Reader Request: How to Look Older in Casual Attire

Reader Request: “I’m a 23 year old 5ft 90lb Asian girl who often gets mistaken for a 15 year old (or an 18 year old on a good day). Can you offer any fashion advice on how to look more your age? Specifically when it comes to casual clothes. I’m in grad school in the sciences and don’t have the benefit of wearing nice professional clothes.”

Being the approximate age and size of this reader, I set out to illustrate her situation. I put on my “grad student of the sciences” ensemble: sweatshirt, jeans, sneaks, and a curious face. I avoided makeup and pulled my hair back into a simple ponytail. I pictured my parents nodding vigorously in approval (their mantra is: a minute wasted on makeup, hair, or fashion is a minute that could’ve been better spent on studying). End result – below left.

Before (left): Ready to get carded for a PG-13 movie.

After (right): A few changes make a big difference in age.

Left: Gap hoodie PXS, A&F; kids tee sz M, True Religion “Joey” kids sz 12, New Balance sneaks kids sz 4

Right: Banana Republic top PXXS, J.Crew cardigan XS, True Religion “Stella” kids sz 12, Cole Haan flats sz 5

To keep casual and grad school-appropriate (I’m picturing long treks across campus and hours studying in the library), I avoided high heels. I wouldn’t call myself fashionable, so keep in mind these aren’t tips to look more stylish, or taller – just more mature:

And although this isn’t fashion advice – I feel that looking more mature or sophisticated truly starts at one’s face. Asians, especially, tend to have young baby faces that can really be transformed with a little eyeliner, mascara (on curled lashes), and bronzer. The products I’m wearing can be found in my everyday makeup for beginners video. Huge difference:

Continue reading for more suggestions…

I decided to put together another outfit for casual weekend-wear:

Before (left): going to jump rope in the park

After (right): going to an outdoor bistro lunch w/ handsome date (yea yea, humor me)

Left: Abercrombie tee XS, A&F; kids shorts sz 12, Old Navy flip flops
Right: Gap white tee sz XS, H&M; shorts sz 2, Alfani sandals (Macy’s) sz 6 “borrowed” from Mom, BR earrings


You’d be surprised at how many people I see around Boston donning jorts (jean shorts), a graphic tee, and rubber flip flops. What could look acceptable on a normal sized woman, though, is devastatingly childish on a tiny petite. My tips for the casual “tee and shorts” outfit:

Low wedges and strappy sandals are my must-haves for summer. I love strolling around Boston, but I don’t enjoy doing so tottering in heels or flopping around in rubber thongs. I’ve amassed several pairs of summer “walking shoes” from Macy’s and Target at decent prices.

Hope you guys found this post somewhat helpful, or at the least – entertaining! I also hope I didn’t offend any grad students. I have no idea how the reader in question dresses typically, so just gave it my best shot.

Readers – please share your tips on looking or dressing your age : )

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  1. I recently stumbled across your blog and I'm hooked on catching up on all your posts! When I wear the wrong clothes, people often think I'm 15. I am a college-grad working in my first professional full-time job (which I love) and it can be hard to find professional clothes that flatter my tiny frame. Thanks for being an inspiration to the petite women out there!

    Posted 4.15.12 Reply
  2. Anonymous wrote:

    Hi there, do you mind doing a post on how you did your hairdo in these photos?
    I currently sport the flat ponytail in your "before" pictures. πŸ™ 23 and people think I'm 15. :

    Posted 4.9.12 Reply
  3. Moussia wrote:

    thank you so much for introducing me to the world of petite blogging! i can relate being a little under 5 ft myself (my drives license says 5'1 though πŸ˜‰ and always being told i look like im 12/14 at my 22 yrs of age. these tips are really helpful to avoid future misconceptions!

