Dear ST Style: Please don’t ignore us

Grèce Ghanem Instragram style icon

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.”

The Guardian – All Ages Fashion pages

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?

 

32 Comments

  • Well said! and the tone of the Sunday Times piece way too finger wagging for me…

  • Sue Evans says:

    This blog post was well timed for me. Living in the depths of France means I only have access to the much-edited international version of the Sunday Times sans supplements like The Magazine and Style and so I was really looking forward to settling in for a proper read of the paper and all it’s various add-ons on my visit back to the UK last weekend. But careful what you wish for because I was quite shocked at the change in the Style magazine. I disliked the tone of the journalism, the lack of inspirational content and the lack of diversity. And don’t get me started on Boris’s relative’s Toff column ! Who exactly is that aimed at I wonder ? And why is someone being paid to write such a load of drivel ? Like Jane I work in the fashion industry and although I am 60+ I have no rule book on where I shop or look for inspiration –the world is my oyster and the message is in the mix ! Sadly the mix in the Sunday Times Style mag won’t be influencing my world anytime soon.

  • Elaine says:

    Well said. I stopped regularly buying the Sunday Times over a year ago. They Style magazine used to be such a treat over a cup of tea on Sunday morning but no more. Try being over 50 and overweight – they have nothing at all for us. I feel the magazine has become about fashion rather than style and that is where the problem lies. I get that they have to bring in advertising pounds and promote products but they could do that with imaginative styling also. I occasionally pick up the magazine and flick through it to see if I am missing anything but I have yet to be convinced.

  • Joy says:

    I could not agree more! Very well put, Jane. For me Style was a lovely Sunday afternoon treat to read, enjoy and find inspiration. For many months it’s been a general turn-off, not least the fashion pages that have me laughing-out-loud. I think the presentation of the pages (I know nothing about magazine lay-out I must admit) is part of the problem but the journalism also doesn’t appeal to me. Except India Knight, of course! Sorry Lorraine Candy but I now just flip through Style – I haven’t the patience to look for the one fashion item (maybe?) that I would consider buying.
    Fortunately there’s a growing blogosphere addressing a demography that isn’t entirely GenZ. Where The Women’s Room began, others are following. Please keep up the great work.

  • ruthie says:

    Bravo.
    Lorraine Candy’s incredibly patronising response to her reader was the final straw for me. Full *how dare she* glare.
    So disappointing; I had hoped that her appointment signalled a greater focus on our age group, which must represent a large subset of the ST readership.
    No millennial is going to use a newspaper as their style inspiration, so I’m at a bit of a loss to understand the current strategy for Style under her editorship.
    Don’t even get me started on the “toff” stuff……

  • Jan says:

    I don’t read The Sunday Times so don’t have any first hand knowledge of the debate. Like you I wear what I want to wear. Sometimes I get it right and sometimes I don’t but I don’t think age comes into it. I know there is a continual buzz of comments from some women over 50, or maybe even over 40, who feel that there’s nothing in the shops for them but I don’t really understand that. I do wonder where they shop and what they are looking for. I’m interested in fashion trends but I’ve never followed/adopted them unless I felt it was a look I wanted. I’m well over 60 and I dread to think what a young fashion designer would imagine I want to wear or should wear. You are right style is ageless so maybe those women who feel abandoned by fashion have yet to find a style with which they feel comfortable?

  • It seems like the mainstream media, the Sunday Times and I would add most of the major fashion magazines, are behind the curve on this one. I’m in New York so I don’t regularly look at the ST but the patronizing tone of the editor was enough to turn me off. I’m in my fifties and also work in fashion. As an industry ageism is alive and well. The occasional older, former model on the runway fools the industry into thinking they’re not, but I’m hard pressed to think of many women designers or CEO’s over the age of 50. Magazines and style supplements to major papers like the New York Times and your Sunday Times use to be my bibles, full of inspiration and the dream of your best self. Now I’m bored by the obsession with celebrity, trends and often vulgarity. Like many people I now turn to street style for inspiration, there you see real women of all ages who love fashion and apply it to their daily lives with great personal style. Fashion editors should take note.

  • Claire B says:

    I don’t read the Sunday Times, the Guardian is definitely more my cup of tea but agree that Lorraine Candy’s response was incredibly patronising. If their fashion is supposed to be for everyone for goodness sake show it on everyone. I’m 60 this year but love fashion and shop in Zara, Jigsaw etc. My main problem with fashion articles aimed at my age group is the assumption that we can all afford very expensive fashion and have loads of money to spare – it’s just not true, some of us are on limited budgets and have to buy very carefully, often waiting for sales to buy what we need. I know it’s hard to get it right for everyone but as has been said, style is ageless, we just need more features that reflect that.

