What not to wear after 50

What not to wear after 50

 · 9 min read

Are there hard and fast rules for dressing when you’re over 50? The best approach is to choose outfits and accessories that feel comfortable and suit your personal style. But a few tips can always help you. Read on to see how you can create the perfect look, day in, day out.

  • Always dress to suit your look and personality, not just your age, choosing accessories to suit your skin tone and styles that make you feel confident and comfortable.
  • Fashion experts agree that certain items such as fleeces, elasticated waistbands, and old-fashioned skirts will age you and look outdated.
  • Choose occasion wear that will flatter your form from the bottom up, with elegant choices, form-fitting underwear and items to enhance your silhouette.
  • It's crucial to select workwear that enhances your curves which can be done with the right tailoring, necklines that stay above your cleavage and comfortable flats over heels.

Fashion after 50: FAQs

  • What clothes should you not wear over 50?

    Most fashion gurus advise over 50s to steer clear of unflattering choices such as old-fashioned, calf-length skirts, fleeces and elasticated waistbands unless you’re perfecting the right tuck for your top.

  • What should I not wear to work?

    Smart and elegant is the best way to approach work attire. Low cut tops, “loud” accessories and heels are all things to dodge in the workplace, opting instead for smart flats, elegant alternatives, and tailored pieces.

  • How can I perfect occasion wear?

    Think about dressing from the bottom layers upwards with form-fitting and flattering underwear. Play with tights and stockings if bare legs feel too exposed for you, and steer away from strappy sleeves, opting for shorter styles and flowing fabrics.

  • What should I wear on a city break?

    Comfort is the key. Choose trainers and flat sandals that will let you go the distance, quite literally, and pair with linen trousers, long-line shorts, flowing skirts and dresses.

  • How should I choose accessories?

    First, find out what colours and metals suit your skin tone. Don't be afraid to mix and match rather than always wearing jewellery sets. Consider adding a scarf to elevate your look.

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Welcome to your 50s—a time with the potential to give you a renewed sense of freedom and vigour. If you have kids, chances are they're older and less tiring. If you work, you might finally have a bit more disposable income. Your 50s can be a golden age, and we're not talking about it in the Golden Girls sense of the word.

So, why do so many of us women feel in a style flux during our 50s? It's true that every new decade comes with its own set of curveballs when it comes to our fashion choices, so this it's not entirely unexpected. You might remember similar quandaries stepping into your 30s and 40s. The difference is that our 50s are an age where our wardrobes can be our best friend or our sworn enemy.

To help you navigate this, we've compiled some handy fashion advice based on the best sartorial views around so that you can breeze through your 50s swanlike and fashion-fixed. 

What clothes should you not wear?

We all come in different shapes and sizes and have different personalities. So getting this guide down to something like a uniform for us 50-years old and older women is not the aim. Like every other decade, the most important thing is to dress for your shape and innate style. That said, there are indeed some items that have the potential to make you look dowdy.

Some of the things women like us advise against include old-fashioned, calf-length skirts, fleeces and exposed elasticated waistbands. Why? Well, in the case of old-fashioned skirts, they can instantly age you unless paired with the right shoes. Try them with trainers, for instance, and you'll already look stylised.

Fleeces, on the other hand, should be reserved for downtime only, not for socialising or hitting the town. As for those elasticated waistbands, the trick is to watch the potential for an unflattering silhouette. How? By simply performing a French tuck or leaving shorter, fitted tops (think the kind that falls just below the waistline, not crop tops) untucked.

So, let's round this up; the main style offenders across everything for over 50s include:

  • Old fashioned skirts (think tweed and calf-length and then say “no!”)
  • Elasticated waistbands, unless you’re perfecting the French tuck or leaving shorter tops untucked
  • Fleeces

What should I not wear to work?

Most of us spend a large proportion of our lives at work, and feeling confident and comfortable comes down to our clothes. But, just like in your leisure time, there are some no-no's, which actually could apply to any age.

Some prominent examples include low cut tops because, let's face it, no one wants to be self-consciously readjusting their top throughout the day. Here are some other things to think about, which we'll go into a little more detail in just a moment:

  • Opt for higher necklines.
  • Avoid fleeces – unless you work outside in the open air!
  • Steer clear of “loud” accessories.
  • Ditch the heels for smart flats and slingbacks.
  • Choose tailored clothing, like a blazer, over baggy styles to complement your shape rather than attempting to hide it.

There are some relevant and thoughtful tips for dressing for work when you're over 50, though. Remember the golden rules of avoiding fleeces, old-fashioned clothing and elasticated waistbands for a start. This is pretty much generic good fashion sense for women in their 50s and beyond, and let's face it, not many jobs actually call for wearing a fleece.

Other "loud" clothing such as oversized earrings are best to avoid, along with wearing too much makeup. The sad fact is that unless it's applied to perfection, makeup can sometimes make us look older than we'd like. Experts also agree that heels may not deserve the workplace status they seem to have. Firstly, as you age, they are more uncomfortable and impractical. Secondly, you can look just feminine in a smart pair of flats or slingbacks.

Another offender is baggy clothing. We know that sometimes if you're having an off day, oversized clothing can create the illusion that we're hiding all sins. In reality, they tend to unflatter our physique, whereas a tailored alternative can work wonders. A few smart buys in your wardrobe and you can mix and match tailored looks throughout the week.

