Photos: Annie Johnston

In a survey of 50-plus women published this week by J. Walter Thompson London, 86% agreed that style should not be defined by age. But we knew that anyway (see mantra in sidebar). The report entitled ‘The Elastic Generation’ reveals how older women are doing their own thing, are engaged, active and anti-anti-ageing –  we want to look good, not young. It’s just that the world hasn’t quite caught up with us yet.

I am happy to disclose my age (54) but I don’t want to be defined by it. Basically, I want nice clothes and I want the fashion industry to show women of all ages, sizes and ethnicities wearing them. Which is why I am hoping to do a few more That IS My Style photoshoots this year. The report refers to ageless living and agelessness; and the term Ageless Style is being used, a lot, right now. How else to describe women of all ages and the clothes they wear? Maybe we should stop trying to put labels on everything and just call it style. And living. Surely, if fashion brands get the clothes right (good fit, good quality fabrics, good size range and no skimping) then everyone will wear them, whatever their age…


Your thoughts on The Elastic Generation and Ageless Style, please. Oh and while we’re at it, is there anything you’d like to see more of on That’s Not My Age this year?

59 thoughts on “New research shows women over-50 don’t want to be defined by age (no shit, Sherlock)

  1. Beautiful look on you! The bright eyeliner is perfect! I SO agree! Quality and great fit would go a long way in allowing us to shine!?

  2. Now we need to see more shapes and sizes wearing stylish clothes – not just the tall and slim. Over to you Alyson!

  3. These past few years leading up to my 50th birthday have been like an out of body experience for me. I really, hand on heart honestly DO NOT THINK I AM 50. I feel no age, if that makes sense? I’m constantly learning in my new career which probably helps but I also forget that I’m not in my thirties (or even forties) any more. I don’t feel at all out of touch with younger generations (although they may think I am) in fact I feel more disconnected from Baby Boomers!
    Regarding anti-anging products I’m no fool. I know that nothing topical, sold over the counter, will make a scrap of difference to wrinkles. It’s just not potent enough. Anyone spending a lot of money on a promise of that is being duped – sorry, that’s a fact. The only thing that offends me more is teenagers & women in their twenties modelling clothes marketed to women over 40. Let’s be honest, who could afford Chanel at 25?
    Sure I’d like to see diversity in modelling but I’m not seeing yet, not really. Throwing us a bone occasionally doesn’t cut it. It was a promising start when Lyn Slater did the Mango campaign but not nearly enough has happened since. I look forward to seeing you in a campaign or two Alyson 😉

    1. Awesome reply Michelle. I totally agree with you 100%! I turn 57 this year myself. I find myself enjoying the company of younger generations as well as, if not more than my baby boomer family and friends. I particularly thrive in my work place because of younger colleagues. My biggest challenge when buying clothes for myself is always the lack of range in my size (16). Quality product and style in my size is very hard to find.

  4. Totally agree! The choice of clothes and style, shows that we are living fully and that is to feel alive, happy and enjoying everything!

  5. In my seventies, I am beginning to think of women 55 as young! I like seeing older, just plain old, women, dressed with style. I do not plan to fade into the woodwork. Keep up the good work.

  6. Here’s a thought. What does the ‘Elastic Generation’ really mean? Flexible style or elastic waistbands? Someone’s having a laugh at our expense….

  7. I note that even while wanting to promote agelessness, there is stll a cap given of 70 or 75. What shall we do then? Curl up and die?

  8. ‘Living according to how they feel’ says the report. This is really heartening as I sometimes feel that I am a 19 year old trapped in a middle aged body. I reckon that the style I’ve developed now should see me through to my dotage.
    In terms of what I enjoy seeing on the TNMA, I like seeing all the styles out there that aren’t a taupe shift dress ( with control panels ) and taupe court shoes 🙂 Alyson, you got me back into my teenage staple, the biker jacket – thank you!. I’m wearing it with a plain white shirt tonight in memory of Mark E Smith.
    Also, one of the reasons that I love your blog is that you cover societal/wellbeing issues instead of just style. I really enjoy these and all the comments of women in my age group, really insightful.
    More Elaine Kingett too please.

  9. Ladies of different sizes, ages 50 up to whatever, more reasonably priced clothes, as older often means limited budget. Personally I don’t want to spend all my money on clothes….experiences float my boat these days!!

