I was about to post about my new furry Senso sandals pictured left when I happened upon this piece that stopped me in my fuzzy tracks: ‘Becoming Old and Becoming Extinct’: Challenging Ageism in Fashion and Lingerie in Medium.com written by Georgie Watts.
She reported that from February through March this year, the London College of Fashion has been hosting a lecture series on ‘isms’ in fashion as part of their Better Lives series.
Dr. Paul Matts PhD, a leading scientist in the field of skin care research, spoke on Ageism through the perspective of biology and evolution. Dr. Ros Jennings, director of WAM (Women, Aging and Media Research) and writer of ‘Rock On: Women, Ageing and Popular Music’, compared the ways two aging pop stars face aging through their on-stage personas and strategies. Ros asks, “Older men are cheered on in the world of pop music, while older women on stage seem to do all they can to disguise their age. Why?”
Ageist runs rampant in the fashion industry. Georgie notes, “There is evidence upon evidence piled up against the case that women past a certain age are valued in fashion. We see it everywhere and not enough is being done to represent and embrace the diversity, beauty and most importantly, realism that age brings. TV and film on the whole doesn’t present it, neither do fashion ad campaigns and there is a lack of diverse, desirabledesigns specifically for the ageing body.
The piece goes on to discuss evolution as a culprit, and as well as other factors (sexuality or our assumed lack thereof), and the whole issue of being ‘age appropriate’. Ms. Watts writes, “If you are old, you have beige M&S bras and sensible shoes and if you deviate from that formula, well, you’re a radical and will inevitably have the question raised of whether you should be like that ‘at your age’.” Ms. Watts references a piece on Madonna from the Daily Mail with the headline, “As Madonna poses for yet ANOTHER raunchy album picture, will she still be doing this at 70?” which includes comments such as ‘no intention of growing old gracefully’ or ‘taking a rest.’ Ms. Watts writes, “I know the Mail is no shining beacon of truth, but this illustrates just what the media think of a woman past 50 who is not settling into her Sunday slippers and is instead still wishing to express, embrace and celebrate her sexuality. ‘Madonna looks all trussed up with nowhere to go’ they say, as if she is trapped by trying to define herself through youthful eroticism and not, in fact, breaking out of the image of a sexless, invisible, older woman being imposed on her.”
And she posits, “What does age appropriate even mean? Is it simply to grow old in the ‘right way’? The only ‘appropriate’ way to my mind would be to grow in a way that makes you happy.”
This piece pissed me off and emboldened me at the same time. I struggle with all of this every day, that awful feeling of being invisible, too old for my increasingly young profession, and over-thinking my every sartorial move through the cracked and foggy reading glass lens of age.
So as I sit on the bus in my striped fur Yves Salomon jacket, leggings with the knees ripped out, shod in bright red Bernhard Willhelm sandals and a smirk, I’m happily giving father time the finger, at least today. Ladies, I hope you all do the same.
You can read Georgie’s wonderful piece here. It’s fantastic.