50

Wearable Clothing Trends for Fall: Women Over 40, 50, 60

23 Trendy Plus Size Clothing Sites for Large Women: Sizes 1x - 12x

Women's Travel Cruise Wear Online - Chicks Over 40 or 50

Best Jeans: 5 Denim Trends for Fall / Winter 2014

Photo Credits: Prshots.com. (Unfortunately, the photos are from prior seasons. Fortunately, the websites carry similarly styled clothing each season.)

  • Main Photo: (pink Daisy Dukes) Oh My Love.
  • Deep Down You Know the Answer: I forgot the source for the mini, La Redoute.
  • Chic Woman Over 50 in Shorts: Debenhams.

What do you think of this article? Leave a comment at the bottom of the page.


Paula Sheamus is a child of a boomer – in fact a stubborn one. Paula loves her family and appreciates her job in professional cleaning Acton because it gives her the freedom to spend more time with her beloved people.

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  1. Joellen

    Gopod article....but...the motorcycle jacket is an icon! With jeans and a turtleneck, it look good on every woman. Even plus size girls can pull it off nicely. My favorite trick is to wear it open over a longer button down shirt and jeans of a darker color than the jacket. They also look fantastic in denim over a maxi dress and boots.
    Sometimes, the concept if what to do and not to do depends on the personality and lifestyle of the woman!

    • Tina


      I know one or two women over 50 who would look good in a moto jacket and jeans. One of them is a Pilates instructor with a kickass body. She's tall and willowy and can wear anything.

      I didn't write this article, but I believe that the majority of women over 45-ish appear silly in leather motorcycle jackets. Well, Hollywood babes like Katey Sagal look hot in them, so there are exceptions.

      No one can tell you what to wear, but if you don't look great in your motorcycle jacket, I'm going to send you to the back of the line. However, if you look great in your motorcycle jacket, I'm going to send you to the front of the line because you're one in a million.

      I like the look of motorcycle jackets with everything from jeans to chiffon skirts. And, I've seen older women in Paris wearing them... however, you MUST make sure your jacket is made of soft, supple leather. Personally, I would never wear one, but it's your body. If you think you look good, you probably do... well, you might.

  2. Sindee

    First, I love your website. Exactly what I've been looking for.

    I'm just curious about something. What is a woman supposed to wear in the heat of summer, if not shorts? I've heard capri's for short women are a no-no as it makes them look stubby, or something like that. I don't wear short shorts, just a few inches above my knees. Is this really so bad?


    • Tina


      This article was written by a guest blogger, so it's giving an alternate point of view. However, I agree with most of it.

      The shorts issue is tricky. You can wear shorts when you're out in the country, at the beach, playing sports, on cruise ships, etc. And, there are city shorts outfits that look fine in the city... if you have the right body. I don't wear them, but they look good on some women. If they look good on you, well... it depends on where you live or where you're vacationing.

      Personally, I prefer skirts and dresses. A lightweight maxi skirt is easier to wear than a pair of shorts and it's cooler (in both ways). Shorts... well, I've seen so many women wearing shorts that should not wear them in places like Disneyworld that I think most older women should find an alternative. It's so easy to throw on a short cotton dress... just like we wore in the 60's. What's wrong with that? You don't have to match a top and a bottom. It looks cute with flat sandals or sneakers. Try different lengths until you get a good look.

      I like skirts and dresses that hit about mid calf or longer... but other women look good in shorter skirts. If you hate dresses - why anyone would hate dresses / shifts / wrap dresses made of great breathable fabric is beyond me - but if you hate dresses, buy or make something like white, loose gauzy palazzo-style pants... like we wore in the 60's. They balance big hips. Make sure they don't overpower your frame with volume.

      I have stubby legs, so I avoid cropped pants and capris, but I've seen short women on cruise ships who look good in them. I'm not sure why some short chicks can wear them and others can't.

      • Sindee

        I grew up in FL wear women of all ages continue to wear short and yes many that probably shouldn't. I guess I just got used to it and never gave it a second thought. Yes, wearing a casual dress might be a better idea. This sounds silly but I have always hated wearing dresses without hose as my legs seem to never tan, however am fine with shorts. Why?, I ask myself. No logical answer.

