How to Look Youthful, Not Young

“Youthful” is a common ingredient in many of my clients’ personal style recipes. While most women want to appear youthful, they don’t want to appear young, or too young. What’s the difference, you may ask? “Youthful” connotes being fresh, up to date and vivacious, while “young” (unless you really are young,) can be perceived as unsophisticated, immature and trying too hard.

dress youthfully not young

Just a few ideas

It’s worthwhile talking about not dressing too young for your age, but I actually find most women are more challenged with dressing too old for their age. Always voracious for more style education and new viewpoints, I recently purchased “How Not to Look Old” by Charla Krupp. Much of the book focuses on hair and make-up, but Charla has great points about clothes and accessories too. I can’t say I agree with everything she says, but today I would like to share with you what I’ve gleaned and techniques I’ve honed in my business to help you look absolutely fabulous no matter what your age!

If you’re thinking, “Well I am “young” (under 35 for practical purposes,) I still urge you to read on. Follow these tips and you’ll look young, sophisticated and chic!

How to look fabulous at any age

If you like trends, feel free to experiment. (Not all trends are trendy.) When you find a trend you absolutely love, buy it in luxurious fabrics. For example, if you love a new sweater trend, do it in cashmere instead of acrylic. If you like the new leather clothing trend, buy LEATHER. Don’t try to pull off pleather—it’s just not going to work for you!

Prefer classics? Not everyone likes to follow trends, which is absolutely fine, but it’s imperative to be modern and add your own twist. Cardigans are a classic style, but make sure you’re wearing a modern silhouette, maybe one with fun embellishments. Instead of a khaki trench coat, (which you’ve probably already done,) why not try one in bright red or even black satin?

Another tactic to keeping current (aside from reading the e-Style Tip,) is to take a look-see shopping trip each season. Venture into stores where you don’t normally shop, perhaps stores with a higher price point. Simply notice fabrics, colors, silhouettes and how items are paired together. If you have a lot of a particular style or fabric in your closet, but you don’t see it in the store, chances are good it is past its prime.

SKIRTING the issue
A very sophisticated and chic skirt style is the pencil skirt. It’s a must have if your legs are your best feature. As a wardrobe and image consultant, my clients often have several straight skirts in their closets, a.k.a. rectangular skirts. They’re easy to tailor into pencil skirts. Just ask your tailor to “taper” the skirt. He/she will pin it, and you’ll immediately see how much more flattering your skirt has become!

What’s your best skirt length? You’ll find more details on my style blog, but essentially any length from the top of your knee cap to the bottom of your knee cap is the sweet spot—for business and sophistication. If you’ve got the legs for it, you can go a bit shorter especially if you’re petite. Wearing tights and boots or a casual summer skirt will also allow you to go a bit shorter. While I don’t have a hard and fast rule about length, be cautious. Wearing a skirt that’s absurdly short, no matter how fabulous your legs are, just makes you look older than you really are.

On the other hand, even though midis are back in style, I urge you to beware! It’s a difficult length to pull off gracefully. Midis can easily veer into frumpy territory!

Are you a “sweater woman?”
Youthful sweaters are a bit tricky. Our instincts want us to be warm and cozy in sweater weather, but without a bit of strategy our sweaters can become “schlumpy.” Here are a few tips:

  • Avoid cables! Cable knit sweaters are rarely fitted enough to be modern. The preppy look is hard to pull off with panache.
  • -Over-sized is out! Big, over-sized sweaters may seem cozy, but they only add weight to any figure. A sweater that skims your body is always flattering.
  • Lightweight, round neck cardigans are tough to pull off. They need to be quite fitted to be chic, but if you are small busted with a trim mid-section, they’re fantastic especially with a belt.
  • Waterfall cardigans are best when they’re not too full. No matter what your size, you never want to completely disappear.

Oh no, not mom jeans!
What are mom jeans? Just in case you don’t know…they are high rise, usually big in the legs, have narrow bottoms and are typically a medium to light wash. Personally, it drives me crazy that the stores still sell them, and they’ve even become a fringe trend.  Mom jeans make even the slimmest woman look like an ice cream cone.  And in all of the years I’ve been in business, I’ve never had that request!

According to Charla Krupp, “Cool jeans are an investment.” I couldn’t agree more.  Considering you can wear them with almost everything in your closet, and the right pair can make you look 10 years younger and 10 years thinner, these jeans are an amazing investment.

With the huge variety of styles of premium denim, there are flattering jeans for everyone. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • These jeans contain Lycra. They must be somewhat tight when you buy them. The spandex will relax within 30 minutes, and if you’ve bought the jeans too large you will instantly regret it. (Usually a salesperson specializing in denim will be able to determine if you’ve got the right size.)
  • You’ll be happiest with a mid-rise, not too high, not too low. Try on mid-rise denim even if if you think they’ll be too low. They’re perfectly appropriate for a woman of any age, and I’m pretty sure you’ll be surprised how great you look!
  • Length is crucial!! No more than ¼ inch off the floor.

Trying too hard…what to avoid

I rarely find these things in anyone’s closet, but since so many women ask me what to avoid, here’s the short list of clothes and accessories best left to the teen and 20-something crowd:

  • T-shirts with supposedly clever sayings
  • Super low riding, ripped or highly embellished jeans
  • Micro-mini skirts and dresses
  • Short shorts, a.k.a. daisy dukes
  • College sweatshirts
  • Cheap clothing from the juniors department
  • Toe rings and ankle bracelets
  • Head to toe trends

I happily invite you to add “youthful” to your style recipe. I get calls all of the time from women who tell me they don’t want to dress too young for their age…or too old. I truly believe that too young and too old clothes and accessories are a very small percentage of what’s available to you in the department stores and boutiques. Just follow today’s tips, have fun with your wardrobe, and you’ll look Youthful and Fabulous!

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