Ask CF: How Do I Dress My Age?

How to dress age-appropriately when you look younger than you really are.

Age is just a number.

Welcome to the latest edition of Ask CF! Every two weeks, we select a reader fashion question and answer it here on the site. Do you have a specific fashion question for us? Scroll to the bottom of this post to learn how to send it our way!

Ask CF Question

Hi College Fashion,

I recently turned 21! However, people think I am younger and say I look 16. I researched how to look older and some sources suggested wearing more makeup and wearing high heels. 

Although I key up my makeup on the weekends, I don’t usually go all out during the weekdays. Also, my high heel collection is growing slowly, I don’t wear them every day. 

Do you have any weekday and weekend outfit suggestions to help me look older?

Thank you,

Mega Babe(y)

Our Response

Dear Mega Babe(y),

As someone who is 24 but could still pass for someone in their late teens, I understand your struggle.  

Luckily, there are lots of things you can do to make yourself look older –particularly when it comes to what you choose to wear!

But, before we get to that, I would like to dispel a myth that you mention in your letter — i.e., that in order to look older, you need to wear high heels and a lot of makeup. This is not only false, but these tactics can actually do the opposite of what they’re intending and make you look even younger!

This is because, when you look young and start wearing high heels and putting on a lot of makeup in deliberate attempts to look older, it can appear to others that you’re a kid who’s trying to look older, rather than an adult who just so happens to like heels and makeup. 

Of course, that’s not to say that you can’t wear heels or makeup at all! Rather, what I’m saying is that you should treat heels and makeup as accents to your look, rather than the main focus.  By doing so, you will project an air of maturity and sophistication, rather than one of a young teen who is trying to look older.  

Now that that’s out of the way, keep scrolling to see how to make yourself look older through fashion:

Outfit #1

Products: Sweater – J.Crew, Bag – Mango, Heels – Zara, Belt – Old Navy, Eyeshadow – Macy’s, Liquid Lipstick – NARS, Earrings – Shopbop, Bracelet – Revolve, Watch – Bloomingdale’s, Jeans – Old Navy

The best and easiest way to make yourself look older is to wear classic pieces in subdued colors and timeless silhouettes.  

I absolutely love the collar on this J.Crew sweater, as it not only looks cool, but also eliminates the bulkiness of wearing an actual shirt underneath a sweater.  

For a mature yet youthful look, pair it with some high-rise, dark-wash skinny jeans and a goes-with-everything (faux) leather belt. Add a croc-effect bag for some interesting texture. 

Next, some low-heeled pumps are not only more comfortable to walk in than higher, skinnier heels, but will also make you look older without looking like you’re trying too hard. (See, I told you that you could still wear heels! Keep in mind, though, that black ballet flats or loafers would work just as well.)

As for jewelry, I picked out a pair of dazzling statement stud earrings and a cute shooting-star bracelet to add an element of fun to this otherwise neutral look.  I also chose to add an investment watch, as nothing says “elegance” quite like a classic timepiece that you can wear now and in the years to come.

Lastly, as far as makeup goes, focusing on one area of the face at a time is a great way to add some extra glamour to your look without going all-out. 

So, with that in mind, I picked out a sparkly copper eyeshadow (I happen to own this shade and it is one of my everyday go-to’s.) and a soft coral-pink liquid lipstick. (I own this one as well, and it is also one of my stand-by’s!)

Outfit #2

Products: Top – Zara, Camisole – Uniqlo, Skirt – Loft, Earrings – Shopbop, Bracelet – Shopbop, Liquid Eyeliner – Sephora, Liquid Lipstick – Revolve, Clutch – Mango, Heels – Zara 

When people think of pink, sparkly clothing, they might think of something that a young girl might wear. Well, I’m here to challenge that notion by proving that you don’t have to be a kid to wear “fun” clothes. This is because it’s how an item is styled, rather than what it looks like on the hanger, that determines how it’ll look once you’re actually wearing it.

