9 Fashion Mistakes That Make You Look Older

When I turned 40, I stopped wanting to look older than I was. I’d wanted to look sophisticated and elegant, which I thought meant looking older. As the saying goes, “be careful what you wish for” because…fast forward to now, and I no longer want to look younger. I want to look the best I can for my age.

woman walking in jeans an jacket

Dressing to feel youthful is a powerful tonic to banish the blues and remain visible, but there are pitfalls to avoid. No one wants to look like mutton dressed as lamb, but sticking to an antiquated rule will also make us look older than we are.


  • too many pastel outfits
  • too much black
  • baggy everything
  • out of date glasses
  • the wrong lingerie
  • out of date and too many new trends
  • fast fashion
  • matching accessories

Too many soft, delicate colors

Our skin tone fades as we get older, so wearing softer shades can be more flattering. But be aware that wearing too many pastels will make you look older. If you want to wear light colors from head to toe, opt for pale neutrals like nude, ivory, light gray, or beige. Baby blue with soft pink is a classic combo but hard to pull off over a certain age. If you love pastels near your face, anchor it with a stronger color on the bottom. Baby blue looks great with navy and black or brown and charcoal—ditto for soft pink, butter yellow, pale peach.

woman standing on sidewalk wearing coral ban toplazer over black pants

Too Much Black

Head to toe black is always chic, stylish, and easy to coordinate. It makes packing a breeze and enables you to have a smaller wardrobe. It can also leach the life out of your complexion, which makes you look older. Since black is such a huge part of many women’s wardrobes, here are a few tips to make it more flattering.

  • wear a flattering colored scarf near your face
  • wear a v or deep scoop neckline, so the black isn’t too close to your face
  • bump up your makeup to balance the black (think brighter lipstick and more eyeshadow)
  • wear colorful earrings and/or necklace in colors that do flatter you
  • wear black from the waist down and flattering colors on top
  • some prints
  • nude hose
  • wearing too many animal prints
  • too many matching accessories

Oversized everything

Many brands’ aesthetics is oversized and loose. It’s a popular look that’s very comfy but tricky to get right. Choose pieces that are loose but not overwhelming. Only wear oversized on one half of your body at a time. Voluminous tunics paired with oversized pants make you look like you’re trying to hide something. Opt for slim-fitting bottoms with an oversized top. Or a slim-fitting top with oversize pants. Some part of your body silhouette needs to show, or you risk looking larger and older than you are.

Outdated eyeglasses

If your eyeglasses are dated, you look older. Check out how to choose the best frames for your face here. Frame shapes change slowly, but if you haven’t updated yours in several years, they may be aging you. On the subject of glasses, very few frameless ones don’t make you look older. Frames actually help cover undereye wrinkles and camouflage dark circles. Choose a modern frame that makes a fun statement.

See also- How to Choose the Best Eyeglasses

Passé trends

Herein lies the problem with trends. They change rapidly, so if you’re wearing outdated trends, you look out of touch and older. It’s better to invest in styles that nod to what’s current and give your look a modern twist. Outdated jeans make you look out of touch, so be aware of current shapes and denim washes.

Wrong Underwear

Jennifer Connolly of A Well Styled Life showing comparison of 360 Vanishing Edge panty

The wrong bra can leave your clothes looking lumpy and your breasts sagging. Get a professional bra fitting and ensure it’s perking things up, so your clothes hang properly. Bra’s that dig in will leave bulges. Loose ones give no support and visible bra straps scream poor fit. Panty lines aren’t flattering on anyone so ensure your underwear lays smooth against your skin. Thongs aren’t the most comfortable option so look for panties with laser cuts edges that are invisible under your pants.

Common Fashion Mistakes

Tiny florals can be dangerous territory so indulge carefully. Choose classic prints like stripe, leopard, or polka dots, or opt for modern prints. Bright colors “of the moment” that drain the life from your complexion make you look older than you are.

Unflattering Lipstick Makes you Look Older

Brown, deep and matte lipstick ages the face and sucks the life out of your smile. Opt for gleam vs frost and dewy vs matte.

