Maye Musk photo: Business of Fashion

There have been a couple of articles recently on fashion’s ‘greynaissance’. I know. The Business of Fashion’s ‘Meet fashion’s next generation: Over 60s’ discusses the proliferation of companies using older models such as Lyn Slater and Maye Musk in order to entice customers and ‘serve as storytellers, rather than just faces who sell a garment’. And a similar feature in the New Statesman entitled, ‘Meet the over-60s supermodels: how a greynaissance is sweeping through fashion,’ concludes that while we’re moving down the right path, more diversity is required.

Older women are no longer being ignored by the fashion industry and that is good news. Much as I admire this greynaissance, I agree with the New Statesman. We’re in danger of moving from invisibility in fashion advertising and the media, to age-appreciation of a stereotypical variety. We’re allowed to ‘love our age’ and get old, but only if we look a certain way. There are many different ways of ageing – many different decades, body shapes, ethnicities, sizes. What we need is to see this diversity reflected back at us.

Jan de Villeneuve on the cover of the latest issue of Harper’s Bazaar Netherlands,


Having written about this issue for a decade, I do enjoy seeing this shift in attitudes, vocabulary and imagery – I guess what we’re witnessing now is just the start of the revolution (grey-volution?). Hopefully we will reach a point where we’re no longer talking about age and older models. Here’s what greynaissance model Jan de Villeneuve said to the New Statesman about modelling, confidence and age:

‘I think I do prefer modelling now that I’m older. It’s more compatible with my general spirit. Here I am, wrinkles and all, and people simply have to accept that. When I was younger, I never really felt that I was beautiful, I was very insecure. These days I’m much happier. I stopped colouring my hair years ago, and it felt very good to not worry about keeping up with some impossible image. It’s easier getting older, I look the way I look and that’s that!’

‘I get a lot of very supportive messages from teenage girls and girls in their early 20s, they seem particularly inspired by the images and tell me how beautiful I look. And older women say how happy they are to see someone who has aged naturally. I haven’t had any work done, and it seems to give women a sense of relief to find you can still look good in your 70s without expensive or invasive surgery.’

If we are storytelling then this is the happy ending. So far…

Here’s a feature on this issue I wrote for the Guardian last year.


26 thoughts on “Love your age: fashion’s greynaissance

  1. Here here! Whilst I think these models are gorgeous and clearly things are moving in a more positive direction with regard to older women and fashion/beauty, the way they look is as unobtainable to most of us as trying to be 21 again. !

  2. I will be 70 next month. I am stopped on the street all the time and told “You are so beautiful, pretty, attractive.” “Are you a model?” I carry myself, all 70 years, proud and tall. I don’t dress frumpy nor do I dress like I’m 21. I don’t wear torn jeans, but I feel that my appearance is classic chic. I don’t color my long gray hair, I keep things clean and simple. I exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet, indulge once in awhile, glass of wine, piece of pie, but I have a balance system that seems to work very well for me…..I feel that as women age we are put under a tremendous amount of pressure to remain “YOUNG”. I have always embraced my age, from my teens, and now into my 7th decade of life. It’s nice to see people in their 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, of color and ethnic backgrounds, handicapped, etc. etc. being visible in our world. We are all beautiful and have something to contribute to this world. I love the fact that more and more people are talking about “ageism”, and embracing where they are in their journey. And I love that you are about style, not age, on your marvelous blog. Thanks!

    1. I couldn’t have said it better, Jill! At 65, I’m comfortable with who I am and I have no desire to be younger. Like you, I exercise and eat well. My style of dress is classy casual and I have embraced my unruly greying curls. I love Alyson’s blog because she’s so real!

    2. Jill, you took the words right out of my mouth. I am turning 65 next week and also have long gray hair. Aside from staying active, eating well and having hobbies I love (and working!), my best beauty advice (ok, other than sunscreen and retinol) is to stand up straight (posture is SO important), and SMILE. I am also approached by strangers in restaurants and on the street and told, “You’re so beautiful”. It’s embarrassing, but in a good way. I will also never wear torn jeans, it’s just not my thing! My mother, long gone, would never have understood that trend! As has been said before, especially by French women: “It’s about looking your best YOU!” What ever that may be.

  3. Agree, agree of course. I think it’s also interesting how the “greynaissance,” the “plus-size” movement, all of the “models of diversity” have had to advocate for themselves. We have to step up and allow ourselves to be seen, no one is just going to make us “visible.” These movements are not just about fashion but social trends and politics. Thanks xx

  4. I just want to say how much I look forward to all of your posts. You seem to read my mind in many of your responses to age related issues. Thank you for eloquently representing all of us “invisible” women.

  5. If you’ve got good bone structure, you can look pretty amazing as this model does with her short, sharp, grey style. I’m of the
    opinion that those women look wonderful and good for them – they’re beautiful. Otherwise, the choice for older women, fashion wise, is keep it neat and sweet, chic and classic, or go for bold with glasses, hats, crazy colours, and generally veer towards Vivienne Westwood… the choice is ours.

