As someone who regularly looks at fashion magazines and online shopping sites, it’s evident that I do not see many women my age. And though I may still be under the spell of an industry that insists that younger always looks and sells better when it comes to style, I’m ready for some radical change.
As I’ve worked on casting for beauty and fashion, I’ve noticed a place for women over 50 but they are almost always typecast to be some version of long-haired yoga mama who would look more at home in Sonoma than Soho. And though those women are exceptionally stunning, and I’m so glad they’re out there, I don’t relate to them and I don’t think I ever will. I imagine that I will keep my hair red or brunette until the bitter end, so the whole earth-mama natural thing is not my vibe, and I suspect for many women it’s not theirs either. So, who’s out there fighting the fight to represent women of a certain age with nary a long gray hair or wrap sweater in sight?
Who’s out there fighting to represent women of a certain age with nary a long gray hair or wrap sweater in sight?
If you saw the recent cover of LA magazine, you would know that 56-year-old Paulina Porizkova is naked and sexy as hell on the cover, talking about the new “gray pride” with nary a gray hair in sight. Yes, there are gorgeous crow’s feet. And sure, you may see a peek of gray at the roots but look at that iconic body and see how sexy 56 can be.
But not every woman of a certain age is naked for sexy’s sake. Take another model from back in the day, Kristen McMenamy. If you are a fashion nerd like me, you’ll remember her from the ’90s gaggle of gals who were everywhere. Kristen stood out for her non-traditional beauty, with just the right amount of crazy rebelliousness to be super-duper cool. Now she’s back and on her terms on Instagram, where she is mixing high camp with high fashion and high art. Her art project of a feed gives me life, and whether she’s taking the piss out of influencers half her age (she’s also 56) or knocking on the doors of designers who should be clamoring to put her in their advertising, she’s the most. And I love her wacky approach to style because she’s having so much fearless fun with it. And yes, her hair is gray, but it’s got an indie, middle finger attitude I just love.
Now on to my favorite of late, and that’s Shalom Harlow, aged 47, posing for the September issue of Bazaar. Along with Amber and Linda and other household first names of the supermodel varietal, Shalom is an absolute fashion icon and looks cooler than she’s ever looked. For me, cool is transcendent and age has absolutely nothing to do with it. The story shot by Cass Bird is everything I love. Androgyny, suiting, short hair, attitude. Show me a cooler woman than Shalom. Go ahead. I’ll wait. I am obsessed with this look and am bringing this story to my hairdresser this week when I get a fresh chop for fall. She is emblematic of where I’d like to park my midlife duff when it comes to style.
You must admit that Gen X is changing the game when it comes to aging
And even if you’re not nerdy for supermodels, you must admit that Gen X is changing the game when it comes to aging. I often think my generation has an almost iron-clad youthfulness, and we’re not going to age on anyone else’s terms (screw that graceful noise). Think of what Gen X women are doing to change the way we talk and think about menopause and you’ll see that we are using our voices to change the conversation around aging in general. And according to the LA mag article featuring hot Paulina, the stats are there to support something new. According to the piece, “folks over 50 — and there are 113 million of them in the US — own 70 percent of the wealth, purchasing an estimated $5.6 trillion a year in goods and services. Together, boomers and Xers — let’s call them Xoomers — buy more cars, spend more on luxury travel, and own more electronics and homes than any other age group, accounting for a whopping 40 to 50 percent of all consumer spending. And their dominance over the marketplace is only expanding. Sometime over the next decade or two, people over 65 will start to outnumber children under 18 for the first time in US history.”
So why are so few brands hollering at us? Though we may no longer be the cool kids, we’re still cool. Jennifer Aniston still wears her brand of California cool better than most women. J.Lo seemingly gets sexier by the second, as does Mary J. Blige. And as for crazy, well, I know there’s not much love for that term in modern life, but think more Kerouac’s “mad ones” than Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and you’ll get the drift. We’re a rebellious lot through and through. Incidentally, both photographers who shot Paulina (Jill Greenberg) and Shalom (Cass Bird) are women in our gang. That’s promising.
So, I’m asking my sisters and brothers (I see you, dudes. Owen Wilson is 52 and looking cool as hell on the cover of September’s Esquire), let’s get crazy. Let’s stay sexy. And let’s be cool. Even if the advertisers ignore us, we still have each other. And think about how we can redefine all the above for our crowd and, hopefully, the next generation behind us will thank us for paving the way. We’ve come a long way, baby. Cheers to the road ahead. XO