See also – Best Lipsticks After 50

Nude Pantyhose Make You Look Older Than You Are

These are totally out of date and scream out of touch. Many women aren’t comfortable with bare legs, so try self-tanner, or opt for opaque tights, sheer black, navy, or grey tights. Footless tights and leggings will also work in place of pantyhose.

Too much matchy-matchy

Coco Chanel is famously quoted as saying, “before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.” The truth is, too many statement accessories can age you. Matching accessories can do the same thing. Break your jewelry sets up. Don’t wear matching earrings, necklaces, and bracelets. Many women love the bohemian aesthetic and believe “more is more” This is personal taste, so wear what makes you feel confident. If you can pull off full-on accessories, go for it and enjoy it.


What do you think makes a woman look older than she is?

Thanks for reading, and be sure to wear what makes you feel confident.


  1. To be honest it’s like hitting a moving target; but at 68 I have had a lifelong love of fashion, and have taught art and design, as well as fashion design, so never intend to give up on it. I would say the basics are good posture and keeping the weight off (which is harder as you get older), then just giving everything a bit more thought (youth on your side covers a range of mistakes), as looking “wrong” is sadly spotted quickly on older people. I was taught at art college, that most people get “stuck” in wearing items that they wore when they were at their best, and properly quite young – so items that look like they are from the eighties or seventies or sixties, not a good look, unless you are young and doing it in retro style. So, no gathered flowery skirts, or fussy blouses, no long hippy dresses, no mini skirts and so on. I have recently tried going lighter with my hair (no I will not go grey) and my new hairdresser soon put me right, so I am a mid, warm brown, no longer dark, but she would not let me go lighter as I have black, thick eye brows and lashes and dark olive eyes, plus my mothers fine, very fair Irish skin. I also think, like the French, if your hair is too neat, it looks a bit rigid and ageing and don’t even get me started on short, sensible grey hair or long straggly grey hair!I would no longer wear black on my top half though, far too ageing and white can look just as hard. I stay clear of florals, and most patterns as too twee. As someone with flat feet and bunions, I wear mostly Ecco shoes, which do fashionable styles as they are Danish, and suede boots with ties, very safari looking, plus trainers, all fitted properly. Too many hard looking, sensible shoes in black or navy are definately ageing. In fact I think navy makes you look like a sixties airline stewardess, as do many silky scarves, which are sadly, often recommended for “softening” the look of older women, no women under 60 wears these, so they definately age you. Bags, too are something to keep abreast of, go for a small crossbody and put a light cloth bag inside for any extra shopping, backpacks are also good for the back, but can look as if you’re trying a bit too hard, unless you are backpacking! Small jewellery, yes that dates you, go for one bold piece or a modern pair of streamlined earrings, nothing with stones, too ageing. In fact, I would aim to keep most things streamlined and modern cut, too frilly, too fancy, too fiddly, is telling everyone your age. The book, “How to dress like a Parisian” is great advice, if if not all applicable to your life style (I live in the Scottish highlands, not Paris or New York, although I do love Donna Karen or Michael Kors for casual, practical, elegant jackets and pants (all bought cut price from T K Maax!). I don’t spend a lot on clothes, but am extremely choosey and will take weeks to find the right thing; not always getting it right of course. In fact, I often annoy my husband by putting things straight onto ebay, as I am so fussy; nonetheless, I regard the trial and error as an important part, perhaps the most important part of dressing at any age – as in most things, once you stop trying, you might as well be 6 ft under, and no one wants that!

    1. So much of your comment rings true for me as well. Thank you, Trisha.

  2. Gale Kessler says:

    I am 81 and still love wearing flattering clothes.
    I definitely have the Covid ten pounds but am trying to get them off! Not easy!
    I now need flat shoes for balance. I have found Ann Klein to have very smart looking flats but too few patterns and styles.
    If I have a special occasion I wear flats in the car, switch to kitten heels, and then back to flats on the way home. ( If it is a long occasion, I carry the flats in a pretty bag inside and put them on during the evening).
    One more thing: panty hose do wonders for your legs but stores are not stocking them like they used to. I wish they understood that the minute you have spider veins panty hose in a little thicker denier do wonders!