  6. You don’t have to be beautiful/stunning/have good bone structure/be a size 12 or anything to be an attractive older woman, A huge amount of it is mindset and not staring in the mirror very often. (Very bad idea!). Maye Musk looks amazing and just like all the younger models has been airbrushed and photoshopped to look that way. I have seen (the occasional) photo of her when she looks very ordinary and one wouldn’t look twice. There is a fabulous liberation in getting older – I don’t dress to attract male attention any more – I couldn’t care one iota, I don’t dress for other women, I wear what the mood takes me and have salt and pepper hair. Sensible shoes are essential (I love my sensible shoes – too many years of high heels and mincing along, just like wearing bloody corsets). I have way more fun now as I am pleasing myself. I would never dream of Botox or surgery – more corseting!

  7. I just wrote about my sister-in-law getting fillers added to her face and how happy it made her. Although I have been anti-anti-aging, I think it’s time we stop judging what makes other women happy. I’ve been guilty of this myself, so I’m not throwing rocks.

  8. “We’re in danger of moving from invisibility in fashion advertising and the media, to age-appreciation of a stereotypical variety. We’re allowed to ‘love our age’ and get old, but only if we look a certain way. There are many different ways of ageing – many different decades, body shapes, ethnicities, sizes. What we need is to see this diversity reflected back at us.”

    Alyson, I cannot second this strongly enough! I love that older models are being included and that age is being seen more positively, but I worry that we’re being set up with yet another unattainable (for most of us) standard. I would love to see more diversity, more inclusion of women who aren’t white, silver-haired and very thin.

  9. Love your article. Agree that we are “in danger of moving from invisibility…to age-appreciation of a stereotypical variety. We’re allowed to ‘love our age’ and get old, but only if we look a certain way. There are many different ways of ageing – many different decades, body shapes, ethnicities, sizes. What we need is to see this diversity reflected back at us.” It moves me to read that Jan de Villeneuve hears from young women who are inspired by her. I’ve been talking to and reading about more and more young women who are choosing to age naturally without feeling the need to freeze at age 35. I’ve been waiting to grow out my gray hair until the gray replaced most of my very dark natural hair color. I’m still not there, but I may grow it out anyway. I’m tired of the time and cost it takes to keep it colored. I began to gray young and wish it had occurred to me to just let it be. Ironically, my ex-husband encouraged me to let the gray come, which is what my mom and both my sisters did. The gray doesn’t bother me, but the transition period does. This is when I admire my blonde friends who gray in a more subtle way. Thank you for your inspiring visual and intellectual style.

  10. What a fabulous coat the model is wearing! Yes, air-brushed around the eyes and mouth or drinking a magic youth potion. But, the spirit and style are authentic and anyone can have that.

  11. WE’VE COME A LONG WAY BABY!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Do remember that AD for cigarettes?
    Well we have and lets hope MORE of it catches on and ALL BODY TYPES will be included!
    You are looking DARN GOOD these days…………..what is your secret?

  12. YES! I am almost 57 and have an untouched face and silvery hair but I am a size 18 and so far all these older models are super slim though undeniably gorgeous. I too would like to see much more diversity with, all ages, colours and shapes shown together as in real life.

  13. Love the post, thanks Alyson. But I am stating to think that ‘not had any work done’ is the female equivalent of the male ‘I did not have sexual relations with that woman’. It’s all in the interpretation and definition. I too workout tons, eat right, drink plenty of water, try to get enough sleep, don’t color my hair etc. But yes, when people say you don’t look your age (almost 63), I state all of those items and add, I do Botox and fillers. My choice, my money but at least I am honest about it. If I had $1 for every person that claims ‘they have not had any work done’ I would be very rich. All I ask that women (models, actresses, or anyone ) be honest about it and if you don’t want it or believe in it, don’t bash the women that do.

  14. Hmm…while I applaud the change, how much do you think this has to do with market demographics? Economic prospects for millenials are much poorer than they were for boomers. The young (in the West at least) have far less disposable income, more debt, etc. generally speaking, so it makes sense for fashion companies to advertise to the demographic with money. I’d have to see if they use older models in emerging economies to prop up my hypothesis!

  15. I agree with many of the comments made by Maudie Susan B and Josanne above. And Alyson here and in her Guardian article.
    Not a perfect situation since a new stereotype of the tall slender ex-model older woman modelling clothes is now before us. But that is preferable to no older women in fashion shoots or advertising.
    Now Isabella Rosselini who was sent away from Lancôme for looking too old is back in her 60s as the face of a new range of face creams for the 60plus market. I saw these in Boots. She looks good but definitely her age which is my age.
    Like several readers I do what I can to keep fit and healthy and do what I can to look after myself. But I have never had fillers or Botox and won’t do so now. I make do without it. Maybe I’d look less tired with it but are not about to find out. If I had the spare cash for treatments I’d spend it going to museums in a foreign capital instead.
    Alyson wrote in the Sunday Times recently about letting her blonde hair turn grey and that she isn’t using Botox or fillers. Good for her. I’m choosing to follow her lead. Grey hair growing in. Now somewhat ombré with lower bits brownish but the texture is good and all dryness gone if one uses good conditioner. Best one I’ve found for straight smooth hair is Living Proof Restore. Not cheap but little needed and it works.

