Denim is an American and casual classic. This guide covers how to best wear it at any age and not look like trying too hard or not trying at all.
- Jeans are a casual wardrobe essential
- No pants at school is over
- Stylist’s secrets of looking great in denim over 40
- Easy examples of great denim outfit ideas to try
- Denim skirt outfit idea
- Debatable looks
- Outfit inspirations with skirts and distressed bf
- What does not work
- Can you wear denim in midlife and beyond?
- Advanced styling tips for denim over 40
- Stylist’s secrets on wearing denim like a pro
- Inspirations how to wear a denim skirt
- Inspirations how to style a denim jacket
- Inspirations how to wear jeans
- Inspiration how to style a denim shirt over 40
- Discussed example: Denim dress
- Discussed example: Disstressed jeans
- How to make distressed BF look great for Casual Friday
- Discussed example: Skinny jeans
Jeans are a casual wardrobe essential
Today jeans are an essential of the everyday wardrobe for women of all age in the American West and Midwest like the Dirndl is an office appropriate summer dress for every women in the Munich area. Black jeans and a black blazer and top are a NYC standard uniform. Denim is a staple. This guide addresses how to wear denim over 40 in a sophisticated way for business style, Casual Friday, weekends and date night. It provides explanations and photo outfit ideas to illustrate how to style denim like a pro.
No pants at school is over
The baby-boomers remember the times when we were not allowed to wear pants at school, not to mention jeans. Getting my first pair of jeans was a big fight with my mother. And we all fought for wearing jeans and pants, right? Why should we give up on them now? We were the trendsetters back then.
Now we set the bar how to wear jeans in ageless style.
Stylist’s secrets of looking great in denim over 40
- Great fit is key. Your bum should look great from the back – have a photo taken by the salesperson. With respect for the fit think Jane Birkin in the 70s for flared jeans, strive for a fit like Brook Shields in the Calvin Klein ads in the 80s, or Cindy Crawford in her straight cut in the 90s. The length should be 1/8 of an inch (3.3 mm) above the ground in the shoes you plan to wear with your jeans. Sit down and make sure the Y is not showing. Always go for a rise that is above the hipbone in the front. If you go for a rise above the navel, make sure to style it like Marilyn Monroe did. If you find a brand and cut that flatters you, stay with it until they change the cut.
- Buy the smaller size when on the fence between sizes
- Make the real life test. Sit down and look whether a gap shows up in the back or the top of your thongs shows like a diving whale’s tail. If any of these incidents happen, this jeans is not the right fit.
- When you are short-waisted you can go with lower raise just above the hip bone, while long-waisted women look better in mid-raise or high-waisted jeans.
- Stay out of mommy jeans land! Even straight jeans should fit tight thru the waist, hip and at the bum.
- Always go for a dark wash.
- The fabric in bright colors or white look great too at any age. Be aware that colored denim fail to get the comfort of jeans.
- Tailored shirts in the fabric look great even in a denim-on-denim styling.
- When wearing two pieces in the fabric in an outfit always go with distinctly different shades. Accessorize with classic items like pumps, heeled booties, or strappy sandals. Avoid to look like a cowgirl even when you go to a western-style Night Club.
- Jeans with a twinset or a T-shirt plus cardigan are great for Casual Friday if your dress code permits.
- Soft denim shirt-dresses without any frills are great for summer with sandals and a belt for the weekend and – if the dress code allows – with pumps or slingbacks for work.
- Depending on your body shape, the right-cut denim jacket is great worn over a summer dress as an alternative to a cardigan
Easy examples of great denim outfit ideas to try
Scarves are perfect to up the style factor of an outfit when you know how to style with scarves. The next inspiration features a rolled-up jeans, strappy sandals, a gray T-shirt, and sunglasses LOTD with a hand-painted silk scarf. The scarf is hand-made in Leipzig, Germany. The leopard painted on the fabric has a face like my cat Kasimir. The colors picked up by the colors of the sandals or vice versa. The bag is an exchange. My girlfriend had gotten this high-end bag from a great-aunt, However, she is more the “California Casual, I love my backpack” type of gal. I once got a nice leather backpack, but I never wore. It was not me at all. Thus, we just trade these bags. I really love this beige snake print bag. It is so me.
Here some further visual denim styling inspirations for stylish women over 40.