    Posted 4.6.12 Reply
  4. Anonymous wrote:

    I'll keep this in mind when i have money to shop for clothes
    I'm also petite and look 5 years younger
    I'm happy I've found your blog I'll make sure to come back to read more tips from you

    Posted 3.24.12 Reply
  5. AWESOME! I'm also petite and an Asian. I would definitely come back here to learn more tips from you.:)

    Posted 3.15.12 Reply
  6. lunakitty wrote:

    YES, YES, YES, YES!! Thank you! I'm 4'10 and have basically no curves, so this is a life saver! πŸ™‚

    Posted 3.14.12 Reply
  7. Kris wrote:

    Hi! I LOVE this post!!! I am mixed race, with a young looking face and I am also petite, 5'3' and 110lbs – I definitely find I have to put more effort into my casual clothes so I don't end up looking like a child. I am so envious of my girlfriends who can throw on jean shorts, t-shirts and flip flops and look awesome and their own age. And while I love heels, they just aren't always practical. So, great post! Thanks!

    Posted 2.22.12 Reply
  8. Anonymous wrote:

    Wow! Really helpful! Thanks a lot!

    Posted 2.12.12 Reply
  9. Anonymous wrote:

    What size are you? I often find it hard to find my size (1-3) in adult, mature clothes like this.

    Posted 2.5.12 Reply
  10. Anonymous wrote:

    Loved your post. I'm pretty short myself, only 4'9" with a tiny frame. I cannot go out without heels, don't wear shorts even on hot summer days πŸ™

    Will definitely look at the stores you've mentioned for good professional outfits.

    Posted 2.3.12 Reply
  11. Vania wrote:

    Whoohoohoohoo! I stumbled on this post & your keen fashion sense hit a bullseye on my habits of "s'habiller." The first picture especially is token of my default look (New Balance shoes, flared pants, bare face, sweatshirt or outdoor performance outerwear, and a t-shirt). You even have the phantom backpack hunch!

    I'm a 23 year old, a wee under 1.5m, Asian woman with a gymnast body who gets marked as 12 year old by my younger sister's college friends. I intern/ fellow at environmental non- profits which means that sometimes my fashion for the field dips even below your sample.

    Since my senior year in college (less lab time + a very caring, yet fashion conscious roommate), I've been slowly transitioning from slob to looking more put- together. My mom, sister, and aunts have all given me the talk of polishing my appearance. Finally, I started to absorb the value of their interventions– taking care of your outward appearance is partially indicative of overall, healthy self- esteem.

    Believe me, I've made progress. I don't wear billowy t-shirts from high school sports paired with basketball shorts over- sized cotton spandex (which can be interchanged with baggy khakis from Gap Kids (Boys section)). At least now, I ditched the basketball shorts over faded stretched out spandex combo. When I'm not outside, I've incorporated bright, earthy- feminine pieces into things I can throw on after I roll out of bed.

    Still resisting the march towards looking grown- up and professional though.

    PS. I'm from the Boston area too!

    Posted 1.7.12 Reply
  12. Anonymous wrote:

    LOVED IT IΒ΄m almost 25 but look around 19 or 20 and IΒ΄m bit tired of been talked to like a kid by people my own age. Do you have any advices for curly hair?? I wear it long and donΒ΄t really wanna cut it, so it would be great if you could recommend a fancy long hairstyle. I am quite short and thin but not really skinny

    Posted 11.8.11 Reply
  13. Anonymous wrote:

    Hello, could you give some tips for someone who is short and pudgy frame?

    Posted 9.28.11 Reply
  14. Anonymous wrote:

    How would you achieve the oversized sweater look without it being too frumpy or overwhelming on the petite frame?

    Posted 9.14.11 Reply
  15. shirrrley wrote:

    This is a great post but I'm going to have to disagree that flared jeans make you look younger. Flared jeans with SNEAKERS make you look yuong, but with a pair of heels or wedgess, it makes all the difference.

