Changing the way we think about aging… For good.

Photo: Juergen Teller, Courtesy of Céline

Photo: Juergen Teller, Courtesy of Céline

Coco Chanel once quipped that “after 40 nobody is young, but one can be irresistible at any age.” But, until recently, we weren’t seeing anyone with delicate wrinkles appearing in the media… And certainly no celebration of the fact that older women are cool too. It was almost as if our favourite leading ladies were disappearing off the radar once they hit forty…

 

But, thankfully, we’ve witnessed the stirrings of change in recent years, with the Chanel’s sentiment finally having caught on (better late than never!), as fashion brands seem to be moving towards a somewhat older group of models. At 80 years old, author Joan Didion was announced as the new face of Céline… And she certainly isn’t the first older woman to have been chosen as a big brand ambassador.

Photo: Nars, via Vogue Australia

Photo: Nars, via Vogue Australia

She joins other older models Jane Fonda and Helen Mirren for L’Oreal (despite Helen’s recent admission that their moisturizer “probably does f*** all” but that she wears whatever makes her feel better) , Charlotte Rampling for Nars lipstick, Joni Mitchell for Saint Laurent, Lauren Hutton being revealed as the new face of Calvin Klein lingerie in April this year, and Julia Roberts continuing as the face of Lancôme. But that doesn’t mean these models aren’t feeling the pressure:

“By Hollywood standards, I guess I’ve already taken a big risk in not having had a facelift,” Roberts told You Magazine. “I’ve told Lancôme that I want to be an aging model – so they have to keep me for at least five more years until I’m over 50.”
Interestingly, fashion editor Alyson Walsh (who blogs at thatsnotmyage.blogspot.co.uk) has spoken on the subject, saying that:

The majority of women want to look good, regardless of age… I am 53 and simply want to look healthy, stylish and modern, not younger. And I want to be relevant, even with my wrinkles. We are important role models to younger women, and I love looking to older women who are leading the way. Finally, some brands are talking to me, but it took them a long time to catch on to the power of the silver spend.

Well said, Walsh! We couldn’t have put it better ourselves.
Similarly, this week Allure took a brave, progressive step in declaring that they ‘will no longer use the term “anti-aging.”‘ Their statement revealed that changing the way we think about aging starts with changing the way we talk about aging:
With that in mind, and starting with this issue, we are making a resolution to stop using the term “anti-aging.” Whether we know it or not, we’re subtly reinforcing the message that aging is a condition we need to battle — think antianxiety meds, antivirus software, or antifungal spray.
 Hurrah!!
The magazine also pointed out that, when talking about a woman in her later years, people tend to use qualifiers when complementing them, saying things like “she looks great, for her age,” instead of “she’s beautiful, regardless of her age.”
Photo: L'Oreal, via Telegraph Fashion

Photo: L’Oreal, via Telegraph Fashion

This also brings into question what it means to be beautiful for the modern woman. For older models, it’s still important to have an element of aspiration: they must be exceptional looking – fit and healthy with glossy hair and clear eyes. Brands might not mind wrinkles as much these days, which is great… But if we’re to encourage real beauty perhaps we need to look to even more diversity in models.

Debra Bourne, co-founder and director of All Walks Beyond the Catwalk, lobbies for increased diversity in the fashion industry. In a recent interview with The Guardian, she said:
I would still like to see advertising and marketing shift towards a proposition built on a wider set of values than purely appearance, particularly in that older market. I am slowly seeing a shift where marketeers are recognising attributes and achievements of individuals rather than just the way they look. By the age of 50, we have lived for a sizeable amount of time and most of us have had some incredible and interesting experiences, which mean so much more than sublimely coiffed grey hair.
Female models represent a change in how we think of women in general. Their presence in the media can teach little girls imagining their future as marriage and children that they can also grow up to have a career outside the home. It is more important than ever to see the important women from all fields in our society  and hear their voices of experience.
Yes, we know that our boobs don’t look quite as perky as they did when we were 18. And we definitely need a better facial moisturizer most days… But that doesn’t mean that we’re hurtling towards being absolutely hideous as soon as we hit our thirty-fifth birthday! And it also asks us to question things like: Who determines what beauty is, anyway? Is it the point at which other people can consider us attactive? Or is it something that we get from within?
A huge congrats to those in fashion who have already taken the plunge in representing older women and starting to question this judgemental anti-aging thang… Now we can start to examine our own beliefs around age, sexuality, beauty, and the rest!
What do you think about Allure’s anti-aging declaration this week? A step forward for womankind in general? Let us know what you think in the comments!