Wondering how to dress for your fabulous forties? We always recommend tossing so-called "fashion rules" out the window and wearing what feels right for you. At the same time, there are a few wardrobe basics that can help serve as building blocks to your evolving personal style.
With so many options to choose from, we enlisted the help of a few fashion pros to determine what items deserve a spot in your closet, and we even got them to share a few styling tips!
Styling tips if you're in your 40s
Need a bit of style know-how to help you navigate your 40s? Here are a few expert-approved tips:
- Comfort comes first: “Whether it’s a pair of heels, a short pair of shorts or leather pants, if you don’t feel comfortable, don’t wear it! Express your style freely without feeling ashamed,” fashion stylist Sharonda Grandberry told us.
- Seek out flattering fabrics: "Look for fabrics to keep you cool and comfortable, such as linen and cotton. You want to feel cute and sensual, not boring and dated, so anything that doesn’t stick to the body or make you feel hot is ideal," Grandberry said.
- Live by the motto "Quality over quantity:" "Stock up on investment pieces that are transitional and offer a variety of styling options," style expert Nikki Frenney suggested.
- Focus on what works for you: "Now that you're in your 40s, you should have a pretty good idea of your style preferences, most flattering colors and cuts for your complexion and body type. This will make it so much easier to build your capsule wardrobe," Frenney said.
Wardrobe essentials for your 40s
A well-fitting bra
Why it's a wardrobe essential: “So many women are wearing the wrong size bra, and that often leads to an unpolished look. A proper-fitting bra can make all the difference in how your clothes look on you. It can also help women feel more confident, reduce premature breast sagging, reduce deep creases and bulges around the chest and improve posture,” Frenney said.
Kit Undergarments Organic Cotton Plunge Bralette
Many of us adopted a more laissez-faire attitude about bras during the pandemic, and realized that comfort is really key. That’s why bralettes are a perfect option for the 40-something who wants to focus on fit without resorting to something that’s stiff and painful.
We’ve got eyes on this cotton bralette that features a plunging neckline and thin straps. The tag and clasp-free design has adjustable straps and comes in two colors: a neutral gray and a statement-making yellow.
True & Co. Eco Shine V-Neck Bra
There’s something flirty and sassy about this True & Co. bra's luxe material that has us totally smitten. The laidback style has adjustable straps, a flexible elasticized band and an ultra sexy V-neck dip in the back.
Why it's a wardrobe essential: “Camisoles give you that extra smoothing you need under your layers, and provide warmth. They also provide versatility within your wardrobe since they can be worn under a blazer, a fitted top, as a standalone or even around the house,” Grandberry told us.
Spanx Hollywood Socialight Cami
Much like a supportive bra, a shapewear camisole is a wardrobe foundation that can make the rest of your clothes look better. This one from Spanx has a scoop neckline and breathable, stretchy fabric that helps flatter your shape and smooth out any lumps and bumps.
Jockey Slimmers Breathe Cami
Camisoles are great layering pieces, but they can make you feel a bit sweaty when the temperature rises. Luckily, this one is made of a lightweight, moisture-wicking fabric with ventilated mesh to keep you cool. Other notable features include adjustable straps, a flexible bust and silicone grip tape that's conveniently placed at the waist to make sure your cami stays put when you layer it under dresses, sweaters and more.
Why it's a wardrobe essential: “A classic white button-down offers endless outfit possibilities,” Frenney said. “You could team it with a pair of jeans or a blazer and ballet flats for a classic look. Or you could wear it under a sweater or a dress to give your outfit extra interest.”
“A white button-down has the potential to make you look good without trying. Surprisingly, white button downs aren’t just for suits,” Grandberry said. “I can think of at least nine ways a button down can be styled.”
A New Day Long Sleeve Oxford Button-Down Shirt
With its stretchy cotton-blend fabric and laidback design, this affordable find is cute and comfy. It’s a wardrobe staple that works for every occasion and will stand the test of time.
Loft Oversized Everyday Shirt
No two white blouses are created equally, and this one has a sleek appeal that definitely caught our eye. It’s intentionally oversized, which makes it easy to tuck into bottoms or tie it in the front for a fashion-forward vibe.
Why it's a wardrobe essential: “Every woman in her 40s should have an amazing statement blazer that can liven up a pair of jeans and a T-shirt. It can also work over a black bodycon dress or a top and pants in the office or happy hour. The blazer can be textured (tweed), colorful or a gorgeous vintage piece. It needs to be a ‘wow’ piece that can take you anywhere,” fashion stylist Nicole Vick said.
Long Stretch Crepe Jacket
Blazers with buttons are the norm, but every so often we prefer to dress outside the box and opt for something a bit less predictable. Take this crepe blazer, for instance. It's just as professional as a double breasted design, but has a looser, more feminine fit. The 3/4 length sleeves also lend it a more relaxed vibe!
New York & Company Double-Breasted Belted Blazer
If you prefer edgier styles, this double breasted blazer might be right up your alley. Featuring six gold buttons on the front and a sleek satin trim, it has plenty of detail and stands out from the banal blazer crowd. The self-tie waist is also a unique feature we're digging.
Why it's a wardrobe essential: “Jeans can make or break you depending on how they are styled. A dark pair of denim jeans should be in every woman’s closet after 40. Darker jeans have a smoothing appearance and can be dressed up or down,” Grandberry said.
