Entering your 40s means celebrating the vibrant authenticity, maturity, and satisfaction of the best years of your life (so far). So, how do you best translate the self-confidence and irreverence of knowing who you are and what you want into a wearable wardrobe fit for a 40-something?
If you knew how to dress for your 30s, you’ll have no trouble styling your outfits for the years ahead. From tailored lines to surprising details, learning how to dress in your 40s is all about looking and feeling your best as you step into a new decade. If you’re mulling over what to wear in your 40s, consider some of these style tips for maximizing your wardrobe to achieve effortlessly classy, ageless dressing.
#1 Find Your Comfort Zone (But Don’t Be Afraid To Venture Outside Of It)
Most of us have had the experience of approaching a new age, anticipating that we’ll feel like a totally different person, and then realizing we’re still the same ‘us’ we’ve been all along. When it comes to being in your forties, lean into that self-assuredness. You know who you are completely, and with that comes knowing what makes you feel the best in your own skin.
Comfort doesn’t mean spending every day in yoga pants and a hoodie, though. Dressing in your 40s comfortably means wearing outfits that make you feel good about yourself, without self-consciously distracting you from a full day of activities—whether that’s early morning meetings or soccer mom shuttles.
And even if you’ve settled into a wardrobe comfort zone, don’t be afraid to step out of it and experiment with different looks you might’ve been hesitant to try in your younger years. In your 40s, you’ve got the life experience to warrant wearing what you want and what makes you happy. Everyone deserves to add a little extra joy into their lives, and dressing is no exception.
#2 Elevate Any Ensemble with Expert Tailoring
Finding the right fit for your shape can sometimes be challenging, but locking down a flawless look instantly makes all the difference. Some people might be lucky enough to find clothing that fits perfectly right off the rack, but if your dream dress or slacks need a little tweak, consider finding a seamstress or tailor to take your look up a level from “good” to “gorgeous”:
- For the office, smart separates like blazers, pencil skirts, and trousers expertly reflect your rise up the corporate ladder when they fit every curve to perfection and keep you comfortable all day long. These pieces can also create great business travel outfits.
- Basic black cocktail dresses for parties, date nights, and anytime you need an extra boost of elegance benefit from custom sizing for just the right fit.
- A smart trench coat or other structured outerwear should hit at just the right hem and sleeve length to be chic and sleek.
#3 Pay Attention to the Details
Sophisticated dressing is all about subtle and surprising details that create an air of elegance, no matter if you’re donning denim for everyday wear or crafting a classy ensemble for an evening out. Whether it’s distinctive seams or unusual hardware, updated features keep a classic style fresh and fun and give you new ways to explore modern styling for your go-to pieces:
- Asymmetrical hemlines on a sleeveless chiffon blouse create breezy, forgiving lines in a fun, unexpected shape.
- A short sleeved denim blouse gets updated by including a form-flattering tie waist that works just as well over skirts and dresses as it does with slacks.
- Jeans go from basic to fashion-forward with wide legs and figure-fitting stretch and look modern paired with a slim cardigan or sweater.
#4 Balance Your Silhouette
As a strong, successful woman in your 40s, you’ve hopefully learned to find harmony in your daily life as you juggle work, play, family, and finances. Translate your expert balancing skills to creating visual symmetry in your wardrobe for clean, fashion-forward lines that showcase your style effortlessly. Try adding symmetry to your look in some of these ways:
- Pairing loose, flowing shirts like floral peasant tops with more form fitting, structured skirts or pants, and vice versa.
- A midi skirt in a bold color becomes the focal point when paired with a neutral blouse or tank top.
- A short black dress that shows off your legs is balanced out by long sleeves or a high neck.
#5 Learn to Love Layering
Whether it’s cardigans over blouses or blazers over camisoles, layering helps add visual interest to your outfit. Having layers you can easily take on and off also helps you make it through room temperature changes and unexpected hot flashes without taking away from the integrity of your outfit when dressing in your 40s.
A well-stocked closet of versatile, durable separates in solid colors and timeless prints makes layering your looks quick and easy:
- A breezy, striped shirt jacket is easy to throw over any outfit from a crisp white blouse and high waist trousers to jeans and a tank top.
- You can’t go wrong with a blazer to instantly pull an outfit together, and one with ruched sleeve details and breathable material is perfect for layering.
- A creamy, cozy cable knit cardigan will keep you comfy while adding textured interest when worn over a silky patterned dress.
