Knit dresses are perennial trend and among winter style favorites in cold climate regions. Unfortunately, they are tricky to wear with natural menopausal body changes. This guide covers multiple ideas and tips on how to wear knit dresses over 40, what to look for in a knit dress as well as what to avoid when jumping the bandwagon on this trend.
- Knit Dresses are Having a Moment
- What to Look for When Buying a Knit dress
- Shapewear Is a Must
- Best Tips How to Style a Knit Dress
- Accessories and Matching with Other Attire
- Knit-dress Outfit Ideas
- How to Wear a Knit Dress in Frigid Cold Weather
- How to Get more Wear out of a Knit Dress
- When to Kiss the Knit dress Trend Off
- Wrapping Up How to Wear a Knit dress
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links at no extra costs for you.
Knit Dresses Are Having a Moment
When you are a regular reader, you may have seen how I wear my knit dress over 50. Are you in love with that knit dress in the window for 60% off and torn whether or not to get it? Your little angel tells you “knit dresses are a classic, go for it, beauty.” However, the little devil in your head tells you “a knit dress can be tricky even when you are slim.” Your angel reminds you that your criterion to buy is to come up with three looks with the knit dress. The little devil may go on and on. Like not every trend is for everybody. Or that 50% off is not a good deal.
What to Look for When Buying a Knit-Dress
To find the perfect knit dress make sure to keep the following tips in mind before you hand over your credit card.
- It is very important that the knit dress has enough ease to not look like a sausage on two legs. You should be able to gather half an inch (1.3 cm) of fabric without that the knit stretches. Since the fabric is doubled when you do this, it means you need at least an inch of ease. The ease allows the knit dress to flow over your body. This means it hugs your body rather than being body-conscious. Any more would look bulky, and you would look heavier than you actually are.
- The length should be long enough that it is clear that you did not forget to put your jeans on. It should be short enough to not look like an Old Lady. This means the hem should hit anywhere above or around the knee, but not higher than two hands wide above your knee. The one in the photo is the absolute shortest I would go. As you see it is 2 inches (5 cm) longer than the tip of my hands.
- Go for a classic slightly tailored at the waist cut.
- Buy the highest quality you can afford. Merino wool, cashmere or blends with these yarns look polished and sophisticated.
- When you go for a knit (read not fine jersey), a solid color is a Must except for a weekend piece.
Shapewear Is a Must
Now the bad news. When the dress is body conscious, wearing at least a shapewear slip is inevitable. A loose version like the teal dress can work without. My arsenal of shapewear has grown over the last decade or so. And I love the feeling of pressure and being in control. However, I know, many women just plain hate that feeling. If so, go for a more relaxed style. Nevertheless, to avoid clinching wear a slip underneath. More on slips.
Best Tips How to Style a Knit Dress
To look stylish and polished try the following:
- Go for a vertical ribbed pattern to create a slimming effect. Vertical lines lead the eyes up-and-down giving the illusion of height.
- Try a monochromatic outfit for looking taller than you are.
- The dark colors of your palette have a slimming effect. Therefore, avoid pastels, light colors or red when you can’t afford the illusion of extra weight these colors add.
- Yes, there are underwear issues to consider. No VPL (visible panty line). Wear laser-cut briefs with gel line instead of rubber bands.
- Wear the right shapewear underneath. Go for a shapewear slip with gel on the hem. They do not ride up. A shapewear slip has the advantage that you avoid awkward lines where shapewear separates would meet. The ones with built-in cups are best. When you can’t get a shapewear slip with built-in bra, go for a bra with wide band and straps to avoid cut-in.
Accessories and Matching with Other Attire
- Accessorize wisely. A little heel is fine, too high heels enter Pretty Woman territory, too flat heels come across too young/girly (read sweet little 16). Add professional looking jewelry like, for instance, pearls. This means stay away from glam, flashy, and too sparkly. Try accessorizing with a belt for shape.
- A long cardigan, tailored leather motorcycle jacket, denim jacket or blazer and/or belt are nice grownup stylish additions too (see photos).
- Add a brooch or statement belt instead of a necklace. More on accessorizing with brooches.
- Wear shorter than 4 inches (10 cm) above the knee knit dresses with leggings on the weekend (see striped dress).
- Try a straight skirt underneath for a sophisticated work look (see photo with the pink sweater dress, burgundy skirt). The dress-over-skirt look is a chic layering trick to create cold wet weather outfits, while staying comfortable when you wait for a bus.
