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What should you not wear after 50?

As you get older, it can be tough to find that perfect balance between staying on-trend and looking appropriate and elegant for your age. We're here to help. Here's your complete guide on what not to wear after 50.

Matilda Davies
· 10 min read

What should you not wear after 50?: Your questions answered

  • What should you not wear after 50?

    The biggest “golden rule” is to not dress as if you’re trying to look younger. Things like loud prints, skimpy and ill-fitting clothes, and thick, stiff fabrics can all play a part in making you look older than you are. Check out this look at some of the world’s most stylish over 50’s for inspiration.

  • Why is wearing too much makeup a bad idea after 50?

    Many women over 50 wear extra makeup to try and look younger but can end up having the opposite effect. This is because makeup can dry out your skin and dull your complexion.

  • Why shouldn’t I wear fleece after 50?

    Unless you’re taking the dog for a walk or have given up on style and looking fashionable, there’s no reason for you to wear a fleece after 50. Puffer and down filled jackets are stylish and widely available if you’re sensitive to the cold!

Figuring out your style as you get older, it can be hard to know what is acceptable for you to continue wearing and what you should retire from your wardrobe. You want to dress in a way that's current and chic, but not in a way that looks like you're trying too hard to look young. It can be tough to find that perfect balance between staying on-trend and looking appropriate and elegant for your age.

As we get back to normal after the pandemic, lots of people are using this as a chance to revamp their wardrobes and get back on trend after a year of doing very little. While style is a very individual choice, there are a few dos and don'ts when it comes to making sure your style grows older gracefully with you.

Here are nine styles and trends you should stay away from as you get older and why an ageing wardrobe doesn't have to be a bad thing.

1. Oversized prints

A basic rule for looking youthful and on-trend as you get older is to avoid looking like you're trying to overcompensate or distract from your age. Many people gravitate to oversized clothing and loud patterns to try and cover up their figure and hide their body. But the most important thing for any style or wardrobe is confidence. Looking like you're hiding yourself is never a good look. If your wardrobe has pieces like this that don't fit properly and are garishly bright, throw them out!

You can still look bright and bold without hiding behind patterns and baggy clothing. Some of the most stylish women over 50 still wear bold, eye-catching outfits without overcompensating. A bright red, green or purple suit will look amazing at any age, as long as it fits you well. So, if you love colour, keep loving colour! But make it a sleek single coloured look or a two-tone pattern, rather than throwing on every shade you can find and hiding behind it.

2. Too much makeup

Wearing lots of heavy makeup as you get older is one of the best ways to look older than you are. Heavy foundation sinks into wrinkles and can dry out your skin, making your complexion look duller and compromising the health of your skin which keeps it looking youthful. If you want to stay looking younger for longer, choose a tinted moisturiser or BB cream that covers up fine lines and blemishes but doesn't cake your skin.

Equally, wearing lots of heavy eye shadow, mascara or blusher makes it look like you have something to hide or you’re trying to distract from imperfections. But actually, it does the opposite – it draws attention to the flaws and ages your look. Stick to more natural-looking makeup that enhances your natural beauty and keeps you looking elegant and tasteful. If you want to try something bolder, choose a bold lip or a muted gold eye shadow instead of piling on product everywhere.

3. Outdated styles

By now, you’ve probably seen numerous styles go out of fashion, come back into fashion and then disappear again. It can be hard to keep up. But wearing outdated styles is a sure-fire way to make you look frumpy and out-of-touch. While you don't need to watch every catwalk and new release if that's not your thing, staying abreast of general trends is an excellent idea to keep your look current.

Certain styles just scream 'grandma' and should be avoided at all costs: pleated skirts, flat caps or big shoulder pads. Equally, some garments never go out of style, which you can hold onto forever at not worry about looking outdated. A classic white shirt, a well-fitting pair of jeans or a casual blazer will perfectly match almost any look in nearly every year. For everything in between, be careful how you style different items into your outfit. A pair of brogues can look trendy and classic if paired with tailored trousers and a chic jumper. Still, if you pair them with a long skirt and a turtleneck, you're steering back into "grandparent" territory. Pay attention to which items looked good paired together. If you’re unsure, type ‘brogues’ into Instagram or Pinterest, and you can get inspiration for looks incorporating that item in a way that is current and on-trend.

4. Animal print

Animal prints like leopard, zebra or snakeskin prints are notorious for making people look tacky and over-the-top. While you might see young, edgy influencers steering into this look, when you're older, it can look like you're clinging to the idea of being cool rather than growing old gracefully and with elegance. For reference, think about Pat Butcher from EastEnders - it’s not a look that screams class!

