The 5 Types of Dresses You Should Own By 40

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By the time your forties roll around, you probably already know whether you prefer wearing shirtdresses over shifts and if your body looks best in form-fitting silhouettes over loose tent styles. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some universal truths to live by when it comes to stocking your wardrobe. We’re not going to pretend that every woman needs to own a sweater dress (although if you haven’t already given this supremely comfy style a chance, we strongly suggest taking one for a test drive). Here are five dresses you should own by 40—since they’ll minimize the number of times you find yourself thinking “I have nothing to wear” and will make getting dressed for everyday and formal events a total breeze.

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dresses to own by 40 party cocktail dress
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1. a Dressy Dress You Can Pull Out At Any Time

So, you completely forgot about your best friend’s dinner party this weekend? Or maybe you’ve found yourself on the receiving end of a last-minute work event? Perhaps you’ve known about your cousin’s wedding for weeks now but still have no idea what to wear? (No judgement there!) Whatever the occasion, having a party-ready frock you can pull on without too much thought or effort can be a total life-saver. Avoid white or very pale shades (not really appropriate for weddings) or anything too sparkly or embellished (outside of New Year’s these can look too showy). On the other hand, delicate lace or intricate embroidery is always a good pick, as are classic silhouettes like an A-line that cinches your waist or a strapless sheath dress. Use accessories to switch things up so your outfit feels fresh and festive, as needed.

Shop similar styles: Wayf ($90; $45); Topshop ($75); Eloquii ($125); Kiyonna ($168); Misha Collection ($299)

dresses to own by 40 professional frock
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2. a Professional Number That Gives You Confidence

By “professional” we mean a cut that skews a bit more conservative—think, a higher neckline, a hemline that hits no more than one inch above the knee, structured fabric like wool crepe or heavy cotton—to show the world you mean business. Our advice? Look for styles that pair equally well with blazers and heels for a budget meeting as they do with flats and child-size chairs for parent-teacher conferences. Shirt dresses, shifts and A-line silhouettes should all fit the bill.

Shop similar styles: Banana Republic ($97); Ann Taylor ($139; $100); Eloquii ($100); 1901 ($159); J.Crew ($168)

3. an Easy Throw-on Summer Frock

We actually recommend having two or three (or even more, if you live in a really warm climate) to rotate between once the hot, humid peak of summer hits. Opt for breathable and machine washable materials, like linen, cotton or silk, and flowy silhouettes, like tent, A-line or even column. Keep in mind, lighter colors are better for reflecting the sun’s rays and keeping you cool, but they’re also more likely to appear sheer or show sweat stains. Double check your undies aren’t visibly through the fabric before you head out to door and consider investing in a few neutral-hued slips to wear underneath if you find this to be a perpetual problem.

Shop similar styles: Chelsea28 ($129; $50); Foxcroft ($118); ModCloth ($145); MISA Los Angeles ($317); Rhode ($395)

dresses to own by 40 date night dress
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4. a Dress That Makes You Feel Supremely Sexy

Whether you’re celebrating a decade-long relationship or playing the field, we highly suggest following the immortal words of Beyoncé, “time to impress; pull out your freakum dress.” Yup, every woman should have at least one dress that makes her feel foxy, which for some might mean baring it all in a figure-hugging slip and for others simply means standing out from the crowd in a bold red hue. Whatever it is that gives you Queen Bey-level confidence (or at least a close approximation) don’t be afraid to embrace it whole-heartedly.

Shop similar styles: Lulus ($54); Reformation ($218; $131); Amanda Uprichard ($207); Xscape ($238); Tanya Taylor ($395)

dresses to own by 40 an lbd
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5. an Lbd That Can Do It All

A little black dress is one of the most versatile pieces one could ever own, appropriate for job interviews, date nights, memorials, dinner parties and everything in between. And while you can certainly invest in a variety of styles more specific to certain events (like a strappy silk number for weddings or a structured wool sheath for professional settings), there should also be at least one that could be made to work for any number of occasions. We’re talking about a figure-flattering shift style that can be worn with a regular bra and that hit at the knee. But beyond that, shop around to find whatever sleeve-length or silhouette you feel most comfortable wearing for every event on your calendar.

Shop similar styles: ASOS Curve ($51); Eliza J ($138); En Saison ($150); Ann Taylor ($179); Shoshanna ($398)



Abby Hepworth is an RRCA-certified running coach who has worked in fashion for over 10 years. Want to know what shoes are in this season? She's got you. Need recommendations on...