30 Things You Should Definitely Keep Wearing After 30

Apparently, people have a lot of opinions about what you are and are not supposed to wear after the super-old-you-are-going-to-expire age of 30. From what I understand from the many articles and lists about what’s off limits, I guess dressing yourself after 30 is about finding that fine, fine line between co-ed and MILF, like sexy but not too sexy, attractive but not trying too hard, super confident but also age-appropriately modest. So basically just visible enough that you are still do-able vis á vis the male gaze without letting it get to your head — you hussy, who do you think you are!

But you know what is great about being a queer gal or boi? Not giving a hoot about social norms around what “respectable ladies” are supposed to look like. Because for many of us, that’s a completely unattainable goal. And “dressing for your age” is wrapped up in respectability politics that are classist and racist and dumb. Our shared experience of queerness is about being proud of our outsider status. We break all the fashion rules: whether that’s shopping in the boys and mens departments, putting hot clothes on fat bods, rocking alternative lifestyle haircuts, or wearing body glitter way past our tweens. We are communities who straddle multiple identities, who believe fiercely in celebrating individuality, and who don’t want to put anyone in a box. Because we’re awesome like that. So in the spirit of queer fashion and queer life and love, here are my fashion tips for all you folks on the cusp of 30 or above (based on researching many “what not to wear” advice articles), with cameos from some of your favorite inspiration models.


1. Mismatched Socks and Novelty Socks

30-something babe, Stef Schwartz, shows her disdain for the patriarchy and love of medical technology with this whimsical pairing.

30-something babe, Stef Schwartz, shows her disdain for the patriarchy and love of medical technology with this whimsical pairing.

You know what’s great about mismatched socks? You don’t have to worry about matching your socks. Also, who cares? I mean, if I saw some babe (cough cough Stef cough) wearing drugs and Rosie socks AT THE SAME TIME, I’d definitely want to ask her for her number. Wouldn’t you? This person is guaranteed to be not boring and probably really sarcastic and funny, is what I’m saying.


2. Body Con Dresses

Never stop being smart and glam and gorgeous, Laverne.

Never stop being smart and glam and gorgeous, Laverne.

Um, I don’t want Laverne Cox to ever stop wearing body con dresses. I mean, unless she wants to which is fine because that’s her choice. But damn, at the young age of 31, she really slays in her curve-hugging sheath dresses. I hope she keeps wearing them until she’s 100 years old. Let’s all aspire to look so fine and grown-up chic.


3. American Eagle Jeans (or other fast fashion junior-sized brands)

33-year old CEO, Riese Bernard, is reveling in the perfect fit of her American Eagle low-rise jeans while also rocking a plunging neckline crop top and alluringly sophisticated grown-up belly button piercing.

33-year old CEO, Riese Bernard, is reveling in the perfect fit of her American Eagle jeans while also rocking a plunging neckline crop top and alluringly sophisticated grown-up belly button piercing.

Do you know how hard it is to find jeans that fit? Do you even know, really? If you like your American Eagle or Old Navy or Gap or junior section at Macy’s or whatever jeans, by all means, keep doing your thing.


4. Festive Tights

Fashion inspiration and over-30 beauty, Aja, is feeling herself in her delightfully festive tights.

Fashion inspiration and over-30 beauty, Aja, is feeling herself in her delightfully festive tights.

“Wearing quirky tights not only makes me happy, it always seems to make perfect strangers happy, too. More smiling, less policing women’s bodies, thanks.” – Aja


5. Jeggings

32-year-old nonprofit director, KaeLyn Rich, takes a well-deserved break in her indigo wash jeggings. (Photo Credit: Waffle, without KaeLyn's permission)

32-year-old nonprofit director, KaeLyn Rich, looks so peaceful in her indigo wash jeggings. (Photo Credit: Waffle, initially without KaeLyn’s permission but it’s fine, whatever)

Jeggings are pajama pants that look like jeans. Jeggings stretch around my big belly and hug my little hips. Jeggings are the perfect pants, especially for those of us who have given up anything without a stretch waist. If you hate on jeggings, we can no longer be friends.


6. Snapbacks

Grown ass hotties, Alley Hector and Carolyn Wysinger keep it real in their stylish snapbacks.

Grown ass hotties, Alley Hector and Carolyn Wysinger keep it real in their stylish snapbacks.

Bois and gurls in snapbacks are so sexy. Don’t retire your snapback collection. Keep it fresh forever.