So, in order to make this pink, sparkly top appear more mature, I’ve decided to pair it with a classic black a-line skirt, a simple black clutch, and fierce black stiletto heels.

In terms of makeup, I decided to kick things up a notch by adding a bright pink liquid lipstick and liquid black eyeliner. Because of the boldness of these items, it’s a good idea to keep the rest of your makeup look fairly minimal.

Since there’s already a lot going on with this look, you don’t really need any jewelry, but if you do want to wear it, I’d suggest going with just one or two subtler pieces, like these rose gold solitaire earrings and bracelet.

Finally, here’s a fashion tip: When wearing sheer tops like the one shown here, it’s a very good idea to wear a camisole in a similar color (in this case, beige or pale pink would work best) underneath to avoid showing too much skin. Showing a lot of skin might seem like a good way to look older, but in reality it can make you look younger.

Sure, plenty of grown women choose to show a lot of skin and that’s totally fine; but if you’re going for a more classic aesthetic, which is always a good way to look more mature, it’s a good idea to cover up a little more. 

Outfit #3

Products: Top – Topshop, Bag – Zara, Trousers – Zara, Coat – Zara, Loafers – H&M, Sunglasses – Unique Vintage, Lipstick – Sephora, Beret – Forever 21, Scarf – Witchery, Earrings – Lord & Taylor

An easy way to look older is to incorporate business-casual pieces — such as these gorgeous suit trousers — into your everyday look. While this outfit would still look great with a pair of jeans, the trousers demonstrate a more mature sensibility.  

I decided to style the trousers with a cute striped off-the-shoulder top the silhouette of which is more fitted and balances out the bagginess of the pants.

If you want to step things up, it’s always a good idea to look for unique accessories that show off your individual sense of style, and that’s where this chic bucket bag, with its metal handle and drawstring closure, comes in.

An elegant, wear-with-everything coat is a must-have in any grown woman’s wardrobe, which is why I chose this beautiful double-breasted navy blue one; simply toss it on over any outfit for some instant polish.

Furthermore, these cute olive-green sunglasses and midnight-blue skinny velvet scarf are interesting spins on classic accessories, which is why I thought they’d go well with this timeless-with-a-twist outfit.

To finish off the look, add a sophisticated wool beret, rich-looking velvet loafers, and cool star stud earrings; if you choose to wear makeup, keep it simple and chic with a swipe of Kat Von D’s “Lolita” lipstick, or a pink-brown “your lips but better” shade that goes well with your skin tone.

Outfit #4

Products: Dress – Mango, Earrings – Zappos Luxury, Eyeshadow Trio – Macy’s, Cocktail Ring – Barneys Warehouse, Lipstick – Macy’s, Clutch – Shopbop, Flats – H&M

If ever there were proof that you don’t need lots of makeup and heels to look grown-up and glamorous, this look would be it! And, while this outfit packs a big punch, it’s actually really easy to put together.

Start off by slipping on this beautiful and investment-worthy dress. I love this piece because it’s classic enough to be worn over and over again, but the crystal embellishments and other details (such as the ruffles at the front and the bow at the waist) make it feel anything but ordinary!

Next, pick up a sparkly clutch whose black color keeps it from clashing with the embellishments on the dress.

Add a pair of pavé bow stud earrings with an antique-y look to them for a touch of sophistication, and a dark purple cocktail ring for a subtle pop of color.

Since there’s a lot going on with this look already, keep your shoes simple by opting for a pair of pretty black sling-back flats. 

As for make-up, you can’t go wrong with a classy true-red lip and a smokey eye; I like the soft metallic shades in this Elizabeth Arden Eyeshadow Trio, which make it easy to dress up your eye look without going over the top.

I hope that these tips and outfits will inspire you to find a sophisticated and grown-up style that’ll help you look your age.  Thanks for your question!

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What do you think?

Have you ever been mistaken for being younger than you really are?  Does your age, as perceived by others, influence the way that you dress?  Do you have any tips for dressing more maturely when you look young?

Let me know in the comments!


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