Women will be relieved to learn that there is no universal rule about wearing certain clothing based on their age.
In fact, say two local style consultants, what women wear should depend more on how the clothing fits and how they feel in their wardrobe, rather than how old or young they are.
But age does play some role, says Ashley Jordan, a Portland-based wardrobe consultant.
“I don’t suggest you shop in the junior’s section, or at Forever 21 (a chain for the latest fads in clothes, shoes and accessories for young women) in your adult life, but I think if you know the type of items that complement your shape and make you feel confident, then go for it,” Jordan says.
A graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology, Jordan, 30, offers wardrobe consultations for people of all ages. In 2010, Jordan started an online blog called “Sweet William,” where she shares style tips and advice about how to dress affordably. She is also the store manager and buyer at Little, a children’s boutique on Exchange Street in Portland.
According to Jordan, women in their teens and 20s should be trying various styles and be “adventurous with fashion,” in order to figure out what works best for them. But as they reach their late 20s and 30s, they should have a good idea about how they prefer to look and feel.
“These are the styles you should be working on perfecting for yourself and base your buying decisions on,” Jordan said.
As for what’s age appropriate, “I wouldn’t say that because of your age group, you shouldn’t wear a certain style of clothing,” Jordan added, but it’s also important “not to wear things that will age you.”
But clothing can also make a woman appear much younger than she is. When older women wear clothing meant for teenagers, or the “junior size,” it shows, Jordan said.
“If you are wearing things that are too short or too tight, or both, this doesn’t look as good as if you are wearing something that fits you and flatters your assets,” she said.
The same is true for younger women trying to dress older.
“Things that fit your body shape are way more sexy and flattering,” said Jordan, who helps women establish their personal style by offering honest advice.
She recognizes that changing wardrobes can be difficult for women, especially when they’ve gained or lost weight. Part of what she does as a stylist is try to push people outside their comfort zone, by having them try on an outfit they wouldn’t normally wear, she said.
According to Jordan, clothing that is too small makes women appear bigger than they are, but clothing that fits a certain body type complements a woman’s figure.
One of her clients went from wearing what she described as “unflattering” jeans, ’80s dresses and even Christmas sweaters, to wearing skinny jeans with blouses, form-flattering dresses and cardigan sweaters.
“They were able to show off the great body they had, and look younger than they ever did,” Jordan said.
Another one of her clients, Rachel Helm, who lives in Portland, also struggled with style, partly because her closet was filled with clothing she either never wore or didn’t know how to wear, Jordan said.
So Jordan spent three hours helping Helm sift through her existing wardrobe to piece together 20-plus new outfits, and determine several new ways to wear her favorite clothes.
Helm, a hairstylist, admits she had little fashion sense before meeting Jordan.
“I would often find pieces that I adored and wore all the time, but always in the same way,” said Helm, 28.
Though she claims she dressed appropriately for her age, she said, her wardrobe was basic: a T-shirt, jeans and flats or boots. When it came to getting dressed, she never took risks, she said. But after reorganizing her closet, she now has several style possibilities, from casual to dressy to high fashion.
“If I’ve learned anything from Ashley, it’s that anyone can be fashionable. It’s not about your age or profession,” said Helm. “It’s about knowing your body and what looks good on it, and sometimes, taking a risk.”
Haydee Foreman, a Blue Hill-based image consultant, also known as “The Style Coach,” agrees that what is appropriate for women to wear is less about age and more about their body type, their features, and their lifestyle.
Though Foreman offers her services mainly in Hancock, Penobscot and Waldo counties, she also does consultations through Skype, phone or email. After assessing her clients’ body shape and personalities at their homes, Foreman helps them organize their closets and takes them shopping for new clothing that is both stylish and affordable.
In addition to body shape, Foreman said, a person’s skin tone, hairstyle and eye color are also an important part of assembling the right wardrobe.
Her goal is to help clients of all ages feel confident in their appearance, from clothing, to the type of glasses they wear, to jewelry, to hair color and makeup.
“I mostly work with women who are in transition in their lives, and who are getting ready for a new chapter, whether it’s a relationship status change or job change,” Foreman said. “Some people try to wear something that they think they should wear, but in reality, it’s not really them.”
Jordan said women of all ages should take advantage of new trends and styles. A good starting point for women who are unsure how to dress is trying on new styles, she said. It’s a matter of determining how to use different prints, textures and fabrics to their benefit.
One tip she has for women is to find clothes that make their top and bottom look proportional.
“Go into it with an open mind and know not everything will fit,” Jordan said. “While there are body type categories we can all put ourselves into, each body is different.”
No matter their age, Jordan said, every woman’s closet should include appropriate-fitting bras and underwear, as well as “great-fitting, comfortable” jeans.
“Every woman should also have a go-to outfit that they know makes them feel great and that they can easily throw on for days when getting dressed is not easy,” she said.
Most importantly, she said, women, whether they are in their 20s or 70s, should wear outfits that make them feel comfortable and confident.
“Having our own styles, knowing what we like, and only having those (go-to) pieces in our closet will make getting dressed easy and fun,” Jordan said.
For Jordan, what she wears “is a way of telling the world who I am, or who I want to be,” she said. “No matter what people may think, what we wear reflects who we are, and people take notice.”
Rachel Helm of Portland shows off a couple outfits that wardrobe consultant Ashley Jordan helped her create from existing pieces in her wardrobe.Courtesy photoAge should play some role in wardrobe selection, says consultant Ashley Jordan.Courtesy photo