    Posted 6.10.11 Reply
  16. Anne wrote:

    I came across your blog while looking for extra extra small blazers. I love your blog… it touches on all the fashion issues that frustrate me. :p I'm Asian, 26, 4'11", and weigh 85 pounds. I often get mistaken for a 13 year old (and will often be able to fit into a 13 year old's clothes so I'm left with shirts and other simple tops). I find it very hard to find "mature" clothes in my size and I hate buying expensive clothes that don't fit me and risk having them altered wrong. What are your top shops for extra extra small clothes that are very affordable so I can build up my wardrobe? πŸ™‚

    Posted 5.15.11 Reply
  17. lilin wrote:

    I like your blog.welcome to my home page!Looking forward to your visiting.

    Posted 5.10.11 Reply
  18. lilin wrote:

    Wow!You look so different in the "before" and "after" pics.I really enjoyed this post. And welcome to visit true religion uk!It may give you a surprise!

    Posted 5.10.11 Reply
  19. Kathy wrote:

    just found your blog and you're absolutely hilarious. i totally relate! I'm a 23 year old petite graduate student and even when I try to look older I get these quips about my age all the time. Thanks for the tips!

    Posted 3.23.11 Reply
  20. Anonymous wrote:

    This is such a great post! I am 26, 5 feet and am often assumed to be a teenager. I mean, at times it is flattering, but it also can get very annoying. I was at work a few years back, dressed up too (although I do not wear makeup or do my hair much) and was asked if I was there with my mom!
    You look great in the before and afters too.

    Posted 2.22.11 Reply
  21. Holy crap… So THAT'S why I got charged a child's fare on the city bus… Hahhahaha. This is amazing!! Saving this. Thanks sooo much!!!

    Posted 2.19.11 Reply
  22. Brown Eyed Girl wrote:

    This post is a must-see for any college grads navigating the weekend social scene or even summertime happy hour scene. (petite or not!)

    I think a few hipster or menswear-inspired outfits can also lend maturity and sophistication to a weekend warrior.

    Pairing a well-constructed, fitted blazer or thin sweater with well-tailored fitted jeans, cords, or slacks can amp up the maturity factor of an outfit.

    Investing in a big girl purse–something structured and almost luggage-like, rather than cutesy and slouchy suggests a put-together and older woman.

    Like other readers, I need to wear sneakers or flats due to a foot arch issue. Wearing fitted straight-leg or wide-leg work slacks or trousers with a fitted monochrome tee or acceptably adult-ish graphic tee works well with muted low-soled sneakers, flats, or ankle boots.

    I recently swapped my chunky New Balances for a retro-looking, unobtrusive sleek pair of Pumas, and the maturity factor of my weekend outfits (as well as the coolness factor) went through the roof! Now I def look my age when I'm roaming the city or trolling the Farmer's Market on Saturdays.

    Posted 2.6.11 Reply
  23. Anonymous wrote:

    amazing post!

    Posted 1.14.11 Reply
  24. Anonymous wrote:

    More posts like this! I'm a 20yo Asian who is dating an older man. I don't have his expensive lifestyle budget, but I make due with what I have. πŸ™‚ He thinks I'm cute, but I want to be beautiful and sexy. Please help! I will forever be carded and treated like a little girl…

    Posted 12.21.10 Reply
  25. Amanda wrote:

    thank you!!! This is one of the best things I've found online about dressing "older." I'm 5'2", 100lb, and I'm so sick of being talked to as if I just went jump rope in the park. I've been getting a little more of a clue on how to dress more sophisticated, but this really helped me hone in on some details I was missing!

    Posted 11.16.10 Reply
  26. Hilary wrote:

    great post! as a very petite med student i find myself feeling the same way. i can definitely waver between those two looks depending on the day! i'd say going for "neater" in general always helps with the age thing. you do such a great job looking mature without looking frumpy.

    Posted 10.27.10 Reply
  27. chian wrote:

    Great post! Looove your style!

    I always try to look older during work so that my clients will not look down on me, which I was able to achieved by putting on simple makeup (eyeliner + concealer + blusher) and dress professionally/modern.

