5 Essential Dresses for Women Over 40

Check out this list of the five dresses every 40-plus woman should own.

By: Kate Hanley
They say that diamonds are a girl's best friend, but I'd argue that the best pal a woman — particularly a woman over 40 — can have is a great dress.

When you're shopping, look for dresses with a classic shape, says Ashley Hanosh, owner of the New York City dress boutique Honey in the Rough. The color or embellishments will make it modern, but you won't ever look like you're chasing a trend — an exhausting activity best left to 20-somethings.

Here are five styles that every woman over 40 ought to have in her closet:

1. Casual
“Every woman needs something she can throw on that is as comfortable as a nightgown but way cuter than jeans and a T-shirt,” Hanosh says. An easy tank dress is equally great at the beach, the farmers market and for running errands. Layer it over a turtleneck during the cooler months.

2. Shirtdress
A shirtdress can flatter every body type, Hanosh says. Women with bigger chests can leave more buttons unbuttoned or wear a camisole underneath, while those with fewer curves can add a belt or choose a version with seaming that creates more of an hourglass shape. Hanosh suggests finding a shirtdress with a hint of stretch for comfort and less wrinkling.

3. Tailored Shift
Classic and infinitely adaptable — dress it up, dress it down, wear it with a sweater, a blazer, a scarf — a shift dress can take you through many years and a range of occasions — a wedding, a meeting, a fancy lunch — with elegance and ease.

“Look for a crisp, lightweight fabric with some level of a nipped-in waist,” Hanosh says. Details such as raw edges, exposed zippers, pleating or seams give a shift a modern edge, but they aren't necessary. You can always contemporize it with your accessories.

4. The Little Black Dress
Black is basically a blank canvas — and a flattering one at that.

“The little black dress is nothing without accessories,” Hanosh says.

Silk beads give you a boho look, glittering crystal necklaces make you ready for even the fanciest party and metal jewelry makes you adaptable to any situation. Because an LBD doesn't express as much of your personality as a dress with a color or a print, the key is to choose a cut that really sells your best feature.

5. Something Silky and Endlessly Adaptable
For a true dress aficionado, a flowing, drapey, silky number adds a real punch of 'wow' to your wardrobe. This dress can go to the beach, a party, or a wedding. You'll definitely make a lasting impression, and best of all, you'll be comfortable while you do.

What’s your go-to dress? Let us know in the comments!

Kate is a writer and speaker living in Rhode Island whose passion is helping busy people find bite-sized serenity. Her book, The Anywhere, Anytime Chill Guide has been hailed as 'yummy,' 'ingenious,' and 'witty to boot.' A reformed over-tweezer, she is learning patience by letting her brows grow back.


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