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How old is “too old?”

Categories: basics


Summer’s here, and that means shorts — maybe not for every day, but at some point. I’m totally in love with my shorts this year, largely because it’s been hot here since March and I figured that I might as well get excited about summer clothes, since I will apparently be wearing them until Thanksgiving. Or something like that.


I’ve always worn long shorts — the longer the better. Not because I love long shorts — I don’t really; they’re not particularly comfortable or practical or flattering. It was mostly because I felt like short shorts were for some other woman, someone in her 20s who hadn’t had two babies and whose thighs were smaller than mine.

Of course, I also wore long shorts in my 20s because my legs weren’t model-thin and short shorts were for girls who were prettier than I was. Which meant that in my 40s, when I realized that my 20-year-old body was gone forever, I spent a lot of warm weather days feeling like I had really missed the boat on shorts. And of course, I thought, I’m too old for those short shorts now.

Or maybe not.


I hear women say all the time that they’re “too old” for certain styles — I say it myself, constantly, about all the fab blue nail polishes I see everywhere. I’ve tried them and I just can’t pull it off. I’m too old! Except that that isn’t really what I mean. The blue pedicure doesn’t work for me because it doesn’t fit my style, which is essentially conservative and classic. It has nothing to do with my actual age.

But then there are the rules about age and style: No shorts after 30! No bikinis after 35! No miniskirts after 40! I’m 44 and I’m breaking all of these rules (go me) because I think style rules should be about finding what fits, not about arbitrarily avoiding out because of your age.

(I do feel compelled to say this, however: Grown up women should not be shopping in the Junior department. Those clothes are designed for the body and the wallet of someone who is not old enough to drive. Wearing them will not make you look younger — in fact, dressing like a kid makes you look older. Trust me.)

Dressing your age doesn’t mean giving up entire categories of clothing; it means thinking carefully about your current shape and your current lifestyle and choosing pieces that fit both those things properly. I’ve become a big advocate of shorter shorts, even for women my age, because a mid-thigh hemline makes everyone’s legs look longer and slimmer. But opting for a shorter short — or for any shorts at all — isn’t just about finding what flatters your legs. It’s about surrendering these arbitrary ideas about what it means to be “old.”

Do you worry about dressing your age — or about looking old? Or do you have some other measure of what’s appropriate for you?

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5 comments so far...

  • I’m 41 and only started wearing shorter shorts two years ago, and bought my first bikini last year. I’m in better shape than ever and I feel comfortable wearing these things now. I’m careful not to dress TOO youthfully–I do bear in mind that I’m 41, not 14 like my daughter–but like you I didn’t appreciate my 20-year-old body when I had it and a little part of me wants to make up for that lost time. (Without, of course, looking like a Real Housewife. It’s sometimes a thin line.)

    Leigh  |  May 30th, 2012 at 12:35 pm

  • “I think style rules should be about finding what fits, not about arbitrarily avoiding out because of your age.”

    YES. I am fitter at 37 than I was at 20, so I wear shorter hemlines (as you’ve seen) and pick clothes that I know suit my curvy figure.

    I also refuse to cut my long hair until I absolutely have to, because I’m not ready for that anytime soon. :)

    Angella  |  May 30th, 2012 at 12:41 pm

  • What is the length of those shorts? I bought the 5 in Chino at JCrew and I think they are too long! They hit at a funny spot and fold in the front when I move. The 3 in seems so short but I haven’t tried them yet, and the 4 in is available on in the catalog. So I am trying to get some perspective. Thanks!

    Meredith  |  May 31st, 2012 at 6:24 am

  • Yay for you! I’ve always thought that women wearing bermudas or longer shorts looked older, regardless of their real age. And you look polished & much younger in your shorter shorts.

    I may be pushing it a bit at age 50, but I still wear short shorts, though recently moved from 3″ inseam to 4″ and 5″ inseam. For reference, I’m 5′1″ and 108 lbs so if I wore anything longer than 5″ inseams, I’d look dowdy.

    Francesca  |  June 1st, 2012 at 3:35 pm

  • Gosh, I envy women like you who can (or have the guts to) wear those shorts - long, short, skimpy or whatever…

    I don’t have the luxury but more so, the guts or the face to do that. Why? I live a very hairy existence! ‘Must be some male hormones that my mom also has.

    But all is good. Just part of a life extraordinary :)

    Maria  |  July 8th, 2012 at 11:04 pm