  16. Alyson Walsh is a journalist I admire and respect. In this article, she makes a very valid point about the need for older women to be visible in their myriad shapes and sizes. There have been some positive steps towards recognising that women over 50 still exist on the planet, and that perhaps we might just have something to contribute to society. However it is saddening to see that the women lauded as leading the vanguard for older women all look the same. They literally look like clones…all white, slim, statuesque, chiselled faces and grey hair…and often wealthy or famous (or have famous sons!).

    While it’s great to see older women being rescued from society’s scrap heap, it just doesn’t cut it to validate only one way to look. This approach is still tokenistic: it feels like we older women are being given a consoling pat on the head while being told “Yes, we will accept that you exist and that you may even have some worth – but only if you look like this”. So what’s the message here? That you can exist as an older woman in society – but only if you are tall, slim, Caucasian and have grey hair? It’s still such a narrow and excluding view. And this is the heart of the problem.

    I almost feel angrier about this “grey-naissnce” recognition that I did about being made to feel invisible! Once again, we are being “shown” what we should look like as older women in order to be viable…by the media and the mostly male-dominated industries that tell women of all ages what we need to look like in order to be “acceptable”. When you think about it, nothing has changed since we were young women being told we needed to look like the supermodels of the 80s and 90s.

    And this is not good enough.

    It’s not older women who are not acceptable…it’s society’s response that’s not acceptable. As ever, we are being governed by the long-reigning “male gaze”. For millennia, males have told us how we need to behave and what we should look like, dress like and sound like. Surely it’s time this approach was overthrown – once and for all.

    And personally, I hate the term “ greynaissance”. I’m 55 and refuse to leave my hair grey. It makes me look pale and sallow and unwell. I prefer some colour so that I look healthy. (Not that I need to justify the decision to colour my hair!) Currently my hair is a delicious, rich red-violet: it makes my face come alive! I get stopped at least five times a day by people of all ages and genders who tell me how gorgeous my hair is! I don’t colour it for the compliments – I colour it because it makes me feel vital and well…and it’s FUN!

    The take home message here is do what makes YOU feel strong, happy, passionate and positive. You don’t have to look a certain way and be slotted into a specific pigeonhole. If you enjoy being grey, go for it. If not, that’s ok too. If you enjoy wearing heels, or prefer wearing comfy shoes, either is fine – as long as YOU are happy. If you like to wear some makeup, or prefer your own natural look, either is perfect.

    We’re big girls now – we get to decide what we do and how we look in order to feel comfortable about ourselves. We don’t need to be bombarded by images that tell us older women need to look a certain way. Let’s forget about being dominated by society’s narrow view!

    I believe our aim should be to have women of all shapes, sizes, ethnicities, backgrounds – and hair colour – represented in all forms of media to show that looking a specific way is irrelevant. Women of all ages and colours and all shapes and sizes have so much to contribute…so we need to stop listening to those who tell us how to be…and allow ourselves to just get on with all the fabulous things we can do!

    As wonderful as these grey-haired “ambassadors” are, are, it’s time for them to move over and make way for the rest of us – who may or may not have grey hair!!!

  17. It’s wonderful that older women are now beginning to be accepted as models and spokespersons for brands. It makes sense, this is a huge demographic with money to spend. An interest in fashion and all things aesthetic does not dissipate with age. But here is where I part ways with many of the comments, I may very well take heat for it, and believe me as a flawed person myself I’m not trying to be provocative but, I think the argument that the older models are still only perpetuating unobtainable ideals for most of us is wrong. First I’m happy that the age spectrum has increased to better reflect consumers. However lets not forget these are models, they are selling a product and they are hired to project a certain image, that’s all. It’s not a mandate that we all have to look that way, it’s advertising and since when do we let ads dictate how we see ourselves? We’re all better than that. We are not all cutout to be models and that’s ok, everyone has their own unique gifts, looks are only one aspect of a person. We celebrate gifted athletes though most can never match their achievements. Why not appreciate models for the gifts they were born with? Let’s not forget that this is a big step forward for making older women more visible, wrinkles and all!

  18. To me, the first model looks intimidating and even a little scary. I think it is a very curated look – the quiffed hair, drawn in brows, slashed pullover revealing her decollatage, and ‘artistic’ nails. I immediately thought of a ‘wicked Queen’ from a fairy-tale.

Leave a Reply

Thank you for commenting but please be respectful and considerate.
If you want to be in my gang, play nice.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.