Post by C.M.
I was sitting in my pjs on the couch the other night. I had been there for hours. A notification popped up on the tv telling me that it was going to turn itself off to save energy, as it does after being on for a certain (long) length of time. It took all my energy and an audible groan of annoyance to peel myself off my seat and lurch the two paces over to press a button on the set to keep it on. It’s not like I was even watching anything in particular, just aimlessly flicking through the channels to see if there was anything on. Well, it turns out there was something to watch, when I stumbled across a terrific documentary on Channel 4 from the Cutting Edge team. It was called Fabulous Fashinistas. Right up my alley!
What makes these Fashinistas that little bit more worthy of an entire programme dedicated to them is that they have an average age of 80. They’re Senior Sartorialists! But more than that, they are really interesting, really charming and funny and full of pearls of wisdom – not strings of pearls and twinsets. It’s about time that attention is given to this sector of society – increasing like never before but still largely forgotten, or rather ignored, by the advertising, marketing and fashion industries.
Sue is a 73 year old American who has lived in England for around 15 years. Originally a writer of cook books promoting lean cuisine, one day she woke up and decided that she wanted to forget all that and become an artist. So she did! There was a little vignette of her going about her daily businees, wandering around a market, and amongst a sea of black Nike hoodies and generic t-shirts she was the brightest, most considered dresser in sight. Over the top with colours and accessories (check out her necklace – it’s her face!), she stops short of ending up looking like a clown. She’s a perfect example of dressing for herself and being utterly un-self-conscious in her choices.
Daphne used to model in her youth and was rediscovered at 70, just after the death of her husband. Now aged 85 she is the oldest working model in Britain, and possibly one of the most elegant. She says her long silver hair is the major draw, but just look at her! Charismatic yet modest, spry without being hyper she is exactly how I want to be when I get to her age. Or actually now, right this instant. She too dresses however she likes, and uses a lot of colours and textures in her wardrobe, but it’s a little more sedate than Sue’s, yet still immaculately put-together.
I loved Lady Trumpington and not just because her name’s Lady Trumpington. While the most conservativley dressed of the six, she has clearly maintained a long-honed, strong image. Being a Peer in the House of Lords for many years it’s probably not the biggest leap to suggest she was the original power dresser. A lover of catalogue purchasing she takes a no-nonsense attitute to everything that life has to throw at her. Asked about how she feels about being a still fiercely independant 91 years old she replys “You don’t think about the future, you’re damn lucky to be here”. She’s formidable but not intimidating, with a mischievous twinkle in her eye.
76 year old Jean is one of those innately self-assured, cool women, but with the warmest and most friendly attitude. She’s basically typical girl-crush fodder. She cuts her own hair, wears DMs with every outfit (except when she’s out for one of her regular runs) and went to work in Gap when she was 70. Now she’s an invaluable sales assistant in an independant boutique.
Gillian is 87. 87! She has been a dancer since the 40s and now choreographs and stages umpteen productions a year. She’s a serious whirling dervish, despite having had two hip (and a knee) replacements. Still so nimble and full of life it’s no wonder her husband is 27 years younger than her – they married when he was 25 and she was 52 and are still very much together. She admits that her favourite colours are in the brown spectrum but loves mini-skirts and leggings. She can totally pull it off.
Bridget’s simply brilliant. She worked for years overseas as a health advocate, came back to England and turned to gardening and has been an active campaigner against ageism. She considers herself eccentric quite eccentric and stocks her wardrobe exclusively from charity shops. At one point in the show she decides to approach a few insiders in the fashion industry – model agencies and influential magazines – with head shots and a look book, primarily as part of her third-age awarness campaign but also to try something fun. While all those she sits down with agree that her look is striking and could be in a high fashion shoot, none of them think she’d make a successful career in the fashion world. A Vogue editor indicates that designers want to invoke an aspiration to a certain lifestyle – but who could possibly not aspire to be something like Bridget or the others? Sure beats emaciated 15 year olds being shoved in our twenty, thirty, fourty (50, 60, 70…)-something faces.
While all individual and unique in their own ways, all six have a number of things in common. First of all they dress solely for themselves and take immense pleasure in indulging their love of style. But none succumb to, in Sue’s words, “the tyranny of fashion”. All appreciate positive attention for how they look but none crave it. They all take pride in themselves and their appearances, diligently fit exercise into their routines and make sure to keep both body and mind busy.
They entirely put my couch-potato self to shame. If it hadn’t been 11pm when I watched the show I would have thrown the rest of my glass of wine down the sink (well…) and gone out for a run while listening to some educational podcast. Instead I finished my wine (it was always going to happen) and planned my outfit for the following day’s work.
I can’t wait to be old, it’s a privilege and a gift that not all are lucky enough to receive. I for one am going to seize the day like these inspiring women continue to do. I wonder if their motivated attitude is something they’ve always had or something they’ve learned along the way. Hopefully it’s the latter (the sofa never ceases to beckon invitingly..!)
*All photos courtesy of Channel 4