Lifestyle

If you want to look modern, forget these style rules

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If one of your style goals is to look modern and current, some of the old rules and beliefs learned earlier in life may be keeping you stuck. Style rules to ditch over 50, and some tools you can use instead…

Many women in my age demographic grew up with a whole litany of seemingly arbitrary style rules and conventions. Some of the style rules I was taught were:

  • only wear what makes you look slimmer (this was #1 )
  • no white after Labor Day (we all laugh at this one now, but my mother took it SERIOUSLY)
  • match your shoes and bag
  • shoes should match pants color or be darker
  • patent leather, velvet, lace are for dressy occasions only
  • your jacket should always be longer than your top, coat longer than dress or skirt
  • bright colors are garish
  • no dangly earrings in daytime
  • never wear black + blue/navy, or black + brown, or navy + brown, etc.

and the most irritating of them,

  • women over 50 shouldn’t wear ______ (fill in blank with whatever arbitrary items the 20-something author has declared off-limits to us)

Even if these sound like relics of ancient times, 😉 we may be following old style rules without even being aware of it, which can lead to looking and feeling stuck or stale.

When I say “modern,” I’m not talking about chasing trends. It’s more about looking current, engaged, and aware of general style directions. Modern style benefits from periodically evaluating and (if necessary) updating here and there. Keep an open mind. I find that it sometimes takes my eye a while to adjust to major style shifts, so take an incremental approach.

What feels “modern” to me now:

  • simple & unfussy. Should look & be comfortable (though not sloppy)
  • more relaxed silhouettes. Not baggy (though baggy is “trendy”), but neither snug head-to-toe
  • mixing levels of formality or refinement in an outfit (e.g. sneakers with trousers or a skirt)
  • mixing textures in an outfit

Not playing by the rules, what now?

When it comes to developing and evolving personal style over 50, I find certain guidelines can be helpful. But personal style is personal, which is why “tools, not rules” has become my mantra.

But I always want to feel like myself in what I’m wearing, so here are some of the tools I’ve found most helpful to stay consistent and keep my wardrobe cohesive:

How to focus your style with this 3-word formula

Understanding your Style Personality, and how it can help you build a cohesive wardrobe

The 3-color formula for looking put-together

Find more style tips & outfit ideas at The Style Hub

And of course, working from my color palette means that the colors in my wardrobe are in harmony. I can wear what I have in multiple combinations, mix older and newer items, and create outfit variety with fewer pieces.

(Jacket & jeans from prior seasons, loafers a few years old.) A few budget-friendlier cashmere hoodie options:


For many of us, years of restrictive style rules have led to a “don’t tell me what to wear!!!” reaction. I get that, I really do. But I’ve also found that having unlimited choices can lead to decision fatigue, and/or a closet full of “what was I thinking?” shopping mistakes.

Having a coherent personal style (and building a cohesive wardrobe around it) requires making choices and being discriminating. For some women, this is an intuitive process that develops over time. For others having a framework and being able to quantify why something works or doesn’t is key. Or we may incorporate varying degrees of both intuitive and quantitative input. We all process information differently. What “clicks” for one person may be lost on another.

Sharing what I’ve found helpful

While I’m a visual learner, I also have a strong analytical side. I can look at something and know whether it works for me or not. But I also want to know why. Being able to quantify something like a color combination or a jacket length saves me hours of “faffing” (as my British friends say).

Knowing my best colors and understanding my Style Personality and physical “architecture” have helped me build a cohesive wardrobe that makes getting dressed (in a way that feels like “me”) easier. When I share information about color or style formulas, it’s because I’ve found these tools helpful. And I believe that anyone reading can use or modify these tools to suit themselves.

Finding and honing your personal style formula (or formulas) should feel freeing, not constraining. Freeing in that you can let go of trying to dress like someone you’re not. You can flip past colors and trends that don’t suit you and feel more confident incorporating those that do.

BUT I’m absolutely NOT trying to tell anyone what to wear, or limit your choices. If something I’ve suggested doesn’t interest or work for you, that’s fine too. It would be a boring world if we all liked the same things.

(For those who have been asking about body shapes and silhouettes, I’ll be addressing that in a separate post.)

What style rules have you discarded, and what tools have you found helpful instead?

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Celebrating our best lives at fifty and beyond! 50ismorefun brings you motivational news and stories centered around life, fitness, fashion, money, travel and health for active folks enjoying the second half of lives.