Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Top 10 Dress Styles for Women Over 50

Editor's Note: This post was updated in March 2014. For up-to-the-minute sales, take a peek at my On Sale page.

Here’s my list of favorite flattering dress styles for women over 50. Of course, not all designs will be perfect for every over 50 body shape or every over 50 personality. But a few styles come pretty close to being universally wonderful for older women. I've tried to give a range of dresses, from casual to cocktails.

This post first appeared in May 2011. I asked readers to tell me which dress styles they liked and which they'd never wear. I've appreciated the feedback immensely. It's clear that women over 50 are longing for the fashion world to start showing apparel on older models of average weight. I wonder if that will ever happen. I hope so.


3/4 sleeve wrap dress for women over 50

What makes the wrap dress ideal for just about every over 50 woman is the V-neck and draping above the waist, drawing attention away from the tummy and hips. My favorite wrap dresses have three-quarter sleeves and a print (to hide those little lumps and bumps). For instance, I got a Coldwater Creek wrap dress (photo below) last spring, which I've worn constantly. This spring, the clothing brand has a wrap dress in trendy green.

Where to Shop...
Nordstrom ~ The wrap design was created by the Diane Von Furstenberg, one of my "woman of a certain age" icons. Her wraps are famous for their bold colors and prints. If you are looking to invest in a few garments, I can't think of a better an investment than one of her wraps, such as Diane von Furstenberg 'New Julian 2' Silk Wrap Dress ($365).

Anne Klein ~ For a wrap dress under $125, take a peek at this Anne Klein Floral Wrap Dress ($99) (below). Length: 37".

Anne Klein Floral Wrap Dress

Land's End ~ Women's Regular 3/4-sleeve Pattern Ponté Wrap Dress - Rich Cherry Print, M ($79). Available in a blue print, too. Sizes XS-XL. In Regular, Petite and Tall.

Women's Regular 3/4-sleeve Pattern Ponté Wrap Dress - Rich Cherry Print, M

QVC ~ Bob Mackie's Drape Front V-Neck Dress w/ Stitch Detail & Removable Belt ($56)

How are your arms these days? Are you one of those over 50 women with fabulous-looking limbs. I'm jealous! If so, Coldwater Creek also has an Elegant cotton dress that wraps. It's sleeveless with a full skirt and is the perfect dress for an evening out.


The sheath or shift is so simple and sophisticated. Often, the sheath has short sleeves or is sleeveless, which I know doesn't appeal to many over 50 women.  Anna Wintour, 63, looked fabulous in sleeveless and cap sleeve dresses in the documentary, September Issue (2009). She often wears a lightweight cardigan, sometimes just draping it over her shoulders. I'm a huge fan of lightweight cardigans! I also like sheaths paired with a shawl or a pretty short jacket, like the one my girlfriend is wearing over her sheath (above).

Where to Shop...
Where to shop for a sheath? Just about everywhere! My favorite sheaths for women over 50 have a print, lace or pattern. A pattern is a great way to hide lumps or bumps. For example...

Nordstrom ~ Once again, lace dresses are everywhere this spring. I couldn't be more pleased. Lace is so feminine. And lace sleeves offer fabulous arm coverage. For example, here's a stunning Eliza J Embroidered Lace Overlay Sheath Dress (Regular & Petite) ($178). 

Jones New York~ Here's a great sheath with 3/4 sleeves in spring's hot orange. The tie front on the Jones New York Print Jersey Sheath Dress ($98) (below) offers a bit of tummy distraction.

Jones New York Print Jersey Sheath Dress

I also like this short sleeve Jones New York Short-Sleeve Polka-Dot Dress ($98). It looks short, but JNY says it's 39" long.

Dresses that are fitted on top and flare on bottom (ie, an A-line) are a flattering choice for most older women. They're also very comfortable.

This photo was taken on a dinner cruise on a bateau mouche in Paris.

Where to Shop...

Love lace? Love dots? If so, you might like to take a peek at this spring's Coldwater Creek Lace Dots Dress ($129).

Land's End ~ I'm loving this new Women's Regular Elbow Sleeve Pattern Cotton Modal Fit and Flare Dress - Blue Indigo Floral, XS ($59) for spring. Vintage prints are very much in vogue. The regular hem is 38". It's available Sizes XS to XL, as well as in Petite and Plus sizes.

Women's Regular Elbow Sleeve Pattern Cotton Modal Fit and Flare Dress - Blue Indigo Floral, XS

Yes, I'm a huge fan of color block dresses for women over 50. Color block designs vary tremendously and some are more age appropriate than others. I'm partial to the ones with dark vertical panels on the sides because they make a woman look slimmer. For those who want to "dip their toe" in something color blocking, a black dress with a white collar, like the one below, is a nice choice and wonderfully retro.

Where to Shop...

Nordstrom ~ Here's a lovely Ellen Tracy Front Zip Colorblock Ponte Knit Shift Dress ($118) with long sleeves. (Sorry, but I don't know the length.)

Anne Klein ~ Or...for something a little different, try a stripe with your color blocking, like this Anne Klein Belted Dress ($99) is created with lace ($158). What a fun spring/summer dress!

Anne Klein Belted Dress

At 50+, I want to draw attention away from my jawline, which, sadly, is starting to sag. A V-neck dress offers a slight distraction and is very feminine for women over 50.

