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skinny jeans after 40

Categories: basics


I recently found a pair of dark-wash Eileen Fisher skinny jeans on sale — for a ridiculous price — and I took the plunge. I’m pleasantly surprised by some of the looks I have been able to pull off, but other looks have bombed, and I look like I’m wearing my daughter’s outfit.

My experiences suggest that the length of the top is critical. I was wondering if you have any advice — what guidelines should I keep in mind while choosing tops to go with my skinny jeans? I’m 41 and I definitely don’t want to look like I’m dressing in clothes or styles that are too young for me.


Eilleen Fisher Skinny Ankle Jeans

I love skinny jeans. Love love LOVE them. The amazing thing about skinny jeans is how great they look on just about everyone, including 40-something moms with curves. But there are a few tricks to looking super fab — and age-appropriate — in your skinnies.

Fit matters. Look for skinny jeans that fit properly in the waist, hips and thighs. Muffin top is caused by a too-tight waistband; if you’re rolling over the top of your jeans (or any pants or shorts) you’ve got the wrong size waist. Fortunately, the waist is the easiest part of your jeans to tailor, so start by getting a good fit in the hips and thighs — you don’t want them bagging, obviously, but you also don’t want them so tight that you can’t move. If you’re buying skinnies with stretch (which I recommend), find a pair that fits and then go down a size; they’ll expand as you wear them and after about the first 20 minutes or so should fit perfectly.

Proportion, proportion, proportion. Savitha asked what length her top should be to avoid the dreaded ice cream cone look. The simple rule of thumb is that your top should hit just at the widest part of your hip; any shorter and your hips will look extra wide, any longer and your legs will look extra short. But length is only half of the equation — think about the shape of your top as well. A flowy empire waist or baby doll top will overwhelm your skinnies (and make you look like you’ve raided your daughter’s closet); instead, opt for a top that is slightly wider than your hips but not terribly voluminous. If you’re curvy on the top and bottom, think about belting your top to give your waist some definition — a long sweater or tunic belted over a pair of skinny jeans is a chic, stylish look no matter what your age.

Dress it up. Sometimes the difference between looking like a kid and looking like an adult is in the accessories. Pair skinny jeans with pretty ballet flats or kitten heels instead of tennis shoes; add a necklace or striking belt or a beautiful bag. Swap your basic t-shirt for a woven shirt or structured sweater. It’s honestly not any harder to throw on a button down in lieu of a tee, and you’ll look less like you’ve robbed your teen’s closet and more like you’re making a style statement.

Your turn: How are you styling your skinnies? Or are you avoiding the skinny jeans trend entirely?

Photo via Eileen Fisher

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10 comments so far...

  • As you know, Susan, I’m in love with skinny jeans too, although I don’t wear them (or any other jeans) in the summer–it’s way too hot and sticky where I live. But my all-time fave way to style them is tucked into boots. Mainly tall boots, like knee-high riding styles, but I have some shorter ones as well. I find that boots instantly up the style factor of my skinnies and elevate them to “adult” status rather than making me look as if I’m trying to be a teen. The best part is that I get compliments on this look all the time. And oh yes–I’m a 41-year-old mom with curves.

    Shannon  |  July 27th, 2012 at 5:22 am

  • I’d love to wear skinny jeans, but my problem is that although I’m slim for my height, my calves are rather developed from running. I can’t seem to find a pair of skinnies that fit over my calves but aren’t sagging in the rear and the waistband. :\

    Cathy  |  July 27th, 2012 at 5:46 am

  • I second the nice shoe vs. tennis shoes statement, and will add that I love wearing a tailored blazer and tee with a great scarf or necklace to complete the look. It’s my go to ‘uniform’ that is almost always appropriate.

    Anne  |  July 27th, 2012 at 12:28 pm

  • I think I’m one of the few for who skinny jeans just don’t work. I bought a pair of straight leg jeans last year and even though they “fit”, they’re so not comfortable. I think it may be because I’m so used to wearing wide leg & boot cut jeans. I wish i could find a pair that are comfortable because I think they’re really cute but with a real pear shape - smaller waist and small on top, they just look silly so I just don’t try.

    Gina  |  July 27th, 2012 at 3:21 pm

  • Yeah, I have to say, I don’t think they work on me either. Like Gina, I’m a pear, and short too boot, and I just tried on several pairs of straight-leg and skinny jeans again last week. I had a very young salesgirl working really hard to convince me that I could make it work, with heels and a dark wash. But all I see is this scrunched up fabric (or cuffs, as the salesgirl suggested) cutting me off at the ankle and making appear me seem even curvier and shorter than I am. I suppose I can wear them, but I always get the feeling that I could look just a little better (although admittedly not as stylish) in a pair of dark-wash boot cut jeans worn with a heel.

    Leslie  |  July 28th, 2012 at 8:36 am

  • Another comment - Leslie, just wanted to say you summed it up perfectly I’m usually in flats not a heel but totally agreed with the “I always get the feeling that I could look just a little better (although admittedly not as stylish) in a pair of dark-wash boot cut jeans worn with a heel.”

    Gina  |  July 28th, 2012 at 9:45 am

  • You know, I have a couple of pairs of rather pricey skinny jeans - one pair is True Religion, another is Seven for All Mankind. They are fine and good, but my biggest and most economical find? The skinnies at Forever 21!!!!! They cost me about $10 EACH!!!! Of course, I found these AFTER I made my other outrageous purchases. Give them a shot - all washes!!!!

    Kristen at Me and My Three  |  July 31st, 2012 at 9:11 am

  • I just had to pop back on here and mention, for the ladies who might be persuaded, that I’m short (5′3″) and extremely pear shaped as well (normal/slim weight, but my body is like two different people’s put together–extremely tiny and delicate on top, heavy down below). I find that choosing slightly shorter skinnies and pairing them with ballet flats (so there’s no big bunch-up factor at the hem), or, even better, tucking dark skinnies into tall boots, makes them imminently wearable for us girls who are curvy down below. The boots seem to balance out my wider hips and thighs, while the slim cut of the jeans gives the appearance of a smaller overall shape. Just my experience. I swear by the Land’s End Audrey Slim-Leg UltraFits, in a dark wash, tucked into knee-high riding boots, and I get no end of compliments. Never thought that was possible as a short and curvy girl!

    Shannon  |  July 31st, 2012 at 1:08 pm

  • The one thing missing from this post is that skinny jeans can act as the sort of funky equivalent to tights or leggings. So — I’m 55 and I actually wear skinny jeans under very casual dresses and tunic tops. By “dresses” I mean “minis” because my legs are pretty good but my knees aren’t that great so skinny jean under a mini dress or long tunic work just as nicely as leggings. Also some of the new trapeze shaped tunics work great with them also. Pair with a pretty scarf and it’s pretty dressy! Dark denim, white or putty colored jeans work best.

    Cheryl  |  August 21st, 2012 at 11:53 am

  • It really has more to do with your body type than anything else. Any woman can wear skinny jeans as long as she balances out her body shape with the right top, jacket, accessories. It’s the proportion of top to bottom in relation to your own shape that will help you look both fabulous and age appropriate in skinny jeans : )

    monica  |  August 27th, 2012 at 8:27 am