Should you dress your age?

I saw 70 year old Goldie Hawn on Jamie Oliver the other night and I was shocked. Not by the fact that she has aged, but how unnatural and unpleasant she looked. I remember her from Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In.

Obviously being an actress in the public eye and being classed as one of “the world’s sexiest women”, can be a heavy burden. But apart from the plastic surgery, botox, dental work, etc the main problem here is, I think, that she feels the pressure to freeze her look as well as her smile. Today’s clothes, hair, eye make up etc are almost a parody of what she got away with in the 1960s. Perhaps if she didn’t dress as “Goldie” no one would even recognise her.

My husband often says “It’s not the age, it’s the mileage”, comparing himself to a car. To an extent this is true – some people squeeze three lifetimes out of their life, while others waste their time. Age is such a slippery concept – personally I avoid thinking about it too much but there is certainly a view that clothing, like lifestyles and style, should be “age-appropriate”. I often enjoy the clothes featured in the Guardian’s Fashion for All Ages pages as they show models of different ages wearing a trend – white, long coats, sequins etc.

I once wrote about how to look younger.

Turning specifically to the ” age appropriate wardrobe” I would oppose the concept. If you look at what is offered for women in their 50s and 60s there is often an assumption that will want to avoid fashion. I would say age is completely irrelevant. What matters, at any age, is

  • Your clothes are ones you like and feel good in – partly this is about your wardrobe personality
  • You have an individual look that suits who you are and what you do
  • Your clothes fit you well – neither too tight nor too loose
  • They are stylish and fashionable, but they don’t have to be bang-on, cutting-edge fashionable
  • You can wear vintage, and items you have had for years but make sure this doesn’t convey a “don’t care” attitude
  • Wear clothes that work with your own colouring and when putting outfits together make it interesting (not just dark trousers and a plain jumper for example). An outfit implies some thought, co-ordination, putting elements together such as tights, shoes, jewellry, spectacles, hairstyle, so that the overall look is pleasing
  • if you want to wear “young” styles such as mini-skirts, shorts, cropped tops, baggy jumpers, skinny jeans etc, ensure that they are adapted to your shape and style

Specifically there are a few things you might want to consider post 50

  • Your colouring may change a little in terms of losing some of its vividness. This is why dyed hair can look so “inauthentic” in older people. However this doesn’t mean you need to wear beige – in fact, don’t wear beige without some colour.
  • You may be better off financially and able to afford better quality fabrics and clothes (and quality over quantity may work better)
  • You will know from trial and error (or through style and colour analysis) what suits you best – you can avoid some of the mistakes of your youth
  • You will probably have more self confidence than a younger person and this should come through in how you dress, and may lead to greater experimentation and daring. Not everyone wants the dramatic and artistic looks (or hat-plus-red-lipstick) promoted by Advanced Style, but some of these ladies in their 80s are inspirational.
    Ladies of Advanced Style
    Ladies of Advanced Style


  • Here are some attractive actresses who are past “retirement” age. They all look great – healthy, happy, fresh and authentic.





17 Responses

  1. sweatyknitter

    Sadly, not only are women especially subjected to pressure (social, media) etc. to look young, thanks to the world of plastic surgery, older women think they can. Too many younger women use plastic surgery to “improve” their looks. Sadly, so many women end up looking, well, like silly and sad caricatures of the women they are or would be naturally.

  2. Stephanie

    Yes, I was expecting Helen Mirren, too. My conclusion at this stage in my life is that aging well is about having the courage to evolve and adapt to change. The older women I know who look great, including my mom, are not women who follow specific rules about dressing for their ages but who are continually growing, engaging and reflecting their self-knowledge on the outside. Actresses who go down the path of extreme denial of aging seem not to have been able to “go inside” in that way.

  3. Sam

    I didn’t see the programme, but I totally agree. Women who let themselves “grow old gracefully” are far more attractive. As Linda and Stephanie both say, Helen Mirren is gorgeous and classy and actually still quite sexy – far more so than Goldie Hawn.

    I personally would love to have beautiful grey/white hair when I’m older, although it’s unlikely – my mum at 78 is still only salt and pepper grey. My dad however has pure white hair, so I might be in with a chance!

  4. Linde

    I have cringed at seeing some ladies I know dressed in styles that should only be worn by women of twenty. In contrast there is an ex model who lives nearby and her style is amazing. She has thick silver grey hair which she wears loose past her shoulders. Her clothes are down played but smart and I have never seen her without her Dior red lips. I was astonished to find out that she is 80 years old . Since I was 25 I have wanted silver hair but I am still waiting at 65 but I would love to have just a touch of the class she has.

