Cleaning out the closet: looking at the concept of age appropriate clothing

Updated Oct 12 2015
Guest post by Amy Leblanc
I don't want to look younger. I want to look as great as I can at any age. -Joyce, as featured on Advanced Style
Organizing. For anyone living on their own and out of college, after a few years it gets a little overwhelming how much time Organizing Your Stuff can take. There are entire stores devoted to Organizing. Why do we have so much stuff? Why do we keep it? How can we determine what is useful to keep, and what is better recycled? These are perennial topics of the Adult American Homeowner.

But let us focus here on closets. Particularly, clothing closets. Here in the Bay Area, we have a wonderful community of Clothing Swappers, and about once a quarter someone sends me an invite to one. (Clothing swaps, for the unfamiliar, are social events where people offer up the clothes they don't want to others, usually before taking them off to the Goodwill. Kind of like a free garage sale.) While it's totally cool to show up with nothing and just take, I use every invite as an opportunity to go through my closet and sort through my things. One more time.

As a person who swaps a lot and thrifts a lot and also tries to keep up with style trends, my wardrobe cycles quickly, so usually there are a few items that are immediately in the swap pile: things I got at the last swap that didn't quite fit, things that I've been meaning to mend but haven't but someone else could do in five minutes, things I thrifted but never wore. Out!

But then there are the things that get considered EVERY TIME, and never let go. Let's call them Sentimental Pieces. Those crazy vintage psychedelic pants I used to wear on Phish tour. The phat pants from my early raver days. Those slinky dresses from my early 20s…..

Not only will I never wear these things again, but I dare say it would not even be APPROPRIATE now that I am 35. My body is different. And even if the things still fit, and my friends shriek "Why are you giving this away?! It's so cool!!," a lot of the time I just can't wear the thing again because it is just too Me From Ten Years Ago. And perhaps this is a specific demographic I'm speaking to right now — maybe the change from 35 to 45 won't be so dramatic, but for a lot of us, 25 to 35 sure can be. Even five years ago seems a world away in terms of my personal style.

Let's define for a second: Fashion is what's trendy and changes multiple times a year. Style is personal. Style is an expression of your personal self, the use of clothing and accessories to make a statement, and changes as you grow. Style is not static, but above all it should always accentuate your best features. Stylish women do not wear trendy clothes that don't flatter them. Stylish women do not try to look like something they are not or used to be (e.g. 25).

I resist using this turn of phrase that every woman cringes to hear… "age-appropriate clothing." It immediately conjures up clashing images of older women in tweenage midriff tops vs. Mom Jeans and whatever "sensible shoes" are. Unfortunately, we currently live in a culture of clinging to the idea of eternal youth, where on the one hand 14-year-old runway models are dolled up to look 21, and at the other end of the spectrum Hollywood starlets claim their days are numbered once they get over 30 and so go to extreme measures to continue looking 25 well into their 40s. Everyone wants to look 25! Forever! And unfortunately some fashion trends reflect this.

But women used to do this thing called "Aging Gracefully," and I think we need to bring that back. This does NOT mean that as you grow older, you start dressing "boring" and once you're over 35 you should trade in all your "fun" or "sexy" clothes for high-waisted pants and cardigan sweater sets. Heavens, no! Check out the ladies on Advanced Style. These women have really honed in on who they are, what makes them look good, and how to express themselves stylishly at any age.

And yes, I know that the majority of Offbeat Home readers are younger than these fine senior citizens. But their example is something every woman needs to start considering if your wardrobe feels trapped somewhere between Twenty-Something and Boring Middle-Aged Mom.

But hold on — what's this got to do with closets? Cleaning out your closet is as much about organizing and creating space as it is about redefining your wardrobe as you get older to fit your body, your lifestyle, and your personality, without sacrificing STYLE. The next time you have an opportunity to clean out your closet and are tempted to hold onto those Sentimental Pieces, think for a minute: Unless it is a valuable piece (vintage Chanel or something that would be worth hanging on to), would it even be appropriate for you to wear this item? Most importantly, does it reflect who you are, NOW? If not, find someone to hand if off to (a Niece? a friend's child?), and maybe consider replacing it with an updated version that reflects the current you, not the you from 10 years ago. Style is about looking forward, not back.

  1. I have to say I disagree with this. I think people should dress how they want, no matter how old they are. And maybe that means you dress differently every year, but maybe it doesn't. I'm turning 30 in a couple days and I pretty much dress the same as I did in high school (literally, some of the same clothes), and I don't really see anything wrong with that. What's inappropriate about wearing a particular thing, if it still fits you (physically and personality-wise)?

    • I feel like that's part of what she's saying. The pieces that she hangs on to aren't part of her personal style anymore – it's not so much about needing to change your personal style according to your age but rather ensure that what you are wearing and what you cling to as far as material items does actually reflect that style.

      • I guess I was a little confused by what she was trying to say about what's "age-appropriate" because her main point seems to be that you should always dress in a way that reflects who you really are, which I agree with, but then kept saying things like "it would not even be APPROPRIATE now that I am 35" and "Stylish women do not try to look like something they are not or used to be (e.g. 25)" and "But women used to do this thing called "Aging Gracefully," and I think we need to bring that back." All of which implies to me that there are specific items of clothing which are appropriate for specific ages. I feel like there's a mixed message here.