    1. Have you tried a good consignment store that caters to better brand name and boutique clothing? You don’t have to spend a fortune to look great. I own a consignment store that loves to personal shop (free) for any woman. We believe dressing well is wonderful for the spirit for women of any age,

  10. Finally, someone thought to ask real women over the age of ‘whatever’ their thoughts on what style and fashion mean to them.
    Those style articles in fashion magazines that suggest what is an ‘appropriate’ clothing choice for women, based solely on their age, are so annoying – as if each decade of a woman’s life shrinks her choices.
    I am weary of bored looking teenagers, in awkward poses and irregular lighting, modeling adult clothing. Hopefully the trend toward photographs of real people who look like they feel good and are dressed to show it will become the dominent trend.

  11. Ageless style is a wonderful ideal. I obviously care or I wouldn’t love this blog as much as I do. But being healthy, exercising and feeling great is more important to me. Now that I’m retired from my corporate job and work from home, I usually just hang out in something I can wear on my daily walk. And I’m happier than when I was out spending money on clothes. Still, if I actually have to wear something nice, this is where I will come for inspiration.

  12. I am almost 54 but feel no age. Still going to concerts (alone) and dressing how I chose. While I don’t have any children (one reason I feel no age) I am friends with folks of all ages. Seeing tall thin young models is wonderful! That doesn’t bother me a bit even though I know everyone is begging for diversity of age and size. Living how I chose is a choice for me but I understand it doesn’t work for everyone. Maybe one day my age might bother me but I don’t see that on the horizon anytime soon. Yeah for all of us!

  13. Not keen on the term Elastic Generation. I like the Guardian weekend feature All Ages on a particular theme. There is a mixture of ages and ethnicity wearing stylish affordable outfits. Granted the grey haired models of my age or younger are always tall and slender. Some of us do thicken around the middle and develop with age a larger bosom. Both tend to make clothes look more matronly. Recently I read a profile of Patty Boyd now around 70 who had been a slim long-legged dolly bird when young. She was married to George Harrison and then Eric Clapton. She said she lamented loss of her prettiness and her waist. This interview was in connection with a film about Eric Clapton’s life which I saw.

    Maybe one needs more images of attractive older women who aren’t as slim as they were once. And examples of what looks good and how to dress in a flattering modern manner. All the young models who illustrate your posts look good in the slim fitted clothing but can one see oneself in these clothes. Some of the more affordable high street shops only cater for this shape and age range. At the other end of the spectrum is Oska a German clothing line which has generously cut clothing in natural fabrics and good colours every season. They are fairly expensive but very good quality. I own several dresses especially cotton and linen summer dresses which I have taken in so they are less voluminous. Bought on sale and then modified they are very useful basic clothes. But on their website these clothes only feature on the young and slim who probably aren’t their target customers.

    Please keep up the posts about dealing with greying hair and health issues. These seem to encourage a lot of feedback which is informative to read. Your example has given me the confidence to grow out my dyed hair which is slow to go grey. Second attempt underway. Hair condition good without colour some money saved and a snip off the ends only every two months or so. Finding topics which people don’t talk about but which are preoccupying a good idea. And also More Dash than Cash, which is my maxim, on how to look good on a budget and not paying designer prices. Overall keep up the good work Alyson.

    1. hi like you I am not happy with the phrase “Elastic Generation” what is it referring to, the only thought that came into my mind was elastic waistbands!!!!!!that does not give any type of hint of style. It will not be a phrase I will be using. 52 next week and I like to think I have my own style – ska/mod head but doing it my way.

  14. Is it just in the UK that ‘they’ regard the over fifties as OLD? On a trip to Denmark I noticed that all the women dressed well, interestingly, good fabrics, simple styles, comfortable shoes too. The younger ones also dressed well too and there was a distinct lack of show-it-all type of dressing like we have here in the UK. Maybe they just have better taste and more style from an early age. Heaven knows why that here the common belief is that dressing like a cheap tart is a desirable look. Next to our European neighbours we just look desperate. I am with you Alison, it is not about age it is about self respect, enjoying the clothes we wear and looking good no matter who you are or how old you are

  15. I feel sad for Patty Boyd that she should feel like that. What an amazing and privileged life she must have led – married to George Harrison for heaven’s sake! – and to have what seem to me to be such petty concerns? Never having been ‘pretty’ and being very short in stature which caused me some angst as a youngster, I have got more and more comfortable with myself as I have aged!