  5. Lois

    Very interesting post Kate, and a great link to a Mail article on dressing to look younger. Your Blog is always so diverse, I look forward to seeing what you post as it is not predictable, and always of interest. Thanks for taking the time to Blog ! Have a good day.

  6. Gail

    Actually it’s her hair. Long, blonded hair just work as you age. With a Mirren style bob, I don’t think you’d notice the “frozen smile”.

  7. Maria Josephine

    I think Faye Dunaway is one of the saddest examples of Hollywood stars going over the top with plastic surgery. With her lovely bone structure she could have aged beautifully but instead she looks grotesque and unnatural.

  8. Seamsoddlouise

    Finding ones style at any age is hard. I remember really struggling to look like ‘me’ as a teenager. The pressure to look a certain way is palpable. Friends often tell me I have a ‘look’ but I can’t see it myself. I now how the confidence to not leave the house in clothes I don’t feel comfortable and authentic in. I guess that comes from age/experience. Interesting post Kate one to mull over!

  9. Cathe

    I gasped when I saw Goldie’s current face. Why oh why!? Age should be a beautiful thing that we embrace, showing the wisdom gained over the years. What an honor to grow old! I like the idea of aging naturally with grace. Thanks for the great (and shocking) post Kate.

  10. Jay

    Not throwing stones. It’s hard to age well, so many factors come into play. Some looks and personalities are a good fit for the dramatic styles often seen on Advanced Style, but perhaps not those who have a more fragile or delicate appearance in their twenties. Classy classics can look great, but can also drown out petite ageing blonds, or be too severe. I truly dislike the whole plastic surgery idea (with the exception of cases where a real deformity, blatant extremes, or devastating injury makes it necessary). Goldie’s (and my) generation were sold ‘youth’ – compare the sixties styles to the previous three decades. They didn’t work well on most women.

  11. Lisa

    As a woman in her mid 50’s, aging is something I consciously think about, whereas I never really gave it much thought when I was younger. I let my hair go its natural silver/gray a couple of years ago because of a hair coloring disaster…. and I’ve never received so many compliments on my hair ever before! I cannot tell you how many women tell me how ‘brave’ I am. It’s always curious to me, they use the word ‘brave’. My hair color triggered changing my makeup and clothing colors from a ‘warm’ to a ‘cool’. And as I age, am finding I need to pay more attention to eating right and proper exercise. Clothing is huge, as I want to look nice, but not like an old-lady-trying-to-look-like-someone-in-her-20’s! Thanks for such an interesting post! 🙂

  12. Maria

    Great article. Yes Goldie doesn’t seem to have aged gracefully. I think that the veneers don’t help either.

    My mother in law told me that when you get to a certain age you should wear your hair shorter as it looks better. I also think you have to be careful with hair colour choice as well.

  13. Hélène

    Great post! I would add Jacky O’Shaughnessy (American Apparel’s 60-something model) on the list of women aging gracefully and Jane Fonda on the sadly plastic surgeried women. I also agree that the “Fashion for all ages” page of The Guardian is ever so refreshing. I always find a great dose inspiration there.

  14. SJ Kurtz

    My best friend was a professional career ballerina from childhood on. She retired in her 30s. I love her to bits.

    She’s been professionally trained to be thin and pretty. Turning 50 for me was cool. Turning 50 for her is horrifying. Between the anorexia/bone loss/tooth loss and the skin concerns from overtanning; she’s not ‘pretty’ anymore and no amount of self-knowledge and innate cool (she’s got the sass down cold) can make that a positive change. She is having an awful time, and if she’s getting veneers and botox and eyelash work and it gets her out of bed in the morning, that’s just fine. She’s my friend, and I honestly don’t care what she looks like, I care about her.

    If you made a living staring into a mirror to achieve a particular result, that result changing would mean you had no value. Isn’t that what we have paid these people to be? Isn’t that why we’re talking about them this way?

  15. Annieloveslinen

    Intriguing post, I don’t consider clothing in relation to the age of the wearer but I do think folks ought to give more regard to how they look. I work with teenagers and so many of them wear leggings with short tops. Those cheap leggings are almost transparent when stretched over curves and even over a mobile snake hipped body and it’s not a good look.

    Celebrities can’t win they’re dammed if they do and Kirstie Alley’d if they don’t. Some have better results than others, Sharon Ozbourne must have a great surgeon. Charlotte Rampling has aged naturally and looked great in the paper last week. And the all ages models in the Guardian are all six foot beanpoles that should look great but the stylists still manage to dress them like bag ladies.

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