Example for denim on denim with a shirt dress and tailored jacket in different washes styled with a satchel, T-strap pumps, and belt for a Casual Friday office look in fall Tailored denim shirt in a medium wash with linen pants in jeans cut accessorized with a statement belt and slingback pumps and structured bag for a Casual Friday look Wearing a denim coat as a statement piece with boots and a structured bag Gingham shirt and floral patent leather pumps give a feminine vibe to white boyfriends Go for an all neutral color look with a striped T-shirt, denim jacket and matching linen pants Jeans and a leather biker coat are a classic combination. Switch it up with a leather skirt and a denim jacket Go for a casual look with a patched shirt and animal print skirt for the weekend Wear your jean jacket with a plaid skirt, boots and graphic Tee Dress over pants Coat
Tailored jacket worn with striped T-shirt, white leather skirt, saddle bag and plateau sandals for a Sunday brunch
Styling boyfriend jeans for a business casual look by adding a blazer, a striped button-down shirt, white pumps, pearls, and a structured bag
Fall weekend outfit with skinnies, a leather baseball jacket, booties and striped T-shirt
Two washes: To create interest add a statement belt. Add pumps for a feminine touch
Belt an oversize jacket for shape over a midi dress
Try sequins and denim with a lace skirt for a glam, casual look
Try a denim skirt with rainboots
Try colored jeans with a kacket and hat in fall
Add a faux collar to your jean jacket with a business casual work look
French inspired look with wide pants, beret and blue jacket
White or colored denim jacket
Denim skirt outfit idea
Many stylist tell you not to wear denim skirts. Their main argument is the stiffness of denim skirt. I agree that they may be stiff depending on the weight of the fabric, but I disagree that stiffness means a bad style/look. When you are straight up and the stiffness is not a problem. The following photos show a winter look that would work for Casual Friday.
Many stylists disagree about distressed jeans over 40 and denim skirts. Here they even disagree whether distressed jeans and/or denim skirts are a no-no to begin with, or just for a certain age.
General rules are
- Whether denim skirts look great or not on a women of any age depends on her style, her body shape, the skirt’s cut and how she styles it. A tailored cut straight along the tights, dark, above the knee denim skirt, for instance, looks great on me. It gives me some curves because the fabric is stiff! The cut fits my sleek style.
- If you go for distressed jeans, make sure it is obvious that you bought them that way, i.e. that they are not a leftover from your time back then in college. 😉
Outfit inspirations with skirt and distressed BF
Denim skirt worn with a “fake twinset” of a sweater and GNW cardigan, Kieselstein Cord belt and buckle and BP espadrilles for a Sunday brunch
Midwash ripped high-waist jeans with leggings underneath for winter
Styling distressed boyfriend jeans for a stroll at the mall or Casual Friday. The silk scarf, striped T-shirt, statement belt and pumps elevate the look and leave no doubt that the distress is on purpose, i.e. not caused by wear
Jeans and shirt with statement cardigan
When you liked the outfit ideas of this post, and want recipes for all kind of dressing situation in midlife, buy my book How to Dress for Success in Midlife.
What does not work
- Cut-offs. Sorry, but they are for high school girls during the summer break.
- Any baggy jeans with a rise above the navel
- Acid wash, dirty wash, overly light washes, paint or jeans with embellishments, overly distressed denim items, patchwork denim clothes
- Wedding cake-like cuts for denim skirts
- Denim jackets cropped so short that the kidneys are free and the breast is just covered
- Denim-on-denim with the same shade
- Mommy jeans
Can you wear denim in midlife and beyond?
You love your denim as much as the next gal, so wear it. You want to look polished, not floppy, or frumpy, but also not like trying too hard or even worse, trying not at all. Going beyond the basics in wearing denim over 40 sounds like to balance on the sharp side of a carving knife. The fabric is associated with casual and weekend. Wearing it can go easy frumpy or looking like wearing a uniform.
Advanced styling tips for denim over 40
In an earlier post of this Ageless Style series, I gave tips what to look for when seeking for an ageless outfit in denim. Today’s post expands on those tips by providing tips how to style denim like a pro.
First let me give you some outfit inspirations.
Stylist’s secrets on wearing denim
- Recall to stay away from the extremes like a superwide bell-shape or super-distressed. Both look sort of ridiculous at any age. A straight cut is a classic, but pairing shoes with it is much more difficult than for skinnies, or a slight bootcut.
- Pairing jeans with a button-down shirt, scarf or pearls, pumps and a blazer is a fool-proof business casual look to try. Paired with a white shirt is an American Classic.
- A turtleneck sweater with jeans and blazer also falls in this category.
- Many stylists advise against wearing a denim skirt over 40 due to the stiffness of the fabric. However, when the cut is to the advantage of providing shape to a straight-up-and-down body and the skirt is above the knee it can work to your favor. Not sure what body type you have? Detect your body shape type with this free online quiz.
- If you wear a denim skirt, stay out of dressing like a cowgirl, i.e. don’t add a plaid shirt plus fringe leather jacket and cowboy boots and a hat unless you go to a western bar or festival. You would look otherwise like Rosie in Disguise.
