To All New 40-Year-Olds: Why Age Has Nothing to Do With Your Style

To All New 40-Year-Olds: Why Age Has Nothing to Do With Your Style | Not Dressed As Lamb, over 40 style blogger

I’ll say it: Style. It has NOTHING to do with your age.

I’ve been pondering age again recently, probably because I’m approaching my 41st birthday (next month). The other day I had an irrational moment when I thought “Oh my god it feels like my 40th was only a couple of months ago – where has the time gone? I’m getting OLLLD“. Irrational, at best; ridiculous, at worst. Pointless? Undoubtedly.

I swear my age is accelerating faster than Newton’s second law of motion. But really, WHY am I worrying about my age? It is just a number, after all.


One thing that many women fret about to do with ageing is what to wear. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you will know from past musings that I have a thing about the expression “age appropriate dressing”. [She quells the overwhelming urge to grind her teeth and frown because she knows it’ll only make the scowl lines between her eyebrows worse.]


Mutton dressed as lamb

There just seems to be something about the age of 40, more than any other milestone birthday, that sends women everywhere into a major panic. They worry about how society will perceive them if they dress a certain way or continue to wear certain types of clothing, for fear of being called mutton dressed as lamb.

My advice? Don’t fret about dressing your age, especially if you’re about to reach your 40th birthday: You won’t change dramatically overnight. THERE’S NO SUCH THING as a set of rules for dressing your age.




No matter how old or young you are, whether you’re 20, 40 or 90, you only have to remember this:

Forget "age appropriate": Wear what you like, what suits you, and what's appropriate to the occasion.

1. Wear what you like
2. Wear what suits you
3. Wear what’s appropriate to the occasion

Follow these three guidelines and you will feel confident.

If you feel confident you will feel happy.

If you feel happy you will look radiant.

If you look radiant you will brighten up everyone’s day.

If you’re brightening up everyone’s day you, in turn, will feel great about yourself.

What’s not to love about that?

The important things in your life (as far as everyone else is concerned)

I went to see a show recently – a well-known British illusionist/hypnotist – who spoke at the beginning of the show about human behaviour, and how important things in your life are of quite little significance to other people.

So in other words, fretting about turning 40 might be a huge deal to you – but everyone else (and I mean this in the nicest possible way) simply couldn’t care less. To them, you are absolutely no different being 40 years and 1 day than you were when you were 39 years and 364 days.




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What will make a difference, however, is attitude – the confident/happy/radiant theory above. I read a great quote recently (I can’t find who said it unfortunately): rather trying to look 20 when you’re 40, simply look great at 40 and make the 20-year-olds long to look that good when they’re your age.

So surely it’s better to look your age but at the same time look amazing – no-one else cares what age you are.

Remember, they’re all too worried about their own next birthday milestone to care a jot about yours.



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To All New 40-Year-Olds: Why Age Has Nothing to Do With Your Style


  1. 5 July 2013 / 1:35 am

    I am 49, and I have worked out off and on all my adult life, and (with a lot of effort) I have retained my slim figure and I will continue to wear whatever the hell I want to wear, including short skirts (in the winter with opaque black tights so no skin issue) and I have even worn non-long shorts without tights with my 21 year old daughter's approval. I don't really care if a bunch of uptight frowny types think it's inappropriate. I don't think it is, and that's good enough for me.

    I do not agree that it is important to dress in a way that flatters oneself. Quite a lot of fashion is not really flattering, especially now, with the waist-surrendering oversized trends and suchlike. Not that I think wearing fashion is important — of course it isn't — but I often personally enjoy wearing current trends and playing with avant-garde voluminous attire and so on. It is not flattering — it hides my tiny waist — but it gives me pleasure nevertheless. Whilst I, like everyone, enjoy looking attractive, I also enjoy forgetting about that and having fun with fashion, or strutting about in an edgy avant-garde outfit that is most assuredly nothing like my mother might wear.

