What to wear in hot weather – when you’re over 40

Fantasy Summer wardrobe

Fantasy Summer wardrobe

The arrival of the warm weather this week prompted an email from WR reader Sarah. Titled ‘Serious question’ she asked “What can women over 40 wear in summer without looking ridiculous”? Good question Sarah and its one that puzzles us if we’re honest.

Personally I am a huge fan of clever layering and a coloured tight and love winter clothes, so the summer is an endless sartorial compromise, involving exposing parts of my body I would rather keep to myself. As one gets older, no matter how fit or slim you are, there are certain areas that are best covered up. So how do we keep cool and look fashionable and have the fashion folk got anything to offer us over 40’s when it comes to summer dressing?

One of the areas Sarah mentioned was shorts and it’s a garment type we struggle with. The current trend is for short shorts and hot pants and even if you have legs like Twiggy (we’ve seen them and they are fabulous) this is a big no no. MDAL (mutton dressed as lamb) is not what we are going for.

Our first port of call for most fashion dilemmas is COS, as for us, it pretty much has our market figured out. But not this time, oh no, when it comes to shorts, we are devastated to say, this time COS let us down. Oh dear oh dear lovely talented COS desingers, what were you thinking? A whole range of tiny shorts, with even (wait for it) a pair of jersey shorts, that look like pants and not even big ones at that!

To be fair they do also have a slightly longer classic black style and a knee length orange pair, but six tiny versions says they are not thinking of their target customer and going off on a fashion forward tangent!  #massivefashionfail

Tiny shorts from COS

A further search online had me despairing of ever finding a suitable short and just when I thought it could get no worse, I decided to try good old M & S. They are targeting our market and Amanda had been Instagraming some great images of fashion forward looks from their press show last week, so surely they would have some stylish but age appropriate shorts.

The below styles featured on the first page when I typed in women’s shorts……………………………..WTF! Needless to say I didn’t bother to search through the next four pages, or indeed the rest of the site.

In the interest of public relations, I will make no further comment, but if anyone from M & S is reading – we need to talk!!

*sighs* M & S

So having established we don’t want to look like a bad extra from a Robin Hood film/Adam Ant video, Jimmy Krankie or a Summer camp volunteer, I decided to never wear shorts again, that is until I found these rather lovely little numbers from Uniglo. Reasonably priced (some might say cheap) at £19.90, they are a good length, slim line and would look great with a crisp white short sleeved shirt and some Converse/Supergas, or a flat strappy sandal.

The main aim for summer dressing is to look relaxed, not to ‘try hard’ and cool (but not in the hip way) which if you are over 40 can be a little challenging, as we are temperature challenged at the best of times. Loose fitting or body skimming shapes are best, anything too tight is restrictive and difficult to pull off and anything too baggy can look slightly art teacher on a pottery course in the summer in Provence. We want to be elegantly stylish – think older Italian or French women, they never expose too much flesh and manage that ‘summer in the city’ look perfectly. If only British retailers would think the same!

Dresses are an easy way to pull this off and we love these elegant yet relaxed shapes from Whistles. Wear with their strappy sandals or some Birkenstocks.

Despite the fact COS let us down with their short selection, they are still great for cotton and poplin easy to wear shapes and they are the master of the body skimming dress shape. Mixing classic black and white with neutrals is easy and always looks stylish and for a fashion forward edge, add a pop of neon – go on, you know you want to!

And finally Zara have some prints, simple tops and dress shapes, The dresses can look short on the models but are usually quite a good length on a real person. Alternatively you can wear them as a tunic over a pair of stone coloured cropped capri pants.

Enjoy the sun!


