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. Anonymous wrote:

    Very nice post and also very helpfull.

    Posted 12.12.14 Reply
  2. Anonymous wrote:

    I know this is a 4 year late reply, but by hubby (South Asian) always sports a beard, and still gets carded–he just turned 40!

    Posted 8.30.14 Reply
  3. Anonymous wrote:

    This post is perfect for me! I just graduated college and am currently looking for a job and looking old and professional has definitely been a challenge. I feel like people don't take me as seriously. I have a question..I'm 4'11" feet, 90lbs and I am really self conscious about my calves…they are 12" which is fine on tall person, but being so short they are gross! And because of it I have shyed away from tall you have any suggestions on what kind of shoe or other ways to make your calves look slimmer? Esp during the summer time when I wear more shorts and skirts and can't hide them in my jeans!

    Thanks and great blog!

    Posted 7.17.14 Reply
  4. oki wrote:

    Great post and great site!

    I am also a small framed little lady with asian ancestry, and as such I am so inspired by the magic you work with your style!

    I am getting to that crossroads with my wardrobe where I want to look more mature and put together. I’m a musician, so for years and years my style has consisted of stretch jeans, or mini skirt, (altered/fitted) band shirts, and a hoodie. But now that I’ve crossed the threshold of 30, I feel comfortable with it being time for me to retire my punk mini skirts and move on to a more sophisticated pencil skirt. I can still look edgy while stepping up the class, right?

    Your tips in this post are so great to keep in mind for that kind of style transition. It is all in the details! A little bit of makeup, careful attention to hair, and subtle changes in clothing choices (hoodie to cardigan/blazer), really makes all the difference. It’s also amazing how getting the right fit can take an outfit from frumpy to fabulous. I’m guilty of wearing things that just don’t fit right and my husband (lovingly) tells me I look like a hobo. It is just so hard to find clothes off the rack that fit my narrow shoulders and small frame without shopping in the kids/juniors section, and I’m too old for that. Although I do enjoy browsing Plato’s closet…

    Again, you’re lovely and inspiring! Thank you for sharing!

    Posted 7.8.14 Reply
  5. Anonymous wrote:

    OMG. You are hilarious!!! The sentence about your parents and the time wasted on makeup vs studying — brilliant, and true for me too. Great blog.

    Posted 6.19.14 Reply
  6. Anonymous wrote:

    That's awful Kristin… 🙁 Don't let a group of misogynistic jerks make you feel silly or wrong for wearing exactly what you want to wear and being as fabulous as you want! Just because they can't imagine that a woman can be smart and sexy or feel intimidated by it, they think they can mock you and make you feel ashamed and force you to dress in a way that makes them comfortable. I think that's just freaking wrong. Stand up for yourself and be proud of your femininity and your brains!

    Posted 3.17.14 Reply
  7. Love this post! I am about your size and 26 years old. I'm a pharmacist and my patients are alllllways telling me I look 16. It's been this way my entire life. I love your ideas here and am going to try to find a way to incorporate into my work clothes.

    Posted 2.10.14 Reply
  8. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU! As a 5'0" 100 lb female graduate engineering student who works in a laboratory setting with only men, I encounter this problem daily! I can't wear heels or dress up everyday without being mocked for the sound my heels make or being gawked at for looking totally out of place. I've been looking for advice on this for years.. I can't wait to try out your suggestions! Thank you!

    Posted 2.6.14 Reply
  9. C wrote:

    As someone with this EXACT problem, who doesn't wear makeup, and is reluctant about the idea of incorporating something I dislike into my daily routine…this post is incredibly depressing to me.

    Posted 1.22.14 Reply
  10. Crumbles wrote:

    I like the before/after comparisons.

    Posted 1.22.14 Reply
  11. Anonymous wrote:

    Love this post Jean, great work as always

    Posted 11.22.13 Reply
  12. Irina wrote:

    it's such an old post, and I regret I haven't come across it earlier. these tips are so helpful, but sometimes one wants to wear sneakers 😉 and i I just lol'ed at your "ready to jump rope" picture, thank you

    Posted 11.2.13 Reply
  13. kate lewis wrote:

    Shorts are the perfect summer staple, but not all styles flatter all figures. Selecting the perfect pair depends a lot on your height, your assets and any problem areas you wish to downplay and the given material for women fulfills all my mentioned features.

    Posted 9.5.13 Reply
  14. StarryA wrote:

    This is genius! Sometimes it's hard to see the effect certain pieces have until someone really points it out. Although I am not as petite as the poster who asked the original question (I'm 5'3") I do find that certain things make me look like a teenager again, especially as I generally use minimal make up and only wear heels on special occasions! Thank you so much! Your entire blog is wonderful!

    See my own clothes alterations at

    I'm only just starting out so tips are welcome 🙂

    Posted 7.24.13 Reply
  15. StarryA wrote:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

    Posted 7.24.13 Reply
  16. Definitely bookmarking this! I swear countless of times I have been asked for ID etc because I'm 5" and have a baby face lol hope I can put these tips to good use!

