What to wear to dress your age

When getting dressed, do you ever stare doubtfully at your reflection, wondering if your outfit is appropriate for your age? Do you wonder if you can still rock that miniskirt, or get away with wearing neon brights? And when people tell you that you look “bagets,” is it a compliment, or your cue to stop wearing those shorty-shorts with the pockets hanging out?

Age is just a number, and for the most part, we shouldn’t let stuffy rules (or people) dictate the way we dress. But the minute you start to feel uncomfortable about what you’re wearing, it helps to go back to the style basics, and see how it applies to your personal fashion statement. Here are some helpful tips for dressing your age:

Dressing in your 20s

Your basic wardrobe will probably still pretty much resemble your teenage attire, especially during weekends. The biggest shift comes when you graduate from college and are getting ready to join the workforce. At job interviews alone, a crisp, neatly-pressed, professional outfit is your first step to making a good impression.

If you work in a corporate environment, invest in “transformers”—multi-functional pieces that can take you from day to night. Try a chic jersey tube dress you can wear with a blazer and pumps at the office, and with stilettos, a statement necklace, and sans jacket come cocktail hour. 

Even in more creative environments that encourage individuality, a sharp, well put together look always commands respect. Feel free to throw in a funky accessory whenever you feel like it…just because you can.

Your style mantra: polished, yet with a dash of personal style.

Shopping guide:
Jersey dress, P715, Forever 21
Blazer, P450, Jus’ Ur Size
Nude pumps, P699.75, Parisian
Nude stilettos, P499, Barbie (also comes in hot pink)
Statement necklace, P343.80, WWW

[Also read: How to match the right bra with your outfit.]

Dressing in your 30s
In your 30s, you will be hitting your stride in your personal and professional life. You know who you are and what you want—and it will be reflected in your wardrobe choices, too.

You start going for quality instead of quantity, foregoing trends and saving up for “investment pieces.”

Says Leona Panutat, stylist and co-owner of L’Indochine at SM Aura: “When I turned 30, I learned to let go of these: One, neon prints. Now I’d rather just choose one ultra bright solid piece and pair it with neutrals. Two, uncomfortable shoes; life is too short to suffer. I try to buy the best shoes that I can afford. Three, short and tight dresses. I’ve learned that less is more. Four, ultra-trendy items. I shop according to what suits me and my lifestyle. I try to know what the trends are because that’s part of my job. But at the end of the day, I wear what makes me feel good.”

Leona’s fail-safe outfit? “A pair of black coated denim pants, heels, a striped tee and statement-making accessories—either super big earrings or a necklace.”

When building your 30s wardrobe, choose classic items you love that will last, and punctuate your look with a few statement pieces every season. If you’re worried that something looks too juvenile on you, it probably is—so trust your style instinct (it’s different for everyone).

Shopping guide:
Denim pants, P769, Forever 21
Heels, P699.75, Parisian
Striped tee, P299.95, Willow Clothing
Big earrings, P280, Forever 21
Studded metallic necklace, P505, Forever 21

[Also read: Six lipsticks you and your budget will love.]

Dressing in your 40s and up
Many women fear their 40s, but once they step into it, discover that it is quite liberating. You no longer care so much about what people think, and pretty much dress according to what feels right for you.

Liza Ilarde, editor of Manila Bulletin’s Style Weekend magazine shares, “There’s one silhouette which I personally find flattering for women in their 40s and which I apply to my own way of dressing: a knee-length pencil skirt works for most occasions and for most body types.”

Another consideration, apart from comfort and personal style, is dressing for the occasion.

As Liza says, “It’s a good idea to have [flattering pieces] in different fabrics and colors—for example, black cotton twill is appropriate for work, while bright iridescent satin can be for dressy events.”

According to Liza, occasion-appropriate dressing is more relevant to people in their 40s. As it should be. In your 40s, you are no longer dressing to impress. Instead, you dress to express your personal style statement. And that includes being appropriately dressed for whatever occasion you attend.

Liza says, “In the 21st century, ‘age-appropriate’ dressing—as our parents knew it—is no longer observed. You see teenage girls wearing designer handbags and shoes, while women in their 40s go out in short shorts and minis. For me, what’s more relevant now is occasion-appropriate dressing. This applies not just for events which request for a specific attire, but also for cultural and religious considerations when modest clothing is required.”

So the next time you worry if your outfit suits your age, ask yourself instead: is it occasion-appropriate?

Shopping guide:

Grey chiffon pencil skirt, P899.75, Calypso
Black taffeta pencil skirt, P1,100, Studio

[Also read: Do you dress like a college kid?]

All items available in The SM Store.

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