Gap Mid-Rise Vintage Slim Jeans with Washwell
Not everyone digs darker wash denim, so if your preferences fall somewhere more in the middle, this indigo wash could be your winning pair. The jeans have a slight amount of stretch that conforms to your shape and are made with 7 percent recycled cotton and 6 percent recycled polyester.
Lands' End Recover Mid-Rise Straight Leg Blue Jeans
Available in petite, regular and tall sizes, these mid-rise jeans offer something for everyone. They have a contoured waist with no gap in the back and a straight leg that’s the perfect mix between a skinny and bootcut jean. Did we mention that they’re made of recycled cotton fiber?!
Why it's a wardrobe essential: “Although little black dresses can be classic and timeless, it’s time to explore different colors and fabrics for those special occasions. Satin dresses and sequin dresses in jewel tones or muted colors can make a statement just as well (or better) than an LBD and everyone will remember you for standing out,” Vick said.
Nina Leonard Sequin Sweater Dress
It’s always fun to have an excuse to dress up in full-on sequins, but those occasions are typically few and far between for most of us. On the other hand, a slightly sequined sweater dress offers a touch of bling without overdoing it, and can be worn to dinner, a work party or any other number of occasions.
Express Satin Floral Print Ruched Mini Dress
We’re suckers for satin and are eyeing this floral print midi dress. The material can instantly make you feel more polished, yet you can also make it a bit more casual by throwing on a moto jacket and black booties. The flirty frock even has adorable puff sleeves, a ruched waist and a flattering faux wrap bodice.
Jogger pants and casual sets
Why it's a wardrobe essential: “A nice jogger pant with a matching top can look chic with a statement necklace and a pair of heels or comfy with matching tennis shoes and a crossbody bag,” Vick said. “Some sets come with a matching duster, which helps when the weather changes. Look for sets in different configurations and fabrication: pants/top, bodycon dress/duster, shorts/top/duster to suit your style.”
Skechers Fantasy Fields Reversible Bomber Jacket and Leggings
Whether you rock this sunny set to the gym or out for brunch with the girls, you’ll look equally fabulous. The reversible zip-front jacket is made of a moisture-wicking, anti-static, stretchy material that offers UPF 40 protection from the sun. Meanwhile, the high-waisted leggings have a touch of sass with their side floral print and they have a stretchy, breathable fabric with chafe-free seams.
Outdoor Voices Cotton Terry Cropped Sweatshirt and Nimbus Sweatpant
Remember the days when activewear sacrificed fashion for function? Lucky for us, active sets now come in a vast variety of colors and patterns to mesh with every personality. Our penchant for pastels has us crushing on these cozy cotton sweats and the matching cropped sweatshirt, and we're definitely ready to carve out some space in our bureau for them.
Why it's a wardrobe essential: “Vintage scarves or those with interesting patterns and colors are perfect accessories. They can be worn as headbands/headwraps and around the neck to add a pop of color,” Vick said.
LC Lauren Conrad Ombre Softy Wrap
Whether you’re looking to keep warm or simply want to add some extra depth to your look, an oblong scarf is an accessible accessory that’s worth trying. With its fringe ends and ombre print, this lightweight style offers plenty of detail and is sure to be a conversation starter.
David and Young Blackwatch Tartan Blanket Scarf
Wading into the world of scarves? Take things slow with an approachable blanket scarf like this fun plaid option. You won't have to put too much thought into how to tie it since it's meant to be fuss-free, and it's an all-weather essential that can be worn in the middle of winter or draped over your shoulders when your office cranks up the air conditioning in the summer.
Black ankle boots
Why it's a wardrobe essential: “Wear them with jeans, a dress, leggings or even a cute dress. The versatility of a black ankle boot is limitless and depending on your destination, they should be a closet staple for every woman 40 and over,” Frenney said.
Blowfish Malibu Comet Ankle Boot
Black booties are a fashion essential that works all year long, especially during the cooler months. These comfy ankle boots feature a sweater trim at the collar, a cushioned insole and a walkable wedge heel. Honestly, they’re pretty adorable for a hiker-style boot!
Vionic Cecily Bootie
No matter what your age is, we always recommend investing in shoes that will go the distance and combine panache with practicality. These booties are made of a waterproof pebbled leather, making them ideal for spring showers. The chunky heel is also perfect for anyone who’s on their feet a lot! Other notable features include a waterproof side zipper and a removable footbed that lets you customize your comfort.
Why it's a wardrobe essential: “This is a versatile item that pairs well with a formal dress or your favorite pair of jeans. Big baubles draw the eye up to the face and instantly make you look younger and fresh,” Frenney said.
Pura Vida Turquoise Hoop Earrings
“Hoops never go out of style and can be worn in a variety of settings based on the size and style of the hoop. Try adding charms or other trinkets to thinner hoops to add interest to a more casual look,” Vick said.
These tiny turquoise hoops are a true statement maker with their delicate beads and bold hue. The price is also pretty great!
Ann Taylor Chandelier Statement Earrings
We’ve always believed in accessory soulmates and really think that these fun earrings are “the one.” We’re fond of the multicolored blue beads in varying shapes/sizes, and love that you really don’t need any other accessories while wearing them.
Meet the experts
- Sharonda Grandberry is the stylist and image consultant behind Pink Throne Styles.
- Nikki Frenney is a stylist, digital content creator and fashion blogger based in Atlanta.
- Nicole Vick is a stylist, public health advocate and educator based in Los Angeles.