        • I think that a lot of the stuff I wore back in high school I *could* get away with in my later 20's. But definitely not now in my mid-30's. No way short dresses and midi shirts are the way to go LOL! Knee high sex kitten boots either. So it's about expressing your personality STILL, but finding a way to do it that doesn't make you look like one of those people still stuck in their hair band days (my Uncle and Aunt are a prime example – he still has a ratt tail and she wears clothes from the little girls section to get them tight enough, in their late 50's mind you!)

          • I think if something fits you, who cares how old you are? I wear clothes from the little boys' section, juniors, women's, men's, whatever. I've never dressed in the stuff you mentioned, though, at any age, so my personal experience may just be totally different =)

        • hi celeste – i understand your comment – and perhaps there are a few mixed messages in there, as culturally, i think we get ton of them and i can't say i'm immune. but my point was more that there are some things that will always be age appropriate, like standard jeans, tshirts, etc. and if you've been wearing the same favorites for 10+ years and still feel like they reflect who you are, go for it! but for some of us, we have some pretty eclectic things in our closets from various stages of our lives (uh…vinyl hot pants, anyone?) that for many women, are no longer a good reflection of who they are as they age. i mean, if you're 50 and look smokin in your vinyl hot pants and don't give a rat's ass what anyone thinks – more power to you! definitely every woman should feel free to determine what is "appropriate" for herself! but this post was about letting go of things that are no longer you and you no longer wear, and cleaning out your closet and moving forward with your style to reflect who you are NOW.

          • OK, gotcha. And as I said I totally agree with that sentiment of dressing to reflect who you are, and I realize that most people change over time so their style might change too — though I think it's totally OK if your style doesn't change and it wasn't just t-shirts and jeans, but more eclectic stuff, if it still reflects you. But I think we are overall in agreement =)

    • Well, recently I saw an episode of What Not to Wear, where a woman in her 40's was still dressing the same way that she had as a teenager. Like a Skater Chick.

      Here she was, a 40-something IT professional, wearing board shorts and T-shirts to work. Not a good way to make a first impression.

      • I wish people would get over first impressions. They're so ageist/classist/racist/sexist/homophobic/you-name-it (prejudiced in general).

        PS I think that sounds like an awesome outfit. And I'm glad that woman's challenging people's assumptions and expectations and probably changing some minds. Too bad she was on that show.

        • I don't feel that first impressions are prejudiced, necessarily. It's people who are prejudiced – and everyone is prejudiced against something (usually more than one thing.) I feel that people *can* be prejudiced when it comes to first impressions, but, often, first impressions are just about how you want others to view you. Obviously, this particular woman wanted people to view her as a skater girl, but, unfortunately, that's not appropriate for most corporate and IT professions. It's just true that if you don't dress professionally, for whatever your profession is, (professional doesn't equal "without your own personal style") then people don't usually view you as a professional. It's associative. If I dressed in suits all the time (I do like suits, by the way,) I wouldn't be offended when someone assumed I worked in a corporate office, even though I work from home as an artist and designer. That's just not what I want to communicate to others, so I don't dress in suits.

        • Oh, what a wonderful world this *would* be if we would never go by first impressions and not have any prejudices. But that's not the world we live in and never has been. And if you do not understand that, you will be fighting a war you cannot win. And likely be unhappy, because no matter how one cries out to "not judge a book by its cover", that's the way we as humans initially get to know someone.

          What Not to Wear would make this point again and again.

          Wardrobe is one of the few things you have nearly 100% control over. If it is not doing you good service, it is time to change it.

          Some people can dress the way they did as a teenager… if they dressed in timeless things like polo shirts and khakis or really tasteful dresses are in an artistic field or something like that. But for most of us, we evolve into grown-up clothing. It doesn't have to be boring. It's just not teeny-bopper stuff.

  2. Can I just say that I'm in my mid-20's and I would kill to look as good as the women on Advanced Style? Seriously, I have my new style inspiration.

    • Advanced Style is the ONLY fashion blog I read. The way I see it, it's the best aspirational fashion publication out there… realistically, unless you're currently a 19-year-old Brazilian fashion model, none of us are going to become the 20-year-old Brazilian fashion models in most magazines … where as ALL OF US are going to become older ladies, so ALL OF US have the opportunity to become like the ladies on Advanced Style.

      • I love Advanced Style! It and The Sartorialist are the only fashion blogs I follow. I aspire to look like those ladies when I reach their age!

  3. I've given this topic a lot of thought, but from the other side of the perspective. In considering age-appropriate clothing, my conundrum has not been "is this something that I'm too old to wear" but rather "does this make me look older than I like".

    I have the pleasure of wearing a similar size to my mother, who happens to be something of a fashion maven herself (she has a fabric blog, makes a lot of her own clothes, and is an avid follower of Advanced Style); when she needs to clean out *her* clothes closet, I am often the recipient, if I so choose it. Of course the fabulous things she offers are snatched up like the last iPad at the Apple store on Black Friday, but often there are the things that, when I try them on, make me feel like I'm 20 years older. Some are nice outfits that I can use for work, so I take them anyway; but when I have that twinge of doubt when I run into a friend at Whole Foods while I'm wearing said slightly "matronly" outfit, I really have to think twice about whether it's got staying power in my closet, high-quality or no.

    I love a good clothing swap that's multi-generational for just this very reason: truly something for everyone!

