Wednesday, 30 March 2011
Feminism & Ageing
Let's face it when one ages, particularly women, you become almost invisible. Society is predicated on youth. Why even our Prime Ministers are getting younger. Gone are the days when old duffers took charge and rallied on regardless. The thought of an old person in charge of a country seems slightly repellent. But why is this the case? How did the fashion change in respect of clothes and views?
I find the ageing process almost out of my control these days with magazine proffering advice on what to wear and what to inject or what to fill. Phrases like '1661', 16 from the back 61 from the front leave me cold. As does that most hideous one 'mutton dressed as lamb'. Why - well these type of comments are aimed directly at women, not men. Women are encouraged to 'age gracefully'. Once you've mastered the fact you can hold your drink and not be seen as a sexual predator or a flirty or a slut then you've got to go all quiet and well dressed.
And being well dressed means well groomed and a specific size to boot. That is the problem there are too many rules, strictures and fashion edicts on what elicits good taste, style and gosh lets not forget the g word - glamour.
Being female and ageing is a potential minefield. On the one hand you are damned if you let yourself go and on the other if you try too hard. I cannot even begin to proffer an answer to this. Yet there is some food for thought.
Images - how women are portrayed in respect of fashion (otherwise the topic is too big!) The Guardian Weekend magazine does an 'All Ages' spread and on the whole (well when the lovely Priscilla Kwateng does it) it portrays a great fashion spread on, as it says on the tin, women of all ages. Granted the models are tall, slim and well put together but it shows differing ages wearing clothes. Equally some designers are branching out and using older women, larger women than a Eur 36 model. There is an attempt to mix things up however small the contribution.
Power - lets face it, who is in charge, Anna, Grace, Hillary, Jess, Lisa, Emmanuelle, to name a few. With their editorial clout the shift has to happen in respect of a more egalitarian view of women and ageing and fashion. I think they are embracing the shift, and the examples should filter through soon. All eyes are on Paris Vogue. What does this mean, well my hunch is that styling will be less about frission of the sexual sort and more situation based of the woman's everyday life. Women will be placed and contextualised against art, architecture and in situations that represent a shift in power. Less Marie Antoinette more Simone de Beauvoir.
Brands - Something has to give regarding mainstream clothes for older women. Please where is the place for, and the list sums up my view on consigning women to the grave before their time, Phase 8, Per Una in M&S, Kaliko, Fenn Wright Mason, and the blandness that is Artigiano. I could name countless middle of the road, blending in to the background examples of women's clothing companies. It is no wonder that the raptures of well cut clothes from Celine et al captured the imagination of women of all ages. It offers hope in cut, cloth and fashion. I don't expect to be buying much in Topshop at 70 but I will still pop in and browse. I grew up with Topshop.
Style - my only view on what people wear can be summed up by 'why can't people get dressed properly'. What I mean i,s pulling on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt doesn't count. Anyone can do that but can they make you look twice at them? I think as one gets older the duty to get noticed or admired should be the motivating force. What example are we setting if we forget to dress, to add details to be adventurous. It is easy to stop caring but I still want to do my hair, nails, add some makeup, pull together an outfit. I don't want to pass my latter age in a pair of slacks, a top and a gilet. I feel I owe it to young women everywhere to be more Miss Havisham than Margaret Thatcher. I'm not going to be prescriptive and say Jackie O, Audrey Hepburn or even Jane Birkin but I do think colour, cut and having fun will go a long way. That's Not My Age does a wonderful analysis of keeping stylish and enjoying it!
The bits! - Okay so you get wrinkles, you backside spreads or goes south a bit and maybe the veins on your legs are going to be more prominent but so what. This is the issue-why does ageing have to be 'corrected'. Men mature with age so they say, women just get old. Okay maybe a varicose vein isn't a great sight but it is an outcome of a life. Interestingly what has happened with the NHS is lots of nice services for women, like the removal of varicose veins has gone. Regardless of the pain the chances are pretty much nil. What does this say about the value of an older woman or any woman? The trends for enhancements gives women options but are they really worth it? Why is there such pressure for women to deny or stave off the ageing process?
As women we should question the effect of us morphing in to an acceptable look for an older women. Why is there such pressure to remain young and attractive. Who determines what attractive is?
I was very naughty as a few weekends ago I snapped an older woman with my Hipstamatic app on my iPhone on the train in to London, because it doesn't flash or make much of a noise!. I was captivated by how lovely she looked. The varying items she was wearing and how well they suited her. She was wearing lots of colours and she exuded glamour. Not show stopping glitzy glamour but the glamour of poise, an elegance of the mind, her age and her life. I felt dreadful being sneaky but I didn't want to seem patronising or intrude. She seemed to represent an example that we don't often see, an older woman in possession of herself. No short cuts, no attempts to be someone other than who she is at the age she is.
Will I succumb to botox or fillers or liposuction? Can I be brave and individual like Dame Vivienne Westwood.? Will I be bold and age disgracefully, not giving a fig for society and its views? Can I be a woman who along with other women are pioneering in attitude, dress and what they do as they become part of old age? What do you feel about ageing?