How to Dress in your 40’s
Several years ago, a movie came out called This is 40. Do you remember it? I made the weird choice of watching it (I was in my late 20’s at the time) and found it more depressing than comedic. In fact, I don’t think I laughed at all. ‘Watched in horror’ and ‘silently cried’ were probably more appropriate ways to describe my reaction to the movie.
With that said, I think it hit on a good point about your 40’s: they are this middle ground in your life that hit somewhat unexpectantly early (middle aged is after 50, isn’t it?) and can almost be a tipping point. This is the only age decade that is solely NOT about you.
Think about it. Your kids are in middle school or high school and you are a taxi service/therapist/referee/short order cook. Promotions in your job mean that you have more responsibility and more expected from you at work. Your spouse and friends still want your love and attention (because, you know, they’re normal human beings). You are being pulled in all directions at once and, most likely, none of them are towards you.
No other decade has SOLEY been about others until this point in your life, and to be honest, I see people start to move in one of two directions. They either put themselves on the back burner (never to be seen again) or they take time for a little self-care and love. Fashion speaking, this is the difference between women who ‘let themselves go’ and women who ‘look just as good as in high school’.
Because you’re in such an in-between zone, choosing what to wear in your 40’s can be really hard. You still feel sexy, but you are the mom of a 13-year-old daughter and don’t want to look too sexy. You need the versatility of workout clothes (and the comfort of yoga pants) on the weekends, but you also miss looking like a decent human being. How do you find a happy medium?
While I don’t have all the answers, I have a few that I think are incredibly important.
Here are my top 3 tips to dressing in your 40’s
1. Don’t forget to show yourself some love
It’s much easier said than done, but TAKE TIME FOR YOU! I know a man who wakes up at 4 am just to have an hour to himself every morning. It’s his way of grounding and refreshing himself before his two teenagers and wife wake up. You may not have an extra hour in your day, but 5 minutes of meditation or journaling in the carpool line can do leaps and bounds for your emotional health.
Likewise, doing small things for your fashion life can also make a big difference. Maybe resolve to wear one cute outfit (aka not yoga pants) when running errands this week. Maybe take an hour to go through your closet and remove anything that is damaged or stained. Take a weekend to go shopping with girlfriends and refresh your spirit (and closet!). Or if you don’t have any sort of rhyme or reason behind your wardrobe- make your life easier (and more stylish) by building up the basics in your wardrobe (here are 20 basics every woman needs in her wardrobe).
This is often the time women start falling into a fashion rut. Usually caused by pushing their appearance to a low priority, a style rut can (and will!) last until you decide to do something for yourself (fashion speaking). While your appearance doesn’t need to be your top priority all the time (that would be considered vanity) it should ideally stay around some sort of happy medium. Some days are yoga pant days while some days you put on makeup and steal the show. (Psst. Already in a rut? Here’s how to get out)
Case in point: don’t ‘let yourself go’! Find ways to show you, you care. Decide to do one thing for yourself this week (it can be big or small!) that will help keep your appearance at that ‘happy medium’.
2. Mastering the balance between sexy and sleazy
This is something I get so many questions about, I literally just did a whole blog post on the topic. Essentially, you feel (relatively) young still, but you don’t want to look like your teenage daughter. How do you find a happy medium between sexy and too sexy? How do you look like you’re not trying too hard?
The key is an easy formula that I call the rule of alternating zones. Read the whole post and see examples here.
3. Dress Respectfully
As I mentioned in the first tip, your appearance is your message to the world- and it’s a message you get to choose! My big question for you is: does that message say you respect yourself? Does it say you respect others?
Does it say you care enough about yourself to buy quality jeans that fit your body shape?
Does it say you respect your kids enough to show them an example of a well-dressed adult?
Does it say you respect yourself enough to take the time to find clothes that make you feel happy?
Does it say you respect your significant other to the point of looking good so they can look even better? (This goes both ways, btw. I dress well because I know that the way I look reflects upon my husband. He dresses well because he knows the way he looks reflects upon me. It’s important to note that we don’t dress well just for other people’s comments. We take care of our personal appearances out of respect for ourselves and for the other spouse- who has to be seen with us!)
I know that all sounds really intense, but the big lesson to be learned in your 40’s (if you haven’t learned prior) is that: Your appearance shows how much you value yourself and others. People who stop valuing and respecting themselves are the ones that ‘let go’. People who learn to take time to love themselves and dress respectfully appear to look great for a longer time (even if they gain some weight, get wrinkles, and have to start dying their hair!) It isn’t about fitting a certain size or wearing the right brands…it’s about dressing in a way that shows you understand how powerful and incredible you actually are.
Keep scrolling to see 3 ways you can easily upgrade your appearance.
If you’re looking to improve your appearance, here are 3 ways to do that (depending on how much time you have available):
If you have 30 minutes to an hour:
Look through a Style E-book like Building a Classic Wardrobe- the Basics and see which styles of the 20 basics highlighted work best for your body shape and lifestyle. Filled with pictures, like a magazine, this is both a fun read and informative. It’s great for waiting at doctor’s offices, carpool lines, and football practices.
If you have a free night:
If you enjoy reading, pick up a copy (available on Kindle or paperback) of Dressing Your Personal Brand. This book talks all about the message your sending and how to make it your own. It also discusses dressing at work and at home. This easy read is entertaining but also very informative and can easily be knocked out in a night on the couch with a good glass of wine.
If you have a weekend or more:
If you’re more a video person than a book person, you’ll really like The Ultimate #STYLE Guide E-course. It has separate videos on everything from ‘Dressing for your Body Shape’ to ‘Wearing Scarves’ and ‘Finding the right glasses for your face shape’. There’s also a whole section on making your life easier (ie: organizing your closet and stylist approved shopping tips). You don’t have to do the whole course at once- each section is made up of 15-20 minute videos discussing different topics.
The Style E-book, Book, and E-course mentioned above are all made by yours truly because I am so over the top passionate about the subject of looking great (and sending the specific message you want to send!). I want this message to be available to everyone no matter how much (or little!) money and time they have. If you have any questions about any of the books or e-courses, I’d love to answer them. I never want anyone to buy a product that isn’t right for you, so I love it when people ask me before they purchase! Just send an email to empowerme(at)leslie-friedman.com or leave a comment below and I’ll back to you ASAP.
TLDR: Your appearance is sending a message about who and what you respect. Make sure to take time for yourself and show YOURSELF a little respect.