I was recently flicking through Vogue’s ‘Ageless Style Issue’ on my coffee table. Its message is laudable, but its contents are conflicting. Whilst, as per most issues, it continues to address fashion for the 20-40 year old consumer, it barely touches on women over 50. For example, in its article ‘Swing Time: Worn High or Low, the ponytail is a classic- but doesn’t it have an age limit?’, the magazine argues this hairstyle can be one for all ages. Except the oldest women it considers pulling off a ponytail is Gwyneth Paltro. She’s 42.
The magazine continues this sentiment with Cecilia Chancellor as its oldest model at 48. Moreover, only three women above the age of 50 are offered a platform: Neneh Cherry, 51, Geraldine Harmsworth, 58 and Esther Weiland, 91. This, versus the dozens of younger women littered throughout the magazine. If anything, it seems to be saying that, whilst style is in theory ageless, it’s pretty rare to find. Frankly these women’s inclusion ends up unfairly feeling like a token gesture.
"Why is everyone over 50 lumped together?"
This also raises another important point: three women, who have 40 years between, is insufficient to represent all ages over 50. In the same way a 20 year old doesn’t identify with a 50 year old, why would a 50 year old identify with a 90 year old? Your life style, interests and priorities are entirely different. Yet the fashion industry gives off the impression that it thinks all ages past 50 are the same. Indeed, frequently magazine editorials that claim to address how to dress at different ages break down suggestions into the following categories:
20s; 30s; 40s; 50+
I don’t get it. Why should style suggestions be broken down into 3 separate decades, and then everyone else over 50 be lumped together? It’s patronising, wrong, and feels haphazard that editors can’t be bothered to breakdown age groups above 50. It’s suggesting that only those in the younger categories have a definitive style interest worth addressing.
Such an attitude can be further observed in several recent luxury retailers’ marketing campaigns that feature much older women. Now the cynic in me thinks it’s just another passing trend; a new ploy to target the young consumer through the concept of ‘cool grey chic’. But let’s be optimistic and say that’s not the case. And that they are trying to address the recent backlash against the fashion industry for treating the profitable baby boomer demographic as irrelevant. In that scenario they become a misguided attempt at trying to appeal to this market, as their featured models belong to a different one.
Now I’m not suggesting it’s bad to target much women in their 70s, 80s, 90s or even 100s (quite the contrary, they equally deserve recognition for how fantastic they are), but these campaigns don’t achieve the target effect of appealing to the 50s and 60s markets. At worst it’s demeaning to all, suggesting women of that age group are equivalent to someone in her 80s or 90s. And, at best, it’s lazy. And even half-hearted when you’re still featuring Karlie Kloss...
So now we’re left with only two extremes: very young, or much older. I long to see a modern and arresting campaign featuring models or stylish women in their 50s or 60s. Is that so difficult? Are such women so hard to come by? No. For a starters, Vogue already showcased 2 of them!