Fashion trends. Help! What should I wear over 50?

Is it important to stay ‘in fashion’ when you get past a certain age?

As I type this, I’m sitting in my kitchen wearing giant reading glasses with flowery frames, a Breton top, NYDJ jeans and emerald-green Birkenstocks. I am, in fact, clothed entirely in the accepted uniform of the mid-life middle-class woman. And if you lurked near any independent bookshop for ten minutes, you’d see a hundred versions of my ‘look’ pass by. What should I wear over 50? Do I need to keep up with fashion trends anymore? How does this all work?

Portrait of author Flic Everett showing her flowery framed reading glasses

Enjoying my flowery frames

It’s not necessarily that we all want to dress like an art teacher holidaying in Polzeath – more that the alternative options as we get older become so hideously unwearable.

Past your forties, the vintage-flamboyant-theatrical look (which I used to love) becomes less manic dream pixie, more ‘would she like a free sandwich?’ While the ‘sharp tailoring’ beloved of fashion magazines can make one look like a weary DI in an ITV drama.

The high street is full of backless, sleeveless, crotch-less and frontless club-wear. And the ‘safe’ options come straight from Miss Marple’s overnight bag.

Worst of all, following fashion trends is like being a groupie for a boy band. You can do it at any age. But you feel a bit of a nelly when everyone else is under 30.


So should I be trying to keep up with fashion trends?

three different items of clothing hanging up in a cupboard“It’s important to approach fashion trends with the view of ‘that’s what’s in the shops’ rather than ‘that’s what I should be wearing’,” says Bedfordshire-based stylist Lindsay Edwards (, who works with mature women. “Nowadays, trends are incredibly fast paced, with some micro-trends lasting just weeks. Trying to keep up with them is costly and unsustainable.”

Still, reluctant to be entirely out of the loop, I had a look at Vogue’s fashion diktats for S/S 24. And what the trendsetter is wearing now, it seems, is a muted palette, statement gowns, micro-shorts, white frocks, rose patterns, Polo-but-street, and transparent skirts.

Let’s take those in order. ‘Muted palette, Succession chic’ makes most of us look like we’re on an HR training course, because actual Succession chic relies on having many thousands of pounds to spaff on Jil Sander separates.

Rose patterns make everyone over 40 look like the victim in Midsomer Murders, and ‘Polo but street’ is just inexplicable; “I sell drugs on horseback”?

Camel-coloured M&S slacks and a mushroom waterfall cardigan are more ‘right, Shelley, let’s say you’re dealing with a raft of redundancies…’

‘Statement gowns’ don’t suit dog walking, particularly in rural areas, while micro-shorts can make us curvier types look like Bella Emberg dressed as Superwoman.

White frocks, while claiming to embody the spirit of Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy, are pure Geri-Halliwell-Puts-On-a-Show-of-Unity. Rose patterns make everyone over 40 look like the victim in Midsomer Murders, and ‘Polo but street’ is just inexplicable; “I sell drugs on horseback”?

As for transparent skirts – I wouldn’t even wear a transparent hat these days.

Finding your own style, sustainably

The truth is, by our stage of life we’ve evolved beyond trends, which mostly exist for 22-year-old St Martins fash’ graduates to get excited about, and for the high street to water down and sell to 16-year-olds, i.e. the only people who can feasibly wear H&M micro-shorts.

But we still want to look good; to find things that suit us and make us feel reasonably stylish – albeit I will never own the holy trinity fashion editor’s selection of ‘a crisp white shirt, a classic trench, and a navy blazer.’ Because I’m not starring in a subtitled film about unfaithful Parisians.

…we’re looking for long-term clothes that justify the spend in a cost of living crisis, and eschew fast fashion

So if trends are no longer worth following, and style means more than boring classics, we’re looking for long-term clothes that justify the spend in a cost of living crisis, and eschew fast fashion – as many of us don’t fancy wearing something that’s going to fall apart in the wash and end up in land-fill.

“Shopping at charity shops or online preloved sites such as Vinted, eBay or Depop is much more environmentally friendly,” says Lindsay Edwards.

It also needs to pass the ‘do I feel happy wearing it?’ test. Recently, I did a full wardrobe cull, and ended up slinging out everything floral, flimsy, or ill-fitting, and anything that made me feel less than cheerful when I put it on.

How do you want to be seen?

“What should I wear over 50?”. “One useful method is to come up with three words which sum up how you’d like to appear,” says Edwards. “‘Chic, elegant and sophisticated’, or ‘quirky, eccentric and interesting’ – perhaps ‘dramatic, bold and powerful’. The aim then is to purchase items of clothing which can be described using those specific words. Over time, you’ll curate a wardrobe with a cohesive sense of style.”

When you wear clothes in the colours and styles that suits you, you’re going to look, and more importantly feel, fantastic

I ended up clinging to a leather jacket, studded ankle boots, several Ghost-style viscose dresses, some decent wide-leg trousers, and several striped tops. Mostly, it comes down to knowing what doesn’t work for you anymore. In my case, front buttons (because they make my chest look like an over-risen loaf), low-waisted jeans (more muffin top than Starbucks at 8am) and high heels – because I want to live, rather than break my neck in a tragic stumble.

Now is also a good time to get heavily into accessories, including cool trainers, stylish sandals, and giant specs and sunglasses, which can be rocked at any age, height and body size – see the late, great Iris Apfel for details.

“One of my most hated phrases is ‘mutton dressed as lamb’,” says Lindsay. “Age is not a factor, and certainly not a barrier to looking incredible. When you wear clothes in the colours and styles that suits you, you’re going to look, and more importantly feel, fantastic.”

Current buys that withstand passing trends…

The dress

Leopard-print with a twist – wear it anywhere.

pink and purple and black leopard dress

Pink and Lilac with Black Shadow Leopard Flute Sleeve Midi Dress, £115, Scamp & Dude


The jacket

A spin on the classic shape, that goes with everything.

Denim jacket

Pure Cotton Denim Relaxed Utility Jacket, £45, M&S


The shoes

Cheaper than DMs, edgier than trainers (and comfy).

strappy sandle shoe

Lavender Leather Chunky Footbed Sandals, Black, £85, John Lewis


The trousers

A hint of athleisure, with added luxe.

Pair of satin khaki trousers like joggers



The top

Not-quite-Breton, with very flattering summer sleeves.

black and white stripy top

Black & White Stripe Flutter Sleeve Jersey Top, £35, Oliver Bonas

Still wondering ‘what should I wear over 50?’ Read our article on Capsule wardrobe pieces for women over 50.

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About Flic Everett
Flic Everett is a Mancunian writer who now lives in a cottage in the beautiful West Highlands with her patient husband and two deranged cocker spaniels. She still misses Manchester, and returns like a homing pigeon every month to see family and friends. She spends a lot of time writing on trains.

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