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Summer Fashion / Women 40+

When you are 40, you have to think about pieces being appropriate for your age.

By Erin Busbee

As a Wardrobe Stylist, I am always trying to look my best. But, with this impending, milestone birthday, I’m scrutinizing my style in a way I’ve never done before. Gone are the days of throwing anything ‘cute’ on and running out the door. When you are 40, you have to think about pieces being appropriate for your age.

Many of you are probably right there with me. I know my clients are continually facing the same challenge. Asking me if it’s okay to wear shorts (depends), mini-skirts (not really), message T’s (never), capri pants (nope), Bermuda shorts (if they’re fitted)… and so on and so on.

There are exceptions to every rule. Some of you hot, 40-year-old babes, will be able to wear whatever you want. But, most of us need guidance. For those who aren’t sure, I’m breaking it all down… just in time for summer!


Let’s start with dresses. Dresses are a no brainer in a couple of ways. They are easy. You don’t have to worry about what to wear with them, like you do with separates. And, they keep you cooler in the hot summer heat. They also generally offer more length and coverage than shorts.

SLEEVELESS: With sleeveless dresses, you can add a blouse underneath to give you arm coverage. Or simply put a blazer or cardigan over your dress.

OFFICE LENGTH: For work, the fail safe length for your skirts and dresses should be what I call in, “The Knee Zone!” That is; two inches above the center of your knee or two inches below.

CASUAL LENGTH: For casual outings or running errands, make sure your dresses pass the fingertip test. Hold your arms pressed against your sides, and make sure the hemline of your skirt or dress is at least as long as your middle finger. Yes, I know some of you have freakishly long arms. Feel free to give yourself an inch or two. You may also want to sit in your dress to make sure when seated, you are comfortable with everything that shows.


Even though it gets extraordinarily hot here in the summer, pants and jeans are still a fashionable and functional option, especially in lightweight, breathable fabrics.

SKINNY JEANS: Many women wonder whether skinny jeans are too young. The answer is absolutely not. I would just balance the tight fitting pants with something more voluminous on top. You should also consider the length of your top. A longer top works well to minimize typical problem areas like bigger hips and thighs.

WHITE OR LIGHT SKINNY JEANS: Wearing white or light skinny jeans is a little trickier. The light color is less flattering. It’s best to opt for white jeans rather than cotton pants, because the thickness of the denim will hide lumps and bumps. If you are bigger on the bottom, I would avoid white or light colored jeans/pants. But, if you are smaller on the bottom, the lighter color will make you look more proportionate. White paired with a bright color is so fresh for summer!

CAPRIS: Capris are the pants that hit mid-calf and are traditionally straight leg. In my opinion, they look dated and cut you off, making you look shorter and wider. Opt instead for an ankle pant that is tapered or fitted through the leg and ends in “The Ankle Zone,” that is, at or up to a few inches above your anklebone.

CROPPED ANKLE PANTS/JEANS: Say hello to the new, more modern “capri.” The cigarette or ankle pant is chic while still keeping you cool in the hot summer months. Look for breathable fabrics. These pants will still shorten your legs. To give yourself some added length, choose wedges or heels.


Maxi dresses are perfect for vacations, the beach, pool parties and running errands.

They can be age appropriate, but the style is not for everyone. They are usually quite bohemian. You can find classic prints and versions, but if you have trouble buying one because it just doesn’t feel right, again, the maxi is probably not your style.

The maxi dress covers your lower half completely, so you can be a bit more daring with what you show on top.


Another common question I am asked, “Is it okay to wear trendy things at my age?” My rule of thumb with fashion trends is similar to my philosophy about life, everything in moderation!

Pick ONE trend and ONE piece. Keep everything else quiet. For example, you can add a pop of color and interest to your look by carrying a trendy, printed handbag.


Clients are always asking me about shorts. Can I wear shorts? How long should they be? Let me start by saying, not everyone over 40 should be wearing shorts. If your legs are not looking good, then I would skip shorts or wear longer shorts. If you DO decide to wear shorts, the length is essential.

LENGTH: Make sure your shorts pass the fingertip test (see above). I’m petite (5’4″), so shorter shorts (around 3 to 4 inch inseam) work best on me. If you are taller, or want more coverage, you can opt for slightly longer shorts (5 inch+ inseam.) If you want to look longer and skinnier, wear neutral colored wedges or heels to elongate your legs.

“WALKING or BERMUDA SHORTS:. These are the shorts that hit one to three inches above your knee. These are fine to wear, just make sure they are slim-fitting or tapered. Also, they will cut your legs in half, so wedges would give you some added height.

WHAT TO WEAR WITH SHORTS: Remember, if you are wearing shorts out in public (versus just kicking around house or privately with your family) you should also aim to keep your upper body slightly more covered. I love paper-thin cotton, button up shirts with my shorts. They give me coverage, without adding warmth. You can also try short-sleeve or 3/4 sleeve tops. For a dressier look, DO try a blazer with your shorts. It is an unexpected and modern look for evening.

I always look for shorts in really great fabrics like, thick cotton, silk, or leather. The more luxurious the fabric, the most sophisticated the shorts. I also find shorts that are a bit roomy around my thighs, which makes your legs look smaller. If they are too tight around your legs, it will have the opposite effect.

Style questions? Email Erin:

Special thanks to DAISY PEARL BOUTIQUE IN BOERNE for providing all of the clothing and accessories for these 40+ fashions!

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