    Posted 7.19.13 Reply
  17. Its a unique post and also reverse of today's fashion. Each and every body always search the ways of look young and you suggestion is the contrary of such.

    buy status quo t shirts

    Posted 7.16.13 Reply
  18. Anonymous wrote:

    This was exactly the same learning curve I went through! Except at 26 and working as a doctor, you get pretty tired when patients ask if I am 18, and their kids ask if I am 15! Have you got any advice on what to wear for a date/ evening dress? I am South Asian (Indian) at 5'1, skinny, flat-ish chest and long black hair. Also any tips for the hair style? Below shoulder length?

    Posted 5.8.13 Reply
  19. Anonymous wrote:

    You're hilarious! This my first time visiting your blog, and I'm really enjoying your sense of humor!

    Posted 5.3.13 Reply
  20. Loving your blog – follow it daily/weekly. I'm 5'2", 105 lb and am 47. But I'm constantly being compared to a 12 year old. I know how it feels. Good job.

    Posted 4.30.13 Reply
  21. Anonymous wrote:

    So helpful!! I'm neither short nor petite, but I've been told since highschool that I have a sweet "baby-face".

    Now as a mid-twenties adult I'm striving to be taken seriously and respected in a male dominated work place. I chopped off my hair recently, so now it's super short. I think I like it.

    Your advice and striking examples are tremendously helpful and applicable to everyone. I hope this article is featured on a major fashion site for the rest of us.

    Posted 4.5.13 Reply
  22. Anonymous wrote:

    I absolutely love this! And being Asian and having a similarly young face when I was at Grad school…I can definitely identify with this post! I had a good laugh and learned some useful tips, thanks ;)!!

    Posted 3.14.13 Reply
  23. Lobo wrote:

    Hello! I am so blessed to have found your blog. I am 5'0'' and wear a size 0. I am also in graduate school in the sciences. It can be difficult to be taken seriously when you are a petite female. 😉 This blog has been such a help.
    My parents also wonder why I spend so much time and money on fashion, but it can be difficult to feel confident when you look young or sloppy.
    I've usually throw on a suit jacket over any outfit to make me look older. Also, wearing heels helps. Although I can't always wear heels on campus because of all the walking.
    I usually look about 16, but in heels people guess me age more around 18 or 19, which is an improvement. (I am 24).
    I love your blg and will be following along.

    Posted 2.21.13 Reply
  24. Anonymous wrote:

    Your post rocks! I really like the effort you take to answer the questions, complete with before/after photos and lists of do's and don't's. You are the best!

    Posted 2.20.13 Reply
  25. Mia M. wrote:

    I can so relate to this!
    I'm 5'1 and 105lbs at 22 years old. Needless to say to people think I'm around 15-18 too.
    I find that wearing makeup really does make you look older. And also as a petite girl, I always wear wedges/heels. They give me a boost of confidence and they make me look older.
    Another tip is to stick with basic colors and designs. I live in NYC so I stick with the whites, greys, blacks, khaki colors. It does make me blend in more.

    Posted 2.8.13 Reply
  26. this is so helpful i'm part Asian but very little and it affects me a lot. i have slightly hooded eyes very petite baby face.nothing fits me and people mistake me the youngest 10 and 18 on a good day. i work at a law firm and on causal Friday this one lady thought i was a lil kid she was like what are u doing here you work here ? its a total insult.
    i love my style i see people my age wearing the latest trends and when i wear them i look like a 14 year old.

    Posted 1.27.13 Reply
  27. Nathyness wrote:

    "What could look acceptable on a normal sized woman, though, is devastatingly childish on a tiny petite."

    Beautifully said! My taller friends just don't understand why I dress like I'm in my late 20's. They don't know he embarrassment of being confused with a 15 year old, or the rage in being undermined for percieved lack of experience.

    This post was brilliant.

    Posted 1.15.13 Reply
  28. Cheri wrote:

    Pictures are worth thousands of words. I'm 4' 11", 133 pounds -and 59. My daily 'uniform' is often hoodie, jeans, a solid color tee and sneakers. I want to dress more appropriately & with a personal style, but standing in a store faced with racks of clothes that aren't going to fit without tailoring has always been overwhelming. Your blog is giving me the tools to see the best choices for me out of all the possibilities and this well-thought-out post is particularly helpful. Thank you so very much.

    Posted 12.19.12 Reply
  29. Anonymous wrote:

    Thank you so much for posting this! Although I am not 90 pounds, I am about 5 feet as well. As a 24 year old professional, it gets really annoying when you're the only one in your group of friends to get carded. I think I do a good job at my makeup, but maybe I'll watch some Youtube videos to make sure 🙂

    Posted 12.12.12 Reply
  30. Hello! So i really wish there were more post like this. I am a 22 year old african-american girl and I will be graduating college soon. I am about 5 feet tall and 105 pounds. A while ago I was at church and we eat food after church and this random old man kept trying to give me more food telling me i needed to "eat so i will grow" and I found that extremely rude. That was a tangent that I felt like mentioning because I am annoyed about it but anyway… I need more tips on dressing older because wen doing job interviews and things i want to make a good first impression. I really wish you could come and shop with me and help me buy things lol. I also shop in jr's clothing alot but i feel like i shouldn't because i graduate next week lol.

