To write this piece on runway looks for women over 40, I spent a dedicated afternoon browsing designer fall 2023 ready-to-wear collections. My goal was to pick out some looks that us 40+ women can dupe and wear confidently.
This was harder than I expected.
High-design fashion is and always will be unwearable for the masses. But this season seems to be especially so. This year, designers leaned into hot pants, oversized to the extreme, bubble sleeves, over-the-top textures, and an excess of sheer panels and bare skin. Plus, some relatively boring pantsuits. You know, just to balance things out.
Specifically, Stella McCartney’s furry dresses freaked me out, Marc Jacobs’ no-pants outfits made me laugh, and Tom Ford’s use of glitter felt dangerous if worn in broad daylight.
Fortunately, I managed to lock in on a few runway looks that regular women like you and me could wear and enjoy. It was just a journey to get there. Read on to see those looks and learn how you can mimic them.
The inspiration for the outfits below are Fall 2023 ready-to-wear collections. Ready-to-wear pieces are supposed to be producible and salable. These pieces do appear on runways, often in an experimental form. They often evolve to a more subdued version of themselves by the time they are mass-produced and getting stocked on store shelves.
Since the fashion industry works well ahead of the calendar, the origins of these outfits mostly go back to the first half of the year. Fall and winter looks typically hit the runway in the spring. You’ll see those shows carrying the label AW, which stands for autumn/winter. And spring and summer (SS) designs are featured in fall events.
7 runway looks for women over 40
After reading my rant above about the state of high fashion, you might wonder why I bother with this topic at all. Here’s the reason. Despite the silliness involved in runway fashion, I do find inspiring outfits. And it’s fun to see a different take on a garment or a new way to combine pieces.
My hope is that you also find inspiration in these looks — if not the exact ensemble, then maybe the shapes, combinations, colors, or fit.
So let’s get into it.
1. Versace sleek skirt suit
It’s tough to beat a curve-hugging, monochrome suit. This look perfectly defines the empowered women — sexy, smart, and driven.
I love that everything is moderate here. The skirt length is g-rated, the shoulders are structured without going overboard on size, and the v-neck doesn’t go too deep. And even with those moderate elements, the whole ensemble is very powerful.
To recreate this outfit, you need a pencil skirt that fits you great plus a blazer or peplum top. You also need the accessories — work bag, heeled loafer, gloves, and sheer black tights.
You can go monochrome a la Versace but you don’t have to. This outfit will still be strong and stylish with more than one color involved.
2. Versace slinky top and A-line skirt
Versace also gets it right with this combo: full, A-line skirt, slinky top, handle bag, and gladiator shoe. You may not wear this ensemble to work, but you could certainly wear it for a night out when you’re ready to turn heads.
The hardest part of this outfit to recreate on a budget is the shoe. Gladiator sandals can easily be tacky or too youthful for women over 40. To avoid that, opt for a modified ankle bootie that has a gladiator vibe.
3. DVF purple wrap midi
You gotta love Diane Von Furstenberg’s commitment to the dress style the brand made famous. Even after all these years, the wrap dress is still a major player in DVF’s offering.
A knit wrap midi dress in a richly pigmented hue can be a go-to for date nights. Pair it with a stiletto and your date will be mesmerized.
I searched high and low on Amazon for an adequate substitute for the DVF dress and came up empty handed. You can buy the real thing here for $558 but I’m guessing most of you don’t like that option.
Pair either dress with a heel that shows off your ankles.
4. Sachin & Babi sheath dress
I love a dress that does double-duty. This one is demure enough for work and flashy enough for cocktail parties. It’s also a flattering shape — not too tight or too loose.
If you can’t find a dress with the right neck embellishments, choose a black sheath dress and add a statement necklace. Finish your look with a classy pump with a cute clutch.
5. H&M Studio tie-neck blouse + trousers
At one time, the tie-neck blouse had a frumpy reputation. But alas, no more. Today, the tie-neck is a go-to for serious fashion gals. And why not? Women can wear ties…and what’s better than a blouse and scarf in one?
H&M Studio shows us how chic this piece is by pairing with a masculine trouser and overcoat.
This outfit is easily work-appropriate. And, if you stash a slinky pencil skirt in your bag, you’ll be ready for a night of fun, too.
6. Sacai white pants + turtleneck
Sacai brings us another outfit that blends professionalism with style. The hero piece here is the white pant. And yes, that’s a bold white pant in a fall collection. Another sign that we need to kill that old rule about ditching whites after Labor Day.
7. Polo Ralph Lauren blazer + button down
Last but not least, we have Polo Ralph Lauren’s classic blazer and button down ensemble. As with all of these runway looks, this is an outfit that never goes out of style.
Make this look your own with a few affordable pieces from Amazon. Since the blue Oxford shirt with white collar and cuffs isn’t super easy to find, I added in a baby blue neck scarf for that extra color.
Also, feel free to adjust the length of the blazer to suit your shape. Usually that means choosing a longer or shorter hemline if your hips are the widest part of you. You don’t want the blazer’s hemline to cut across your widest area, as that’s generally unflattering.
Runway style IRL
You can wear runway looks — at any age. The trick is finding outfits that have wearable elements, and then modifying them to suit your body and your life. Think of it as an exercise in creativity, where you’re using high-fashion inspiration to refine your own style. You know you’ve succeeded when you slip into an outfit that gives you the urge to catwalk down the grocery store aisle.