How to wear a suit and not look old (ultimate guide)

#styleover40 mature woman mixing pattern
In this suit guide
  1. Why a suit can make you look old-fashioned
    • Resist the urge to wear your suit like you did in the 80s
    • Don’t search for the extra keys just because that was a success in the past
    • Stay realistic
  2. Create a look with a suit that reads up-to-date
  3. Modern suit styling tips for women in midlife
    • Ensemble styling inspirations
    • Fake or unmatched ensemble outfit inspirations
  4. Costume and outerwear

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Why a suit can make you look old-fashioned

The fashion model Tatjana Patitz once said

Suits are so easy to wear, whether in a casual or dressy way, a woman in a suit is the sexiest thing.

Well, I agree when she would have started the sentence with “For twenty somethings.” Once you are over 40, a suit becomes tricky. It may read Old Fashioned, Old Lady or conservative, which are all terms that are (incorrectly) associated with not up-to-the-task in the work field. However, in the corporate world and in many jobs, we midlife women have to compete with those twenty somethings and we have to wear suits. Now what?

Resist the urge to wear your suit like you did in the 80s

In the 80s, we wore cheap suits with a shirt to look professional and/or older and to be taken seriously, especially, when we had jobs in a men dominated field. We called in Power dressing, and yes, we loved our power suits. We added a faux pearl necklace and 2.5 inch (5 cm) high pumps and a structured work bag or briefcase. In summer, we wore nothing but a bra and a camisole under our pantsuit.

Don’t search for the extra keys just because they were a success in the past

Did you ever read The Cain Mutiny? Canned strawberries seemed to have been stolen from the pantry. The commander was suspicious that there was an extra key and let the entire high ranking officers search for it. He gave this order because in the past, there was a theft case that he successfully solved; because he had detected the guy with the extra key.

Looking to the past didn’t work for Commander Quick. Yes, we had success with that outfit back then. It was a winner! It worked to get noted! Why shouldn’t we wear the look again? Because such an outfit would look so old-fashioned even when we would go for expensive instead of cheap items! Such an outfit would make us look so yesterdecade and like an Old Lady. Both would convey the wrong message that we aren’t on top of things anymore. That’s not a message you should ever send!

Your clothes send a message about who you are. Make sure they send the right message. #dress4success #midlifestyle Click To Tweet

Stay realistic

For us women over 40, Audrey Hephurn‘s statement

Givenchy suits gave me “Protection” against strange situations and people, because I felt so good in them.

becomes a farce. Most of us can’t even afford a Givenchy suit, not to mention that in most jobs, which require a suit, such an expensive suit would look over the top. In other words, your supervisor, colleagues, and clientele would wonder about your touch with reality.

stylist over 50 in festive work outfit

style book author in skirt suit with a glam and edgy twist

fashion blogger in needle stripe skirt suit with a twist
Needle stripe skirt suit with front zipper, Kieselstein Cord belt and buckle, Hermes collier de chien bangle, Festina watch, sequin top, GNW Luxe sweater, GNW tight, and Valentino boots (all own)

Create a look with a suit that reads up-to-date

While on a twenty something. a suit indicates “I am serious and professional”, on a forty something, it may indicate “I am conservative, I am plugging the same old road over and over again, I am stuck in old times, in a (style) rud.” Thus, we over 40 women have to be creative to look professional up-to-date, and not conservative and stiff in a suit.

Create a look with a suit that reads fashion-forward and modern, to send the message that you are up-to-date. #dress4success Click To Tweet

Speaking of Dress for Success. If you are interested in dressing for success in midlife you can buy my book for styling recipes for all kind of dressing situations in midlife.

Modern suit styling tips for women in midlife

Here are some outfit suggestions how to look modern, and up-to the tasks in a two-piece clothing over 40.

  • Choose an ensemble that has unexpected details like a zipper instead of buttons or an asymmetric skirt hem.
  • Go for a set in colors beyond the usual neutrals, but not too bright. For instance, blue instead of navy, chocolate brown instead of tan or camel, hunter green instead of loden green.
  • You can wear bold colors to  the office with a suit in neutral colors instead of further neutrals.
  • Add an unexpected piece to show off your personal style (see example with sequin top).
  • Wear the pieces in an unexpected modern way like untucked, rolled-up sleeves, chopped-up sleeves.
  • Go beyond the court shoe and higher than a 2.5 inch (5 cm) heels to look tall, slim and healthy.
  • Unmatch your suits, i.e. go for a fake one. See example ideas in the photos later in this post.
  • Never wear an ensemble with items from the same designer.
  • Have the suit altered for perfect fit if needed.
  • Only wear double breasted jackets if your frame can take them. Be aware that they add weight. Looking heavier than you are, can give wrong perceptions about your health. Often people looking heavy are considered (incorrectly) as being lazy. You don’t need these negative associations.
  • Be aware that pink and red add weight, while darker colors have a slimming effect. Use color to your advantage, i.e. put the darkest colors where you are the widest. Know your body shape.
  • Avoid pieces that look too trendy (e.g. extremely wide or thin lapels, ruffles on the skirt hem, strong shoulder pads). They look dated faster than you can get them below a dollar per wear.
  • Flappless pockets look better on everyone. See this guide on undeniable pants truths you need to know to find the best trousers for your body shape.
  • Belt your jacket. When the trousers or skirt have belt loops add the right belt. See this guide on how to best accessorize with belts to look your best.
  • Stay away from linen suits as they wrinkle faster than you can iron them. Instead go for lined cotton ensembles in summer.
  • Go for combinations that have the same color, but the pieces are made of different fabric (see orange look below).
  • Go for a statement material.

