What Would You Wear At 40?

“I confess, when I shop with my 19 year-old daughter, I am so envious of the style choices she has. PLEASE do women like me a favor! How can a forty-something mom build a style without large expense (we are paying for college you know) which will look new and fresh but appropriate for our age. Remember, we don’t have the great bodies we did at your age. Classic but unexpected. Flattering. Age-appropriate but FUN! What do you see yourself wearing at 40?

People often write to me saying that they’re x age or y weight, what do I think they should wear? It can be hard to answer questions like that, because I don’t believe that just because you’re not young or thin (the theoretical ideal), that you should have some kind of boring style prescription. I think dressing in a way that makes you happy is the most important thing, & when you’re being told what you can & can’t wear, the fun gets sucked out of it pretty quickly.

This email was different. She asked, “What do you see yourself wearing at 40?” — a much better way of phrasing things. It made my brain whirr. Of course, what I’ve come up with is my style, & therefore not necessarily suitable or even something you can picture yourself in. But it does give us a jumping off point!

Here’s what I came up with.

A simple outfit with a splash of purple. This would be great for a day off, shopping or walking my Dachshund!

40 year old Gala on her private jet. Oh yes. Secret spy woman with colour-coordinated accessories!

Black & white & super-chic. I absolutely adore this outfit. It’s just not quite the sort of thing I can pull off yet.

I think older women look so amazing in black & white. It’s so clean, & it makes them look clear-headed, intelligent & successful.

While it can be easy to feel like you’re being left out of the fun trends that your daughter is slithering into, remember that as a woman, there are a lot of things you can pull off that younger people can’t. As we grow & mature, our presence expands, & our whole way of being changes.

So as a grown woman, don’t feel limited. Think about it — while it may not be in your budget, the real high-end fashion houses make clothing for women who are your age. Not young whippersnappers! If you need some inspiration, look at fabulous women your age & see what they’re wearing. Think about Coco Chanel, Lauren Bacall, Diana Vreeland, Nicole Kidman, Iman, Julianne Moore, Kate Spade… !

I imagine that when I’m 40, my style will have evolved quite a lot. I probably won’t be so keen on super-short skirts or sleeveless tops. I envision a huge closet full of obscenely beautiful things — great coats, fabulous shoes, delicious handbags. I will probably have moved past my obsession with shoes that have springs & platforms! I can’t even begin to imagine what my hair would be like… I will probably still have a penchant for black worn with a splash of colour, & unusual jewellery.

This whole thing reminds me of “Warning” by Jenny Joseph.

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

What do you think you’ll wear when you get older? Make a Polyvore set & link it in the comments if you’re feeling really creative!


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