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Time for the fashion and beauty industry to wake up to the potential of women over 50

Article by Ceri Wheeldon

ignoring spending power of women over 50 image

Readers of Fab after Fifty have long been complaining that they feel they are being overlooked by the fashion industry – and it is a topic that we have highlighted frequently on the website over the years – in fact I once was invited to comment on no fewer that 16 radio programmes in one day when a survey highlighting how women over 50 felt their needs were not being met by the High Street was published.

Those brands who claim to cater to women over 50 may include a small number of high profile celebrities in their advertising campaigns, but when you click through online to make a purchase, the clothes are modelled by much younger women.  Something I receive lots of complaints about when I post these images to support articles with styling suggestions. Similarly when beauty brands launch products for ‘mature’ skins yet use models under 30. We are intelligent enough as consumers to know that buying these items is not going to enable us to look in the mirror and see that we have turned the clock back 20 or 30 years. We want realistic campaigns that we can relate to.

A new study confirms that this is very much a lost opportunity – for business and the economy.


  • New research reveals £2.9 bn (21%) growth in spending on clothes and shoes by older people between 2011 and 2018.

Speaking at the Future of Ageing conference this week, a group of fashion and beauty industry experts will argue that the industry needs to address its institutional ageism if it is to make the most of the potential of increased spending by older people.

Spending on fashion and shoes by over 50s will increase by £11bn

Research by the International Longevity Centre (Maximising the Longevity Dividend), to be published alongside the Future of Ageing conference will reveal that spending on fashion and shoes by older people will increase by £11bn (60%) from 2019 to 2040. By 2040, people aged 50 and over are expected to be this sector’s key consumer base.

Ahead of the debate, Diane Kenwood, journalist, blogger and ILC Trustee said: “For too long the fashion and beauty industries have been bewilderingly resistant to recognising just how fashionable and stylish the generation of older consumers are and want to remain. The potential of these consumers is huge and it has been shamefully side-lined. I do, though, sense a shift in attitudes starting to stir, and I’m hopeful that change will gather momentum. Helping to realise the potential of this demographic and the opportunities they offer is one of the key pillars of our work at the ILC.”

Tricia Cusden, Founder of makeup brand for older women Look Fabulous Forever added:

“We baby boomers are ageing in a completely different way from our mothers and grandmothers. It’s time that the fashion and beauty industries wake up to the fact that we are generation fabulous not generation frump”

Jane Hallam Founder of Esteem – No Pause, clothing designed for women going through the menopause said:

“I couldn’t find stylish and effective clothing on the high street that would address my own menopausal night sweats (a natural part of the ageing process); and the only clothing I found on the internet was incredibly old fashioned and loose fitting in cotton which would have left me as cold and damp as my bedding was. At 48 years old with a wardrobe of beautiful lingerie I was not prepared to resign myself to a 1950s view of older woman nightwear and put up with damp nights for up to 10 years! Our bodies change in shape as we age as do our physical requirements, but our sense of self-esteem and style remains.”

Professor Julia Twigg Professor of Social Policy and Sociology at the University of Kent concluded:

“Ageism means that the fashion industry still struggles to engage successfully with the older market, though it is worth many millions.”


For me, the other issue is that business seems to place ‘over 50s’ in one box. They fail to see us the diverse group of women we actually are, whether through age and life stage or general interests and lifestyle.

So much work needs to be done to challenge the media perception of women over 50- and the opportunity appreciating and understanding our likes and needs can bring.


Ceri Wheeldon

Ceri is Founder and Editor of Fabafterfifty.co.uk She is a frequent speaker at events and in the media on topics related to women over 50 , including style and living agelessly. With 20+ years experience as a headhunter Ceri also now helps support those looking to extend their working lives.

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  1. Pat

    December 4, 2019

    I find myself so often frustrated by the dumpy and frumpy clothes designed for someone my age…the other end of the spectrum is usually fashionable but cheap (and not cut for my figure since I am not 12 years old!) I have money to spend and would do so gladly for a fashionable, well fitted wardrobe!

    • Ceri Wheeldon

      December 11, 2019

      It seems to be an ongoing issue Pat – they ignore us – and our spending to their (and ours) detriment.

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