Is this the new era of age diversity?
When I started That’s Not My Age, I had no intention of sharing pictures of myself. And if I’m perfectly honest, I still feel incredibly awkward in front of camera (just ask one of my photographer friends…) But times have changed and over the last decade women over-50 have become highly visible on social media, in advertising campaigns, TV, film and magazines. This increased representation is a wonderful thing. It is impressive to see women in high profile positions making a stand about gender equality, ageism and representation. I’m thinking of all the female politicians who speak out in spite of the harassment in parliament and online, of Carrie Gracie and Samira Ahmed taking on the BBC. And female actors creating their own production companies, in order to write, produce and direct more parts for older women. And in a very small way, this is the reason why I brace myself, overcome my self-consciousness and take one for the team.
The ‘new era of age diversity’ is a subject covered by Harriet Quick in the latest issue of Vogue; (sadly it’s not online or I would share it with you), who talks to models, designers, agents and photographers about their experience. Journalist and activist Caryn Franklin has walked in a number of runway shows including Art School’s socially-distanced presentation for spring 2021, and says of the event, ‘ There was such a spectrum of human identity on display: body difference, age, size, skin tone and trans-identity was all glorified and normalised.’ This is a subject Caryn and I have spoken about – how things have changed since we first worked together on a number of diversity research projects and how brilliant it is that, today, diversity covers a much broader spectrum.
But my focus continues to be on the ‘ age shift’ and the importance of older role models for women of all ages. For contemporaries who want to see women they can relate to and for younger women to know they have a choice and there should be no such thing as a sell-by-date. In the Vogue feature LA-based photographer Zoe Ghertner explains that working with older models is not only beneficial for the professional experience they bring but also on a personal level ,’ I like to see faces that tell a little history. It also makes me feel better about myself and the trajectory ahead.’
I love being part of this movement, part of the generation standing its ground. Grey hair, wrinkles and all. We’ve pushed back against tired stereotypes around what we can and cannot do, or wear. Now, owning your age and being comfortable in your own skin are celebrated. Our spending power and influence has prompted a shift in the fashion industry – away from a long-standing obsession with youth and towards a position more accepting of the ageing process. Not just ticking the mature box as part of a diversity package, but occupying centre stage. Having written about this issue for over a decade, it does feel like we’re living through a moment of change. Though obviously there’s still work to be done and we do still need to see equality in terms of job opportunities and pay in order to remain relevant in all aspects of our lives.
While I was musing over all things age-related last week, I found this feature on The Cut website – a round-up brilliant famous women sharing their thoughts on getting older. Here are some of my favourite quotes:
Oprah: “We live in a youth-obsessed culture that is constantly trying to tell us that if we are not young, and we’re not glowing, and we’re not hot, that we don’t matter. I refuse to let a system or a culture or a distorted view of reality tell me that I don’t matter. I know that only by owning who and what you are can you start to step into the fullness of life. Every year should be teaching us all something valuable. Whether you get the lesson is really up to you.” — Oprah, O, the Oprah Magazine, May 2011
Emma Thompson “If you look after yourself and you’re healthy, then you’ll have the energy to do things. But not to recognise getting older for what it is? I do think the infantilisation of our generation is one of the huge issues of our time. People wanting to be 35 when they’re 50 makes me think: Why? Why don’t you be 50 and be good at that? And also embody the kinds of choices that are sustainable at that age.” — The Guardian, September 2014
Suzanne Somers “One thing I love about ageing — and I do love ageing — I’ve got a wisdom that no young person can buy. You earn it.” — People, June 2020
STYLE NOTES: I’m wearing my old J.Crew denim shirt (similar HERE) , MiH Phoebe jeans and Birkenstocks with a new kaftan-inspired O’Keefe coat (a gorgeous, thank you gift from Sarah). In the second photo the white loafers are from Grenson (loaned and returned).