  • Jane says:

    totally agree Claire and I love those shops too and we definitely need more coverage of high st fashion.
    J x

  • Jane says:

    Such a shame to hear that its the same in NY. I always imagined older people were more respected there and one could work until ones 80s. The fashion industry is so far behind and like you say, a token older model doesnt in the long run, change anything.

  • Jane says:

    We need more older designers who understand our market I think Jan, but like you say its more about knowing your personal style.

    J x

  • Jane says:

    I agree Ruthie, I had hoped for a really good read and a more grown up approach to style. I suspect she has been told to focus on getting millenials on board – which is sadly never going to happen. Senior corporate management just dont get the younger demographic and continue to think they can attract them with traditional media and in turn ignore their core readership.

  • Jane says:

    Thanks God for India Knight!

  • Jane says:

    Over to the Guardian Elaine – and I prefer their politics!!

  • Jane says:

    The Toff column astounds me Sue – who finds her interesting. And dont get me started on Claudia Winkleman on fashion!!

  • MJ says:

    I’d cancel my subscription (if I had one; I live in Canada) based on that editor’s letter alone. It is perhaps one of the more condescending, patronizing letters I’ve read. She could have saved a lot of ink by writing “Dear Reader: It’s not us; it’s you.” How does the editor know the letter writer isn’t trying new styles? Maybe the reader has tried the new styles and they don’t work for her? Or the styles that work for her aren’t being shown in the newspaper? Maybe at the age of 67 she knows what flatters her body shape and life and she doesn’t need to waste time trying on styles that won’t work? Over the years, my style has changed and what appealed to me at 22 no longer appeals to me in my mid-50s.
    Also, given that the demographic of newspaper (print edition) readers is older–the median age is 57.9 years–I’d say they’re barking up the wrong tree offending a long-time reader in the hope of attracting a millennial age group who are getting most of their fashion/style ideas from Instagram.

  • Lsia says:

    So we’re not just too old, we’re reading wrong. Good to know.

  • Wow! What a slap in the face, the patronising tone of that reply.
    Similarly, in Canada’s national paper, The Globe and Mail, the Style section weekend before last featured a Ten Best-Dressed list. Some skin-colour diversity, two men included, even some body-positive sizes in the spread, but no one over 37 — although one mid-30s fashion-retail-shop owner claimed to be looking forward to getting older because then she’d be able to be even freer in expressing her style. (Well, sure, because she’d be invisible?!)
    The article acknowledged that some readers might want to propose their own candidates and invited us to do so on Instagram using a hashtag they provided. I took up the invitation, suggesting a local blogger, a very creative, artistic over-50 (Melanie at @bagandaberet) whose almost 30K followers and mentions in a number of international fashion mags make her a credible choice. I remarked, in my IG post, on the complete absence of representation given a post-40 demographic. Not a word since. So disappointing. And from my experience with younger generations and their reading habits (considerable, given that until 3 years ago I was teaching literature, composition, and rhetoric at university), the cool kids they think they’re representing –and pandering to — are not reading print anyway!

  • Sarah says:

    Brilliant response, it echoes my favourite adage re: gender roles, you have to see it to be it!

  • Jo says:

    Couldn’t agree more – it used to be my favourite part of the ST but now if I spend 5 minutes flicking through i’d be surprised. Beyond awful and completely irrelevant to me as a clothes/make-up/style loving 44 year old professional woman. Careless!

  • Sarah says:

    All I have to add is my support for all these comments and my bafflement at the misdirection of resources wooing the mortgage ridden, cash strapped young.

  • Jillian Ross says:

    Agree with everyone. Totally disconnected to its readership. I subscribe to The Times/ST online used to turn to Style first. No longer. I realise it’s no longer aimed at me – style conscious elegant woman mid-50s.

    I too use instagram and other social media platforms for most of my inspiration. Coverage of the shows online and street style during fashion weeks. Grece Ghanem was an excellent choice for your header pic! Some papers (Telegraph to name but one recently) go for the more eccentric stylish older women. Good on these ladies but most of us would look like bag ladies in their clothes! Totally out of touch.

    It’s sad that we’ve all had to find our own routes to the happiness of fashion ideas that appeal. And I can see those with less of an interest/capability in this area may well have given up in despair of finding anything they like on the fashion pages.

    This was a great read. As were the comments.

  • Lauretta says:

    It’s a sign of weakness from an editor when they default to the “it’s not us, it’s you” defence when faced with some uncomfortable feedback from a reader. Maybe Gill from Arundel, aged 67, has a point Lorraine? And maybe she isn’t just lacking in confidence and in mourning for her younger self (please…).