  • Becky says:

    Oh my oh my. What to wear in hot weather is my constant puzzle. There are some lovely clothes around at places like Zara but I find, they are so see through. I know that in Europe layering is the way to go, but over here, when the temp is well into the 40’s and heading to the 50’s layering is just not going to work. Shorts are a difficult proposition – too short and you offend, too long and you look like Great Aunt Maude. Strappy dresses – not really – don’t want to upset anyone with those pesky shoulders showing. I am liking my baggy Thai Fisherman Pants http://www.etsy.com/listing/97030045/dark-grey-thai-fisherman-pants-yellow?ref=sr_gallery_10&ga_search_query=thai+fisherman+pants&ga_order=most_relevant&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_ship_to=ZZ&ga_ref=auto1&ga_search_type=handmade – they are nice and cool and loose along with a nice white t-shirt that shows off the coloured waistband – with some pretty Havaianas – that does me at the moment. I think when it’s hot, loose cotton has got to be the way to go – oh and trousers are preferable to skirts because of the sweaty thighs situation !!! I love all your suggestions though and I might try to smarten myself up a bit !

  • Trisha says:

    Having discovered how stylish, and yet surprisingly comfortable, skirts and dresses can be for the colder months teamed with opaque tights and smart boots, the warmer weather finds me back in trousers, albeit linen ones, and longer dresses to hide my legs. I do however find myself veering towards what I call floopy, but which is probably the art teacher in Provence look you refer to, so I welcome your lovely ideas to get me back on track.

  • Lin Charie says:

    This topic could run and run! Even more serious is what to wear over 60 in summer! I am a fan of knee length leggings with linen or jersey tops but my main problem is what to wear on hols, am lucky enough to have quite a few hols in fab hotels and the problem is what to wear first thing for breakfast? Shorts dont do it for me but a nice just over the knee jersey dress would be ideal but they are difficult to get at the right length when you are 5’8″. Wallis do some lovely jersey dresses that would look good in the sun but are an inch too short for me. I noticed many foreign ladies last week when I was away were wearing lovely crisp cotton dresses and separates but find themdifficult to source in this country. Also bought some fab linen separates but they are Italian and they have no stockists in UK. Would love to hear your suggestions. Love the website and am so envious of you livingin London when ui see the photos of shops in Chelsea, how gorgeous are they?

  • Anna says:

    Thank you Jane – just the help I needed. I find summer the most sartorially challenging season. I want to stay cool and cannot stand anything tight (especially in the armpit area!). I went shopping this morning and found all the dresses either too short, often with elasticated middles or stappy maxis. I cannot do strappy and just laugh at strapless. I am clicking over to Cos online this minute. However I cannot completely promise not to wear them with Haviana flip flops sometimes. xx

  • Jane says:

    thanks for the comments ladies. Loving the Thai fishermans pants – very Comme des Garcons, Becky.
    Lin have you looked at the Humanoid range or Toast?
    Floopy and Havianas perfectly acceptable in hot weather too.

    Have a good weekend


  • Monix says:

    Hmm – we have agreed (oh yes we have!) that the PJL all look fab – so what would they wear in hot weather?
    Short sleeved dresses with cardis, tunics over capris and tailored jackets…
    I love Cos but find some of their fabrics a bit non natural for summer and as for m & s, please do take them behind the bike shed and do what must.


  • Sarah says:

    Thank you so much for responding to my plea for help I feel honoured! You’ve given me some good ideas but it is a very tricky area isn’t it? the M&S stuff is truly depressing, their message seems to be ‘you’re over-the-hill – give up now’

  • Jane says:

    Glad to be of service Sarah – enjoy the summer J x

  • victoria says:

    Fab article, well done. xx

  • Di says:

    Loved your ideas. But help, what to wear to protect yourself from the sun after radiotherapy without looking like you’re on Safari?

  • Elizabeth says:

    I find the reference (mutton dressed as lamb) to be so offensive. A female did write this article??? Short shorts are perfectly fine. I personally don’t wear them. I am in my fifties, and really never have, except for a brief period in my teens. My legs have always been shapely, just wasn’t crazy about shorter lengths. Women of all ages should dress in a classy way ( in my opinion ) Short shorts are fine at any age as long as your ass is covered. Just pair it with a classic top and you’re good to go!

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