Dress Your Age, Not Your Shoe Size


By Irene Feeney


That age-old saying…’Dress your age, not your shoe size!’ (UK size). I remember hearing this when I was younger thinking – ‘wow, so there are rules as you age on how to dress?’ What are these rules? Must one adhere to them in order to be accepted in society? Who invented these rules? Is it a rite of passage?


Well…what if I told you – this whole conversation about age-appropriate dressing is wrong! We live in a world nowadays, which lets face it is…predominantly ‘woke’. Rightly or wrongly – taboo subjects are becoming quashed faster than you can say…’politically incorrect’.


In saying this, our style also changes the older we get. Certain things we wore in our twenties and early thirties such as low-waist jeans and cropped tops are a no-no when you start hitting your forties for most. What happens is, we develop a style that moves with us as we move into the next stage of our lives but it also means, we don’t have to hang up the mini-skirts just yet!


On that note, lets look at some of these so-called ‘fashion retirement rules’ I found online when it comes to dressing your age and lets quash them once and for all.


Distressed denim (Retirement Age: 35) - Lets face it, denim never dates. Find a good pair of jeans that fit – and you’ll probably wear them the most, than any other item in your wardrobe. Ripped jeans in particular can look cool either dressed up down. There is no age limit on this. If you’re past 35 and you like them – go rock them!


Mini-skirts (Retirement Age: 40) – I mean if Tina Turner can still rock a micro-mini in her sixties…then why can’t we! Why do we have to ‘retire’ them at 40? Surely, it’s up to the individual to determine how they feel in a mini-skirt or mini-dress and not up to society. Irene’s rule is – if you feel good, then you look good and if you look good (in your mini of course), then you feel good! Show off those legs and OWN it!


Excessive Cleavage (Retirement Age: 50) – Charla Krupp, author of ‘How Not to Look Old’, bans excessive “boobage” past the age of 40 and warns readers not to ‘display too much sagging skin’. For me, this borders on ageism. What if a lady in her fifties feels good in her skin, maybe has had some breast work to feel good, works out to maintain a toned and fit physique and loves nothing more than to don those tops that shows off her cleavage be it big or small? Why does society put pressure on women to ‘ban excessive boobage’ at a certain age? I say…if you’ve got it, flaunt it – no matter what the age!


Hair Accessories (Retirement Age: 30) - Now this one I was pretty shocked at. 30? I’m in my forties and I’m still donning hair-bands, bows, ribbons, embellished slides, scrunchies and any hair-accessory trend going! In fact, I’m looking forward to when ‘banana clips’ make a fashionable return, as I will be first in-line. I draw the line at borrowing my eight-year old daughters ‘Unicorn’ and ‘Hello Kitty’ hair clips though but surely life is too short for boring tortoise-shell barrettes.


Loud bright colours (Retirement Age: 45) – This is one rule that I will NEVER ever agree with. If I want to wear hot pink, electric blue and bright orange – (so bright that I look like I’ve been ‘Tangoed’) all at once – I will do with utter joy, as life is too short to be black and white and grey and not inject loud bursts of feel-good colour. Don’t get me wrong, neutrals, blacks and whites are a firm favourite in my wardrobe but it doesn’t mean once I reach a certain age, this is now my day-to-day uniform.


Cut Your Hair (Retirement Age: 40) – I believe that this old-fashioned rule is a myth. I also believe hairstyles should be based around your lifestyle and shape of your face rather than your age. Look at Jennifer Anniston for example, she is still rocking her iconic hairstyle and signature style at the age of 53, still suits it and still looks fantastic.


Cover the greys (Retirement Age: when you find THAT first grey hair!) – Following on from the point above – grey is now totally cool and 100% on trend. Gone are the days when women felt the urge to rush to their hair colourist in order to hide away those pesky greys – women are now embracing their natural hues and letting the grey shine through. Perfect example of this is Miranda Hobbes character in the recent ‘Sex and the City’ reboot - ‘And Just Like That’ who cites “more important issues in the world than trying to stay young”.


Bikini’s (Retirement Age: 48) - all I will say on this is, as long as you are comfortable in your own skin…no matter what you are – there is NO REASON to retire the bikinis! NONE! There is no age limit for looking good on the beach. Recipe to get that perfect beach body at any age – ‘have a body; go to the beach (in a bikini) – DONE.


Don’t let rules interpret your sense of style, confidence and sense of fun. In the words of Iris Apfel; “there’s no how-to road map to style. It’s about self-expression and above all, attitude”.