    Also even when i dress up, i still think i look young.

    Posted 12.6.12 Reply
  31. Anonymous wrote:

    Hello! Your tips are very good, but my problem is a bit different. As in I often get mistaken to be a middle schooler, when I'm a university student. Just this past Thursday, at a Thanksgiving dinner, an older lady thought I was about 12 or 13 years old. And I was wearing salmon colored skinny jeans, a black top with tiny flowers and dots printed on it, with two slits on both sides of the shirt going up a few inches (though showing no skin from underneath). My hair was half down and half up, held together by a black claw hair clip. I had on dark brown Ugg slip-ons. I was also wearing small rose earrings, a silver necklace, and a silver Anne Klein watch. I am 5' 4".

    So I think the problem for me is my face, but I would really rather not put make-up on, as I find it terribly time-consuming, and a money eater. Is make-up really the only other option I have left though?

    Posted 11.25.12 Reply
  32. Barbara wrote:

    Hi, I love your blog. I'm 4ft 8in, and not Asian, but I am short and petite, and wear size 5 shoes. I'm 47 years old now, but the advice still applies. If I'm not careful, I can still look like I am thirteen, though my face isn't as smooth anymore. I'm wondering if you would do a post on finding small shoes. Shoe shopping has left me crying in the store. My "old" feet can't wear heels anymore, but I'm not ready for "grandma" shoes. I'd love it if you'd add some companies that have size 5 shoes available.

    And thanks! When I was younger I was looking all over for a site like yours, and you weren't old enough yet to have it up and running, and I wasn't brave enough to start my own sites. (Blogs didn't exist yet.)

    Posted 11.8.12 Reply
  33. Anonymous wrote:

    You look absolutely gorgeous! Thanks for the great advice…I work as a teacher and am Asian so it's nice to have some advice so I don't not to look like one of them lol!!!

    Posted 10.27.12 Reply
  34. Sadia wrote:

    So great and cool, your looking is really gorgeous and you are deserve for it while look like very inspiration. click here and i love this post.

    Posted 10.8.12 Reply
  35. Christine wrote:

    So cool! Ive been looking for something like this but not totally to look "older" lol. Anyway, I really love this post 🙂 very useful thanks much 🙂

    Posted 10.7.12 Reply
  36. this post made me realize how much i have to step up my casual clothes game, lol. i don't have a problem with looking too young but i definitely do feel sloppy at times.

    Love this post.

    Posted 9.13.12 Reply
  37. Irene Yu wrote:

    this is a great post! thanks jean!

    Posted 7.22.12 Reply
  38. Anonymous wrote:

    really good suggestions!! I am a Cantonese girl that just fit the situation you proposed. It is important for me to look more mature. Thanks so much!!


    Posted 7.22.12 Reply
  39. Erica wrote:

    Looking younger than you actually are can be nice — but there is such thing as looking TOO young! It's hard to be taken seriously when you look like you're 13. I'm always seeing things on the internet and in magazines that tell you how you can look younger — and I'm like, if I look any younger, I'll look like I'm 8. Thanks, but no thanks.

    Posted 6.18.12 Reply
  40. Mary wrote:

    really helpful!!

    Posted 6.9.12 Reply
  41. HeadTurner wrote:

    great! we really saw the difference!

    Posted 6.8.12 Reply
  42. pandaaa wrote:

    Oh. my. Gawd. My parents have the same motto. So frustrating to me!!

    Posted 6.8.12 Reply
  43. awesome post and inspiration! I'm a bit older than you and always have to do the opposite! Trying to dress more age-appropriate, (rather than shop in the same stores as my teenager nieces haha)

    Posted 6.8.12 Reply
  44. what a great comparison!!!

    Posted 6.8.12 Reply
  45. Anonymous wrote:

    LOVED this post! Always end up getting asked 'what grade are you in now?'
    this definitely helped 🙂

    Posted 6.8.12 Reply
  46. keshia wrote:

    How do you look older when its cold out? I live in indiana, you can't dress like that all of the time.

    Posted 4.30.12 Reply
  47. keshia wrote:

    i love this… its so helpful… next time I go shopping I will keep this in mind. I may blog about my attempts to look older. What i'm getting from this is that it starts from hair and makeup. I never knew light washed jeans looked childish.

    Posted 4.30.12 Reply
  48. Love it! What about colder season older look? Will coat add more charm? Or it is possible to wear sport coat as well? Thanks =)
    PS: would love have more examples =)

    Posted 4.16.12 Reply

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