By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Feb 20, 2008 at 5:24 AM

Nobody wants to see great-grandma wearing a low-cut mini dress, but should women once they reach a certain age change their style?

It’s a tricky question, because clothing dictates perception, so if a woman dresses “too young” she might appear silly or desperate for youth. On the other hand, if she dresses too conservatively or “too old” in fear of looking like she’s trying to shave off a few years from her age, she could accidentally pile on a few instead.

“I have seen women dressing too young and it was bad and a bit embarrassing,” says Kim Reiter, 34, owner of Moxy Boutique, 2219 N. Farwell Ave.

Laura Lutter Cole, owner of men’s and women’s boutique Aala Reed, 1320 E. Brady St., sees her share of female fashion faux pas, too. She says that some women feel accomplished if they can still fit into their clothing from two or three decades ago, unaware that outmoded fashion dates a person more than a few extra pounds.

“I’ve cringed plenty of times seeing women who are wearing their favorite outfit from 20 years ago because it makes them feel young and nostalgic when all they would have to do is spend a bit of time putting a similar, more current look together that would make them feel just as sexy,” says Cole, 38.

Most boutique owners say that confidence and body type are more important factors than age, and that style radiates from the inside.

"Fashion isn't about age , it's about what works on your body," says Stephanie Sherman (wife of president, Jeff Sherman), co-owner of Lela, 321 N. Broadway. 

Areka Ikeler agrees. 

“I know many 20-year-olds who should be very careful what they wear and many fantastic, hot 40-year-olds who could wear more than any given 20-year-old,” says Ikeler, owner of Fashion Ninja, 2671 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. “It's more about the individual: who they are, how they care for their body, what they eat, if they exercise, if they smoke and so forth."

Cole believes it’s important to keep wardrobes fresh and updated, but women should be careful not to wear an unflattering garment just because it’s in style for the season. Also, women, especially older women, should identify their best features and punctuate them via fashion choices.

“I think women should certainly take their age into account when it comes to current trends, however if you’ve got a great figure and confidence, show off your best features,” says Cole. “Jamie Lee Curtis is 50-years-old and has the most amazing set of legs and can wear a short skirt like no one else.  Raquel Welch can wear a low-cut anything at 67 and still look hot.  They embrace their age and the confident sex appeal that comes along with it.”

Even though it’s agreed that confidence and body type are important issues, Ikeler says age shouldn’t be ignored. As women get older, they can celebrate and reflect their wisdom through their clothing.

“I've enjoyed getting older thus far and have been able to adapt my style to represent my state of mind,” says Ikeler. “The more life experience I have, the smarter I become. My style is smarter now than it was five years ago.”

To stay fashion appropriate, the fashionistas recommend updating your wardrobe regularly -- with even just one new piece a year -- and to consider shopping at smaller boutiques where service is usually more individualized so you can express your thoughts and concerns.

“If you are looking for traditional look, a department store would be logical, but if you are willing to stretch the envelope a bit, boutique shopping is a must,” says Reiter. “We have better service and a more focused selection.”

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.