    • Yes! Ha ha! I work at a really young e-commerce company and when I go shopping with my mom, she's always trying to help me "look more professional" because she works in a normal office. I'm already pretty overweight which makes me feel old and I have a hard time explaining to my mom why slacks actually make me feel less self-confident at the office. 😉

      That said – I'm all about the classic styles and really enjoyed this article. And I really need to absorb the part about letting go!! There are some things I just won't ever wear again…

  4. i just hosted a clothing swap this past weekend! yay, berkeley…

    also, living in a crazy-small space, i find myself torn when wanting to hang onto things that i would never wear consistently, but which are awesome for costumes and other Special Occasions. ESPECIALLY the vintage stuff i've slogged out from thrift stores or my aunt's basement. =/

  5. Yes! Yes! Yes! I'm 35 and this has totally been true for me over the last few years. There's a few things I'm having a hard time parting with even though I KNOW I will never wear them again.

    • AMEN. At 36, I feel like I need to write a eulogy for the pink spandex disco dress I bought in Paris in 2001 and know in my heart of hearts I will simply never wear again.

      • you know my siblings and I absolutely cherish the few things that our parents hung onto clothing wise. It was super fun to get the things my mom wore as a teenager when I was a teenager. And my dads pink floyd concert tshirts were the best! I think theres a place for saving a few specific sentimental pieces, maybe just in a box instead of hanging in the closet

        • Absolutly on your first point, in fact my mother has photos of a certain dress she kept that she wore on dates with my dad 40ish years ago, I am now in my mid 30s and I now wear that dress! I love it, it is one of my favorites!

        • My mother just posted a photo of a shirt of my dad's that's moved to and from three different states. It's from a crazy party house some of their friends used to live at. Priceless!

          • Speaking of photos – they can help immortalize your clothes, too. A friend who moved to Australia really had to get rid of practically everything and she ended up taking pictures of a lot of clothes and outfits she loved but knew she wouldn't wear and couldn't take. I think it made it at least a little easier for her to get rid of them.

  6. This is something I've been thinking about recently. My style is pretty simple. Solid color tees and sweaters, cardigans, and boot-cut jeans. I've only recently branched out to skinny jeans (which look surprisingly good on me) because I decided this was the fall/winter I found some kick-ass boots. I waver between thinking, "Oh, I have so much to wear, I don't need to go shopping." and "Man, I wish I had more diverse clothing options." Hence, I have a few outfits that when I wear them people say, "Oh, you look so nice!" in contrast with my usual style, which no one ever comments on. I need to find a balance, and more interchangeable clothes. I have some pretty skirts, but only one shirt that goes with each of them and one skirt that no top goes with! I need a shop-tervention.

    • All this to say, my typical style of solid tee+jeans makes me look younger than my 29 years. My 'nicer' outfits make me look right at or a little over my age. I need an average. But what does 29 'look like'? I don't know.

      • I used to obsess about this in my late twenties and ended up looking like Martha Stewart for several years. I'm now 45 and wear whatever the hell I want (and/or anything from Old Navy, which suits all ages). I did keep some of my 80's hair band t-shirts, goth clothes and whatever other style phase I went through. I don't wear them anymore, but my 19 year old daughter does!

    • I'm a t-shirt-and-jeans girl. But have recently discovered a winning dress-and-jeans combination!
      + Dresses can be worn on their own during summer.
      + I feel even more comfortable in them as the longer length means no accidental plumbers crack or visible muffin top.
      + All my dresses are thrifted, thus quirky but casual still.
      + It's ever-so-slightly more dressy than a t-shirt, which means I can wear this combination to a wider variety of things and still feel casual.
      + I can now wear shorter dresses that I wouldn't normal dare!

      • I'm getting into the dress vibe too! And now that it's cold, I've done the dress+leggings+hand-me-down boots from friend combo, and I love the look. I guess if I look back, my style has evolved, just ever so slowly and it just happens I'm at one of the more evolving points so to speak. I liked my style before, I just feel now I'm more willing to have fun with it.

      • Kathryn- This is what I have just started doing! It was the skin exposure that was really bothering me about my current wardrobe, so I went to the Goodwill and bought a few dresses with long sleeves. I sometiems wear a shawlwar with leggings as well. It's perfectly modest for work.

      • There's one girl at my work who also wears a lot of long sleeved, higher cut tops und other stuff. It always looks super cute and otherwise she could never wear some of the tops at work. It works with some dresses too..

  7. I *love * this. As a 36 year old woman who has ALWAYS embraced an offbeat and personal sense of style, it was really hard for me once I hit 33-34. I experienced a Style Death of sorts. I went from looking like Zoe Deschanel to a person people addressed as "Ma'am" and stopped carding for wine. I started needing to wear a bra when I left the house and understanding the phrase "dressing too young". Yikes.

    It was rough, but when I moved in with husband last year, I purged most of my Younger Days stuff. (The money I got for it on Ebay was helpful in the process.) I saved the really great items (like my tiny vintage 60s gold party dress) to either one day pass on to family or use in our Photo Shoot Wardrobe (we sometimes shoot pinup and studio)for younger gals.

    Fortunately, there are many women in the public eye who are my age + with great age-appropriate style and a sense of self. (Gwenyth Paltrow, Julianne Moore, Cat Kora, Amy Sedaris, Christina Hendricks and Drew Barrymore to name a few.) My sense of style hasn't been lost, it's just been forced to evolve.