  3. Jan Foley says:

    I am 71. I think nothing ages a person more than trying too hard to look young. Colouring your hair (where the white shows at the roots?) For heaven’s sake. If you’ve got grey/white hair, enjoy it! If you colour your hair, when do you stop?

    Too much makeup looks awful. Too much skin showing …unless you miraculously don’t have ageing skin …is a dead giveaway that you are OLD. Wearing heavy earrings that stretch your ears …ouch.

    Attempting to wear all the new styles that were designed for young bodies is not usually a great idea. And there is nothing wrong with ‘hiding’ your shape if you’re not comfortable in it either. If you’re comfortable and happy, people around you won’t care (or notice) if you’re on trend or not. Get a nice hairstyle that suits you AND your hair type. Treat yourself to new clothes every now and again. Buy what you like, and it will ‘go together’ just fine.

    For me, the ideal older woman is Dame Judi Dench. She isn’t trying to hide her age at all …and she’s ageless, really. Men still fancy her. Women respect her. She makes the best of what she’s got, and doesn’t do ‘artificial.’ I think she is beautiful. And she’s way older than me!

  4. Susan Bartlett says:

    Great post and great comments! I agree with just about everyone.
    Another thing I think is aging is small petite jewelry, especially if you are not small or petite. My sister says it’s a classic look. I guess you have to be careful that classic looks modern, not just old.

  5. Why are frameless glasses aging?

    1. As we age, our personal coloring fades so frameless glasses blend in. They are discreet but they also don’t have any “presence” on our face.

      1. It seems to me that frameless glasses just scream “Granny!”, and not in a good way.

  6. Patricia Watters says:

    Frumpy footwear always makes me sad when I see it. I know not everyone can wear heels, and many people do have to wear shoes with inserts or to accommodate other considerations, but I think there are many brands of shoes trying to make comfortable footwear for all. Even if you have only one or two pairs of really high-quality, nice-looking pairs shoes, it’s just so much better than a pair of white running shoes worn with dress pants (unless I suppose, that’s a trend you are going for). I work with a woman who wears pantyhose and the ugliest pair of brown brogans you ever did see. It’s just sad.

    1. Maybe she’s disabled and must wear custom shoes that cost a fortune. I try not to judge people’s worth based on their choice of footwear.

  7. I turned 70 this year, so I’m not sure how much older I’ll look if I wear baggy pastels. I like to think of it as looking as put-together as possible rather than “younger.”

  8. Great list, great comments! We do enjoy our “ruts” don’t we!!?? I am now determined to wiggle out of my style rut. Thanks, ladies, for your inspiration!!

  9. Eileen Ternullo says:

    Great post. I think not staying current makes us look older, hair, clothes, shoes, bags, accessories, makeup and nails all need to be current. A trip to a personal stylist in a major department store every few years is helpful to me. As for hose, I’ve seen it worn in Europe by different ages of women the last couple of years, so we may be seeing it here as well.

    1. Things do usually start in Europe so it’s a good indication of what’s coming our way.

  10. Great list. May I add outdated hairstyle? I changed stylists recently, and I look 10 years younger.

  11. That was an interesting read. I agree with you that classics are timeless and ageless.
    I find that one thing that seems to age both men and women is posture. It rearranges the entire body and presence. So I work on mine. Standing up correctly makes me feel more energized and therefore, younger.
    The next thing is hair. I am still on a quest for my best haircut so have long periods between cuts when I’m assessing what to do with my hair next. During those times I feel frumpy and years older. I think it is totally unfair that a good stylist isn’t our female birthright!.
    For me, added pounds make me look and feel much older. So it’s a continual effort to stay a bit underweight. I feel much better, lighter, healthier, more buoyant .. younger.
    In fashion, belted dresses with full skirts look aging to me.
    As a colorist, I’m always checking out how colors lie against the skin and I see so many women look older with the wrong shades in make up and clothing.
    Makes a huge difference. Wrong colors and values ( (dark or light) can add age, weight, mood , can affect the wearers energy levels…. the right ones can work miracles.

