At what age are you supposed to start "dressing like an adult"? From which stores does one buy "adult clothes"? Is "dressing like an adult" a trend? Do I even want to "dress like an adult"? These are just a few questions that may have crossed your minds when encountering the phrase "dressing like an adult." As Vanessa Friedman said in her New York Times piece last fall about how to dress like an adult, "Now adult clothes have less to do with specific items than certain defining characteristics. This makes selecting them both more difficult and more liberating."
"Dressing like an adult" is a term that's thrown around quite a bit. It's safe to say we certainly know what it isn't: A few words that come to mind are matronly, boring, and old-fashioned. In a time when 40 is the new 30 and so on, over-60 women like Iris Apfel and Isabelle Huppert are considered cool by pretty much everyone, and much of any given Gucci collection seems largely inspired by the wardrobe of a grandma, how to dress like an adult isn't as cut and dried as it once was. The title of a recent Racked piece even definitively posits "We've Forgotten How to Dress Like Adults." Whether or not you believe that's the case, one thing became clear when we reached out to eight stylish fashion industry insiders for their thoughts on the meaning of "dressing like an adult": Wearing what you feel comfortable in and that suits your lifestyle is of utmost importance.
Read on to see what "dressing like an adult" means to designers, editors, bloggers, and stylists, and shop polished pieces that are appropriate for women of any age.
"It's all about sticking to your own style and what feels right for you. Just because you're an adult doesn't mean you have to dress differently. No matter what age, if you're a mom or in your 70s, it doesn't need to get boring. You have to be true to yourself first and foremost, so if you want to rock those leather pants, then do it with confidence!"—Anine Bing, creative director of Anine Bing and founder of Anine's World (follow: @aninebing)
"I definitely felt a gear change when I hit 30 (it's such a cliché, and it might tie in more with the fact that I left my job at The Sunday Times/an official office space which required, or at least felt like it necessitated, more dress-up), and I find myself seeking more comfort in what I wear. I have always been quite binary in my personal style—equal parts preppy/grunge and eclectic/maximalist—and I definitely gravitate now toward blazers, lower heels, interesting cuts, but nothing too shouty or exaggerated.
"Put it this way: I am not clamoring for Balenciaga's exaggerated shoulders or Vetements's thigh-high orange boots! Rather, I'm pining for Attico's tea dress, Ferragamo's patent pumps, Gucci's frilled black trousers, Blaze Milano's blazer to be worn over a black or white Reformation sundress this summer. I've always got room in my closet for the odd bit of spice, though. I'm currently obsessed with MR by Man Repeller's Perspex, crystal-strewn Carrie Mules, and I love my furry Jitrois leopard miniskirt and frayed, printed Ellery dress. I guess it's a compromise, grounded in footwear and outerwear.
"And as they (or I) always say: Being an adult is just a state of mind! It all comes down to your mood and how you feel in your body, at that time."— Pandora Sykes, freelance journalist, brand consultant, and stylist (follow: @pandorasykes)
"To me, dressing like an adult is about presenting a more polished version of yourself. As I've gotten older, I've naturally phased out certain items that feel young, but mostly because they don't feel like an accurate representation of my style anymore, not because they aren't adult enough. I think it's important to note, though, that the phrase 'dressing like an adult' is quite the loaded term! It should be more about what you're comfortable in and what makes you feel like your best self, not about if you're dressing your age." — Kat Collings, editor in chief of Who What Wear (follow: @katcollings)
"To me, dressing like an adult really means having a uniform that can take you through all of the day's activities and events. I gravitate toward high-waisted jeans, button-downs or a sweater, and mules so I can transition from taking my kids to school to heading to the office for a meeting. I think it's really important to feel comfortable in what you're wearing and to figure out what works best for your body and your lifestyle! Everyone's uniform is different." — Jenni Kayne, founder and designer of Jenni Kayne (follow: @jennikayne)
"I suppose dressing like an adult has a great deal to do with utility. I no longer have the luxury to traipse around in my closet in the morning while I try on 15 outfits and decide which one suits my "mood." At this point in my life, I have to get shit done. I dress in a very utilitarian manner. Canvas pants, button-down, Vans for running around, and Martinianos in my bag for a lunch meeting. In the end, I think it means looking good while also being extremely comfortable." — Jesse Kamm, founder and designer of Jesse Kamm (follow: @jessekamm)
Erik Melvin/Atelier Doré
"Dressing like an adult for me personally has been about embracing my 'style' rather than doggedly following trends. As I grow older I am also dressing more for my body and my shape and also knowing when to retire certain pieces of clothing, i.e., short shorts!" — Anita Patrickson, celebrity stylist (follow: @anitapatrickson)
Shop Pieces for Women of Any Age
This slip dress couldn't be more versatile if it tried.
You'll wear this flattering blouse more times than you can count.
If these don't make you happy, what will?
These are the definition of the perfect ladylike shoes.
We're ready for you, summer.
We see why you love these pants, Pandora Sykes.
The perfect dress for wearing with any type of jacket you fancy.
High-waisted jeans are the most flattering jeans.
Classic, comfortable, and chic.
A cinched-in waist makes this cargo-inspired jacket oh so flattering.
Behold the transformative powers that a good pair of black pants can have on your wardrobe.
Wear this pretty, affordable dress to weddings, date nights, brunches, and beyond.
These are the definition of elevated sneakers.
Facts are facts: One can never have too many blazers in her closet.
What does "dressing like an adult" mean to you? Tell us in the comments below.