        Perhaps I should rethink the issue and start looking for casual dresses. Since I'm not quite 5 foot, dresses any longer than knee length make me look dowdy, unless they are floor length. This means I usually have to hem them (a pain in the tush) so I avoid them. Again, I'm rethinking the issue and though I probably won't give up wearing shorts completely. I do appreciate your point of view.

        • Tina


          So many people have contacted me on this issue. Maybe wearing shorts in Florida is okay. Use your own discretion.


    • Sockpuppet

      I can answer that. A maxi dress, sun dress just above the knee if you have nice legs, or Bermuda shorts. I agree with this article that short shorts are for teens and early 20-somethings.

  3. Carolyn Hirsch

    Interesting article about what not to wear after 40. One suggestion especially caught my attention: no miniskirts. I'm pretty sensitive to dressing age-inappropriately, but with tights short skirts work.

  4. Tina


    This article was written by a guest blogger. I don't wear miniskirts now because they don't look great on me at this point due to thyroid-induced weight gain, however I have no problem with women over 40 wearing minis, especially if their skirts are worn with tights. I wore black mini skirts with tights when I was in my forties and fifties... until my body changed from prednesone.

    The ideas in this article are from (an interview of) a woman in London. I put this on because it's another point of view... and it's probably a good point of view if you want to be completely, unadulteratedly tasteful.

    And, that is not me. I'm more rebellious, but I know when something looks good on me because I watch how people treat me when I'm wearing experimental outfits. And... I'm always experimenting.

    Tina Boomerina

  5. Dee

    I was kinda surprised to read that women over 45 shouldn't wear shorts I am 57 and I wear a nice pair of mid length shorts and a sleeveless top for daily casual summer wear and look great in them and mostly all my friends wear them but i do think that short shorts are a no no for us older women they should be left for the teenagers

    • Tina


      This is not my article, but I think that whether or not boomer chicks should wear shorts depends on the situation and the location. For example, you would look a bit weird in Paris or London in a pair of shorts. (A beautifully tailored city-shorts outfit might be an exception to the rule.) On the other hand, everyone from the American South has been screaming at me - saying that shorts are fine and everyone wears them.

      Personally, I go by Paris Rules: Little kids wear shorts. Adult women wear long pants or skirts/dresses. Adult men wear long pants.

      Even if you live in America and you follow French rules, you will only wear shorts at the beach (or out in the country) or when playing sports. And, of course, you would never wear shorts if you looked like crap in shorts. I suppose we could bend the rules and say that the American suburbs are the same as the countryside. (And, shorts are perfect for cruises.)

      On the other hand, there are fashionable exceptions to French Rules. I've had a trendy hippie chick in her fifties (from SF) tell me that she wears black leather shorts and colored tights to her bartending job... and she says that her outfit looks great on her. Well, to me, that's a bit different. If you're a bit of a Betsey Johnson and it's part of your persona... I have no problem with your creative originality. I encourage creative fashion.

      Hey, I can't tell you what to wear. If you live in Florida, shorts might be the right thing as long as they aren't super short and you don't look like you're trying to pass for a 16-year-old. Still, I don't think shorts look good in the city... and I don't want to tell you how many women I saw at Disneyworld who should NOT have been wearing shorts... but I am not a big Disneyland/Disneyworld fan. I won't be going back anytime soon, so I won't tell you to go to the back of the line.

  6. Dormilona

    I hugely appreciate being reminded that certain pieces of clothing may not create the impressions we hope to create. But, in the end, I think a woman should wear anything she feels like wearing. The only question I would ask is, Is it likely to do the job I want it to do? I don't wear shorts to look good; I wear them to have fun and be comfortable. In my 40s, I was afraid to wear shorts. Not any more: If I were heading for the Bois du Boulogne, on a hot, humid day in Paris, I'd be wearing shorts. A sneer says more about the sneer-er than the sneered-at. Rules are just silly. And the passage of time usually reveals how very silly they are. (I remember having to take tennis lessons in a skirt - and not a little tennis skirt, either.)

