With the demographic of fashion bloggers and Instagram stars ranging from pre-teens to women in their 80s (hello @baddiewinkle), there really are no rules when it comes to fashion any more.
But, there are definitely key investment pieces that will make every outfit flattering – and of course, there are the items of clothing that’ll do the opposite. Don’t fall into the trap of fickle fashion by learning what to avoid if you don’t want to look older than your time.
1. Fast Fashion Trends
Fashion content lead Ashleigh Moore says anything too trend focussed can age even the most youthful. ‘I like a subtle nod to a trend,’ she says, ‘but anything more can leave you looking like you’ve fallen victim to the ‘16-year-old who shopped the whole high street shop window’ look and unless you’re actually 16, it’ll just make you look old and clueless.’ The key lesson? Don’t force a modern trend that simply doesn’t fit your personality, body shape or age.
2. Baggy clothes
Oversized clothing won’t only make you look larger but it’ll take your natural shape away from you too so it’ll give the illusion of exaggerating your size – and that’s probably not what you want. So, avoid anything that resembles a tent. And, when it comes to denim, make sure to invest in jeans with some lycra, spandex or elastane in to make sure they don’t stretch too much after some general wear and tear.
3. Over accessorising
Listen to Coco Chanel on this one, the iconic fashion designer once said: ‘When accessorising always take off the last thing you put on’ and it’s no wonder it’s become a world famous quote. Listen to Coco to avoid looking like you’ve just raided your jewellery box and left the house.
Now, don’t panic because this doesn’t mean you need to ditch all kinds of blacks altogether. Just because matte black fabrics can be draining and too much of a contrast on older skin, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t embrace black in glossy or lush materials like silk, velvet or satin. These can actually give you a new lease of life – just add a pop of colour in your lipstick or accessories.
‘I know it’s a bit controversial as they’re a huge staple of most women’s wardrobes but I find tights really ageing,’ says stylist Roxie Nafousi. ‘The nude ones especially are really unflattering as the skin tone never matches the rest of you and they give your legs a strange sort of matte texture. I'm not even sure how to describe it, but they're just not my cup of tea! I feel the same about black tights, although I know so many people love wearing black tights in winter! I just don't think they flatter anyone really and it just reminds me of wearing a school uniform…’
Speaking of school-esque attire, shopping editor Laura Weatherburn says anything that looks like you’ve raided your kids PE kit is a no go. ‘Athleisure that is clearly not for the gym, like tracksuit bottoms, Nike Air Force 1 and hoodies or motif clothing, just look a bit too try hard if you’re actually not working out so stick to subtle nods to it instead.’
7. Mini skirts
Digital fashion editor Penny Goldstone says many older women ‘fall into the pitfalls of trying to dress younger by wearing tight short skirts’ but assures us that doing so actually has the opposite effect. ‘It’s about wearing clothes that flatter your body no matter what age or shape you are but midi style dresses are a much more flattering length for women.’ She suggests pairing them with elegant pumps.
8. Jersey material
Thanks to jersey’s default bodycon fit, it’s as clingy as it is comfortable to wear so it’s best to only buy the material if it’s going to either be draped on you or comes in a ruched pattern. Because of its texture and lightweight quality, it’s not known to look the most expensive or fit the most flatteringly, so buy with caution…
9. Not dressing for your shape
‘Not dressing for your body type can add years to you,’ according to fashion PR founder Emily Austen: ‘Wearing a boxy jacket that’s the wrong shape for you or a skirt that’s too short is just going to end up making you look more worn out. Instead, go for more tailored clothing that fits you perfectly and will be timeless.’
10. Super long hair
This isn’t a fast and hard rule as it really depends on your hair type. But, typically, hairdressers will tell you that post-40-year-old hair tends to become thinner and stragglier. No, this doesn’t mean you need to get that pixie haircut the moment you enter this decade, but do think about adding volume to your hair by getting layers and avoiding poker straight hair styles. Think Demi Moore, Brooke Shields and Sarah Jessica Parker.
11. Maxi dresses and skirts
You don’t have to match your hemline to your age, instead vouch for midi lengths instead as styles that graze your ankles could make you look frumpy. And long skirts and dresses could also make you appear wider than you are. Fashion stylists always advise on finding the slimmest part of your knee area (be it above it, below it or in the middle) and using that as a guide for how long or short your hemlines should be.
12. An ill-fitting bra
Garment technologists (yes that’s actually a job title) will tell you that bras that don’t encase your breasts perfectly – ie. No spilling out or extra room – probably don’t fit you. And, the consequence of wearing a bad bra is that it’ll change your posture and most likely, leave you hunching over. And yes, bad posture is going to age you.
13. Platform heels
While we love and appreciate the comfort yet chicness of a chunky heel (and in general, of an ugly shoe), a platform shoe is likely to add additional weight to the bottom portion of a woman’s body and dressing disproportionately, as we know, can make you look frumpy, too. When in doubt, go for a pointed toe.
When it comes to wedding guest attire, freelance fashion stylist Amy Hanson-Bevan says she’s not a fan of fascinators. ‘People just plonk them on as a given but you can accessorise your outfit in other ways. Make it fun with a statement earring or bag or shoes. A lot of people think they have to wear a fascinator to attend a wedding but often they age a whole outfit with one.