The language of older: age appropriate

du-monde-againWe’re not done with the conversation around what language we use when we talk about older here at TWR. We might be making great progress on getting older women on magazine covers and heading up brand marketing campaigns but there’s still a way to go on everything else, not least on getting great fashionable clothes that don’t cost the earth.

My current issue is with the word age appropriate. Last week I met my sister on Oxford Street, where I found her looking longingly at the fashion-edgy clothes in Topshop. ‘Oh how I miss being able to experiment with fashion’ she said, ‘wearing mad stuff and bleaching my hair ridged. Now we’ve got to be all age appropriate’.

And I wondered, who made that rule up then? The one on being ‘age appropriate’? What does it look like exactly, and why do we have to toe that line?

It’s relevant because increasingly, I’m talking to women who actually want to be bolder and brighter as they get older. Isn’t this actually the perfect time to experiment with a new style, try a new silhouette, play with interesting colours? We’ve often got more confidence and through the many, many comments you’ve left on the blog, we know many of you are keen to revamp the way you dress as you get older without slipping into elastic waists and nan-cardis.

Age appropriate may need a revamp itself.

The one area where it might be fun to start turning age appropriate on its head is with make up. Don’t you love these gorgeous images from Le Monde Magazine last November, -images by Richard Burbridge- using bold dashes of colour?

dumonde01The magazine feature was called The Prime of Life. (La Fleur de L’Age) and I find them thrillingly empowering. I don’t see ‘older’ here, I see dynamic, exciting ideas that, although I might not be ready to do them myself yet, I totally love the inspiration. Age appropriate indeed. What do you think?

du-monde-2The original Le Monde article can be found here





  • Monix says:

    Sorry, think most of these images look like the “old dear” should have found her glasses before reaching inside her make up bag. My beef with the ” Advanced Age” movement (despite being grateful for it) is that many older women look clown- like and therefore rather sad. However, if you want to look like a mad, old bat – go for it!

  • Lucy says:

    No, I disagree with you Monix! We applaud and encourage our ‘yoof’ to push the style boundaries and quite right too. English style ranges from preppy, indie, punk, country gent and so on. I think there is room for mad old bat too-whatever their age.

  • Belinda says:

    I quite like the mad-old-bat look, and think that a couple of these looks could be toned down a bit and still look good for everyday (perhaps not the red hair and eyes, bit too vampiric-new-eye-bleeding-disease-discovered). But the solid blocks of colour on the 2nd photo down? They could look fabulous for everyday, given careful application.

    I can’t see any point in being ‘age appropriate’ if you don’t want to be. Face it, most people are far too absorbed in themselves to really care whether you’re acting your age or not.

  • amanda says:

    Mad Old Bat is a stereotype! Just like age appropriate….Why is the label mad old bats derogatory? Just because we are older and (ok maybe slightly) eccentric doesn’t mean we should be discouraged from experimenting. We need to break down these older stereotypes and adjust the meaning of the language of old, so we can carry on being ourselves and having FUN! A

  • Jan says:

    I guess it comes down to who are you dressing for? In the end you have to please yourself because you surely won’t please everyone. In my view fashion, certainly as it is seen on the average high street is fairly dull these days whatever the age of the wearer.

  • sarah says:

    I am divided on this.
    On the one hand I agree with Monix about ‘Advanced Style’ and the hard ,garish look of some of the ladies. BUT, as someone who wore Kansai Yammamoto and Thea Porter in my youth, I still love ‘dressing up’ and still wear bright colours. esp. good with grey hair.
    My trouble with garish, ‘ironic’ makeup is that it is like a mask, concealing real beauty. I am not unhappy about experimenting but, outside London, looking ‘Fun’ can get you Su Pollard. Hi DI Hi !

  • Monix says:

    Depends if you think “mad old bat” is a pejorative term Amanda – I fully intend to be one, but I’d like people to be able to know me better to find out rather than have them shuffling away from me on the bus.

    Sometimes I just feel sad for the youngsters – we’re stealing all their thunder!

  • Elaine says:

    This post reminds me of the poem ‘Warning’ by Jenny Joseph about growing old and wearing purple(link below). I’m fifty and already working on develping some eccentricities. I shall need a hat and perhaps a cane. The single best part about getting older is that I couldn’t care less what other people think.Tally-ho ladies!

  • MJ says:

    No, I don’t love the look but it has nothing to do with age. It’s not a look I find attractive even on 20-somethings. I agree with Sarah that “ironic” make-up does conceal real beauty and, at any age, is a little too much “look at me!” That said, if it makes one feel happy, pretty, young then that’s fine.

  • Amanda says:

    Elaine, what a brilliant link, thanks for sharing, might need to blog that soon…And what fascinating comments, looks like we’re agreed that dressing as we please is paramount, but i get totally Sarah’s point on being a bit Su Pollard in the wrong environment..any other thoughts? A

  • martha says:

    It is worse to be invisible than it is to be noticed, as in there is no bad publicity. I think of make up as a mask- but it can be a beautiful mask.
    What I do not like is when it is considered a requirement. Personally I do not wear make up daily. When I do I feel somewhat fraudulent.
    And bats are really, really cool. One could be considered a worse thing, like a bug, or a doormat.

  • Wildsmith says:

    Amazing images! Sure, they don’t show the kind of look you’d want to try out for a trip to Tesco on a Wednesday morning, but to see older women in outlandish, fashion-shoot style make-up is so inspiring. These are beautiful portraits of beautiful women.

  • Jane says:

    I love that open Elaine and personally I don’t care a jot what anyone says I always have and always will wear exactly what I want.

    Rules are for fools.

    J x

  • Osnat says:

    I agree with Wildsmith these are beautiful images of beautiful women done for a fashion shoot. I doubt these women walk around like that in their daily lives and it’s great that older women are used in a bold creative fashion shoot that normally is the territory of youth. It shows that wrinkles can be sexy!

  • I love these photos and think that experimentation, as an older woman, is fun and life enhancing. I’m open to all the possibilities of self expression!

  • Linda says:

    I am the first to encourage women to keep wearing color and experimenting. However with most women and especially older women you have to look at the whole its about the personality. Close ups are just not flattering.

  • Great article and personally I find these images inspirational, it’s not necessarily a literal image of older women, pushing boundaries is de rigueur in Vogue et al. We need to explore closer our perceptions of older women and why society does not appreciate natural beauty at all ages. And I loathe ‘age appropriate’ along with ‘anti-ageing’!!

  • Jadranka Belančić says:

    No, I don’t like it.. Sorry..

  • Sue says:

    Awesome. Incredible style. Don’t tone it down as you get older. Do what you want.

  • Getting old is becoming invisible. You have a choice… blend into the crowd, go to coffee mornings (nothing wrong with that) and accept that it doesn’t get any better than that. Or carry on buying fashion, make up, learn new things, travel, paint, sing, write, go back to Uni or start a course, go out, hike, etc… life is too short for rules, judgements and restrictions. Age is a number. It is also a privilege. Some don’t have that chance.

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