BASICS

15+ Surprising Style Mistakes That Are Making You Look Frumpy & Older

Look 10 Years Younger!

Out of the gate, let me be clear… aging is WONDERFUL. It’s an honor and privilege that far too many women never get to experience. We are PRO-AGING here at Busbee. But, we still want to dress in a way that makes us feel sexy, modern and youthful. Basically, the opposite of frumpy… because frumpy will add 10 years (as I’ve shown you over and over again on my Youtube channel). By changing a few simple things, you can completely modernize your style and look.

If you want to check out some of my “frumpy” videos… here’s your holy grail list:

5 Style Tips To Look 10 Years *YOUNGER*! (Over 40)
5 Frumpy Fashion Mistakes Making You Look Older (DO NOT WEAR THESE!)
3 Frumpy Shoes RUINING Your Outfit & Making you Look Older (stylish and comfortable alternatives!)
5 SURPRISING STYLE MISTAKES That Are Making You Look FRUMPY and OLDER (Style tips over 45)
Don’t Look FRUMPY This Winter 2020 – Look Fashionable and Sleek Instead! (Puffer Jackets, Snow Boots
Look Younger AND Slimmer with These 5 Key Style Tips for Women Over 40
How To Instantly Look Slimmer | 10 Style Tricks!

 

How to look younger, don't look frumpy, erin busbee, avoid big prints

#1 | Skip Bold Prints

We’ve all been there…we’re in a store and we immediately gravitate toward the huge, bold, pretty print. The problem is that those big, loud prints are really tricky to wear and style. Finding a sophisticated, modern, youthful print is really hard. I like to say when in doubt, just don’t wear a print. I know that’s a bold statement. If you love prints, look for one that’s a smaller scale and more modern (like the picture above on the right). Take a moment to study the images above. Many of you assumed that the dress on the left is “too big” for me. Guess what, it fits perfectly! It’s not the size. And the design details are all on track. It has a cinched waist, a-line skirt, lovely neckline. The issue is … THE PRINT. It’s awful. Like real bad. It makes me look legit 10 years older and much larger too. Now compare that dress to the one on the right. They are the same basic concept, v-neck, cinched waist, a-line skirt. The primary difference is the print. The smaller scale flowers make the dress look more modern and I look much slimmer too! The cute wedges help as well. Hair, makeup and accessories are definitely those little details that make a big difference. On the right, my shoes, sunglasses, hair, and earrings all add modernity. The shoes on the left are so bad, we need to have a ceremonial fire to burn them.

How to look younger, don't look frumpy, erin busbee, ditch dated jeans. embroidered jeans, j brand natasha jeans

#2 | Ditch Dated Jeans

If you’re wearing a pair of jeans like the ones on the left…it’s time for an upgrade! Or if you turn around in your jeans and notice a saggy bottom, it’s time for an upgrade. In general, I would avoid jeans that are cropped to an unflattering length, have embroidery or other “cutesy” details and are baggy in the booty. As women over 40, we need a good pair of jeans that are flattering! And you don’t have to break the bank…there are tons of affordable options out there. Find out everything you need to know about finding the perfect pair of jeans here.
Instead of the dated jeans on the left, go for a more modern pair of skinny jeans like the ones I’m wearing on the right! Horizontal stripes can actually make you look wider so I swapped out the top for a more flattering solid blouse. I also added some other modern accessories like trendy flat-top sunglasses and comfortable (but chic) sandals. These look like two dramatically different women, don’t you think? Who do you want to hang out with?? 😉

How to look younger, don't look frumpy, erin busbee, beware of boxy styles

#3 | Beware Boxy Styles

In an effort to hide insecurities like a tummy or wider hips/butt/thighs, many women grab an oversized, boxy jacket, sweater, or top. This is actually the exact opposite of what you should do! You shouldn’t try to just cover it all up…instead, you need to create shape, maximize your assets, and minimize the problem areas with strategic pieces!
The jacket on the left has unflattering horizontal stripes and an A-line flare toward the bottom that creates a large, barrel shape. Instead, wear something like I am on the right… a more modern jacket and silhouette that skims your body. (If you still don’t know your body shape this post is a must-read!) The length of this jacket is so much better too. Look, mom… I have legs! Another huge style game-changer…the tunic top. A body-skimming tunic top is flattering, and is long enough to cover any common problem areas like the hips, butt and thighs. The tunic  is my go-to suggestion for women trying to hide a tummy. The tunic will visually extend the hemline of the jacket too. I swapped the jeans for a more flattering pair of cropped skinny jeans and the shoes for a modern pair of mules.