    For me, wearing edgy, unflatteringly oversized, waist-surrendering attire communicates an attitude. It says that I am not the boring conservative classics type. It is unexpected. It makes people curious. I get comments. It sparks many an interesting conversation with strangers. For you, that might make you feel self-conscious. For me, that is fun.

    Oh, and of course, wearing what I enjoy wearing feels ME, which helps.

    I don't think it matters WHAT your style is, if YOU enjoy it.

    If you find yourself gaining weight as you age, it will affect what you feel comfortable wearing. If you are the sort of person who enjoys dressing like other women your age and weight dress, great, but if gaining weight makes you feel sad and makes it seem more tricky to dress in a way that makes you happy, you might want to make retaining your figure a higher priority in your life, like I do (and it sounds as though Catherine does too). I am determined to stay strong and fit into old age, so I put in the work, and avoid overdoing the carbs, etc. It all depends what you feel comfortable wearing and what attire gives you joy and feels you. No matter how old I get, I cannot imagine ever wanting to dress the way most women my age dress. It is just not me. My look has to have edge and it has to be current — informed by fashion even if not high-street trendy. What makes someone else happy is of course likely to be completely different. We are all unique individuals.

    Love the crop top, Catherine. I wear them too. Shock horror. Nearly 50 and wearing that trend? Yes. I like my midriff. I like my defined abs. I don't show a lot of skin but I do wear a crop top with a high-waisted skirt.

    Life's too short to let the disapproval of others stop you wearing what gives you joy.

  2. 17 June 2013 / 5:40 pm

    "WHY am I worrying about my age – it is just a number, after all?" — well, the reason I worry about it is because I'm that much closer to DEATH! LOL.

  3. 13 June 2013 / 2:23 pm

    I love this text Catherine.
    I fretted about turning 40 and really…nothing changed. I still have fun with fashion and take inspiration from women my age (or older) that are the same.
    We have so many stylish role models over the age of 40 nowadays and they are such an inspiration to me.

  4. 11 June 2013 / 1:39 pm

    Sing it sister!! You are so right on with this. Be happy, be radiant and it will show. Happy Tuesday!
    xx, Heather @Stylemindchic

    • 11 June 2013 / 1:46 pm

      You are absolutely right, Heather… thank you!! C xx

  5. 11 June 2013 / 9:50 am

    Short dresses and skirts just don't feel comfortable on me anymore. I never thought I'd follow rules but I really think short skirts on a 50 or 60 something look a little strange. Even if you have nice legs and exercise, the skin on your legs starts to change. It's just the natural process of aging. So even though I'm not a big rule follower, some rules just make sense to me.

    • 11 June 2013 / 1:44 pm

      I know what you mean, Marla, and I completely agree with you: however I think the reason why short skirts tend not to look so good on the over 50s and 60s is because skin does sag – therefore my no.2 guideline still applies: Wear what flatters you! As I said it's nothing to do with age, it's about what flatters you, no matter what age you are. It's just as likely that a 20-something may not have the sort of legs she'd want to show off in a mini skirt either as that length doesn't flatter her legs any more than it does a 60 year old's legs. But if you have great shape legs and they look good in opaque tights, why not wear a skirt above your knees? The occasion appropriate thing then comes into it because in your 50s and 60s you tend not to go to the sort of events where a VERY short skirt is acceptable (in a night club for example)…. it all works itself out without having to follow age "rules".

      I was a lot larger in my early 30s, and wouldn't have dreamt of wearing a skirt that showed off my knees, let alone a skirt above them, because my weight tends to go onto my legs when I'm heavier. Nor would I have worn skinny jeans. But because I'm slimmer now I find that skinny jeans do flatter me, and I won't NOT wear them just because I'm in my 40s. I hope that makes sense – I just want to make sure older women aren't dismissing that would look amazing on them simply because they think they "shouldn't" be wearing them…!

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment (we are kind of in agreement)!!
      C xx

  6. 11 June 2013 / 5:51 am

    Now I understand your blog name! Being from the U.S. I don't think that I had ever heard that particular phrase. Personally, I think the best thing to wear at any age is a smile so I try to follow your suggestions and have fun with it. As I've gone way past my 40's into my 50's, I've rediscovered my love of fun, funky shoes and have been sporting some really cute ones this winter. I might not wear leopard on certain parts of my body, but a cute pair of fringed leopard booties give me some sass and make me smile. Love your blog!