Here I am in a jersey dress with a v-neck and an empire waist. It was feminine and ultra-comfortable choice for a recent dinner cruise on the Seine, celebrating my wedding anniversary.

Where to Shop...
There's a wide variety of dresses with V-necks, as I'm sure you can imagine.

Jones New York ~ Jones New York MJP Side Tie Dress ($119) (below).

Jones New York MJP Side Tie Dress

A sweetheart neckline is also a V-neck, but usually not as plunging. If you're looking for a dress with a longer hemline, you might take a peek at Coldwater Creek Ink Sketch Floral Dress , which has a mid-calf hem.

At our age, too much black may be too harsh or severe looking. Sometimes, but not always. I see plenty of over 50 women, like the one below, who look quite elegant in a basic black dress. And I love the 3/4 sleeves. Still not convinced? Try adding a colorful scarf or statement necklace for a pop of color.

Long Sleeve Black Dress for Women Over 50

Where to Shop...
I have a sleeveless black sheath with black sequins that is a lifesaver when I have to pull together something for a dress-up occasion. I highly recommend a LBD--it solves so many "what to wear?" dilemmas.

Where to Shop...

Nordstrom ~ Karen Kane Lace Sleeve Fit & Flare Dress ($138). I love the lace sleeves. Please note: this dress is only 35 1/2" long.


I love prints for several reasons. However, my #1 reason is: Prints hide my little lumps and bumps. I'm wearing a Banana Republic black and white print dress (above) that's a few years old. For something current, take a peak at the longer short sleeves and print of the Marc New York by Andrew Marc Riverstone Print Sheath Dress ($118) at Nordstrom. Unfortunately, it doesn't say how long the dress is. If it's over the knee on the super model, it will probably at the knee for me--which is my go-to length.

Where to Shop...
These days, I'm very attracted to graphic print fashions. They just seem more energizing than some of the more traditional prints. If you are feeling the same, take a peek at this Coldwater Creek Dotted Shirt Dress with dots of different sizes. The print updates the classic design.

 Land's End ~ Here's a  Women's Regular Sleeveless Pattern Ponté Welt Pocket Dress - Navy Storm Floral, 6 ($79), available in Regular, Petite, Tall, and Plus sizes.

Women's Regular Sleeveless Pattern Ponté Welt Pocket  Dress - Navy Storm Floral, 6

Draping is a great distraction, whether it's around the neckline or waist, or in the skirt. And it's so soft and feminine looking! Here's a Jones New York Printed Overlap Twist Dress (Purple, Size 12)  ($98) (Sizes 0-16) that I'm just crazy about.

Jones New York Printed Overlap Twist Dress (Purple, Size 12)

Where to Shop...
There's a lot of variation in the way a garment is draped. As a result, you'll find that some draping is great for daytime and other designs are perfect for evening affairs. Coldwater Creek an Abstract plaid dress with side draping in a soft blue plaid, perfect for early spring.

Land's End ~ Women's Regular Drapeneck Sweater Knit Dress - Sweet Bordeaux Heather, XL ($59) in Sizes XS-XL.


I’m not going to put a moratorium on sleeveless dresses now that I’m post-50. There are just too many beautiful sleeveless dresses for women over 50. But you can be sure I'm going to grab a well-designed dress with sleeves whenever I can. Finding a sophisticated dress with sleeves can be pretty challenging up to very recently. This year, however, I'm seeing more and more dresses with elbow-length (some brands call them "longer short sleeves") sleeves. I'm also a huge fan of the "fit and flare" dress style. For example, take a peek at this Jones New York Printed Elbow Sleeve Dress ($129).

Jones New York Printed Elbow Sleeve Dress

Where to Shop...
QVC ~ Linea by Louis Dell'Olio Animal Jacquard Long Sleeve Knit Dress (was $53, now $39.76) in Sizes XXS-3X.

Soft Surroundings ~ I see lots of women over 50 in sweater dresses. They often style them with leggings or with tights and high boots.  This Long Sleeve Shapely Anywhere Dress - EMERALD($94.95) is a perfect example.

Long Sleeve Shapely Anywhere Dress  - EMERALD


Dresses with Cut-Out Sleeves

I could write, and maybe I will, a whole post on feminine dress details—ruffles, peplum, light beading, lace, crepe or sheer fabrics, tiers, or ruching. As we age, it's important to continue to express our wonderful female energy, compassion and sensitivity in what do as well as what we wear.

Recently, the over 50 wife of a friend came to a party in a black loose dress with cut-out shoulders (like the one on the right, though you can't see the cut-out shoulders very well). I thought: "What a great solution to the aging arm dilemma." I love the dress on the left, too, and know several very trim over 50 women who would look fabulous in it. I'll stick with the loose and easy dress on the right.

Where to Shop...

Nordstrom ~ I love lace on women over 50. For example, take a peek at this MARINA Tiered Lace Dress (Regular & Petite) ($129). The length is 39".

Or here's a lovely Pisarro Nights Sequin & Bead Gathered Mesh Dress ($128) with a 37" length.

For more dress styles, take a peek at Summer Sale On Dresses For Women Over 50.

Full Disclosure: Product photos are shown to give Flattering50 readers visual examples of current fashion trends. These photos are provided by clothing companies that have an affiliation with Flattering50. If you click and shop at any of the clothing sites, you are supporting this blog--so...Big Thanks!!