 

Style tip: The eyes go where your sleeves end. The sleeves (left) end at the tummy area. Is that where you want the eyes to go?

 

How to look younger, don't look frumpy, erin busbee, jewelry, jewelry choices

#4 | Don’t Dismiss Details

I know the small things like accessories don’t seem like that big of a deal, but they pull your whole outfit together and in a sense can make or break your look. Would you eat cake without frosting? Of course not!

Footwear

Look at the before and after shots of each look above…changing out the shoes completely changes the look! Nothing will date you faster than bad shoes. And, I know it’s SO hard. to find comfy and cute shoes. The struggle is real, but it’s a battle worth fighting.

Eyewear

You also want to think about your eyewear. Grab a pair of sunglasses that are modern and/or trendy. You can never go wrong with a classic pair of aviators. Or try out a pair of trendy flat-top sunglasses like I am above right. If you wear prescription glasses, just pick out one pair that’s modern and classic like aviators, cat eye, or square frame.

Jewelry

Next, your jewelry is SO important! I see many older women wearing huge, chunky jewelry like the necklace above (left). Instead, look for something dainty and classic like the gold pendant necklace on the right! The simpler, the better! If gold isn’t your thing, go for silver! I go over the basic jewelry that every woman should own in this post. Jewelry trends change as well. I think it’s important to stay up to date on the trends as this is a really simple way to modernize any look.

Handbags

Lastly, don’t forget about your handbag. Avoid a ton of hardware and zippers, pick a shape that’s modern (something structured is usually best), and go for a classic color like black or brown.

How to look younger, don't look frumpy, erin busbee, oversized cardigan, yellow blazer

#5 | Quit Handkerchief Hem

I see the look on the left all. the. time. I understand the temptation to wear something like this but it’s actually making me look a lot older (and bigger)! The bright color and oversized fit of the cardigan, bold print on the top, and old lady shoes…there’s nothing good about this look!
And, don’t get me started on the handkerchief-hem cardigan…yikes! I love a bold jacket, but choose a body-skimming, flattering silhouette instead, like the yellow blazer on the right! The color is still beautiful but now you can see my shape. I instantly lost 10 pounds and years. And the shorter jacket makes my legs look longer too. Notice what I’m wearing under the blazer. Instead of wearing a matchy-matchy “let’s bring out the turquoise in the blouse” outfit…I’m wearing a simple white tee. It’s fresh, modern, and provides forgiveness in the tummy. I also swapped the shoes for a really modern, youthful pair of white pointed-toe heels!

How to look younger, don't look frumpy, erin busbee, frumpy shoes

#6 | Cut the Old Lady Shoes Loose!

I wanted to talk a little more specifically about shoes…as we get older, it gets harder and harder to wear the shoes we’ve been able to wear our entire lives! Whether it’s age, bunions, a past foot surgery, or other foot issues…we just can’t wear those uncomfortable shoes anymore! But that doesn’t mean we have to start wearing old lady shoes either. I’ve been on the hunt for stylish, comfort shoes for years and the struggle is real. They are few and far between. What I look for in the perfect comfort shoes is: support, some sort of comfortable insert, flexibility, a stiff sole, wide toe box, cushiony and soft, and of course…style! We don’t have to give up fashion for function. This pair by Bueno and this pair by Evolve are two of the comfort shoe options I am loving.

How to look younger, don't look frumpy, erin busbee, bad bold tee, camo tee, how to wear a bold tee

Dump That Frump | Frumpy Pieces To Avoid

Now I want to talk about specific pieces I see women over 40 wearing that are not doing them any favors. These are all pieces you should avoid or swap out in your closet. If you own these pieces, I’m also sharing how you can make them better. Below you’ll see how I tweak the bad outfit so that it’s better as well as how to make it the best it can be. I suggest you go for the best option instead of the bad or better.