  8. I am trying to 'upgrade' my style. In uni I've worn pretty much jeans and hoodies, just because it's comfortable. But now, I long for more … graceful clothing I guess. Which I always have had to an extent, but is now more age appropriate. What has helped me, is getting a color analysis, on what colors look good with my skin tone and what type of clothing fits my body type. It was a gift from my parents and I appreciate that a lot. It helps me with shopping in picking items that I know I will wear and that fits my style.

    • This is exactly what I'm doing right now. I'm a teacher, and I have this fear of encountering a teenage student wearing the same outfit!

      The difference for me, is that as a younger, casual student-type, I just sort of threw clothes on together regardless of what they looked like, because I was "saving" my nicer outfits for when I "needed" them. Now, I have all of these random single-item clothes that I am trying to phase out. Basically, every time I order or buy a new nice thing, I get rid of an old thing, so that I am truly upgrading and not just accumulating. It's taking time, but definitely improving!

      • Major props to you! When I acquire new clothing items, I consider long and hard what else it would go with rather than which single clothing item would match with it. I don't want to be stuck with a bunch of super-specific outfits that people start to recognize because the pieces aren't interchangeable.

  9. Oh I know the feeling well. Those tie-dyed poncho's, 70's Gunne Sax dresses, the Doc Martens that look like mood boots, the shoes that look like the Cat in the Hats feet. I'm never going to wear them again. For one, I've had 3 children since then. Like I'm ever going to be a size 7 again *pish posh!* But it's like they are remnants of the old me. I have almost NO pictures from that era. None of the friends I had then are still around. The only tangible memories I have of then are my old clothes and a few cd's/tapes/records. I went through a period of just wearing whatever caught my eye in my late 20's. And it worked, it was ME. But now, I'm living in a new state, a more conservative state, and I don't want to embarrass my kids with their totally weird mom. I'm really truly thinking of going back to my roots and just dressing 50's vintage style. I could so totally rock those dresses, pedal pushers, flats, and sweaters, and it wouldn't be toooooo much for my conservative area, but I'd still be ME. There is however, one problem. I have to sew them. *gulp*

    • I got a pair of narrowly cut capris at Ann Taylor Loft Outlet and converted them to pedal pushers by rolling them to just under the knee. I think with a cardigan and the right flats they could totally be a part of a rockin' 50s vibe outfit. The fashions out there are so varied right now that I really think you could pull together a 50s wardrobe and only have to make a few key pieces like dresses. Pencil skirts and midi lengths are all out there now.

  10. All great points ladies! My favorite thing about clothing swaps is you can bring items that have sentimental value and then check out the crowd and offer up these "gems." It is so lovely to find a new home for those well loved clothes in someone who is excited to get them. I am also happy to know that that much loved piece will find a new home and live on… instead of hanging in my closet. My cardinal rule of thumb is it does not fit, i have not fixed it or I can't remember the last time I wore it- it goes in a bag in the closet. If in 3-4 months, about the time I get invited to another clothing swap, I have not looked for that item I bring it. Let go and make room for the new!

  11. I'm totally going through that rit now. I'm 29 and I still have a lot of clothes from high school that fit me. I work at a fabulous computer company with no dress code so I am forcing myself to wear one of those items that I havent worn for ages but an hanging on to at lest a few times a week. If I spend the day uncomfortable and self conscious the item gets washed and added to the Goodwill/eBay pile. It's been working really well for me so far. It's easy. T look at something in your closet and say you'll wear it, but committing to eight hours in it and not enjoying those eit hours because that shirt is a bit too short or those shoes kill my feet makes me much more likely to not stick it right back into my closet.

    • yes. I am 26 and have a lot of clothes left from high school, when I wore things like snake skin pants to school just because I felt like it. I definitely agree about the comfort factor… I think I'm at a point in life where 5 inch heels are just not worth the pain to me. (Does that just make me old?) And even though I am a more confident person than I was in high school, somehow the hot pink snake skin is a LOT harder to pull off without just feeling awkward all day (even though I still love them).

  12. Don't be so quick to assume your readers are all so young. I'm 60 and am a faithful follower. When I grow up, I want to look like those Advanced Style women. Thanks for that link.

    • I don't think Amy made any assumptions: "the majority of Offbeat Home readers are younger than these fine senior citizens." I know we've got older readers, but over 50% are 20-30, so that means they're the majority.

      • I didn't mean to sound snarky or imply that you don't know your demographic. I only meant that that ya'll appeal to a wide audience and I was glad to see that link, which I've shared on my own fashion-related blog.

    • "When I grow up…" You are fantastic. 🙂

      I'd never seen Advanced Style before, but it's wonderful! It's great to see a fashion blog that features looks I can actually aspire to instead of thinking, "If only I were young again." Not only that, but everyone featured is so confident and fabulous. I love it!

  13. Just wanted to chime in and say that even young people have this problem!
    I'm 23, with 2 kids. Some of my clothes are very mature and some are leftovers from high school style and prego clothes. I don't like them (leftovers) and only keep them because they fit, when really, it does nothing to help my style or self-esteem. Especially when I'm asked if my sons are my brothers…?
    So thanks for this kick in the butt! Now to go find a swap…or start my own!