  16. I agree with Vicci on the definition of ‘Elastic Generation’ and wonder did the author of the report provide such? I wholeheartedly agree with ageless style but also that it’s about how we feel on any given day.
    Others might say we look good but we also have to feel it to carry our style with confidence. Feeling confident about my style has on occasion helped me to deal with the less positive comments of a few ‘friends’. I’m 63 this w’end and over the last couple of years have grown my hair long much to the concern and questions if others. I love it and it makes me feel good about myself!
    A great article.

  17. While I maybe part of the younger set of readers (43 almost 44), I had dyed my hair to cover the grey partly to fit in and partly because that is what I remember my mom doing at this age. She and I both had our children later in life and I at least did not like the feeling of “old” symbolized by that grey. However, after finding your blog (and hating how my hair feels due to the chemical wear-n-tear), I’m ready to accept who I am, grey and all. Silver “lights” are beautiful and feeling comfortable in my own skin is more important than following the crowd.

    I would love more articles or interviews of women in general. Rarely do I get the chance to read articles about women who have done amazing things, created amazing things, or survived amazing obstacles in the mainstream media. Every time I read one you’ve written, I get inspired and want to do more with my life.

  18. This is a great article Alyson, and there are some fabulous comments from the contributors above. Michelle’s comment resonates with me – I don’t feel any age in particular! And I certainly do not want to shrink into the background wearing beige…currently my hair is very long and is a divine red/violet colour that my hairdresser mixes just for me! It makes a strong statement about how I choose to be at age 55…unique, confident, colourful and positive.
    We all deserve to feel strong and confident at every age…and should not have to shrink into the background simply because we are ‘mature’.
    I too would like to see more images of women over 50 of varying shapes and sizes for a bit more diversity…not celebrities or models, but mature women with style and confidence.
    That said, I’m more than grateful to see any articles about empowering older women, as these are few and far between where I come from.
    I live in Melbourne, Australia, and we are so far behind the UK in terms of a pro-age approach for older women. Many people think of Australia as a progressive, diverse and welcoming society – and this is far from fact. Ageism here – particularly with regard to women – is a huge problem…which no one is talking about or making any progress with. It is a joy to read your articles. I can only hope that we eventually catch up – and catch on – here in the antipodes.
    Thanks for the brilliant work you are doing Alyson. And thanks to the women here for their insightful comments. You all give me hope for the future.

  19. While we are still focusing on age, whether it is anti-ageing, ageless or whatever, we are still seeing age as the central thing. It will only be when we can get over this and concentrate on other things that can define us that we will be progressing. At least our generation is moving towards this.

  20. Alyson, you asked what we want to see in future TNMA: These days my wishes/needs are for clothes that are softer and looser, that don’t require heels or thin-soled shoes. I want to wear these clothes at home in the morning, then still look presentable when I dash to the market or meet a friend for a lunch. They carry me through a busy afternoon, a casual dinner and off to a movie or play. I see younger women who’ve crafted stylish wardrobes that seem to go 24/7, and I want help finding and styling pieces that look good and feel good without fuss. (Oh no, sounds like I’m yearning for the velvet track suit of my mother’s generation. Maybe I am getting old, ha!)

  21. Very interesting article Alyson. I am 60 but feeling no older than 40, 50 is nothing compared to 60 psychologically! I have lost my mother last year and this combined with me turning 60 have made me think more of ageing… but isn’t it a great time for women over 50? There are more and more women over that age who are influencers on Instagram for example. Some of them have great messages, not all about fashion but about style and grey hair.
    I am in Australia at the moment and took this opportunity to let my hair go grey as I was feeling more and more allergic to dyes. (Not sure I would have done it, had I been in the UK. Anyway, I am going back to London and will stay grey!) Encouraged by women like you and others, even in Australia. I have met a great Melbourne-based influencer who is over 50 and ageing very stylishly and she is not alone.

    Articles about how to dress/what shapes suit best our changing bodies… independent fashion too, tired of always looking at the same expensive brands (Gucci, Prada etc) .

  22. You have such fabulous style, so I’m very excited to hear you’ll be doing more “That IS my style” posts this year. It’s also great when you share the style of the women whose style inspires you; style sisters so to speak. Thank you for being willing to put yourself out there for those of us who struggle so!

  23. Hear hear, Rochelle. I also second/third the request for clothes and models showing styles that suit those of our bodies that have “thickened”. Those of you who are still slim, you can wear a wider choice of clothes – I know, that was me till I hit 60. But since then, I have to search for clothes that don’t make me look frumpy, that sit on my body well. (Being short doesn’t help.) It can be hard and expensive. Thanks, Alyson. Keep up the good work!