    • 11 June 2013 / 1:07 pm

      That's funny, Carol – I know a few US bloggers who have heard of/use the expression… maybe that's why so many people put my blog name as "not dressed as A lamb" – I can't understand why the extra "A" gets put in because the expression isn't "mutton dressed as A lamb"!!

      Anyway…! Thank you for your lovely comments, and I'm glad to hear you're having fun with your wardrobe!! So great to hear! xx

  7. 10 June 2013 / 7:05 pm

    Thank you Catherine! I hit 40 in November & I so needed to read that! This whole age appropriate thing has been on my mind & you just set me straight! Love the quote too! Andrea x

    • 11 June 2013 / 11:01 am

      Ohh Andrea thank you so much – I'm so glad! 39 is really no different to 40, is it?! Personal style should evolve gradually over time as your tastes, lifestyle and body shape changes, there's no "omg I'm now 40 and have to dress like X". It's all so daft isn't it, I'm pleased you've "seen the light"!!!

      C x

  8. 10 June 2013 / 6:26 pm

    Great post. I do agree with Annette that things change, migrate south, etc., but we needn't dress like grand-mums, ever. I always want to express my youthful spirit without looking , well mutton dressed as lamb : >

    • 11 June 2013 / 10:56 am

      That's why wearing clothes that flatter makes sense, doesn't it Patti – no matter what age you are. And you express your youthful spirit BEAUTIFULLY through your clothes…! xo

  9. 10 June 2013 / 5:29 pm

    LOVE how what you've said. I'm a few months shy of my 40th birthday and seriously, I can't imagine myself dressing any different to what I'm wearing now. Besides, all these rules……who made them?!

    • 11 June 2013 / 10:53 am

      Good to hear that you won't be changing your style, Marlene! And those rules… I don't know who came up with them, but the get quoted all over the place, don't they?!

  10. 10 June 2013 / 3:28 pm

    So true. I've seen so many blogs where people just wear what feels good to them. It may not be my style, but I enjoy their blogs and their ability to express themselves through fashion.


    • 11 June 2013 / 10:52 am

      I love what you've said there, Monica – that they "wear what feels good to them". Sums it up beautifully! x

  11. 10 June 2013 / 3:08 pm

    Catherine, with 40 you are young and you are seen as young.
    I had a size 34/36 (German), everything was toned, not a single grey hair, I wore really short skirts and dresses. But it changed when I approached my late 40ies and now I am 50.
    No matter how I feel, my body changed, I gained weight even I eat healthy and not much. Ok, I need to exercise more…;-)
    Certain clothes just don't feel "right" any longer. Sure, I could put my pink hat on and say I don't care… but I do care.
    Therefore for me your points 2 and 3 are definitely how I think about dressing – and of course I have to like it too but the order changed.

    Lady of Style

    • 10 June 2013 / 3:28 pm

      Thanks Annette – I put Wear What You Like as no.1 really because if you DON'T like something, there's not much point moving onto points 2 or 3! You're never going to feel the confident/happy/radiant vibe in something you don't like. There's LOTS of things that I like that I don't wear simply because I know they don't suit me or my body shape – or my personality. But dressing your personality would be the subject of another post…!

      Catherine xx

      P.S. You were lucky not to have a single grey hair at 40 – I am horrendously grey!!

    • 18 October 2013 / 8:56 pm

      #2 Wear what flatters you.
      You can still find things you like that flatter you as your body changes.

  12. 10 June 2013 / 2:59 pm

    Love that quote and adore your tips! And if there were any rules, I'd certainly be trying to break them anyway 🙂 Here's to making our own rules!!
    XO ~Kim

    • 10 June 2013 / 3:22 pm

      I'm all for making our own rules, Kim! Glad you liked the post, thank you x

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