  14. Funny to read this today. I desperately needed new "event" clothes and went shopping the other day, but really struggled to find anything that I felt was appropriate for my age. It's actually not so much about age, as about where things are headed. I no-longer wish to show my knees, and I certainly don't want anything tight across my tummy. All the going out outfits I came across were either tiny minis for tweenies, or old dowdy, very corporate looking out-fits. Eventually, frustrated, I went into a shop that I've never found a thing I liked in in 32 years. I bought 5 dresses. Apparently I've just reached their target demographic age group.
    Everything I bought was still very "me" .. but it was appropriately me and didn't make me feel like I was trying to hard.

    • That "trying too hard" thing is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, I don't wish I was 19 again, and the last image I want to present to the world is that of a 32 year old who wishes she was 19. On the other hand, sometimes when I say I'm afraid of looking like I'm trying too hard, what I'm really afraid of is trying at all and being rejected. At those times, the boring clothes no one takes a second look at seem pretty comforting, but they're not the "real me" either.

      Style, like life, is about balance, I guess.

  15. Heck, it's hard for me to dress and I'm supposedly that magical age of "21".

    I'm still in college, so most of this isn't an issue right now (currently I'm wearing tennis shoes, jeans, and a t-shirt from my high school robotics team) but I'll be graduating soon and really have no clue how to dress myself without looking really old, really young (it doesn't help that everyone already thinks I'm in high school), or not at all like myself.

    Right now I'm in that weird area where the juniors section is too young, and the ladies section is too old. Where on earth am I supposed to buy clothes?!

    • Go vintage! I'm 25 and have had this problem for a few years now. I've made a serious effort to get a couple of key vintage pieces to glam up my style. 🙂

    • I know what you mean. I was in that place when I was your age. It's still a problem because the clothes in the ladies section are just too big. A lot of it would be great for me at the conservative office where I work.

      I could go on and on about all the issues I have with clothing! I never feel quite comfortable with what I'm wearing.

    • I think every woman goes through this struggle when they graduate college. It's so tough to go from picking out whatever's clean to choosing outfits with what image you want to project in mind. Target actually has some really nice clothing that aren't too young and aren't too old (usually it's the Merona brand- the junior area there is like the junior area anywhere else). Gap and Ann Taylor Loft also have clothing for the younger but out of college demographic.

    • I'm just going to add: Hooray for Robotics! I hope it was FIRST. I still have about 5 of my neon green shirts (though I do not wear them, they aren't exactly work shirts to a 25 year old)

    • Same here! (Well, I graduated college in 2012, but…) I started buying a few key pieces that were very mix-and-match friendly: cami's; button-up shirts in bright colors; dress pants in grey, black, and brown; and cardigans/sweaters in all colors and styles. And add in a blazer in black, navy, or grey for job interviews and meetings with higher-ups! (So important! The first interview I wore a blazer to was for the job I have now. I had several blazer-less interviews before that) If you're in the US, Kohls has a pretty great selection for young professional in their Women's dept. Target, Sears, and Penney's are also pretty good.

      Right now I've started losing weight, so some pieces no longer fit and have to be donated (too difficult to take in most of them). And I'm left with some pieces that no longer mix-and-match with others.
      Despite having nicer work clothes, I also kept some t-shirts from college that I'll wear on weekends or when I get home from work. I also have kept my most-beloved and comfortable hoodies for bumming around in. 🙂

    • Thrift Stores! I'm 19 and in college and discovered that sundresses and cardigans can be bought for cheap, in any size and the thing that makes them seem "young" or "old" is the pattern! I discovered the Refashionista blog, and that has helped me learn to shape clothes I like into something that fits my age.

  16. I think it has less to do with actual age and more to do with frequency in occasion. I still glam up for a good concert, twice a year. Those outfits I wore aaaalll the time were when I was partying aaalll the time, and I was never one to wear a dog collar and fishnets to class. I'm far too lazy. My current casual wardrobe really hasn't changed much since 1997. I just a spend a lot more time in the casual zone.

  17. It's funny – I recently changed my style from what I've been wearing since college (pretty much the khakis-and-t-shirts-and-frumpy sweaters thing), but in so doing have started dressing like a rebellious 17-year-old. At 29. But I feel more authentic to myself than I have in years, so haters gonna hate… 😉

    Where has Advanced Style BEEN all my life?

  18. I am in love with Advanced Style! I've actually written to websites in the past informing them that an article about "aging gracefully" that references people like Madonna and Kylie Minogue is silly, since they're not actually particularly old, and they are also professional performers who can afford a lot of people to help them stay looking permanently 25.

    I would much rather aspire to look like one of these women than to stay looking as I do now for the rest of my life.

    I'm almost 25, and my style has changed a lot in some ways, and not very much in others. I've got a much better idea of what shapes and colours work for me now, and I love finding clothes that make me feel amazing, rather than just wearing any old thing.

    Even just a t-shirt and jeans in the right shapes and colours can look great.

  19. Ugh, what about the opposite problem? I dressed so boringly my whole life, basically what my mom told me was appropriate (although I did insist on continuing to wear a pair of jeans with – gasp! – a hole in the knee in high school), and only recently (pushing 25) have I felt confident enough to indulge my fashion desires… about ten years too late. It's kind of hard to go goth or punk when you're a busines professional with a white picket fence. Everyone says it's not age-appropriate! Especially since I barely wear anything but business clothes (to work) or sweat pants (at home). I am finally able to enjoy more age-appropriate fashion, as well, which helps, but I feel like I have completely missed my opportunity to dye my hair black and wear neon fishnet shirts… Feeling too old in Hot Topic when I finally have money and confidence to wear stuff from there was very disappointing.