- Style the denim skirt like you would style a corduroy skirt with a striped Tee or polo shirt or like a black pencil skirt with a white button-down shirt and black or nude pumps.
- Denim jackets are a nice way to style a dress down. Click To Tweet
- Try a denim jacket as an alternative to a cardigan.
- Belt your denim jacket and/or wear it under a vest.
- Pair a denim jacket with a romantic dress or skirt, a lace dress or sequin skirt for an unexpected going out look.
- Denim-on-denim looks best with two different washes, but same texture. Click To Tweet Think one of the denim-on-denim pieces just has been washed over and over again while the other hasn’t.
- If you aren’t tall like Karlie Kloss don’t go for her Texas tuxedo, i.e. denim everything.
- Soft fabric denim shirts look great with dark wash jeans, corduroy or leather pants and even a black pencil or a classic tweed skirt. Go for a tailored cut to look polished.
- Try a denim piece with a white (or colored) denim piece.
Inspirations how to wear a denim skirt
Inspirations how to style a denim jacket
Styling down an Elie Tahari abstract floral print sheath dress with a Fossil white denim jacket for Casual Friday. The red Gloria Vanderbilt pumps, Chanel belt, Ray Ban sunglasses and fuchsia 3.1 Phillip Lim tote tie the look together (all own)
Styling a Ruby Belle plaid sheath dress down for Casual Friday with a Levis denim jacket worn as a top under a VS leather vest, GNW tight, dagwood flower and beads statement necklace, Festina watch, and Harley Davidson motorcycle booties (all own)
Inspirations how to wear jeans
Inspiration how to style a denim shirt over 40
How do you style your denim? Do you wear denim-on-denim? What’s your favorite outfit with this fabric? I am curious.
Discussed example: Denim dress
In the look shown in the photos below, the color scheme is given by the plaid scarf, red, blue, black.
Discussed example: Styling distressed jeans
What about distressed jeans? You surely have read the countless memos in various fashion magazines, the fashion sections of newspaper, and style books:
No distressed jeans after 40.
Well, I am a midlife blogger, and proud of it. And after buying the distressed jeans shown in the photos below I think I hesitated way too long to get my own pair. I have loved distressed BF jeans ever since I saw them the first time when Kate Holmes wore a pair. About a year ago, my best friend bought a pair of sweatpants with a distressed print. That made me even more to want my own pair of distressed BF jeans.
When I saw these sweatpants the last time, I mentioned it. My best friend was like “do you really want to pay more money for a pair of jeans that is already broken?” “Sure, the distress is another step in the production process. That’s why they cost more.” “Right, but they are ugly.” “Then why did you buy sweat pants with a distress print?” “They are not broken.” “But they have an ugly print?” We both LOL. 🙂
After doing some insomniac online shopping I got these. When I wore them the first time, my best friend pointed at the distress and said “yack”, but loved them in the overall outfit/look so much to take not only one photo, but one from from all angles. 😉Wear what looks great on you and forget about the rest. #personalstyle Click To Tweet
Always experiment with new things you like. Some items that are first a trend – like distressed BF jeans. Later, they become a classic. Prior to that when worn with classics, they just add the little twist. Remember, a twist keeps a classic look from being boring. Classic with a twist. The distress as the surprise.
How to make distressed BF look great for Casual Friday
Wear distressed jeans with a blazer, knit silk or cashmere sweater, high heels and accessorize with a necklace that also builds on the unexpected. In the example above, it’s being bold and delicate at the same time. The blazer should be high quality and have a tailored cut. Add a statement belt. The patent leather high heel pumps add polish. In one sentence, style distressed jeans with luxury items for a classic with a twist and stir clearly away from anything “frumpy”.
Discussed example: Skinny jeans
This example pairs skinny jeans with an ethnic shirt for a western vibe Casual Friday work outfit. The ethnic top was a gift of a girl friend of mine. She bought it in India for me when she visited her family during the winter break. To keep the look from going Bohemian or 70s, add a luxury bag and a classic trench coat. You can give the outfit a little edge with a funky or unexpected pop of color like neon yellow pumps in the inspiration below.
Stylist tip: Always repeat a color at least twice in an outfit like in this example neon yellow and sunflower yellow.
When you like any of these outfit inspirations, it would help me if you pinned them to your own Pinterest board. It’s a great way that your friends, family, and others can see them too.
When you liked this post share it with your friends by tweeting them: Read these great tips on how to look awesome in denim over 40. #agelessstyle #fashionover40 Click To Tweet.
What is your opinion on denim skirts? What do you think about distressed jeans? Yay or Nay? What are your style challenges when it comes to wearing denim? Let me know so I can help you.
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Photos: G. Kramm
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