7. Suits with Sneakers

https://instagram.com/p/4zgg_CtjO6/?taken-by=theellenshow

Ellen has a Cover Girl contract and a very successful talk show and is married to the equally gorgeous Portia de Rossi and has her own signature tomboy femme fashion line and is generally doing great. There is nothing more right than Ellen’s signature sneakers-with-suits look.


8. Hoop Earrings

At 32 and 33, respectively, Nicki Minaj and Beyonce are pretty on fleek in their classic hoop earrings.

At 32 and 33, respectively, Nicki Minaj and Beyoncé are feeling themselves in their respective takes on hoop earrings.

Nothing more to say here. This pic says it all.


9. Leopard Print

Aja is on the prowl in leopard print everything.

Aja is on the prowl in leopard print everything.

“Give me a break with this. Thanks to its versatility, leopard print is practically a neutral.” – Aja


10. Crop Tops

34-year-old executive editor of a very famous online publication and overall cool mom, Laneia, is ready for date night in an aubergine crop top with no bra and hoop earrings.

34-year-old executive editor of a very famous online publication and overall cool mom, Laneia, is ready for date night in an aubergine crop top with no bra and hoop earrings.

Everyone wear crop tops forever, on all bodies, all ages, all the time.


11. Brightly Colored Eyeshadow

Contributing editor, KaeLyn Rich, feels like she's 32 with these bright, bold summer eye looks.

Contributing editor, KaeLyn Rich, feels like she’s 32 with these bright, bold summer eye looks.

High pigment eyeshadow in colors that look like they came out of a crayon box or David Bowie’s make-up bag are not for the faint-hearted. But they are for adults of any age. Go ahead. Call me tacky. I’ll take it as a compliment.


12. See-Through Shirts

40-year-old rebel girl style icon, Carry Brownstein, is rocking out in a see-through top and festive tights! (Photo by minusmanhattan.tumblr.com)

40-year-old rebel girl style icon, Carry Brownstein, is rocking out in a see-through top and very adult-ish festive tights! (Photo by minusmanhattan.tumblr.com)

Just because your twenties are behind you doesn’t mean you have to fear a semitransparent top. Put those layering camisoles and tanks away and revel in your glorious bod.


13. Whimsical Kitty Prints

Fully grown woman, Aja, really is the cat's meow.

Fully grown woman, Aja, really is the cat’s meow.

“I know a sports rehab doctor who wears a cat print skirt from Modcloth to work and her peers and patients are always super floored, AND SHE LEARNED IT FROM WATCHING ME.” – Aja


14. Comic & Fandom Apparel

Waffle, 33-year-old wonder boi and life companion of KaeLyn, is rocking a Spiderman hat from the kids' section and a very chic adult-sized Wolverine hoodie.

Waffle, 33-year-old wonder boi and life companion of KaeLyn, is rocking a Spiderman hat from the kids’ section and a very chic adult-sized Wolverine hoodie.

Why would they make fan apparel in grown-up sizes if it wasn’t for grown-ups?


15. Graphic Tees and Slogan Tees

31-year-old Aussie and HR director for this really cool website, Crystal, is fully committed to parting like a rock star and also living like a pirate. Bless her.

31-year-old Aussie and HR director for this really cool website, Crystal, is fully committed to partying like a rock star and also living like a pirate. Bless her.

You can take our fun graphic tees out of our cold, dead hands. How else will we tell the world how witty and adorable and smart we are? Also, funny slogan tees are literally the best part of Pride. Also, you could buy some fun slogan tees right here, currently available to queers of all ages.


16. Miniskirts and Minidresses

Fashion writer and grown-up woman, Aja, is Fit for a Femme in her striped mini dress and white mini skirt.

Fashion writer and grown-up woman, Aja, is Fit for a Femme in her striped mini dress and white mini skirt.

Who says the fun stops at the knee? No one. No one says that. Let no one tell you to drop your hemline just because you passed the 29-year mark.


17. Oversized Sunglasses

Sex-on-legs music editor, Stef, takes sun protection and style seriously in her oversized sunglasses.

Sex-on-legs music editor, Stef, takes sun protection and style seriously in her oversized sunglasses.

Stylish eyewear is for every age. Plus, you need all the sun protection you can get in this ozone-depleted age of imminent doom.


18. Plunging Necklines

At 31 years young, Janet Mock demands respect and exudes babeliness in her low-cut animal print dress. I got chastised at work once in my 20s for showing too much cleavage at work (which really just means I have big boobs that are hard to cover up). To this day, I hold a grudge about it. If a best-selling author, MSNBC talk show host, and contributing editor at Marie Clare like Janet Mock can work a deep v-neck, it’s safe to say we can bury this so-called “fashion don’t” in the past forever.