  24. Allyson I agree with everyone else- more over 50 people with style is always inspirational. I would like to see more real representation of true body shapes and more real un-airbrushed faces in magazines and advertising and all around. Love your blog. Keep up the terrific posts. I also wrote on my blog today about getting in a rut and especially as we get older we feel we have to dress a certain way. It’s not fun. Forget it. Find the joy in life and dress and way you want, age be damned!

  25. I second all the comments above, particularly about teenagers modeling designer clothes, this has totally put me off buying magazines these days.
    Also, to be able to find clothes that flatter my body, I am still slim ( weigh the same as I did in my thirties ) but am rather dismayed at how the body changes after 60. Thickening waist, saggy crepey arms, and back fat !! I am , however, grateful to be fit and healthy with plenty of energy.
    Perhaps you could feature swimsuits at some point, I recently bought a new one,and it’s going to take a bit of courage to step out on the beach , every year it gets harder !
    Like you, Jackie Callan, I have long hair and love it, but I do get comments. And I’m learning to ignore them. Or my come-back is ” if I can’t do what I want at this age, when can I ? ” Or, ” oh I’m just having a hippy phase “

  26. Just to add, re: long hair. When I get comments questioning mine, they are usually from women around my age with badly dyed, unflattering short haircuts. Maybe next time I should come back with ” you think your’s looks better, hmm? ” Too bitchy perhaps ? But tempting !

  27. My husband said the other day that I look better than I ever have..I’m now 56, he met me when I was 38. I’m definitely plumper and floppier..its got to do with wearing better quality clothes and finding the haircut that really suits me. That’s about it..not rocket science.

  28. Suggestions for what we want to see more of? Well I really enjoy your interview with interesting mature women about how they are living and dressing. Both women who have had a long career in a particular field and those who’ve had a late career change. As one of the latter I’m really interested in how others have navigated the style change. It would be good to hear about more women from outside London.
    I know it’s a cliche but London is different, I spend part of my life in the smoke for work related stuff and dress codes are definitely different from the Westcountry. My preferred style veers more towards the casual glam/gentlewoman/ leather jacket look (which is why I love TNMA!) but when I’m at events in my home area or elsewhere outside of London I can feel rather underdressed and have to be careful I don’t look like I haven’t made an effort!

    1. I’m a Londoner living in the North, and I am always underdressed for here. My style is
      glam tomboy/gentlewoman (thanks to TNMA), and even though I have long hair and do a lovely ‘going out’ makeup I still get weird looks because I don’t wear dresses or high heels. Not changing though – tuxedo trousers ’til I die.

    2. I would to include more women from outside London, Maureen. But the logistics and the financial side of things – basically time and
      money for travel, a photographer, possible overnight stays) are currently holding me back. This is something I really want to look into this year. Maybe you can be my first volunteer?! Drop me an email and we can discuss.

  29. I am so tired of seeing children wearing clothes aimed at the 50 plus market. It makes me angry that brands and stores persist in excluding the largest population ever in Australia of women over 50. I get invited each year to a fashion show as a VIP customer of a particular large store here in Australia . The audience at the last show I attended was made up of women over 50 and 60 and the clothes, fashion and beauty advice were all aimed at a far younger audience. Not relevant at all.

  30. Your blog is terrific Alyson. If I could get my hair (still an unnatural colour!) to end up looking like the beautiful mane in the photo I’d be a very happy 60-year old. Would you be able to give us some simple tips on how to transition from dyed to undyed without giving up halfway through the process? Thanks very much, your do a brilliant job.

  31. What’s depressing is the way older models are used as a stunt. You couldn’t get more token than the way the fashion industry features someone over 80 in huge goggle glasses and a riot of colour and tells us how absolutely amazing that woman is. While simultaneously the fashion industry fails to offer us women of style in their 50s and 60s. Unless we go over a certain age and visually fit a certain in-your-face, bolshy refusal to go quietly, then we are invisible. Still. In the 21st century.
    Well I’m never going to want to wear purple and dye my hair orange. I am me. I am 63 and I like clothes that don’t wear me. I have spending power. How come there’s no reflection of me anywhere in the advertising I see? *and breathe*