Perfecting occasion wear

Depending on the season, occasion wear can be your best friend in your 50s. First and foremost, you don't need to sacrifice comfort to look glamorous. Secondly, the right outfit can be an immediate confidence boost. What better excuse than a formal occasion to dress to impress, and this doesn’t have to involve a full makeover.

Of course, the choices you make all come down to the event itself, but there are some top tips to work with. First, get your underlayers sorted. Well-fitting underwear made from suitable materials will allow anything you put on top to glide effortlessly over your form. Of course, this won't be as svelte if you're wearing noticeable, tight, or under supportive bras and pants.

Sleeve length is another factor, with straps or very short sleeves generally being a no. That said, this does depend on your body, how you feel in certain outfits, and how toned your arms are. If you want to opt for long sleeves, come rain or shine, there are ways to achieve this. Chiffon and other silky, flowing fabrics will enable you to stay cool while feeling confident.

Bare legs are up for debate in fashion circles, but there are choices if you'd rather keep yours covered. Trousers are one, and these can include fashion and form-fitting wide-legged styles, maxi skirts, and dresses. If you look great in shorter skirts, pair them with thick black tights to add to your silhouette in the colder months, particularly in the United Kingdom, a quality pair of nude stockings, or even black sheer tights with a pair of heels.

Here are some key takeaways for occasionwear to help you perfect your look:

  • Remember to choose form-loving, well-fitting underwear.
  • Consider sleeve lengths and avoid strappy tops. To give you more breathability, select light, flowing fabrics.
  • Bare legs or tights are an option. Don’t be afraid to play with looks with opaque, sheer or nude stockings.

What to wear on a city break

Remembering that comfort is the number one priority when on a city break or travelling will help you get off on the right foot. However, that doesn't mean that comfort has to come at the expense of style. Yes, it is possible to achieve both!

Your outfit will, of course, depend on where you're visiting and the time of year. Still, aside from the weather considerations, some great, sartorial failsafe looks will work year-round. Here are some things to think about when packing your suitcase or laying out your travelling outfit in preparation for your trip:

  • Comfort should come number one, think skirts and t-shirts as an example.
  • Limit the number of clothes needed by choosing items you can mix, match, and layer up in colder months. Always keep an eye on the weather forecast and the seasonal weather before you pack, too.
  • Find versatile shoes and accessories that will pair with most things.
  • Make sure those shoes are comfortable as well as stylish! City breaks often call for lots of walking. Luckily, trainers are now highly fashionable and can be worn with aplomb with skirts and dresses to freshen up a smart-casual look.

In terms of the content of your case itself, fabulous items that will make you feel young and look great include long line shorts, maxi skirts and dresses, midi skirts, linen trousers and cotton dresses. These can all be layered up with jackets, knits and sweat tops and paired with trainers or flat sandals.

Choosing accessories

Often overlooked in finding the perfect outfit, accessories can add a beautiful twist to the result. The best part is that they don't have to be big and bold to make a statement, and you can find some trusted items that will elevate almost any outfit so you can wear them day in, day out.

As with anything else, this isn't about nailing the over 50s style uniform! There is no such thing and embracing your uniqueness with accessories is just as crucial as your fashion choices. That said, there are some guiding principles set out by those in the know, and they include:

  • Don't try and "do it all" when putting an outfit together. For example, if your outfit is bold (say bright colours or loud prints), you may want to tone down the accessories.
  • Find out what coloured metals and accessories go with your complexion and opt for those tones.
  • Don’t feel that your accessories have to match perfectly.
  • Approach large rings with caution! They often come off as tacky.

If we were to work from the top down, earrings are the first thing to consider. Fashion experts tell us to think about face shape here. Dangling earrings can work beautifully with rounder faces; oval faces look great with studs and mini hoops.

Necklaces are another thing you can play around with to suit the occasion and your outfit. A top tip is that longer necklaces can instantly give the appearance of an elongated neckline, which can be extra flattering. When it comes to our wrists, bracelets and quality watches can all elevate a look, and this one is all about mixing and matching to fit.

Scarves are another outfit-saving accessory that is always in vogue and has multiple purposes. One, it can give a stylish edge to almost any look. Secondly, it can add some warmth if you need an extra layer. Think flowing, sheer scarves if you'd like to wear them all day, and thick, plush woollens if you're out in the elements on colder days, but you'd still need to work in some style.

What not to wear and what to choose instead: an over 50s roundup

The most important thing to remember when dressing in any decade is choosing styles that suit your figure and personality. Nothing brings more confidence than choosing outfits that make us feel good and authentic.

There are some things to avoid and items to lean into when we're in our 50s. But, by remembering some key style points, we can feel good and look great without the guessing games around our wardrobe choices. Often, nailing this doesn't rely on buying an entirely new wardrobe; just a few tweaks will freshen things up. It is that simple.

Clio Paterson
Clio Paterson
Clio joined Age Group in 2020. She is lifestyle content writer and a mum of two. Based in Manchester and specialising in travel, beauty and fashion, Clio has had her work featured by some of the best publications most exciting brands across the U.K. and Europe.