#6 Use Color & Pattern For Visual Impact
It can sometimes feel like we have to work harder to be seen as we age, but just because you’ve celebrated another milestone birthday doesn’t mean you need to fade away into the woodwork just yet. While teens and twenty-somethings might wear look-at-me fashion trends without a second thought, taking a more polished approach to statement-making fashion in your 40s will leave you looking effortlessly chic.
Here are some ideas to increase your impact, while still dressing your age and sticking to your personal style:
- Bold pops of color make a big impact when paired with simple silhouettes.
- Use bright colors and patterns to express your personality even when you’re working with a corporate dress code, like pairing bright blouses with neutral suits.
- Try pattern mix and matching, like stripes and geometrics or novelty prints and abstracts.
- Color blocking is an easy way to make a strong, sophisticated visual statement
#7 Protect Your Skin In Style
As we enter our 40s, it’s more important than ever to follow a protective skincare routine. Damage from years of sunbathing and being laissez-faire about sun protection start to show up more as we age, so it’s time to catch-up and counteract damage from your youth with a renewed focus on healthy skin.
In addition to boosting use of SPFs and daily moisturizers, incorporate a stylish straw hat into your outdoor outfits to keep the sun out of your eyes and off your face. If you're looking into vacation outfit ideas, don’t forget to add a flattering pair of Hollywood-worthy UV-protective sunglasses to complete the look!
#8 Update Your Undergarments
Part of how to dress in your 40s includes paying attention to what we’re wearing under our sleek dresses and chic peasant blouses, as well.
By the time we reach our 40s, our bodies have gone through what seems like a lifetime of changes. Whether childbirth altered your body shape or perimenopause and metabolism changes are on the horizon, finding the right support for your changing body type with well-fitting bras and lifting shapewear means you’ll fill out your timelessly tailored wardrobe with confidence.
#9 Stand Out In Statement Jewelry
Now is the time to add face-framing fine jewelry and statement earrings as daily accessory staples. While you may have looked like you were playing dress-up when wearing grandma’s heirlooms in your 20s, the maturity of your 40s means you can (and should) rock large stones and bold styles:
- Stunning, scene-stealing jewelry like a turquoise stone cuff bracelet and turquoise double pendant necklace add an air of earthy elegance to even straight leg jeans and a basic graphic tee.
- Mother of pearl drop earrings are the perfect way to accessorize a sleek pantsuit at the office, brightening and accentuating your face.
- Go head-to-toe gold in a statement-making and timeless classic gold chain bracelet or necklace and large gold hoop earrings.
#10 Accentuate Your Best Assets
We all have parts that we prefer to cover up, but drawing attention to what you love about your body type makes hiding your problem areas easier, boosting your confidence by putting your best assets on display. Dressing in your 40s can be empowering when you showcase what you love about yourself instead of focusing on hiding what you don’t:
- A curve-hugging midi dress draws the eye to your slim waist, and a sexy side slit lets you show off your legs.
- Flaunt your shoulders and arms with sheer sleeves and tank dresses that accentuate your upper body.
- Low cut and interesting necklines (like the one on this V-Neck Scallop Hem Lace Dress) make your decolletage the star of your outfit without being too-over-the-top.
Timeless Fashion Is Always In Style At Karen Kane
Embrace the vibrant possibilities of your 40s by wearing clothing that flatters your shape and fits your life. Whether it's upgrading a dated wardrobe to be relevant to your current lifestyle or incorporating more timeless pieces to mix and match for chic outfits, dressing in your 40s should be effortless, and we have everything you need in our Spring 2023 Collection.
At Karen Kane, we’re all about helping you look and feel your best with luxe fabrics and flattering designs that are in style at any age. Join our rewards program for early access to exclusive new styles and earn points to redeem towards comfortable, stylish fashion you’ll want to wear every day and every decade.
Cleveland Clinic. Perimenopause. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/21608-perimenopause
Elle. How's a 40-Year-Old Woman Supposed to ‘Dress Her Age,’ Anyway? https://www.elle.com/culture/a36865717/doree-shafrir-thanks-for-waiting-memoir-excerpt/
Keck Medicine of USC. Your Body at 40. https://www.keckmedicine.org/blog/your-body-at-40/
The Telegraph. How to look stylish at any age – what to wear in your 40s, 50s and beyond. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/fashion/style/how-dress-well-look-stylish-what-to-wear-age-2022/
The Wall Street Journal. The Grown Woman’s Guide to Ageless Style. https://www.wsj.com/articles/womens-fashion-style-guide-ageless-11671764163