    • Tina-Boomerina


      I didn't write this article, but this is my website. I agree with you up to a point. I'm very indie and I hate rules more than almost anyone on the planet. I don't wear much black in Paris... haha.

      However, if you are old enough to remember when you were required to wear a skirt for tennis, you will probably want to go easy on the shorts. I suppose you can do whatever the freak you want in most American cities, but you will get crappy service in Paris... oh that was a stupid thing to say... you will possibly be turned away from some places in Paris if you are not dressed in a somewhat suitable manner... and I don't mean it to sound snotty like it did. I think you know what I mean. Also... it depends on the shorts and how they look within the context of your outfit.

  7. sharlee

    You're ridiculous!

  8. Sabine

    I too take issue with the "no shorts" rule. Ladies just wear what you feel comfortable in and if someone objects, then they show poor manners. Tina Boomerina it's time you own your website by taking responsibility for what you publish on it and by realizing the demographics of your readers. Few of us will get to experience poor service in Paris because we wore shorts. Get real.

    • Tina-Boomerina


      I don't care what you wear. I don't think you should wear shorts anywhere except the beach or the farm. You can wear whatever you want... but if you are over 40, you'll probably look like crap in most shorts outfits. However, I will not call the fashion police on you. It's your life. It's your body. If you want to look less than chic, it's your call. Sorry. I stand by the shorts rule unless you look like Betsey Johnson.

      Tina Boomerina

  9. Tina-Boomerina

    ps You might look okay in a city-shorts outfit that's a pantsuit made to be worn in areas other than Montana, Kansas, Oregon, Mississippi, and neighboring planets.


  10. Melinda reyes

    Im in my 50 s but, still wearing dressy shorts.my grown up kids doesnt bother .actually they dont like seeing me wearing denim pants.they say i look so flat.

  11. Kate

    I know you didn't write the article. You have made that clear. But you insist you stand behind the idea that women over 45 should not wear shorts except for sports and farming. How unreal is that? An adult woman can pretty much wear whatever she likes and feels good in. It's not like your website design is all that age appropriate with its psychedelic colors and flowers. Given the mean nature of your response comments and your snipes at people living in States below your grade level. i.e "Montana, Kansas, Oregon, Mississippi, and neighboring planets", I am just a brief visitor at the page and will never return.

    • Tina-Boomerina


      Just because I feel that most older women look silly in shorts doesn't mean you have to listen to what I say... or what anyone says.

      It's sad that you won't be returning to our website because a lot of our "snipes" are meant as humorous "snipes". Golly gee, I'm in the midst of moving to Oregon. I love people from Oregon... and people from neighboring planets.

      If you look good in shorts, wear them. However, I have seen what women wear at Disneyworld, and I think the shorts statement should apply to most women. Of course, I'm not going to go up to anyone and tell them to change their ensembles. I'm just suggesting that if you aren't in good shape or if you're over 40 that you take a good hard look at yourself in a three-way mirror before venturing out into a world filled with video phones.


      ps I also like Montana and the parts of Mississippi that have good blues bands and great barbeque. I've never been to Kansas and I probably never will go there because I get lost when I can't see landmarks like hills and mountains. Also, I think city-shorts outfits are fine on older women... and if you're a hipster with good taste... you should wear shorts if you think they look good on you. I should add that if you live in the city of Los Angeles, you should definitely wear shorts because you will help detract stares from the horrid outfits worn by most celebrities.

      • Tina-Boomerina

        pps I didn't know there was an age cutoff for psychedelic flowers. I'll have to have a secret rendezvous with the web-fashion police and decide if I should change my website. If any fashion police are reading this comment, please leave a reply, because Kate has made an interesting point.


  12. nguyenxuanmai

    I'm an Oregonian and I am in my LATE 40's and I wear bootie shorts when I work out? Why? Because I work out 2 hours a day and look better than most 20 year olds. There is no "age appropriate" clothing so much as clothing that YOU feel is appropriate for you.

    I dropped the denim mini skirt ages ago (like in my 20s) ... but I intend to wear spandex bootie shorts for exercising outdoors (I don't wear them otherwise) for as long as I like.