This is not to say that all prints and patterns are off-limits, however. If you're new to incorporating prints into your wardrobe, start simple. An understated stripe or plaid pattern can go a long way in adding some edge and interest to your outfit while still looking classy and appropriate for your age. Or, if you want your wardrobe to be bold but without making you look older, add a pop of colour. A bright red or green will keep you looking stylish, bright, and joyful without making you look frumpy or tacky.

5. Skimpy clothes

This one almost goes without saying. Sometimes, when women are younger, wearing plunging necklines and short skirts can make them feel sexy, empowered and confident. But as you get older, it's easy for this to come off as desperate and clinging to youth. There are many ways to feel feminine and bold when you're older that doesn't involve showing skin in skimpy clothes.

If it's the feeling of femininity you miss, try swapping out low-cut, short dresses with a more modest dress in a luxurious fabric. Flowing velvet or silk will make you feel expensive and boost your confidence without relying on cheap tricks. Or, if you miss feeling sexy and powerful, a bold suit will go a long way. A well-tailored red suit is guaranteed to make any woman feel like she owns the room. Using colour can be a great way to express yourself too. Look for jewel tones to make your outfit feel more elegant and sensual or bright colours to give you bold confidence.

6. Thick, stiff fabrics

Tailoring has always been and will always be in style. A good suit looks great on anyone: women, men, any size, any shape, any colour. With a classic wool, polyester or cotton suit, it's hard to go wrong. But not all fabrics were created equal. If you pick a thick, stiff material, it will be uncomfortable and can make you look stuffy and older than you are. Tweed and corduroy are two of the main offenders. Because they are so thick and stiff, they make anyone look boxy and are very difficult to make look flattering. They are also often associated with an older, outdated style, which won't do you any favours.

Fabrics that are thinner and softer will both be far more comfortable and generally more flattering. If you're thinking about tailoring, wool, silk, and velvet are all fabrics that are comfortable and current. They will give you that elegant, classic look without looking stuffy. For a coat, wool will still look dressed up and keep you warm without looking outdated. For skirts, think about choosing a material that is floaty and forgiving, like silk or chiffon. Or, if you want a tailored pencil skirt, pick something that has some elastane in it to make it fit better and be comfortable for long periods.

7. Fleece

Fleece is one of those fabrics that very few people can pull off. Pulling off fleece and making it look cool and current is a difficult feat not worth trying for most of us. If you're going for a hike in the countryside with the dogs, go for it! If you're going out to dinner or trying to look put together, it's best avoided at all costs. Fleece makes people of any age look like they have just walked the dogs or have just given up!

Instead, add a relaxed cardigan or a tailored wool coat to keep you toasty warm but looking smart and sophisticated. If you reach for fleeces because you feel the cold, puffer jackets have stayed in style the past few years, partially because they're one of the warmest items of clothing out there. Find one that cuts off around the hip in a dark jewel tone like emerald or sapphire to perfect the trend. If you're after something you can wear indoors, layering is your friend. It's better to wear a few layers that complement each other and look chic than reach for your fleece as an easy option.

8. Heavy earrings

A statement earring can be a great way to add some personality and flair to an outfit but be careful with earrings that are too heavy. A weighty earring will drag down your earlobe and potentially stretch the piercing, leaving you with a long unsightly slit and floppy earlobes. It's obvious, often irreversible and will automatically make you look older. Plus, wearing big garish earrings will have you falling into that trap of looking like you're overcompensating. Again, think of Pat Butcher from EastEnders as a reference on what not to do.

Generally, try to stick to smaller earrings that are no longer than an inch or two. Delicate metal earrings are chic and feminine. They never really go out of style, and they'll help you avoid damaging your earlobes. If you like more oversized earrings that make more of a statement, look at acrylic or resin styles, which will be light even if they are large.

9. Ill-fitting clothes

Countless women, particularly as they get older, have wardrobes filled with clothes that don't fit them properly. The myth that wearing oversized clothing makes you look smaller is precisely that: a myth. Baggy clothes are generally unflattering and make you look like you're hiding something. Confidence is sexy! The number one rule to looking expensive and put together is wearing clothes that fit you like a glove.

Contrary to what many people think (or at least what they wear), all ages and sizes look better in clothes that fit well. It's the difference between looking trendy and expensive and looking frumpy and gaudy. Go bold, but go tailored and sleek. If you’re not sure where to start, get professionally measured to find out what your size actually is. Remember: no size is bad! Don’t worry if the number is not what you would like it to be. The most flattering way to dress is for the size you are, not the size you wish you were. If you want to look on-trend as you get older without breaking the bank, make friends with a local tailor. Even if you love bagging a bargain and not splurging on clothes, spending £5-10 on having them altered to fit you perfectly will be worth every penny.

Matilda Davies

Matilda Davies

Matilda is an experienced journalist and content creator who has written for local, national and global publications. She is passionate about culture and lifestyle content, and connecting with audiences through these topics.