Frumpy Piece #1 | Bad Bold Tee

Bad: The print on this tee looks almost 3D. It’s bad. It’s not flattering, it’s not chic, and it’s not youthful! The tie on the side adds volume to my hip area too – NOT GOOD. I’m also wearing a pair of matchy-matchy tan jeans and very frumpy shoes which contribute to the badness of this look.

Better: 1) The first thing you should do to make this look better is to swap out the shoes. The second pair is a comfort shoe, but they’re very cute and more modern. I have them in black and brown. 2) The second thing I changed is my hair…a youthful hairstyle makes a huge difference! I share a ton of info on beauty tips to look younger in this post. 3) Next, I turned the t-shirt around. I know it sounds weird, but it looks a lot better without that print in the front. That’s the only way to save this tee. 4) I also pulled the tee off the shoulder and twisted that knot around, so it’s placed in a more flattering position!

Best: The best option is to skip that tee altogether! Instead, go for a more modern printed tee like the pale pink camo tee on the right! I kept the same sandals and jeans, but it would look even better with a pair of white jeans or shorts!

How to look younger, don't look frumpy, erin busbee, ponchos, don't wear ponchos

Frumpy Piece #2 | Tent Tops

Bad: Also known as a poncho…tent tops are a no-no! Notice the bold stripes across the tummy and hips? That adds SO MUCH volume! This outfit is made worse with some stretchy white pants and old lady sandals!

Better: 1) First, swap the shoes! I put on a pair of white pointed-toe loafers instead…the pointed toe is elongating! 2) Next, I swapped the white stretchy pants for jeans. A pair of modern jeans will do wonders for ANY outfit! 3) The top is tricky because of the stripes. I tucked it in slightly to give myself shape.

Best: Removing the tent top completely and go for a body-skimming top like the blue one I’m wearing on the right for the best look! Notice it’s still in a bold and beautiful color.

How to look younger, don't look frumpy, erin busbee, ill fitting shorts, white shorts over 40

Frumpy Piece #3 | Ill-Fitting Shorts

Bad: For some reason, stores that are geared toward women over 40 tend to make really bad shorts! They’re never flattering! The pair of shorts on the left has this weird cocoon shape, linen, see-through, and a terrible length! The top I’m wearing is also pretty bad! It’s bedazzled, the print is too busy, and the sleeve length is not flattering.

Better: 1) First, you should cuff the shorts twice to make them shorter. 2) Swap out the sandals. 3) Do a half-tuck with the tee. 4) Put your hair up in a ponytail or any modern, youthful hairstyle!

Best: Your best option is to change the top AND the shorts! This pink lace blouse is more elegant, feminine, and youthful! The shorts have a really cool, unique, flattering shape that makes your legs look more slender. These shorts are not scandalously short. They pass the finger-tip test with flying colors. They just look a heck of a lot more stylish and modern.

How to look younger, don't look frumpy, erin busbee, crotch framing tops, white tunic top

Frumpy Piece #4 | Crotch Framing Tunic

Bad: See where the eye goes in that top on the left?? Right to the crotch! I don’t think any of us want that, right!? Ha! Also, the v-shape with extra fabric on the hips makes your hips look bigger and your legs look shorter.

Better: 1) Tuck the asymmetrical hem into the pockets to create more of a rounded hem…that’s a fast fix! 2) Again…swap the shoes! 3) Add a hat! A hat can really elevate a look…I talk about how to wear a hat over 40 without feeling like you’re trying too hard in this post.

Best: Go for a different tunic that’s more flattering! This tunic has a rounded hem, body-skimming, covers your hips, and has a cool keyhole detail! I just wish it were slightly shorter. I would also swap the tan jeans for regular jeans.

How to look younger, don't look frumpy, erin busbee, matchy matchy, leopard kimono, how to wear leopard

Frumpy Piece #5 | Too Matchy-Matchy

Bad: Matchy-matchy is “in” right now…but there’s a way to do it tastefully and make it look chic. The look on the left is NOT it! I’m wearing a leopard top with a leopard kimono. The kimono has a really terrible turquoise print on the bottom that calls attention to that area. I’m wearing the same tan jeans and bad sandals. This outfit should be illegal. Where are the fashion police??