When you like these tips, let your friends know
I found this awesome post on styling suits over 40! #agelesstyle #stylenotage Click To Tweet

Ensemble styling inspirations

The following looks illustrate some of the tips given in the above list.

officestyle #mature woman in skirt ensemble work outfit Glenn check patterned skirt suit, Oliveo button-down shirt, Gucci belt (all own), and wooden chronograph c/o Jordover 50 years old woman in unmatched leather look Oliveo leather skirt with leather jacket, hat, scarf tied as a bow, Modalo shark Pippa bag, and pumps (all own)

midlife woman looking posh in skirt suit Work outfit with apt9 sweater, Jay Jacobs skirt suit, statement belt, Calvin Klein block heel pumps, Festina watch (all own), and pink tata necklace c/o Wendy Mignotstyle blogger walking in a mall in an orange suit Max Mara skirt and puffer jacket ensemble, GNW tights, Nine West booties, Bellorita bag, LeatherCoatsEtc gloves (all own), scarf c/o Uno Alla Volta and top c/o Covered Perfectly

Fake or unmatched ensemble outfit inspirations

The easiest way to look great in a skirt/jacket or trousers/blazer set is to go for an unmatched one. Below are some examples for inspiration how to get the look right.

mature woman in festive outfit Festive outfit with blazer, Kieselstein Cord belt and buckle, GNW tight, Harley Davidson booties, Tucker brocade skirt, silk scarf (all own) and statement necklace c/o Happiness Boutique

style blogger in mixed 2-piece with pop of teal pumps and top Fake suit with pants c/o White House Black Market, own Tahari blazer, snake tail buckle belt, Hermes collier de chien, structured tote, Salvatore Ferragamo pumps (all own), and top c/o Chico’s

fashion blogger Nicole looking stylish in a fake two piece ensemble Miu Miu pumps, statement belt (all own), dyed Notations blazer, black Tee c/o Covered Perfectly, and ankle length trousers c/o White House | Black Market

#workstyle over 40 year old in a fake suit in leather Lookbook Store motorcycle leather jacket,  Sienna Studio leather pencil skirt, Jeanne Pierre sweater,Pavlova scarf, GNW tight and Harley Davidson booties (all own)

office outfit with tweed skirt with blazer as unmatched skirt/blazer set Ann Taylor tweed skirt, blazer. The floral weave of the tweed skirt looks unexpected and modern. L.K. Bennett pumps, Kieselstein Cord belt, GNW sweater, Longchamp bag (all own)

midlife woman in fake tweed skirt suit Fake tweed skirt jacket set with Halogen skirt, Jacket Society motorcycle jacket, GNW Luxe sweater, GNW tights, riding boots and statement necklace (all own)

 

female science professor in fake skirt suit with leopard print tights and heels Harley Davidson booties, Modalu Pippa tote, updo with barrette, GNW leopard tight, Tahari blazer, and Aires skirt (all own)

style book author in trousers and blazer in valiant poppy, quiet gray, limelight, black, red-pear, styling Example of adding bold colors (yellow, red): Tahari glen check blazer, floral print silk scarf, L.K. Bennett snake print pumps, Modalu Pippa bag, Jord men’s watch, Hermes collier de chien bangle, black pearl necklace (all own), silk shirt c/o Lillysilk and pants c/o White House Black Market

mature woman in pink leather suit with floral top and rock studs Notations floral print cardigan worn as top, Valentino Rock Studs, Gucci bag, driving gloves, Newport News fitted leather jacket, Banana republic leather skirt (all own)

casual friday outfit with in sweat pants plus blazer Casual Friday look with Adidas sweat pants, hounds tooth blazer, black turtleneck, Harley Davidson booties, BCBG statement belt, three string different size pearl necklace (all own) and Akoya saltwater pearl necklace c/o The Pearl Source

Costume and outerwear

Your office look doesn’t stop at the skirt/pants combo. You have to look professional too in the elevator when you arrive; when you go for lunch with colleagues, your boss or clients. Thus, make sure that whatever of your work outfit will show underneath your outerwear looks creates a great outerwear look too.
In the example below, I wore a shearling coat over the suit. I styled my outerwear with a Russian scarf that picks up the color of the tights. To tie the look together I added the gloves and bag that both pick up colors of the floral print of the Russian scarf too.
#winterstyle midlife woman in winter outerwear with studded boots
style blogger in posh accessorized winter outerwear Vittari shearling coat, Pavlova Russian wool scarf, GNW tights, LeatherCoatsEtc gloves, and Valentino boots (all own)

When you liked these suit outfit ideas, prin them to your own Pinterest board so your friends can see them too.

How do you wear your suit(s)? Do you wear “fake” suits? Do you have to wear them at work? What are your styling challenges when you have to wear them? Let me know I am curious how I can help you. Just drop an email. Thanks. 🙂

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P.S. Like these work outfit inspirations? You might also like to see how to dress office appropriate in a floral top or what to wear for a successful job interview.

Photos: G. Kramm

© 2013-2020 Nicole Mölders | All rights reserved

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