Last season, Alber Elbaz, head designer at the prestigious house of Lanvin, featured 82-year-old former dancer, Jacquie Tajah Murdock and 62-year-old performance artist Tziporah Salamon in his advertising campaign.
Each looked powerfully beautiful. Not just beautiful for their age, but beautiful, full stop. Tziporah’s ethos of “you have to get dressed every day so you may as well get dressed well” very simply sums it up.
Dressing is not just about covering your body, it’s an exercise in self-expression and creativity.
Despite the diversity that the fashion industry prides itself on, the over-50s are oft-overlooked, but change is in the air. Ideas are shifting as to what it means to be old anymore — and fashion has finally started to address and recognise the value and worth this section of society has.
Cinema too has been playing an active role in quashing ageist stereotypes with Judi Dench essentially playing the principal female role in the recent Skyfall Bond movie. Bérénice Marlohe may play the traditional Bond girl but it is Dench who steals the limelight.
Numerous blogs have come online in recent years, the most impressive of which is Advanced Style. Posts include videos featuring the most stylish of New York dames, street style images and a veritable treasure chest of inspiration for the older lady. Having also published a book by the same name, the brains behind Advanced Style, Ari Seth Cohen, says “the secret to remaining vital in our later years is to never stop being curious, never stop creating and never stop having fun”.
Here, we pay tribute to a new generation of older women — women who accept their age, who embrace it rather than deny it, a la Madonna, by choosing clothes designed for their daughters. There’s been a complete change in the way older women dress — and how they are expected to dress. Move over Coleen Rooney for a new kind of WAG — Women Ageing Gracefully.
So if you are to fine-tune your wardrobe, where should you start? There are no hard and fast rules, it’s about working a look that is flattering to you. Look at your shape. Not with a harsh, judgemental mindset ready to scrutinise every millimetre, but with a kind, accepting eye. You may be a little softer around the edges and your waist is not quite as narrow as it was but your frame generally remains the same. Embrace what you’ve learnt suits you but be prepared to move forward and never let yourself be defined by age rather than individuality. What you wore in your 20s may not suit your style now. But this is not about chasing youth. As beauty guru Linda Rodin advises: “You can’t get it back ladies, you can only move forward with grace and a sense of style!”
What were previously considered to be finishing touches now become the lynchpins of your look. Good grooming is the foundation. ‘Textured’ hair may be on every glossy magazine cover but it’s a look that doesn’t translate well with age. A good haircut, manicure and moisturised skin will work wonders. Lesley Keane at Mac Cosmetics recommends Pro Longwear foundation: “It remains flawless on the skin throughout the day, despite temperature fluctuations which are common as women get older.”
From silver to steel, grey hair can look strikingly beautiful. If you are courageous enough to go au naturel, a deep conditioner is essential to keep it from looking wiry and dry. Top hairstylist Michael Leong recommends Shimmerlights by Schwarzkopf.
Make sure that the tone of grey in your hair works with your complexion, particularly if you are pale. Lowlights can gently soften the look and are kinder to hair than dyeing.
It’s well worth investing in beautiful accessories. Considered spending is where it’s at right now and no matter what your age, showstopper shoes are a powerful fashion ally. You can be head to toe in classic black, but add a pair of statement shoes and heads will always turn. Jewellery is the secret weapon of older dressing. Ninety-one year old New York style icon Iris Apfel is an ambassador for striking jewellery. From giant necklaces to stacked bangles, her eclectic style is irreverent yet always chic. Fine jewellery certainly has its place but in terms of creating a look and enhancing an outfit, bold pieces do wonders to pull a look together. Labels like Bea Valdes, Erickson Beamon and Alexis Bittar excel at creating standout pieces.
A sophisticated and polished look is invariably equated with a discreet palette. Camel, biscuit and bone are eternally chic shades but using a secondary palette of ice-cream tones like rose, lemon and coral adds a whole other dimension. As for brights, they should never be out of bounds. The 66-year-old designer, Diane Von Furstenberg always uses colour with great confidence. In every guise from bright blocks to eye-popping prints, she knows how to make colour look effortlessly elegant. The key is to tailor your use of colour to what suits your skin tone and hair shade. It’s a powerful tool and wonderful mood enhancer.
As much as we all love a little luxury, the high street has upped its game in the past few years. Betty Jackson for Debenhams, Autograph and Twiggy at Marks and Spencer as well Zara, particularly for their lustworthy accessories, all make style accessible and achievable.
How you present yourself to the world is not only about self-expression, but about self-confidence so I leave you with this thought courtesy of 65-year-old Geri Brin, the founder of Fab Over Fifty.com “Over 50 million strong, we are the smartest, most accomplished and most active women in history… we are the most exceptional generation of women ever and will be inspirational to women for generations to come.”