Article by Jacynth Bassett
A couple of months ago I reached out to the admin of a 50+ facebook group to invite her members to join my ‘Ageism Is Never In Style’ movement. But I was rejected. Why? Because I did not conform to the admin’s view on how women should age. She informed me that, as women get older, they shouldn’t care about looking stylish, sexy or modern – it’s about dressing in a timeless, classic fashion, and going grey naturally.
This statement really disturbed me. But not because I’m against ageing such a way, but because this woman was dictating that there’s only one ‘right’ route to follow. And as the influencer of a group with 8k + members, she was preaching an incredibly harmful attitude.
Even just 5 years ago there was little conversation about ageing. When it came to style, all there was were articles on what not to wear, and a general perception that women over 50 dress dowdy and frumpy. And with beauty, women were told to dye hide the greys and slather on anti-ageing creams or face being invisible forever more.
Fortunately we are now getting past that. Older women are being featured in fashion campaigns, there are ‘pro-age’ makeup and beauty ranges, and going grey is being embraced with open arms. With that have come lots of fabulous groups and communities of women sharing tips, inspiration and support, such as Fab After Fifty, as they embark on celebrating a new stage in their lives.
Opening up the Discussion on Ageing
But whilst it’s fantastic we have opened up the discussion about ageing and are encouraging each other to be proud of it, and not feel invisible, we need to be cautious about going to the other extreme. Saying that ageing is now acceptable, but only in one particularly way, is still ageist. Because ending ageism is about choice – empowering women and men to age however they want, without external pressure from society.
I know women who’ve been bullied out of communities for dressing or styling themselves in ways that are not ‘approved’ by the admin and other members – when such communities claim to be championing women over 50 and fighting ageist attitudes about style. Style should empower you. It should make you feel confident, strong and project the image you want others to see. So, aside from spouting negative behaviour, they’re fundamentally misunderstanding what style is about.
Mutton Dressed as Lamb
There’s the old ageist adage about not wanting to be seen as ‘mutton dressed as lamb’. But is there anything wrong with dressing ‘younger’ if you want to? The natural assumption is that women who do this are somewhat in denial about their age, and are ashamed to accept it. But have we ever stopped to consider that perhaps they just like those clothes and how they look in them? They might be fully secure and comfortable with their age, but just fancied wearing a mini skirt that day.
If dressing in a classic, timeless way has always been your aesthetic preference, then continuing to dress that way as you age is great. But if you’ve never been into that look, you don’t suddenly have to be now. In the same way that you don’t have to wear the stereotypical frumpy clothes associated with 50+ women, you don’t have to ditch fashion or pieces that express your sexuality if that’s how you prefer to dress.
As we get older, our style does tend to evolve, so you may decide to move on from certain looks or embrace a new aesthetic that feels more like a true reflection of who you are today. But make sure any decisions are a personal choice, and not because you’ve had your confidence undermined by peer pressure groups. Because every woman at every age has the right to dress however she wants, and it’s no one else’s businesses to suggest otherwise.
Jacynth Bassett is the founder of the-Bias-Cut – Shopping With Attitude Where Ageism Is Never In Style. Swiftly becoming recognised as one of the UK’s leading pioneers of style at every age, she has written on the topic for The Guardian online, The Huffington Post, and contributed to a chapter on grown up style for an internationally published book. She has also been featured in the likes of the New Statesman, regularly speak on panels and podcasts, and is a ViewVo accredited business mentor. Plus she is a weekly and monthly style columnist for various leading 40+ online platforms. In her spare time, she loves to dance, specialising in hip-hop, and to dine out with family and friends.
Images feature the Bias Cut’s latest collection