GBC Fashion Collection: 50 Shades of Grey

A photo of Carmen Dell'Orefice in a red dress
Carmen Dell’Orefice, Red Dress Collection 2005

 The fashion industry has long been obsessed with youthfulness, and for decades older women have been relatively invisible. It’s no wonder over 43,172 surgical procedures were carried out in 2012, and although there was only a small increase in overall procedures, anti-ageing treatments such as eyelid surgery and face lifts saw double digit increases.

Mature models have generally been excluded from the runway, with a few exceptions like Carmen Dell’Orefice and Veruschka. Similarly, when you do see older women modelling on TV it’s usually for some kind of new anti-aging product. We’ve all seen adverts with beautiful older looking women, accompanied by a voice over asking ‘Do you want youthful looking, ironed-out skin? Do your fingers wrinkle up in the bath? Then try our new product! Over 70% of 10 people had less sagging skin in under two weeks.’ Again there are a few exceptions such as the M&S campaigns starring Twiggy and Yasmina Ross. Fashion magazines have also largely excluded mature models, occasionally adding an article with a 50 plus celebrity, in a magazine full of young, tall, twiglet sized women.

Many fashion critics have also noted the lack of clothes aimed at their demographic and feelings of exclusion. After a poll done by the Daily Mail, it was revealed that women shouldn’t wear swimsuits past 61, or trainers after 44, or have long hair after 53 . So what are they supposed to wear on the beach I ask, a black bag, a onezie? Are older women doomed to crocs, long skirts and turtle necks? “The choice is to wear something juvenile or be a total killjoy,” says Linda Wells, the editor of Allure. In her Fountain of Youth article, Natasha Singer states; “Many industries have traditionally shied away from openly marketing to people 65 and older, viewing them as an unfashionable demographic group that might doom their product with young hip spenders.” But the generation of baby boomers who want to stay fashionable are changing all of this slowly.

A photo of Twiggy
Twiggy by Tails For Whales

According to trend and fashion forecaster WGSN, consumers in Europe aged over 55 will increase by 60 per cent in the next decade. Many industries across the board are now reflecting this by using older models.

Although still a relatively small group the fashion industry has witnessed a record number of older women modelling in print and adverts, including: Jacquie Murdock, 82, cast by Lanvin; Daphne Selfe, 83, for Dolce & Gabbana; and supermodels Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington. But sceptical New York casting agent Natalie Joos says “I think it’s just a fad. There is no revolution” Adding that the few older models we see are “a very quiet, small group fighting against an army of youth-seeking consumers.”

Women up to their 70s have never looked better. And there is now a new demand for the fashion industry to catch-up; ‘they want fashion in “real world” sizes and don’t want to dress like their daughters or their mothers.’

The 2011 census showed that the overall number of people turning 65 last year leapt by 30 per cent in a single year. There is a huge generation of older people with great spending power. With this in mind we are likely to see continuing change in the fashion industry; more models that older women can relate to and more fashion choices for older women.


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