    • At 25 you are still young! You're too young to feel like you've missed the boat. The difference between you at 25 wearing hot pink fishnets and someone younger is that you know when it's appropriate to wear them and when it isn't. Pink fishnets to your office job? Probably not. Pink fishnets to a bar or trendy restaurant? Heck yeah! It's also how you style them. I think if they are an unexpected element in a sophisticated outfit, you'll feel less teeny bopper.

      I spent years wearing frumpy khakis and polos because I felt like that's what I should be wearing at my first real job. Now I wear my fur-lined boots and red skinny cords to work, well because I can!

    • Go for it! You say you have the money now–go goth or punk for a special occasion concert! Or even a theme night at a nightclub, or trendy restaurant as the other responder mentioned!
      I'm 34 and buy clothing from HT for concerts/festivals, and casual weekend clothes. Most of my husband's casual pants and shorts are from there!

    • I was a goth Federal employee from age 27 to 35. I replaced buttons on my suits with skulls, bats, and so on. I had skirts made up from skull print fabric. One particularly great dress looked like a modern dot print until you saw the dots were black widow spiders. So can you go hot topic cheap-t-shirts-goth at 25? no. But you can rock a professional goth look.

  20. Also, I feel like this "age-appropriate-ness" could apply to friends and activities as well. My sister (30) thinks it's disgraceful that I still play video games in my free time instead of …. I actually don't know what she does in hers. Maybe she doesn't have any free time, and that's what she thinks it means to be an adult! But on the other hand, I get frustrated with my young single friends who want to hang out on a moment's notice and all night long on a weeknight, because I am married and own a puppy and have a whole big life that requires a schedule. Transitions are always difficult.
    (Feel free to delete this comment if you do not feel it is appropriate for this post.)

    • I play video games too, and I'm 37 years old. Why should we stop They're fun and they don't hurt us. In fact, there are a lot of games that help us develop valuable skills like creative problem solving, strategy, and teamwork. People view them as "kid stuff", but video games are much more complex and mentally stimulating than the ones we grew up with.

      • I am in a girls-only group on FB for ladies who play a particular MMO, with more than 1000 members, women from their teens up to their *70s* who are gamers. My mom is a gamer and in her 70s. Gaming should not be seen as age-inappropriate, it is a space in which we get to be free and not judged by our irl appearance or number of years lived. I am in my 40s. As long as you can bash a minotaur, I am down.

        In the clothing topic – I wear a t-shirt that has an arrow going through a knee, that's it, no words on it… and believe me it doesn't matter what their age is – when other gamers see that, and know the reference, we know that we have both found a kindred spirit.

  21. Sentimental hoarding. So true. Maybe one could have a silly fashion show (a la many chick flicks) of favorite clothes before sending them out to the great closet in the sky?

    I'm adding Advanced Style to the RSS feed! Anyone else have other fashion blogs they'd like to share? I have a really hard time coming up with outfits beyond jeans and a t-shirt without looking at what others are wearing and adapting it and I'd love some blogs that help. I already look at the Sartorialist but it would be great to find some more "everyday" fashion to mimic.

  22. On the same wavelength as the above posters concerned about having the opposite problem, I feel that these sorts of posts are fantastic wake-up calls to those of us in our mid-20s. who didn't grow into the confidence required to wear the 'ridiculous' quite as quickly as others. We can use the push to embrace the style we want, now.

    At the simplest level, it's only recently that I've put my foot down and started buying dresses that may be 'too short' on my nearly 6' frame. I can wear them with black tights at 26, and I may not want to or feel comfortable with it at 36, so now's the time to seize the day.

  23. Thank you for this post. As yet another pair of jeans disintegrates i keep thinking that i need to have a Proper Sort-out of my wardrobe, get rid of the old stuff and replace it with new things that are more me (and less full of holes. I'm 26, I'm not the person i was when i was 16, though i still own some of those clothes. I have drawers full of shirts and dresses that i bought and wore whilst i was still trying to figure out what my style was. They fit, and they look decent on my body, but they're not 'me'. They or the Sophie from back then. The Sophie who was insecure and trying to find her place in the world. I could carry on dressing like 20 years old Sophie, but that's just another form of insecurity. When i am in my 40s my style and confidence may have changed again. I would rather dress in the clothes i like then than try to cling on to the life i had in my 20s. It's all about personal comfort. Of course, if in my mid 40s i still feel comfortable in the same clothes and they still feel like 'me' then there is no problem with me continuing to wear them. But time for a good clear out. Now if only i could get over my fear of actually commiting to buy something new!

  24. If you've bridged the gap between high school and real life, for the love of God, get rid of your high school clothes! You are doing yourself a disservice to be clinging to clothing items that are 10+ years old!

    When I was in high school my whole wardrobe consisted of raver pants and heavy metal band T-shirts. I am 29 years old now and if I still dressed like this, I would HOPE that someone would have thrown me on an episode of "What not to wear" by now. The few "dressy" items I had were from the "millenium" era of fashion, which consisted of SPARKLES ON EVERYTHING. Not a good look in 2011. This is what they mean by inappropriate. It was fine and cool when I was 16 and 17, now it would be ridiculous and out of fashion.

