85-year-old Daphne Selfe.

Everyone, keep next Tuesday evening free. There’s a brilliant, not-to-be-missed documentary Fabulous Fashionistas on Channel 4, starring six inspirational women whose average age is 80. Director Sue Bourne contacted me about a year ago during the research stage, we met for lunch and talked fashion, style and how to have an old age that’s not ‘boring, invisible and grim.’ Bourne has an impressive track-record: executive producer on the 9/11 documentary Falling Man, her other work includes Mum & Me a very touching programme about her mother Ethel’s struggle with Alzheimer’s, a series on law-breaking pensioners called Bus Pass Bandits and a Cutting Edge documentary about all the people who live on her west London street (116 in total). Bourne’s work has warmth, intelligence and compassion, and this latest project is fantastic – I bloody love her!

73-year-old artist Sue Kreitzman.


One year on, and I manage to catch up with the director in between TV appearances alongside the stars of the show. ‘It was really hard finding these women,’ she admits, ‘I found people who were still working and didn’t want employers to know their age, and one woman who had just borrowed a lot of money from the bank and didn’t want them to know she was 70.’ Although Bourne wanted to avoid celebrities and models, an exception was made for 85-year-old Daphne Selfe. The final Fashionistas include Britain’s oldest model, ‘allowed in because she was discovered in her seventies and that’s when her career really took off.’

I’ve often thought that this blog could be my mid-life crisis online. That’s Not My Age is a forum for confronting ageing (and ageism), a way of working things out and ‘finding inspiration from those who won’t go gentle’. So, I ask Bourne if the same applies to Fabulous Fashionistas: ‘Oh god yes. I pretend it’s of interest to other people but really it’s because I’m fascinated. I’m looking for role models for the next stage of my life – and these women are pioneers, they’re redefining old age. Christ, their average age is 80, I want to be like that! ‘


I’ve seen a preview of the documentary and it’s brilliant. But this isn’t a film about fashion, what unites these women is a determination to keep on going, in spite of illness, loss and everything else life has thrown at them. ‘If I’d gone to my producer and said I wanted to make a film about older people they wouldn’t have commissioned it,’ confesses Bourne, ‘The prism of fashion makes it fun, makes it visual, makes it interesting. Actually, it’s a film about life, it’s a film about ageing, it’s a film about spirit.’ It’s obvious that the director shares the same steely determination as the show’s participants, ‘I want films that make you smile and are hopeful about old age. The world is quite tough at the moment and I want young people to know that there is a future and a tomorrow. I would like people to look again at old age.’

So, did working closely with a group of Fabulous Fashionistas have an impact on Sue Bourne? ‘These women all have their own indomitable spirit, and in a sense, they gave me life lessons. I’ve had a tough few years – mum died, I’m on my own – and you meet these women and you think “Alright. Pick yourself up, dust yourself down and keep going.”‘

The final fashionistas: 75-year-old Jean (directly above) and 91-year-old Baroness Trumpington (wearing black leather).

As 73-year-old artist Sue Kreitzman says, ‘Growing old is a privilege, an adventure. You think about death but you choose life – just don’t wear beige, it might kill you.’

Fabulous photographs: Christopher Kennedy

26 thoughts on “Fabulous Fashionistas

  1. I'm glad you mentioned Sue's other documentaries (all of which I loved) the voice over on the advert for Fabulous Fashionistas annoyed both of us by declaring "…and all her clothes are from charity shops!" leading me to assume it was made by some upper class idiot who had no concept about real life.
    Sue Kreitzman is my new hero – beige is definitely the start to a slow death. xxx

  2. For those of you who don't live in the UK, you can subscribe to VPN UK and then watch British TV programmes on your PC using BBC I-player, ITV player and Channel 4 on demand. This programme has gone into my diary as one to watch on-line (while my OH watches football on Spanish TV!)

  3. Coulda Woulda Shoulda – I've met Daphne too, she's fabulous. Are you coming to my talk with Ari Seth Cohen at London College of Fashion??

    Vix – Haven't seen the ad/heard the voice over but sounds a bit odd. Thankfully Sue Bourne is a lovely, talented down-to-earth Scotswoman and not an upper class idiot.

    Sue Walker – thanks for the viewing advice, hopefully all my American followers will get to see the show.

  4. Saw Sue Bourne interview on BBC Breakfast with 2 of the amazing ladies. She is inspirational as are the women taking part. I do hope younger people watch the programme and keep it with them as they grow older.
    Love what you are doing here on your blog

  5. I did wonder actually when I saw the advert if you had something to do with the programme. I can't wait to watch it tonight. The women seem to have such style and personality and the confidence to be themselves.

  6. Alas, I don't have TV or broadband that can cope with TV, but this programme sounds well worth watching, and thank you to all those women who made and appear in it.

    Getting older doesn't have to be grim, beige or mouse-like.

    For more inspiration, come Scottish Country Dancing – great fun, keeps you physically and mentally fit, and gives you a social life (not just classes but getting dressed up to go out to dances). Everyone on the dance floor will turn out to be about 15 years older than you think they are. Dancing sustains us through divorce, bereavement, injury and illness. My own dance teacher is nearly 90, always poised and very stylish, and has been an inspiration to me since I started dancing 15 years ago.

  7. I watched this documentary last night, what an inspiring, well rounded, fun and moving piece of work, well done, Sue Bourne. (I have seen some of her other documentaries but did not realise it was the work of the same lady, I bloody love her too!)

    All the ladies featured were amazing. What was interesting was the response to Bridget Sojourners reconnoitre into the modelling world. The perception of mature ladies as old grannies knitting? Tokenism?

    Personally I think they are missing a trick here. (I just googled tokenism for the correct spelling and the definition is: the policy or practice of making a perfunctory gesture toward the inclusion of members of minority groups)

    The first wave of the baby boom generation are now approaching their seventies, hardly a minority group but the largest demographic. I think perceptions will be forced to change, I hope I am not being overly optimistic when I say we are on the brink of a revolution where ageism will be banished for ever.

    I am 46 and looking forward to maturing with style and panache.

    Apologies for the incredibly long comment but as you can see I was inspired.

  8. Would you believe we were stuck in Heathrow during a layover when I saw this was on television that night? I was hoping they might put us up in a hotel so I could watch it. Sadly we flew off before airtime.
    Your post was lovely; the film sounds delightful.

  9. I watched it on 4OD last night – such a fantastic, inspirational documentary. Although it did have my partner and I in tears at one point, I had no idea it would be so moving too.

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