    1. I agree about posture. So may of us slump as we get older and it effects everything. We do all deserve a fabulous hairstylist 🙂

  12. Darn it! I just bought a v-neck flowered blouse at the Loft. I always wear plain but my husband convinced me to get out of my comfort zone. Now I see I need to return it!! Thank you for saving me!

  13. I’ve noticed that clunky, heavy shoes can be very aging. I have had plantar fasciitis, have a high arch, a toe that points up like an elf’s, and have a heel spur, so I understand the need to be comfortable. It’s too easy just to don some athletic shoes and ignore their look. You mentioned your desire for supportive flat shoes… I have researched and tried many alternatives that are supportive and for me, actually more comfortable than athletic shoes. My best discovery was at Begg shoes in Scotland where I found Rieker shoes and sandals. I then ordered more online and also discovered them at Sole Society Shoes nearby. I shop for Ecco, Bourn, Natural Soul (Naturalizer), Ann Klein Sport and Vionic. Good luck on your hunt.

    1. Thanks Connie. I have had a pair of Reikers and they are very very comfy. Thanks for these other suggestions, I’ll check them out.

  14. Pamela Lutrell says:

    We both decided to focus on youthful dressing today! These are great tips to get us going for 2020!

  15. Great tips. I love black so scarves are my new friends. Xx

  16. I wish I had paid attention to my Mama who to,d me to always stand up straight. The older you get the more important good posture is to make clothes look right. I have to constantly remind myself not to slump. Good fitting bra makes such a difference in how my tops hang. It also increases the length of my mid drift,, I found I’m not as app,e as I thought, just needed better foundation garments. Here’s to all of us looking good in the coming year. Happy new year, Jennifer. Be blessed!

    1. Oh I hear you Eve! Posture makes such a huge difference. Improving mine is one of the reasons I started going to Pilates. Happy New Year!

    2. Chesapeakeblueeyes says:

      Watch The Makeover Guy videos on youtube for great makeovers for older women. Amazing!

  17. Great article! I agree with all the advice except for the bit about stockings. Very sheer nude panty hose seem to be making a comeback, especially in cold climates. And I must admit, I like the look. If I’m wearing a dress, I feel more comfortable and confident in hose unless the weather is warm. I’m afraid my legs aren’t what they used to be.

    1. It’s funny but I feel more polished in hose too! That’s why style suggestions/rules are ours to ignore or not:)

      1. I do wish hose would come back! I see so many women in beautiful dresses and shoes, but then their lumpy pale knees and legs ruin the whole look. Not many women over the age of 25 look better with bare legs when in more formal clothes. I also have a personal dislike of bare skin between pants and shoes or boots when wearing winter clothing. Seems ok in summer, but bare ankles in the winter look like you forgot something. I’m really out of step on that one, apparently, but, like you say, I wear what makes me feel comfortable.

      2. @Marcia: My sentiments exactly about sheer/nude pantyhose. Also for many women they do help to camouflage Spider or Vericose veins plus there are those (of us) who live in colder climates whose skin tone of our legs, vastly differ from that of our other body parts which are constantly exposed to the elements. Also, I was discussing this subject with my son recently (who is in the Fashion Industry) about pantyhose being taboo and according to him ‘they are definitely coming back’ as a wardrobe staple but will also include colour and pattern.

        @Jennifer: Great article as ‘spot on’ and super advice to follow. -Brenda-

    2. I too would love to see more sheer hosiery. No desire for the taboo associated in my growing up years about going without them, but most women (myself for sure!) can’t pull off a polished look with bare legs. Seldom I need that polished look anymore, but there are times!

  18. Shelbee on the Edge says:

    Jennifer, I love this list of tips because it’s not a list of what not to wear after a certain age. I am all for wearing what we love to make us feel vibrant and beautiful. Undergarments are definitely key when all these parts start to sag! And having on trend eyeglasses is huge for me. I do read a lot about certain colors not working after a certain age because our skin begins to fade. That worries me some since I am already super pale! If I fade anymore, I will be translucent! Wishing you all the best in the new year!


