The salt-and-pepper pound: where are all the fiftysomething models?

‘From 73-year-old Lauren Hutton for Calvin Klein to 88-year-old Daphne Selfe, older models are finally getting work with major fashion brands. But the absence of middle-aged models to bridge the gap makes it feel like just another fad’

This is a few excerpts from my MA in 2013:


Fifteen women were interviewed their ages ranged from 42 to 63. The largest
percentage (40 per cent) was in the 46-51 age group, followed by 33 per cent in the
52-57 age group. All of the women except one were in full time employment. A
conscious decision was made to minimize interviewing fashion industry people, as
they have a skewed view on the industry. This needed to represent real women and
show a true picture of clothing worn in everyday life. Their professions ranged from
teaching, counseling, writing and PR through to artists, designers and
photographers. The information garnered fed into the development of my MA
collection of sustainable clothing for this target audience.
Women aged over 50 accounts for 80 per cent of the nations wealth and make up
one third of the population (Mintel, 2012), yet according to this research, their
clothing needs are not being met by the high street. There are over 17 million babyboomers i.e. women in their late 40’s to 60’s in the U.K. (Aldridge 2004).

Three quarters of the women felt marginalised and that they were not spoken to as
authentic consumers of fashion product. Most described that advertisers only spoke
to them in a ‘Women & Home way’, about domestic cleaning products or at the other
end of the scale about incontinence products.
When the subject of mature women and the media was broached, emotions ran high.
Many of the women interviewed were disenfranchised by the fashion industry, due to
the industry ignoring them as bona fide consumers. In the report undertaken by The
All Party Parliamentary Group last year, it was apparent from the response that the
medias disregard of women that do not fit into the present ideal of waif thin, white
and pre-pubescent affected women’s body image and personal well being. And is creating huge swathes of women with body issues and eating disorders.
As quoted in APPG: ‘ the gap between the average consumer and the unrealistic,
unattainable and perfect appearance ideals presented in the media and advertising
may contribute to body image dissatisfaction, as the discrepancy between reality and
beauty was so vast.’ (APPG, 2012)

Sample 1 describes a recent experience at work:
“I write features for Women & Home amongst other magazines – I think it
does, but to a certain type of woman, working for them you have to have a
certain hairstyle, look. They present a certain type of woman…There’s a
safely barrier, but they do use younger models, but I don’t worry about that. I
did a shoot with them recently and they wouldn’t let me onto the shoot
wearing my clothes, I had to change into ‘their’ look.”
(Sample 1 2013)
Sample 5 agreed with the APPG findings:
“Like anything there’s got to be balance, I like to see young girls who look
amazing. But you also need the 55-year-old grey haired woman looking great.
There’s no diversity in media at the moment and if you see them they are
airbrushed to hell. Our generation is a tour de force; we are a bunch of firsts,
that people now are trying to emulate and its our time again, watch out we’re
(Sample 5, 2013)

In fact the last statement was concurred by Aldridge:
As some of this generation [baby boomers] has got older it appears to have
lost interest in fashion – but is this down to just age, or does it feel ignored by
retailers?… the fact that many of them feel under-served is ironic. These
people invented many of the fashions now on the high street, but as they
grew older, retailers forgot to stay with them (Aldridge, 2004).
Sample 2 amongst other of the women interviewed feels completely disenchanted
with the industry. ‘The images in the media are often of skinny anorexic looking white
girls. I accept that I am a mature black female and the fashion they often show would
not be suitable or practical for me and my lifestyle.’
(Sample 2, 2013)
“The high street offers clothes that are so youth-oriented that a grown woman would
look incongruous dressed in this manner. This is compounded by the fact that the
materials are inferior and more often than not the cut is skimpy, and the garments
are badly made. Yet what the high street offer, vacillates from this to the other
extreme end of the spectrum that of dowdy ‘granny’ clothes. This was confirmed
when the respondents were asked: ‘if brands catered for them? 67 per cent of the
women interviewed were unsatisfied with the offer available on the high street.”

More to follow…

Full article:


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