Jacynth and I share a passion for understanding fashion and using it as a vehicle for positive change. #psychologyforfashion
Last month I turned 26. Not a big deal to most, but in my head it was. Why? Well for one, apparently now is the time I need to start using anti-ageing treatments. Yes, according to the magazines, if you want to reap the benefits of an anti-ageing cream you
need to start at 26. There was huge uproar when Cara Delevigne was presented as the face of Dior’s anti-aging cream several months ago; but given she’s the same age as me, perhaps it makes more sense than it would appear? Moreover, the other day I read an article in a glossy that encouraged me to start considering botox.
In the US the number of women aged 19-34 having botox has risen by 41% since 2011, and it is estimated to be the same in the UK.
So, as ridiculous as it may sound, since turning 26 I have started wondering if my skin is looking any different. Similarly, it has made me question my appearance as a whole. Is it time to develop a more grown up style? Do I need to change my makeup? Logic tells me to stop being silly. I look no different than I did two months ago. And regardless I can dress and look however I want. And yet, that small voice of doubt is in my head, which goes to show just how damaging ageism in the Fashion and Beauty industry can
be. If we’re being encouraged to worry about ageing in our 20s, no wonder looking ‘older’ is feared by so many women.
As the founder of the first pro-age premium Fashion online boutique, and of the Ageism Is Never In Style Movement, I am often asked why women feel so invisible or irrelevant as they age. After all, that was precisely why I founded the-Bias-Cut – because I was growing
frustrated at seeing women like my mum being dismissed because of their age.
Typically a woman’s confidence grows as she gets older, so why does it go in the opposite direction when it comes to style and fashion? I meet so many women who have sentenced themselves to wearing only a couple of ‘safe’ colours or styles; they’d love to wear something brighter or more playful, but they are convinced that they can’t. In their minds, they are now resigned to the background.
Well is it really that much of a surprise?
We see 3000 to 5000 adverts a week, the majority of which are saying youth = beauty. Add on top of that the number of articles in magazines and online dictating what you can’t wear any more after a certain age, ageist terminology such as ‘anti-ageing’ instead of ‘pro-age’, and pieces neglectfully lumping everyone over the age of 40 or 50 together as ‘older’…. You’ve got to have pretty thick skin not to let that affect you. And this ageism isn’t just broad – it can be direct.
A couple of years ago I attended a leading fashion magazine event, where the majority of attendees were in their 20s. I ended up
chatting with a woman in her 60s who told me a member of staff had come up to her and said “Why are you here? You don’t belong here. This isn’t for you.” Moreover, I know of a designer who turned down an A-lister in her 70s wearing his gown to the Baftas because he didn’t want his ‘cool’ image being damaged. Being subject to prejudice on such a personal level can be soul destroying.
But not every 40+ woman feels like this. A couple of months ago I chaired a talk at the Royal Festival Hall discussing “Fashion Fades, Only Style Remains”, and a handful of the women in the audience said they have never felt invisible, and were quite shocked at the notion. However these were women who actively rejected Fashion, and had always dressed themselves to their own beat of the drum. If you intentionally reject society’s views, then it is much easier to reject its notion of ageism. But for those who love Fashion, or simply want to ‘fit in’, it is infinitely harder.
So what can we do about it?
Well the first step is understanding why we are made to feel as we do about ageing. Only then can we approach and view advertising, articles and the like with objectivity, and question their motives. For example, despite media telling me it’s time to invest in anti-ageing products, experts say it is futile at least until your late 30s. So it seems brands are marketing these products to younger women purely to access a larger market. It is also vital that we continue to challenge the Fashion and Beauty Industry’s ideals of beauty – and when I say ‘we’ I mean women and men of all ages. I’ve been asked a few times “why do you care about ageism, aren’t you too young?” but as I always say, just because you aren’t a victim of something, doesn’t mean you should sit by and do nothing (that said, one could argue we are all victims of ageism given how early we are encouraged to cling on to youth).
Together we need to recognise our power on social media. We should call out brands that actively demonstrate signs of ageism, and demand change. Equally we must praise those that celebrate style at every age, and only shop at ones that do, forcing others to take
notice. It’s also important that we encourage and support influencers of all ages. If we collectively fight ageism, we will be able to destroy stereotypes and develop a more inclusive definition of beauty. And then hopefully we’ll be less worried about ageing, and just
focus on celebrating the best version of who we are today.