Over the last few months I have been disappointed in the direction the Sunday Times Style magazine has taken. Claudia Winkleman’s view on fashion (however witty) had been annoying enough, but the introduction of Georgia Toffolo’s column had me raging. The views of a 20 something super sloane (their words) who had won a reality tv show, was a step too far – even for a trashy tv fan like me!
I simply couldn’t understand why, what had been my go to Sunday style treat, offering an intelligent view on style for all ages, had become so millennial obsessed. I literally don’t know one single millennial or Generation Z’er who ever picks up a newspaper!
But, just as I was about to cancel my subscription, editor Lorraine Candy addressed the issue in her editors letter.
“The reader’s letter every magazine editor dreads has just dropped into my email inbox. It’s the one that states, with sad finality: “After looking through your magazine, there is nothing here for me”. Well, obviously you can’t please all of the people all of the time — I mean, I’m not Mary Berry, for goodness’ sake — but what was particularly mournful about this letter was the fact that our lovely reader was referring to the fashion pages, and what she was also saying was there is nothing here or anywhere for her because she is over 40.
Dear Gill from Arundel, aged 67, there is so much in Style and in the shops for you, but, to be blunt, you’re just not seeing it. So let me help, because yours is not a lone voice among women of your generation. I hear it often and, indeed, have recently given two talks to impressively successful women in the City, where a similarly mournful attitude to clothes and age cropped up. At a time when there is such a vast range of choice and price points, I find it hard to accept any woman can’t find what she likes (and it must be what you like, not what you need) either in stores or online. A change in attitude has to happen: women have to stop seeking mythical “age-appropriate” outfits and recognise that the rules around what you can wear as you grow older don’t exist. They are imaginary, either of your own making or a cloak of limiting expectations thrown over you by history and traditions that are meaningless.
When we put the pages of Style together, we’re looking at pieces we think any woman can wear, hoping to inspire you to try new things and get out of a fashion rut, to go into the changing room with five things you don’t normally buy. Not everything will suit you, of course, but you should at least try something new. I never want to hear anyone say I look “stylish for my age”; as a woman who enjoys fashion, I want to look stylish regardless of my age. We live in a moment when most mums have the same trainers as their teenage daughters (I do and I am 50 this year), so age is irrelevant.
Instead of opening the pages of Style and adopting the default mindset that there won’t be anything here for you, press refresh and open your eyes to new thinking. I know it can feel like we’re bombarded by images of younger-looking women, or trends that may only appeal to those under 30, but that is just a feeling, your feeling. Ignore it and you will start to see a whole new world of dressing well and with joy.
Getting older is so complicated and emotional. I think a little bit of grieving occurs for the younger woman you used to be, and you mistakenly walk away from some of the best bits of her, the bits that engaged with fashion in a more positive way. You don’t have to. So look at our shopping and beauty pages with fresh attitude today and relish reading Viv Albertine’s magnificent piece on dating in your fifties and sixties. It’s a glorious take on the way a woman’s life changes.”
On the whole I agree with the sentiments expressed, we older women can get stuck in a style rut and I definitely look to magazines such as the ST Style for inspiration rather than an age appropriate rule book. I also look at blogs, Instagram and aspirational retail, that are often aimed at younger women. But I live in London, work in fashion and am confident about my style choices.
I don’t agree with dressing for ones age either, but realise that I am privileged to be confident enough to go into the fresh hell that is Top Shop Oxford Circus and find something that will work with pieces I have bought in Arket, Muji or Net A Porter.
I also don’t limit myself, have the vision to be able to see past my age and my daughter wears my clothes all the time. But and here’s the but, not everyone is able to do this, because they may have lost their way with fashion, due to not having the time, energy, inclination, confidence or finances to throw out the rule book.
And this is why using very young models in the fashion pages and featuring the latest ‘it’ girl in features does not work for us. It makes us invisible and gives us nothing to aspire to.
No I don’t want to see older, frumpy models dressed in M&S, why would I? But I also don’t want my generation to be wiped out in favour of 19 year olds wearing £1000 dresses – because quite frankly if anyone can afford a dress that expensive, it’s us – so surely we deserve a little more respect.
The Guardian manage to be both fashion forward and aspirational with their all ages fashion pages – so it is possible to merge younger and older models in a way that works for everyone.
The struggle to acknowledge the wants and needs of an ageing population has come a long way since we started this blog nine years ago, but ageism is still a very real problem in all aspects of life and the fact that we are are still having these conversations is frustrating.
Style is ageless and the media need to wake up to the fact that we can be just as inspirational and interesting as millennials. Yes, they are the customers/readers of the future but they are also a generation of forward thinkers, unbound by conventions of gender, age or location. They don’t buy into the conventional media stereotypes and nor do we. The world has moved on, but it seems the some of the media haven’t.
But there is hope, this weeks issue of the ST Style was clearly aimed at the older and the younger reader – so maybe I won’t cancel my subscription just yet – fingers crossed it wasn’t just lip service.
What do you think and what do you look at for style inspiration?