I came across a fascinating article the other day on dressing like adults (excuse the swearing in it!) about how attitudes to dressing as we get older have changed over the decades, and it really made me think about our own approach to fashion over 40!

The premise was this – once upon a time, young women looked forward to getting to an age where they could dress in a more sophisticated way. Not only that, fashion designers understood exactly how to dress and design for older women.

Getting older was a cause for celebration because, by the time you hit 30, you were deemed to have the confidence, curves (and probably marriage) to be able to be in clothes cut to enhance your womanly attributes.

Vogue cover

The poster woman at the time was Mrs Exeter, who appeared on the cover of Vogue twice. She was introduced by the fashion bible as a woman approaching 60, and was simply an illustrated drawing before being represented by a real model.

She wore structured styles, pearls and pussy bow blouses and was really the embodiment of the sophisticated styles from the likes of Dior.

Mrs Exeter - Stylish women over 40 | 40plusstyle.com

Mrs Exeter had a regular column in which she dispensed advice on skirt lengths, colors which work best with gray hair, and how tight clothing should be.

The 60s

But, come the 60s, and everything changed. Youth culture was celebrated more than ever before, clothes shapes changed to loose shift styles rather than the form-fitting styles of previous decades, and sewing skills were lost.

It seemed, the only thing we had to look forward to as a result of getting older was cheaper car insurance!

Boxy styles worn by the model-of-the-day, Twiggy, were de rigeur and were designed to flatter younger women with more boyish figures.

Have we come full circle?

No one is suggesting we ought to go back to the 50s when many professional jobs were still largely closed off to women, and there was pressure to be the perfect Stepford wife while looking after the home and family.

Not only that, but those nipped in waists and glamorous styles could actually be pretty restrictive.

But, I think, in some ways, we have come full circle in terms of fashion. We are once more looking forward to how we are going to dress when we get older!

40+ Style icons

Fashion becomes more important to us than ever before as a way of expressing ourselves as we age. And, unlike Mrs Exeter and the structured styles of decades gone by, we now have more freedom to dress in the way we want.

Style icon - Iris Apfel | 40plusstyle.com

You only have to look at the likes of Iris Apfel, you may find our article on the style icon here,

Accidental icon style interview with 40plusstyle | 40plusstyle.com

or Lyn Slater, aka the Accidental Icon, whose style interview you may read here,

Stylish women over 40 | 40plusstyle.com

Deborah Gates of @stylishmurmurs, you may read her style interview here

Dianna Gabriel style interview | 40plusstyle.com

and Diana Gabriel of @dianagabrielnyc, whose interview you may read here

These are just a few examples of fabulously stylish women over 40 who are dressing exactly the way they want. Companies and magazines are now using older models such as Lyn Slater, Maye Musk and Jan de Villeneuve.

Older women are no longer being ignored (as much!) by the fashion industry.

And what’s great about that is Millennials and younger women are looking to older women for inspiration. Fashion has become something which does not divide the generations, but which can unite us.

Support and solidarity

Not only does it unite generations, but it also encourages support and solidarity among older women. You only have to look at the 40+ Style Club where members support each both online and in person, and at the 40+ Style Community on Facebook where women support each other to find the best style for them, giving not just compliments, but also tactful and constructive advice.

members of the 40+Style Club

While I’m generalizing, when we’re younger, we tend to follow trends to the letter, and can end up looking the same as our peers. But, as we get older, our confidence can grow. Read the 40+ style interviews series to see how fashion becomes more important as we get older.

We use fashion as both a way to stay relevant and to express our unique personality, taking seasonal trends and molding them. So, if you took one skirt, then gave it to 10 different 40+ women, they’d add wear it different, but equally stylish, ways.

While the fictional character of Mrs Exeter may have been killed off by Vogue, I’d like to think we’re all Mrs Exeter to each other. Here to steer, advise, encourage, enthuse and inspire each other!

Is fashion more important to you as you get older? Do you think your style is improving with age?

Author bio: Liz Hands is a fashion journalist and stylist from the UK who has styled fashion shoots for newspapers, magazines and high-end clients including 5* hotels and BMW. She’s now happiest either blogging about style, or donning her favorite Barbour jacket and Brogini boots.



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Why the fashion world is no longer ignoring over 40s! | 40plusstyle.com

Top and bottom images by Denton Taylor

Image of Mrs. Exeter from The Daily Mail

Image of Iris Apfel by Bruce Webber and Architectural Digest



Sylvia is 40+style’s editor-in-chief and has been helping women find their unique style since 2011. An alumni of the School of Color and Design, she is devoted to empowering women of any age to look and feel their best. Read more about Sylvia and 40+style on this page.

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