    I prefer cool dresses over shorts at this age for ONE reason.... my crotch breathes more easily in a skirt than in shorts - cuts down on dampness and the need to carry multiple underpants to change during the day (I live in a hot state). But age has nothing to do with it. Still, you made interesting posts and the style sounds tasteful - as long as it's not forced on anyone.

    • Tina-Boomerina

      Hi nguyenxuanmai (Mai/XuanMai?)

      I didn't write this article, although I am the owner of this website, but I'm in the process of moving to Bend, Oregon, and I agree with you.

      If you're working out, and you've got the butt to prove it, I think you can wear bootie shorts in certain circumstances. It's appropriate to wear your shorts when you're going wherever it is you exercise, while you're exercising, and after you're excercising... possibly even while running to the grocery store to stock up on health food after exercising.

      The rules are totally different for exercising than for walking around London or NYC. This article was written by a British woman who sees a lot of weird outfits along the lines of the old BBC show "Absolutely Fabulous".

      If you want to bike in your spandex shorts and pop into a restaurant, feel free... as long as it's a reasonably casual place. And, we're not the fashion police. We're just trying to get the people at Wallymart to look in the 3-way mirror before walking out the door.

      As for the denim mini-skirt. I think you could pull it off if the skirt wasn't too short or too tight. But, you sound like you have excellent taste and I trust your judgement.


  13. Mai

    I am an Oregonian!!! I miss my home state!!

    • Tina-Boomerina


      I'm sorry to hear you are homesick. I'm from Seattle. I've also lived in Orange County, California (didn't like all the people/traffic) and also lived on Oahu twice (would be there now if it wasn't so expensive). We ended up in Oregon as a compromise between all of the expensive places I liked (Santa Barbara, Belltown/Seattle, Kaanapali Maui) and all the inexpensive places my husband liked (Arizona, Florida, Texas, Idaho).

      We looked at Portland, but my husband is not a "city" person. I loved the Northwest part of the city... but I could tell it wouldn't work out. I considered Seaside or Cannon Beach, but somehow we kept being drawn to Bend. It was like an invisible hand showing us the way to Bend.

      And, I'm so sad you can't come back to Oregon. It's a wonderful state. I used to go to Seaside with my grandmother when I was a kid, but I never really considered what it would be like to live in Oregon. Now... don't get me wrong... I still love Washington... but it's changed from what it was like before Microsoft. (Oregon is more like the old, pre-tech-boom version of Washington. Oregon is still friendly and laid back.)

      The San Juans are still a fabulous place, but the Oregon Coast may be even better.

      It sounds like you transferred jobs or married someone from some other state and can't come back because you're trapped... but you never know what will happen next. I hope you get to return to Oregon or maybe buy a summer place in an inexpensive small town (not many of those left anymore) or visit your relatives for extended periods of time.

      I was once "trapped" in Orange County, California and I missed Washington terribly. But, I'm the kind of person who believes that things "happen for a reason"... although I don't usually figure out the reason for a decade or so. (If ever...)

      Anyway, I feel sad for you. Oregon is beautiful. I can see why you're homesick. I hope you get to come back home at some point in your life... to live here forever.


  14. Jill

    Wear what u want ..who cares I hate rules

  15. Lesley Law

    I don't think there's an age limit to wearing a good quality leather jacket these days. Worn with a simple skirt or pants, and maybe a scarf for some colour, a classic black leather moto jacket can look smashing on an older woman.

  16. Ali Browning

    I agree with most of that but I love ditsy print florals , I'd love to look like my great grandmas in their 50s, they were my age in the Belle epoque era, I love 1900 to 1920s styles.In the photos they looked gorgeous in their early 20th century outfits and my shape is the same as mum's grand ma and about her size too ( I don't thank her for the big hands though)

  17. Angela Kaperonis

    I'm 49 years old and I wear what I want. I like wearing gym clothes tight singlets and leggings all day as I'm focused on my gym career. I am very fit and can get away with looking hip and young, so I shop at the 25 year old stores