  32. I am 75 but often confused for 50ish. Clothes in stores in SoCal are awful unless one buys designer items; awful means cheap, shoddy tailoring, dull colors, and poor designs. Many manufacturers of lines that were good quality a few years ago are now opting for the same price tag or higher for inferior goods. It is quite challenging in my opinion. Buying a good coat took 2 years to find. Even then this required tailoring expenses which I must take on as a given due to being petite. Looking at the seams, buttonholes and shoulder construction in many items is disheartening. Therefore I am most cautious and seem to spend more on shoes and the occasional excellent handbag these days versus ‘outfits’ but want to remain current. I was on a travel bus about 4 years ago; many of the older ladies looked like they had just rolled out of bed and threw on what was on the floor. It was terribly sad and it doesn’t need to be this way. They seemed to say ‘I have no value’ they embarked on a fun day from the front of their meeting spot at a senior living complex. I am resisting!!

  33. To Maisie and anyone else thinking about swimwear and being unclothed. I’m a swimmer and have been also doing aqua aerobics classes for a long time. This is great exercise and one is immersed up to the shoulders. No one is looking at anyone else. It’s very good toning for arms and everything else and it is fun to do. For swimwear I only wear Speedo or a French equivalent Arena now. There is a line called Sculpture with good bust support as well as some Lycra to hold everything in place. These functional suits are the least expensive around and the most chlorine resistant too so they last well if rinced straight away in cold water. I used to wear nicer looking ones bought at M & S but they rotted and lasted three months before I threw them away. In addition to swimming crawl on my back and exercises in water I recommend press ups and using one kilo hand weights to tone arms. I got on to this when there was endless coverage of Michelle Obama and her toned arms. I’m pensioner age and I still want to maintain standards for myself principally. It adds to one’s confidence and clothes fit better.

  34. I love your blog and particularly love the posts which produce so many comments to read.
    I gave up buying magazines long ago when I realised that they were cover to cover advertisements and not relevant to me in any way so your blog has become my window to a style world filled with real people wearing real clothes doing interesting stuff.
    You have helped me develop my look after retiring from the corporate world with a wardrobe full of things I was never going to wear again. But as well as your articles on dressing , I’ve particularly enjoyed things you’ve written under the “lifestyle” banner so I’m requesting more of what I’ll call “ what to do while you’re wearing it”, and more people stories too.

  35. Hello. Just today I saw a photo of Cindy Crawfords teen daughter modeling Chanel. So ridiculous. The major fashion industry houses really seems to be in their own bubble. I would adore more interviews and examples of how to dress like in your books – articles with photos of actual garment examples and different styles shown on 3-4 different women . I love that. Makeovers are cheesy but I would love to see stories of how to not become the mops on the tour bus that another reader told of! How to be comfy but not be in Spandex or Athleisure wear day in day out. Also more articles on dealing with body morphing haha as well as stories of inspiration of women with children now grown – how they live out Act II. Fun ways to date your mate after 25 + years and what to wear on those dates. Makeup and hair stories are always appreciated too.
    I love your work Allyson! Keep it up. Waiting for Book 3!

  36. As a hairdresser of almost 51 I’ve let my greying hair grow long. I love it. I’ve encouraged and helped transition several clients from dyed hair to acceptance of their glorious grey. Not everyone agrees and some feel free to tell me!

  37. This post reminds me of a friend of mine, an artist in her late fifties, who’s recently started DJ-ing at art openings/shows. Her knowledge of modern pop/hip-hop/rock music, and the ways in which it can be used to establish a mood and create a party, probably rivals anyone’s in the industry. She loves the responses she gets when the audience sees “an old lady with her headphones on, behind two turntables.”

    I told her that the “audience” better get used to it. Women in their forties and fifties, and beyond, come with a wealth of knowledge and experience the young’uns likely don’t. We are, as you say, elastic. I’ll add hardworking, curious, engaged, and don’t whine and cry when no one continually tells us how awesome we are. We are what I like to call Generation Work (It).

  38. Haha….I love the “ageless” concept. “Ageless” as in definitely not young! I think even the fact that this is a subject is ageist. I am 60 and I love this blog, but I also adore the magazines and fashion brands aimed at the young. I still identify with young women and would hate to be categorised or limited by an age specific (or “ageless” specific) offering. It would be like going into Marks and Spencer and only being allowed to look at the classic collection!!!
    I would also like to reply to Michelle that some young women do wear Chanel. I bought my first Chanel suit aged 25 having saved up for years. At the time (1980’s) the style looked wonderful on young women and very Mumsy on anyone “ageless”. It is not something I would wear now….

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