Knit-Dress Outfit Ideas
Below are some inspirations how an over 40 years old can wear the trend without looking like trying too hard or not trying at all. Full disclosure, I am 60 years old. When I can do it, you can do it too.
How to Wear a Knit Dress in Frigid Cold Weather
The outfit below shows what I wore when it was -49F (-45oC) at night! To stay warm I wore underwear (bra, cami, long sleeve T-shirt, slip, undies), two pairs of tights, and socks in the boots. The boots have an insulation insole. More on how to avoid cold feet at frigid temperatures.
Insulation Is Key
The ribs of this gray sweater dress nicely hold air. Thin air layers or air pockets are a great insulation. Together the layering of clothes and the thin air pockets of the ribbed dress provide good insulation. This insulation permitted us taking the outfit photos without me catching a cold or feeling uncomfortable. More on how to look great in the bitter cold of Alaska in the January lookbook.
Fun fact about taking the above photo: My photographer wore thermo-pants over jeans (invisible) and a down coat over several layers of shirts. He got cold fingers holding the camera. He also tried to finish the shoots in short time. I was outside in this outfit for less than three minutes. Taking outfit photos challenging in the Arctic in the deepest of winter for various reasons.
While you can create (invisible) insulation by multiple pieces of underwear, you also can create great winter style layering looks as well.
How to Get more Wear out of a Knit Dress
Today’s post belongs to the series on how to get more wear from your wardrobe. It addresses how to wear a dress multiple ways. To get their price worth of wear from any wardrobe additions, think about which new outfits the “potential” piece will bring to your wardrobe.
Think of them as a potential top or bottom. It’s so yesterdecade to wear your dress just one way and only as a dress. In this post, I illustrate the concept for you and hopefully inspire you to embrace the idea.
Who does want to repeat the same look again and again?
Here three tips of more possibilities how to switch things up with a knit dress.
Wear It as a Long, Oversized Sweater
The following idea shows an example of styling the knit sweater-dress as an oversized long sweater over a mesh dress and leggings. Any see-thru skirt or dress may work. Just make sure the leggings pick up the color of the see-thru piece to not look shorter than you actually are. Add a belt that works for your body type for shape. See which belt is best for your body shape.
Style It as a Maxi Dress
The following look is inspired by the drop-waist style of last century’s Roaring Twenties. Try a tulle or lace skirt underneath your knit dress. Stay with the color theme for best results. Avoid a too large contrast.
Give the Illusion of a Mixed Fabrics Attire
Try a slightly longer sheath under the knit-dress in a matching color. Choose a color hat it’s believable that they belong to the same piece. Going for a monochromatic look is the easiest way to create the illusion of a mixed fabrics piece. Or go with the same color family, one piece in a pastel version of the other like in the example below.
Other Ideas to Wear a Sweater Dress
Try it with skinnies, leggings or as a mini dress with opaque tights for the weekend. More on how to look ageless in knits.
Add a Scarf and Patterned Tights
What about Styling a Monochromatic Look?
Wear a Striped Sleeveless Jumper with Items in the Color of the Stripes
Wear a Mini Dress with Leggings
Go for a Desaturated Look
Layer a T-shirt under a V-Neck Dress
Stylist’s tip: Try analogous colors or color blocking.
When to Kiss the Knit-dress Trend Off
If you are not willing to commit to the above points, kiss this trend off. This means just don’t buy a knit dress. It will just take up real estate in your closet. You will not get enough wear for your money when you feel uncomfortable in the piece. If you are willing to commit, I bet you will be sad when the trend is over. But then you still can wear it under a skirt or with skinnies. Thus, you will get you money worth in wear even when the trend ins’t a trend anymore next fall. There is a lot of other cozy warm knitwear. See this guide for tips how to look ageless in knits.
Are you temped by the knit-dress trend? In your opinion, are they a Yay or Nay in fashion over 40? When you are in the market for a sweater dress and are worried about the illusion of more weight black could be an option for you. Black namely has a slimming effect. More in my review of a Femme Luxe black jumper dress.
Wrapping Up How to Wear a Knit Dress at Any Age
Knits are tricky to wear in midlife. Looking great in a knit dress over 40 requires good choices on all levels. When you want to save money on and/or slow your fashion consumption down, buy a workhorse. Also have at least three looks in mind before handing over your credit card to the cashier or hitting the buy button.
Photos: G. Kramm
© 2013-2023 Nicole Mölders | All rights reserved