    • You're doing yourself a disservice if you're hanging onto clothing that's ten years old, *if* it doesn't fit your style, lifestyle, body, etc. Lots of women from Advanced Style have clothes from a decade ago that still looks fabulous. 😉

  25. I didn't even start to feel confident and sexy until my late twenties. Now I like to dress up and when I became fit I started to show off my figure more. I still mostly wear jeans and t-shirts on a daily bases but I prefer a good flattering cut over fashion.

  26. omg i wish i'd known sooner what a clothing swap was and that they're so popular in the bay area!! now i'm moving away again! anyone know if these go on in the phx, arizona area?? geez and i thought i'd found gold when i discovered freecycle!

  27. I didnt read all the comments, but i am 24yrs old and find myself wondering what the ef to wear!?! I do alot of jeans, tshirts, and sneakers at work because i have to blend in… (I work loss prevention) but i feel like its a little juvinile, its extra hard being plus size.

    So i am def lost as far as style, what is appropriate for my age and size… Lol i feel like jeans and a t is so uninspiring and boring but idk what to do lol

    • Finding a GOOD pair of jeans makes all the difference. For me it's Levi's Curve ID — I have three pairs. Two in my size and one a size bigger for working and getting messy. I LOVE THEM. But anyway — they fit me well and so I always feel like my bottom half is taken care of. It's a LOT easier to find tops that make you feel good.

      • I have to agree that a good pair of jeans makes all the difference. Maybe you could add some colorful jeans, or a colorful pant that's not denim, in the mix. Rather than all t-shirts, you could find some blouses in prints that still look young, or throw a cute blazer over your tees with that great pair of jeans. If you still feel that's all too juvenile, start jotting down words that you feel describe your style, or what you want your style to be, and search for those words + "style" on the net. Pinterest is a great resource for figuring out your personal style!

  28. See cat, im the opposite, ive found jeans that i love in my size, it tends to be the tops i have trouble with… Being a 38DDD i love my big boobies but its hard to find a shirt that fits them and doesnt show them to the whole world (for work at least) lol

  29. This was a timely article for me, although I'm late in reading it. I turned 35 this year and am starting to question my twirling hippie clothes that I've had since the 'teen years…

  30. I'm the type of person who wears sensible shoes. Sigh. My feet are really messed up so I have to wear orthodic inserts and (shudder) orthodic shoes. It's really hard to feel young and fashionable when you're wearing such frumpy shoes. Also, since they're so expensive, I only have three pairs >_< If anyone wants to start making fashionable orthodic shoes, that would be super! ~_^

  31. I'm in San Francisco, how do I get in on these clothing swaps??? Truthfully, I have a few pieces of clothing I've owned since HS and still wear, mainly casual tank tops, and one "timeless" black dress. I'm very guilty of hanging onto clothes (such as tiny, skimpy dresses) that in all likelihood I'll never wear again because I *might*.
    With me, as a new 30 year old, I haven't yet found myself thinking about "age-appropriateness" (maybe I should), as much as how to dress for my profession. Being an opera singer, image is, for better or for worse, part of what you sell, and the business has definitely become more influenced by Hollywood, making looks more and more important. I feel like I'm still figuring out how to dress, especially for auditions (I think I have concert attire down), in a way that looks like a strong, sophisticated, beautiful diva, but still feels like *me* someone who is those things, but also quirky, unconventional, etc etc.

    • Check online in your area! Chances are, there may be some swaps going on, but you've never heard about them. If not, then start your own! I hosted a huge one at our church a couple of years ago that did well, and then donated what was left. It was some work, but still really fun. 🙂

  32. I have the fortune and disfortune, so to speak, to be in a job in the medical field where scrubs are the uniform – as long as the scrubs and my tennis shoes are clean and wrinkle-free, I'm good. I basically wear pajamas to work.

    But I've had issues with my downtime clothes – which used to reflect high school me very much, but fourteen years later, I'm just not that comfortable showing off that much arm or leg – maybe it's the two full term pregnancies under my belt. Maybe I'm older, maybe I'm more modest…. whatever.

    I donate clothes that I bought on a whim and will never wear. Some were hard: "But I look hoooot". Yeah, but you bought that two years ago (yes, I know it was on sale) and you NEVER WORE IT ONCE. It's out. That has cleared up room in and of itself.

  33. Ohhhh boy do I need a massive kick up the ass to go and clean out my closet (or wardrobe as we call them in Aus). I've become a bit of a clothing hoarder, and what with pregnancy (+30kgs) and then breastfeeding and running after a toddler (-35kg) I've got size runs in some items! I also need to learn to buy clothes because I LOVE them and not because I think they fit someone elses ideals. 24 and married with a kid and I'm only just learning to dress for me. I guess all I can do is encourage my daughter to develop her own style and OWN it.

    I find it hilarious that 25 is the ideal. I actually turn 25 on Sunday, and found my first gray hair last week. I've had the year from hell with loads of stress and I'm fairly sure taken its toll on my physical appearance. I honestly look haggard and have been realising that I can't get away with no make up/tinted moisturiser and still look refreshed. Advanced Style FTW!

  34. Great and timely post for me. I have no closet in my house and switch between summer and winter clothes twice a year (summer went in the attic today). This gives me two times per year to update my wardrobe. I still love wearing my skater jeans from high school out and about, but not to work or when teaching.