19. Pigtails

Looking fly and cursing the world that does not want her to wear pigtails, KaeLyn looks to the universe for answers. (Photo via Bread and Water Theatre)

Looking fly and cursing the world that does not want her to wear pigtails, KaeLyn looks to the universe for answers. (Photo via Bread and Water Theatre)

Apparently it is unclear whether adult women can wear pigtails, but as someone who has, indeed, worn them, I am here to tell you it is a-ok. If anyone tries to infantilize you, you can slap them in the face with your pigtails.


20. Fringe

Aja is ready for the fringe festival in her fringed Lovebyrd tank and grown-up denim vest.

Aja is ready for the fringe festival in her fringed Lovebyrd tank and grown-up denim vest.

Fringe is fun and wearing it kind of makes you want to spin around in a circle and go, “Wheeee!” as your fringed garment fans out around you gloriously. ‘Nuf said.


21. Glitter Makeup

32-year-old human person and super legitimate adult, KaeLyn Rich, is showing off her monolid makeup skills with green glitter up to her brows.

32-year-old human person and super legitimate adult, KaeLyn Rich, is showing off her monolid makeup skills with green glitter up to her brows.

Throw some glitter in the air because sparkly makeup never gets old. Who wore it better? 12-year-old girls or me? I think the answer is obvious.


22. Funky Sneakers

At 42-years-old, Rachel Maddow’s colorful sneaker collection is a thing to be coveted. Nothing says, “I’m nerdy and gay!” like unexpectedly fun footwear.


23. Halter Tops

46-year-old comedian and general babe, Margaret Cho, is happy to see you in her floral print strappy halter top.

46-year-old comedian and general babe, Margaret Cho, is happy to see you in her floral print strappy halter top.

Strappy tanks and halter tops look great on bodies of all ages. I guess older people are supposed to be ashamed of our decaying bodies, having supposedly spent all our sexual currency in our youth, but that is just BS. Also, sometimes it’s 90 degrees out and you just need to be wearing as little clothing as possible.


24. Headbands

30-something fashionista and contributing editor, Aja, is ready for a garden party in her pretty floral headband.

30-something fashionista and contributing editor, Aja, is ready for a garden party in her pretty floral headband.

“First we’re scolded for flower crowns, now headbands. Sheesh. (What else am I supposed to downgrade to if what I really want is to wear a tiara all the time?)” – Aja


25. Sequins

Aja shines bright like a diamond in her gold sequin mini.

Aja shines bright like a diamond in her gold sequin mini.

“Oh, we’re not supposed to wear sequins? Or miniskirts? What about a sequin miniskirt? Definitely not?” – Aja


26. Fauxhawks

30-something celesbian chef, Jen Biesty, cooked her way into our hearts with her blond fauxhawk in Season 4 of Top Chef.

30-something celesbian chef, Jen Biesty, cooked her way into our hearts with her blond fauxhawk in Season 4 of Top Chef.

As one of the classic lesbian haircuts; right up there with the pixie, the crew cut, and the Shane; the fauxhawk is a timeless and super gay choice at any age.


27. Cut Up Tees

34-year-old lead singer of Against Me! and activist, Laura Jane Grace, looks every bit her age in her cut-up black band tee.

34-year-old lead singer of Against Me! and activist, Laura Jane Grace, looks (fantastically!) every bit her age in her cut-up black band tee.

Because t-shirts look so much more badass and are so much more comfortable as tanks, no matter your age. We all know it.


28. Super Skinny Jeans

http://instagram.com/p/xz3opFiElw/?taken-by=kateomoennig

Sometimes you might have a moment of self-doubt and think to yourself, “Are these pants too skinny/tight?” But then you remember that Kate Moennig (37 years old) and Leisha Hailey (44 years old) only own skinny jeans and you realize that you are living your best life.


29. Boots with the Fur

The whole club is looking at her, Aja, I mean, that grown adult over there with the boots with the fir. (Get it?)

The whole club is looking at her, Aja, I mean, that grown adult over there with the boots with the fir. (Get it?)

If you live in a cold city and you know what I mean if you do, fur-lined boots are fucking practical. And cute.


30. Denim Cutoffs

A photo posted by Beyoncé (@beyonce) on

You heard her. She calls the damn shots.