    I think the problem with the ST Style is that it thinks its audience is other people who work in fashion (and I speak as someone who works in fashion). Or at least it wants to ensure that it is held in high regard by other people who work in fashion, when the people it should really be concerned about are its readers; people just like Gill from Arundel, aged 67, in fact.

    (PS. Agree on the Winkleman column – it’s such a flimsy premise for a full-page column, she could write 50 words on why she loves a certain shoe that week and spare us the waffle. I like her very much and think she’s talented but they should give her something more meaningful to write about. As others have said, just because it’s called Style, it doesn’t mean every article has to be tortuously linked to an item of clothing).

  • Joan Davidson says:

    But why the need to go to Style or any other mag for inspiration – either visit the shops or look on line (whether it be H&M or Zara, my current favourites, Cos or John Lewis), check out what catches your eye, try it on and possibly adapt for your age, shape, personality, circumstances, etc. Trust your judgement. I’m 70 and I know the effect I want and – more importantly – what suits me.

    In the past the only item I’ve bought after seeing it in the media (recently) was a pair of “red ruffle shoes” from Matalan for £12, as normally I wouldn’t check out Matalan.

  • Vivienne says:

    Read all of the above and agree, wholeheartedly! I am seventy and six foot tall, I can’t find a dress which is long enough/ covers my arms, doesn’t have cleavage that I can afford so I wear jeans. Neither do I have the confidence to try ho hum.
    Vivienne

  • LMG says:

    I was so incensed by LC’s editorial last week that I actually looked up the Times/Sunday Times reader demographics and wrote quite a snippy comment about it on the site. In fact, I meant to go back to read the later comments when I was on the Times site today, but unusually, there is no related link to last week’s column on the current Editor’s Letter. I’m so glad you wrote about this Jane.

    Subscribed to a new magazine this week called Renaissance, a bi-yearly mag that “explores the beauty of age inside and out”. I have high hopes…

  • Jane says:

    Comments are here Linda, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/editor-s-letter-lorraine-candy-on-how-to-experiment-with-fashion-hj2bm53s3

    The editors letter seems to have got a lot of peoples back up. I had a tweet from LC at the weekend saying they were going to take all the comments into account – so thats good.
    Watch this space…

    J x

  • Sarah says:

    Thanks LMG, for intro to Renaissance. Looks very interesting.

  • Sue Evans says:

    Great response to this post Jane — you obviously touched a nerve with a lot of people ! Listen-up LC !!

  • Karen says:

    If I might add another slant at this stage Jane, our bodies change over the years as I discovered in my late 30s trying on a top in “young peoples shop”. I got it on allright, but couldn’t breath in it (5ft9 & 59kg- thiner impossible!). I was a model in my youth or looking back more like a 2d cardboard cut out clothes were literally hung on. At 50, fit and strong but shaped diferently I now appreciate cut, drape, cloth & style. I’m not into frumpy by any means but as I can’t aford Versace I’ve taken up sewing my own and get my inspiraton seeing what works on real body shapes, skin stones, hair styles etc. I’d love to find a fashion mag which caters for us. All the best, Karen

  • Jacqueline says:

    I stopped buying magazines years ago when I came to the realisation that they were focussed on advertising rather than journalism. Without them I feel better dressed than ever, with the internet and blogs such as your own providing me with more inspiration and information than the glossy magazines ever did. I am 60 now and shop wherever I find what I am looking for including online. My current obsession is for large colourful prints which I am sure magazine articles have advised me against in the past. Ha, what do they know – plenty of people have been asking me where they came from.

  • Jo says:

    I am a few years short of 40. I am always looking to older women for fashion inspiration because I think most older women know who they are and have a more carefree approach to fashion. It is not desperate like the 20 year old having to have the Gucci bag because it is an IT thing. Older women approach fashion as more of an affirmation – this is who I am and I love it, be it with a Gucci bag or a flea market find that is irrelevant to the fact that they are who they are. Older women pull it off with class and the nonchalance of someone who has been there done that and I do not give a damn attitude! That is what I love. I am looking for that in fashion no matter what style – quirky, sporty, classic, etc. I am inspired by the confidence that some older women on the street have to go about their day looking fabulous and confident and not needing to prove anything to anyone. Some young fashion blogs give an unattainable idea to young women because most of the clothing they show is brand name and expensive. The average person – not even me at almost 50 – could not afford such fashion. Older women send the message of Be Who You Are and Wear What You Want! I love that!

Leave a Reply

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