    My biggest "wardrobe" issues is now this: I teach nationally and internationally about hippotherapy (medical treatment using horses to help people) and have trouble finding ME clothes for these assignments. I mostly teach with lovely women in their 50's and 60's who look great in slacks and vests, but that's not me and not me in my 30's.

    Any ideas for professional presentation wear that can take you from the classroom to the barn in one day?

  35. I LOVE Advanced Style. I like fashion, but more as artistic expression, so I really admire women over a certain age who embrace themselves, their bodies, and their tastes. My goal is to begin dressing that way now, so that by the time I've reached that certain age, I've mastered dressing for myself, and defining my style.

  36. I totally had that moment of :{ about 3 years ago when I found my black Kik Girl super-low rise phat pants with red stitching and corduroy panels, was like "Hell yea!", put them on, then thought "I feel like an asshat…but these pants are so cool! Why???" They reflect a 15 year old gothic kid who liked AFI and wanted to go to raves but was never allowed; not a 25 year old IT-technician-cum-black-metal-songwriter. I won't go out in pajamas, but coordinating an extravagant outfit isn't in my top priorities. My staples are: plain tees (mostly black, some white, one burgundy), black jeggings, black pointy heels/Docs/canvas slip-ons, aviators. It's not fancy, but I never look BAD. I've been also focusing on appearance enhancements that are there when I go to bed and there when I wake up: colored hair in good condition, piercings, keeping my skin in good condition, staying in shape.

  37. I'm really disappointed to find this here. The idea is great, talking about changes in self interpretation as one gets more fabulous, but the terminology and the fashion policing, not so much.
    As an Offbeat older plus sized Bride and now wife I cannot marry the wording used in this article and subsequent comments to the policies used on Offbeat Bride when it comes to embracing your body and your own unique self. Age should make no difference. Women are told endlessly what to wear. I think I'm with the poster who quoted Jenny Joseph's, When I'm Old I Shall Wear Purple.
    I definitely recommend everyone watches Fabulous Fashionistas and banish the term "age appropriate" from your life.

    • Thanks for sharing this feedback… I interpreted this article quite differently than you did. I don't see age appropriate as dictated by years,,, I interpreted Amy's article as saying "Am I the same person at X as I was at X – 10 years? Will I be the same person in X + 10 years? If not, why would I express myself with the same clothing?"

      My interpretation was less "When you're X, you shouldn't wear Y" but more "Examine who you are at X, and make sure you're wearing what feels X to you." I see age as just a number (one that's that's not absolute)… but *AGING* is definitely absolute.

      That said, we're all entitled to our different interpretations of this post… I just wanted to share my interpretation so that you'd understand why I feel the post fits with the Empire's editorial "policies." (Although I'd rather use the word values.)

  38. I really like this. I always admired my mother because she could rock a indie/poet/casual 90's lady pretty well. She kept everything in base neutral colors. I always wanted to be sophisticated like that but after living with a grandmother that refused to let me pick my own clothes until i was almost a teenager…..well I got a little "wild" with clothing choices.
    I started living with my mom and decided that starting as a teenager I would wear whatever the hell I wanted. My mother had no qualms and my social peers thought I was amazing because one day I could show up in a gypsy styled ensemble and the next show up in my mother's old military uniform. Like the WHOLE uniform, boots, hat, etc. lol. I dressed like every day was costume day and enjoyed every minute of it. By the time I got to my senior year and was looking for part-time jobs, though, I kind of felt I was "growing out of" the whole crazy costume style. I started wearing more mature items, trying to go with my mother's style but I still felt it wasn't "me", so I just went with whatever looked good on me, mostly anything sexy to show off my nungas I loved so much. ^_^
    Then I met my now husband and since I felt more comfortable with myself and didn't feel the need to "stand out" for someone to talk to me, I toned down the sexiness and went more casual and professional. Don't think I don't have a couple pretty colored pieces in my stock, I'm always revolving what I wear and since I pick quality clothes from clearance and name-brand stores…I have a limited space where I keep things and if I don't wear it or my husband doesn't remember me ever wearing it, we chunk it. Into a box that my sister-in-laws, mother-in-law, and nieces go through because I can toot my own horn and say I pick things that universally look good on people. Wrap shirts, classic tunic-styled blouses, classic dresses I doll-up with accessories, etc. By the time I get to donate, I end up with like a quarter of my stuff. hahaha.
    I love how the author just explains really well that we all evolve, whether we like to sit there and fight it tooth and nail…we all change. Clothes don't. They become antiques of an older life. Maybe there are some people who go against the grain and do differently. Thats great, whatever works for them. But i don't see anything wrong with advocating classy styles that send the message of "I-am-classy-like-Breakfast at Tiffany's- classy." Something must be said for women who do wear items that are just flattering for them and for others as well.

  39. I also disagree with the spirit of this article. I totally intend to wear my sparkly bachelorette party dress whether I'm 23 or 37; I don't care if people think it's inappropriate for my age. I definitely am of the "You're never too old to trick-or-treat as long as you have a good costume" mind-set. And I save every single one of those costumes even though I may never wear them again. I don't ever see myself buying "old lady clothes." I look forward to streaking my silver hair with cherry and purple highlights when I'm 60 and wearing zebra print leggings.

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