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Profile gravatar of KaeLyn

KaeLyn is a 34-year-old (femme)nist activist and the reigning Queer Fat Korean Immigrant Ms. America Pageant winner. You can typically find her binge-watching TV, over-caffeinating herself, standing somewhere with a mic or a sign in her hand, eating tofu, or just generally doing too many things at once. She lives in Rochester, NY with her spouse, a baby T. rex, a xenophobic cat, and a rascally rabbit. Talk sexy about intersectionality, cult movies, or theatre nerdiness to her at @kaelynrich.

KaeLyn has written 137 articles for us.

111 Comments

    • 0

      Call Bravo. Tell them to give me a TV show, please. What Not to Wear, Autostraddle edition. We’d follow people around with hidden cameras and then tell them what we liked about all their outfits. “Love those PINK pajama pants you wore to the grocery store! So practical!”

  1. 0

    Mostly what I learned from this list is that Nicki, Bey, Laverne, and Janet are all my age. And instead of feeling like WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE, I feel like CUSP MILLENNIALS ARE GODDESSES AND WE ARE MADE OF DIAMONDS AND RAINBOWS AND ARE PERFECT IN EVERY WAY.

  2. 0

    Thank you so much for this! A lot of body-policing bullshit has crept its way into my psyche (from being around people who talk about what other people are wearing) and it’s so nice to have the validation of “Wear what the fuck you want. Wear what makes you happy.” Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  3. 0

    KaeLyn thank you! Goddamn I’m 32 and a friend asked me how much longer I was going to wear my lip ring…I pointed out my tattoo 1/2 sleeves and said why should I take it out, I can’t take these off can I?!? What the hell. I will never stop wearing graphic tees, skinny jeans, nerdy clothes and fun trainers – and flannel…so much flannel.

  4. 0

    so what you’re saying is I should buy everything FFAF wears, yes?

    good, I was planning on doing that, though she favors a more orangey-red lip that I do, but otherwise, yes, everything.

    also pigtails, duh, when I have hair that’s long enough to do anything with I run out of any other ideas.

  5. 0

    As someone rapidly approaching 30, thank you for this. I constantly struggle with how I love dressing and how I feel someone my age ought to dress. I own nearly everything on this list. So thank you for telling me it’s ok to keep rocking my Urban Decay Heavy Metal glitter eyeliner and my mini skirts and colorful tights and pigtails and my beloved MLP Sweetie Bell croptop. I am sending you so many internet hugs.

  6. 0

    I’m going to keep this bookmarked for when I turn 30 in a few years because my mother will inevitably try once again to make me dress like an “adult”

    I will be wearing skinny jeans, colorful sneakers, snapbacks, graphic tees, and superhero everything well past 30

  7. 0

    Rachel Maddow is my style icon. If she can, and I quote, “dress like a 14 year old boy” well into her 40’s and beyond then dammit, so can I. I always tell people that I’m “Pulling a Maddow” when I get out of my vaguely gender neutral business casual work clothes and throw on jeans, a pokemon t-shirt, and Vans.

  8. 0

    I so needed this! I am 30 now and constantly struggle with wanting to wear things that I am afraid I am too old for, and feeling like I don’t feel old why can’t I?? Also can relate with the low cut tops issue, have gotten in trouble more than once for too much cleavage, I can’t help I have boobs and all the shirts I like happen to show them!

    • 0

      Seriously, my boobs are 42D and they just do what they want. I have invested in higher-neck tops and dresses for work now, TBH, but I hate them. It’s not really my style and I resent that small-boobed people can wear shirts I can’t and still be deemed “professional” because they don’t have a cleavage line. Like, my shirts were not even that low. I have lower-cut shirts.

  9. 0

    As a 34 y/o (so old!) lesbian mum, I don’t care what people think of what I wear…so long as I’m comfortable – who cares?! Funky sneakers, socks with rad images, graphic t-shirts and snapbacks – yes! We are teaching our kid that it’s okay to be who you are, and you can look cool doing it!

  10. 0

    I say screw anyone who wants to dictate what you can or can’t wear based on your age. I didn’t dress to please the crowd before I turned 30, and I’m even less likely to do so now that I’m 40.

    All of the pictures above are adorable, and that has nothing to do with the age of the wearers

  11. 0

    “I got chastised at work once in my 20s for showing too much cleavage at work (which really just means I have big boobs that are hard to cover up).”
    This exact thing happened to me (in my early 30s) by a supervisor whose chest was very flat and who wore tops with slits far deeper than my v-necks. Still get incensed when I think about it.
    Also, glitter is my signature accessory. Well, that and my purple hair. And I don’t see either one going anywhere any time soon. Hoorah, femme fashion fortitude!

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