Better: 1) I would lose the kimono and only wear the tank! 2) Tuck, half-tuck, or tie the tank. 3) And you’ll want to swap the shoes for your more sophisticated pair of sandals!

Best: I’d wear a completely different kimono that’s more elongating! Pair it over a pretty silk camisole. And swap the jeans for a more modern pair!

How to look younger, don't look frumpy, erin busbee, capri pants, capri pants over 40

Frumpy Piece #6 | Capri Pants

Bad: When you wear capri pants, you’re most likely cutting off the leg at an unflattering length. The optimal length for capri pants is at the smallest part of your leg, usually where your calf starts to taper to your ankle. You can see the capris on the left hit me at the widest part of my calf, making them very unflattering. They are also sitting lower on the hips which makes my legs look stumpy.

Better: 1) I unrolled the capris so they hit my leg at a better place and 2) swapped out the shoes for some modern white sneakers. And pull the pants higher on the waist creating the illusion of longer legs.

Best: The best option would be to find a pair of pants that goes to the skinniest part of your leg…the ankle. You really DO need to pay attention to the hemline of your pants!

How to look younger, don't look frumpy, erin busbee, small scale prints, printed pants

Frumpy Piece #7 | Loud Printed Pants

Bad: When you’re trying to look as sophisticated and slim as possible, just avoid prints. You can see on the left I’m wearing some bold printed pants that just aren’t flattering. If you are small enough you can pull off anything, but in general, prints like this are VERY tricky!

Better: Instead, swap the pants for a smaller scale printed pant like the very tiny polka dot print pants I’m wearing on the right. I also swapped the shoes for chic black sandals!

How to look younger, don't look frumpy, erin busbee, nude stocking, how to wear stocking

Frumpy Piece #8 | Nude Stockings

Bad: This one is tough. Many of you don’t feel comfortable showing your legs. But in all my years of searching, I’ve never found a good pair of stockings that are imperceptible to the human eye. You can see them under the long striped skirt I’m wearing on the left and it just doesn’t look modern.

Better: Here’s what to do or consider…1) Wear a longer skirt, 2) Wear opaque black stockings. I prefer a sheer black stocking, but that’s personal preference. 3) ALWAYS avoid wearing stockings with open-toe shoes…that’s a big no-no! My shoe swap here makes a BIG difference too!

Best: The best option is to just not wear the stockings! On the far right, I’m wearing the same skirt, no stockings, and some chic, pointed-toe mules!

How to look younger, don't look frumpy, erin busbee, bad sleeve length, how to wear cap sleeves

Frumpy Piece #9 | Bad Sleeve Length

Bad: This top is cap sleeve, tight-fitting, and has an unstructured cowl neck. I work out pretty frequently and am pretty proud of my arms…but this top makes them look terrible!

Best: I swapped the top for one with a similar sleeve length but a little roomier in the arms. The slight flutter sleeves make my arms look SO much smaller!

How to look younger, don't look frumpy, erin busbee, bad pocket placement, hip building details

Frumpy Piece #10 | Hip Building Pockets

Bad: The pockets on the hips of this sweater adds volume in that area. And traditionally, women don’t want to add bulk around the tummy. The mock neck isn’t helping matters. I look like I can’t breathe.

Best: Instead, go for a modern open neckline like the sweater on the right! It’s a one-shoulder sweater in the same color. The open neckline is sophisticated but sexy. The hemline of the sweater is MUCh shorter so you have longer-looking legs. And it’s still forgiving in the tummy area. Yay!

Which before and after is the most dramatic?? Please share in the comments! For more youthful styling tips, get my blog posts delivered directly to your inbox, along with some next-level freebies, when you sign up for my newsletter here.

Thanks for stopping by!

How To Manifest Anything, Fashion blogger Erin Busbee of Busbee Style wearing an orange and blue Staud Ina dress with white sunglasses walking around in Telluride, Colorado
Erin Busbee
After a decade in TV news, a desire to help women "look pretty" sparked a career pivot. I started my own wardrobe consulting business, styling "real" women for many years. In 2014, I changed direction again, using my TV background and styling expertise to launch this website and my YouTube channel. We are now a community of nearly 700,000 dynamic, vibrant, amazing women over 40... who know that age isn't something you need to hide from. For us, life is just getting started!!
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