  19. Good information here Jennifer! I am 83 but look younger but enjoy up-to-date fashions. I do wear all black, but always wear a statement necklace or a printed scarf. Thank goodness I am still slim but not too around the waist. Cannot wear belts. Love your posts.

  20. What great advice! Thanks

  21. 1010ParkPlace says:

    Brava! You’ve given us a smartly curated list of things we shouldn’t do.

  22. Lois Williams says:

    Voluminous clothes & I’ll fitting bras are my two pet peeves. You hit all the aging factors squarely on the head, great post!

  23. Jacqueline Bucco says:

    Ohh this is soo interesting!! I agree with soo much of this…..and sadly to say I do it, and not even realize it ha!! The baggy clothes, yes i do….the all black, yes I do…..shop JJill a lot and find their top can be consuming, always have to remember with that brand to go down a size!! Have to wear very good athletic support sneakers for a foot issue…..but with some outfits, athletic shoes just look horrible….ughhh:( a lot of good hints in this article…..I will be paying more attention now….TY:)

    1. I’m on the hunt for very supportive flat shoes which are not athletic shoes. I’ll keep you posted.

      1. Catherine says:

        Try Vionc shoes, I have several pairs including sandals. They are great.

    2. retro-roost says:

      I use to shop at JJill, but ultimately found that there clothing is almost to the point of plus size – their styles do little to enhance a figure, sadly.

  24. Wonderful post, Jennifer. I think the older I get the more I favor classics with maybe a trendy bag or shoes. Fashion should be fun, but I never want to look ridiculous. Happy New Year!

    1. Happy New Year Dawn!! I’m leaning back towards classic more and more myself.

  25. Just my opinion, but I think extremes of any kind are not flattering to a “person of a certain age”. I am in my 70’s, so obviously I’ve made mistakes…lots. It now seems to me that any time you try too hard to ‘look young’, you wind up with the opposite effect. Softness in hairstyles and clothing make me feel the most comfortable.

  26. Happy new year, Jennifer! How about cropped pants? I like them for the summer (I can’t wear shorts any longer – 76 years old and legs are not the best), but I suspect they make me look older. Probably shorter too. I am only 5’1” tall.

    1. Happy New year Bea! Cropped pants do tend to make us look shorter but here’s the thing, you need to be comfortable in your clothes. If you like them you should wear them. Clothes are a tool for personal expression but they need to make our life easier. We need to enjoy them and feel confident wearing them.

      1. I have a Liberty print floral blouse that I have never really liked and didn’t know why. Now I do. Out it goes. Thanks Jennifer

  27. I agree with your list and have moved away from wearing so much black. Ditto for the oversized clothes (there is a brand similar to EF in Australia) and I spent quite a lot of money buying outfits which were not flattering – too oversized and shapeless. I do think older women wearing their hair extremely short isn’t very flattering, or long, grey hair which can look dirty and somewhat stringy. It was because of you, I bit the bullet and bought some wide legged linen trousers for summer, having seen you wear them. I receive so many compliments. Thank you

    1. My pleasure Susan. When it’s super hot, nothing is cooler than linen and the looser the better for me. I often wear loose over loose with linen and don’t worry if it makes me look older:) I need to be comfortable in my clothes.

  28. Too may pastels – I agree this is aging if you wear light blue capris with a baggy light blue top. Light blue tailored pants and light blue fitted blouse with a nice scarf + tasteful jewelery looks nice. There are exceptions to all these “rules”.

    1. Proportion makes a huge difference in everything. I prefer to think of them as guidelines that I take or leave at my leisure. Getting dressed needs to be fun and we need to feel confident in our clothes.

  29. Wonderful blog Jennifer. Ever one of the items are terrific!!
    Thank you so very much!!
    On to 2020 with fewer grooming mistakes !!
    🙂 Rory

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