    Posted 10.11.10 Reply
  28. Love this post! I am 27. I notice I'm more likely to get carded at the liquor store/restaurants when wearing jeans than my nice work clothes. However, I work in a school district – and last year when I went in to the high school, the main office secretary asked me if I needed a pass to class. (Um, no, I work here).

    When I was 21, and working as a counselor with 12-18 year olds at a shelter. One of the 15 year old girls staying there did not realize I worked there and asked me which room I was staying in! I'm pretty sure that was the moment I decided I would wear heels and get dressed up for work.

    I'm told I will appreciate this when I'm older.

    Posted 9.12.10 Reply
  29. xue.Bunny wrote:

    LOL omg wow! I LOVE this post! Sadly though I still get carded as a 13 year old even with makeup on. *sigh* Oh well, look to the future right? πŸ˜›

    Posted 9.8.10 Reply
  30. Tara wrote:

    loving the post!

    Posted 8.24.10 Reply
  31. Emily S. wrote:

    This is brilliant. Thank you for posting this! I didn't even realize that the "before" and "after" shots were the same person at first. Like everyone else on here, I'm tiny with a baby face. I get so sick of people saying "Oh, you'll be glad to look younger when you're 50!" I know they mean well, but it strikes me as sexist– like for a woman it's more important to look young than to be taken seriously? Argh.

    Posted 7.18.10 Reply
  32. Rosie wrote:

    I'm late, but I love love love this post and your humour! I am also an Asian grad student. I always dress up in a professional style to teach, which my fellow grad students make fun of me for doing, and even so I get asked by my undergrads, "Are you a junior or a senior?" And "What's your major?"

    Posted 7.14.10 Reply
  33. Euni wrote:

    Randomly found your blog, love it! I am definitely guilty of the child style sometimes, it's just so easy to throw that on and go to class (and speed walk around campus)!

    Since summer break started I've been doing some shopping to change my style. I threw on a tee under a blazer, skinny jeans and flats…STILL got a shocked look when I said I was 20 D:

    Posted 6.23.10 Reply
  34. Anonymous wrote:

    Wish I had similar advice for men. We don't have the benefit of makeup, and I can't grow facial hair that doesn't make me look like a dirty 14 year old even though I'm 23.

    It really hurts my self confidence when people express shock when they find out my age. It's rude and demoralizing πŸ™

    Posted 6.22.10 Reply
  35. Eva wrote:

    Wow, that's a BIG difference πŸ™‚
    Love it.

    Posted 6.10.10 Reply
  36. Janice wrote:

    A little late responding, but thanks for the backpack comments! I will likely go that route, but might mix it up w/ a tote from time to time.

    Posted 6.9.10 Reply
  37. Anonymous wrote:

    can you please do more posts like this?

    Posted 6.2.10 Reply
  38. Kate Gene wrote:

    Holy moly! 62 comments!

    This is one of my favorite blog posts EVER! My husband has a baby face, so together we look like a happy junior high couple. XD I showed him this post and told him I want to raid your closet. LOL! You seriously have the best taste! I don't own anything but my (old) corporate clothes, scrubs, and sweats. When I run errands, I'm always in hoodies, gym pants, and Nikes. I need a new wardrobe, STAT!

    Posted 6.2.10 Reply
  39. Emily wrote:

    This post was amazing!

    I wasn't a reader when you did the five minute face video, but I just checked it out and I really love it.. I know you said you aren't a makeup expert or whatever, (I watch Michelle Phan and Holly Ann-Aeree, and a ton of others) but seeing how you did your face was SO helpful. Their looks are really nice, but too much for me. Minimal is best for every day. Thanks PAG! =]

    And my parents and your parents would probably totally get along haha.

    Posted 5.31.10 Reply
  40. Patricia wrote:

    This post is so timely for me! Last week, I was carded buying wine to cook with. I am in my mid-20s, but the man at the checkout said "I'm sorry, I just don't believe you" after I presented my ID. This week, I was outside wearing a hoodie and reading a book while my son was playing, and someone said "Babysitting, huh?"

