Older Models Are Beautiful, Why Don’t We See More Of Them?

I was going to write about my trip to the Venice Biennale art show today, but that will have to wait, because Harper’s Bazaar needs a big pat on the back for its July photo shoot, featuring two beautiful, older women.

Models Jan de Villeneuve and Frances Dunscombe are included in Shoulder To Shoulder, a visual celebration of womanhood shot by Erik Madigan Heck and styled by Leith Clark. The shoot celebrates all colour, size and age of women, but for me it’s Jan and Frances who totally rock. They look absolutely as models should do – beautiful and inspiring, but unlike many older models shot by glossies, they also celebrate the age they are (Jan is 73, Frances 84). Their faces have wrinkles and soft folds but they are clearly their faces, not some weird, smoothed-out version of themselves. And they look absolutely stunning.

In the editorial that accompanies the photo spread, Jan says “I don’t want to have plastic surgery because I think it sends out the wrong message to other women. I’m not going to look 27, 37 or 57 again, so I might as well enjoy being myself.” We couldn’t agree more, let’s just all be the best versions of who we are now.

We’re still at a point – nine years after we started this blog- where we need to flag up a good photo shoot featuring older women. What’s as rare as hen’s teeth is a shoot like this, where age is celebrated for what it is rather than disguised or squished into a ’50-but-looks-25′ box. Everything about the make up and styling, from Jan’s artful Flapper quiff and her statement red lipstick and elegant coat to Frances’s magenta ribbon neck tie and gorgeous braids are things grown up women could aspire to.

Yes the dresses they are wearing cost the same as a small car (it’s Harper’s) but those printed maxis and chandelier earrings are on the high street if you look, and let’s face it, we’re all experts at having to cherry pick styles from the racks of youth orientated clothing. The quiet glamour of the clothes look so right, so comfortable on Jan and Frances, that I could fully believe they turned up to the shoot wearing them.

The sheer uncompromising stylishness of the pair of them shouts ‘tear me out and stick me next to your mirror for inspiration!’ I urge you all to go buy the July Harper’s in order to do just this.

Frances didn’t take up modelling until she was 82, after her husband died. In the  feature she said ” I would love to have been a dancer or an actor when I was younger but I didn’t have the confidence – for some women it takes a long time to develop that self-assurance”. So if you are suffering from some mild angst at what you should have done with your life, Frances is proof that it’s not too late.

Well done Justine Picardie, editor of Harper’s, for understanding that style has nothing to do with youth and that a love of beautiful clothes is a life long affair. And good job Erik Madigan Heck and Leith Clark for getting it right. Harper’s has been my go-to-glossy for a while now, it feels modern and relevant. So, more of this please, fashion editors everywhere.

For those who want a few ideas of where you could shop the look at less frightening prices, see below.

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  • Sandra says:

    Wonderful and beautiful woman accepting their age with grace and loveliness! What wisdom from Jan too. I don’t want (can’t afford anyway!) plastic surgery and accept my 74 years – though sort of wondering how I got here all the same!!!

  • Jan says:

    Yes they are lovely pictures. Am I being a tad cynical suspecting that if you are over 60 and want to start a career in modelling you’d still have to know someone in the know? Can’t imagine there are too many talent scouts on the look out for ordinary older women.

  • I’ll have to hunt down this issue in NY, so inspiring! If you do the math, you’re considered old for the longest period of your life assuming you’re lucky enough to live to say 80. It’s time we all not only come to terms with aging but celebrate it.

  • Ellen says:

    Thanks for sharing this! I gave up on fashion magazines except for my work in the fashion industry. These ladies rock! We need more like them to show how to get older, stay real and have everyone understand it is something to celebrate.

  • Karen says:

    What wonderful images and as a fifty plus fashionista who loves vintage dresses up and refuses to let age cramp my style it is fabulous to see more mature ladies grazing magazines and the runway. Long may it continue to grow and more people start to appreciate the beauty of age!!

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