    I really appreciate that this post is focused on casual wear. I have nailed looking my age at work, but these tips are just what I need to look more mature in my free time!

    Posted 5.30.10 Reply
  41. CynthiaC wrote:

    @Kristy: I wear my "normal" clothes to the liquor store, which usually consists of jeans, a cami, cardigan and wedges. I don't think I've been carded there since I was 25. Hoodies and jeans just cry "university student" to staff while cardis and jeans are more grown up.

    Posted 5.29.10 Reply
  42. MizzJ wrote:

    hahah I totally used to dress like that in uni! The before and after shots are SO dramatic!! You gave some really great advice here.

    Posted 5.29.10 Reply
  43. Anonymous wrote:

    One of my favorite posts so far! This couldnt have come at a better time. I'm in the process of updating my wardrobe and this is a big help.

    Posted 5.28.10 Reply
  44. Jimin wrote:

    ohhhhhhh my goodness your posts get better and better πŸ™‚ the transformations are so amazing! I think you look pretty without makeup too, but I can see how you look much older in the after pictures πŸ™‚ you've mastered the look of classy chic πŸ˜‰

    and who is your photographer?! all your pictures come out greatttt


    Posted 5.28.10 Reply
  45. Kristy wrote:

    WOW! what a transformation! this is such a great and helpful post for all the petite women out there (excl. ME of course:P) But I'm really liking your tips because some of them apply to me. I get carded at the liquor store sometime when I wear jeans, a hoodie, and chucks. But seriously, who dresses up just to go to the liquor store? :D:D

    Posted 5.28.10 Reply
  46. phyllis wrote:

    What a fantastic post! I get mistaken for 16 and under a LOT. The most recent story that comes to mind is when a flight attendant mistook me for an unaccompanied minor. And I was like nope…I'm 24 and married. Needless to say she was super embarrassed :p. I was incredibly amused though :).

    Anyway, I was definitely guilty of dressing like your pics of the left until the beginning of this year. I always rationalized it to myself by saying that I dressed for comfort first but obviously comfort does not need to be lazy :). I've been updating my wardrobe bit and bit and I have to say, just putting a little bit more effort and thought into styling have made SUCH a difference in my look. I don't think I've gotten any questions about my age in a while and I feel great about how I look!

    Posted 5.28.10 Reply
  47. Thank you everyone for the wonderful comments … I really enjoyed reading them and had several good laughs.

    Kerry – LOL! That's hilarious and I can totally picture it happening.

    Daisy – nothing compares to sneakers in terms of comfort, but my Cole Haan Nike air flats are the closest I've found. They actually have a slight wedge with support.

    Janice/Pauline – Janice I would say on "lighter load" days to carry a proportional tote. Longchamp works for me but that is too generic for some people's liking. Kate spade makes a lot of totes and I like some of Coach's plain leather ones. I agree with Pauline though, in the sense that nothing beats a backpack for your back. Messenger bags may distribute the weight a little, but nowhere near what a good backpack does! I carry 5+ lbs to work every day in a tote and I'm starting to feel the damage. Some of my coworkers do use rolly bags like Cynthia mentioned … but I'm sure you don't want to go that route.

    Posted 5.27.10 Reply
  48. Jenny wrote:

    this was so informative! i'm also 23 and ALWAYS mistaken for a 15 year old whether it be in person or on the phone T_T so sad! i just have that darn baby face! your blog is awesome πŸ™‚

    Posted 5.27.10 Reply
  49. Linda wrote:

    this post is amazing! very helpful! and as always, you look gorgeous!

    Posted 5.27.10 Reply
  50. jen wrote:

    This is one of them most awesome, informative posts I've seen! The "curious face" photo is hilarious, hahaha. But you really know how to use make up to simply play up your features instead of changing how you look! And you've definitely mastered the art of dressing well and being casual. You look very comfortable but chic at the same time. Great job girl πŸ˜€

    Posted 5.27.10 Reply

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