My dear readers, a special issue has recently come to my attention, and I’d love to open a dialogue with you on the subject. Grab a cup of coffee, and let’s talk.
Now, if this were a typical column on aging, in the vein of those we women read in special ‘age issues’ in all of our favorite magazines, I would open with an anecdote about the recent discovery of my first wrinkle. Then, we’d meander through a few trite paragraphs covering my adventures in trendy facial creams, a trip to the market in which I never remove my dark glasses, and maybe even a flirtation with facial fillers. I would circle back in a final, triumphant summation, in which I come to the empowering realization that my wrinkle isn’t a flaw to be covered or corrected, after all, but a badge of achievement to be worn with pride.
Sound familiar? But when have I ever given you typical?
The real deal is that aging is an ongoing dialogue that I have with myself, as is probably the case for you, spanning many years. Multi-faceted, often climbing up ladders and falling down rabbit holes, my thoughts on the subject have imprinted a criss-crossing of light – but well-worn – tracks in my mind. I imagine they look much like wrinkles.
Oh, and I have those, too.
My gravitation toward the subject in public fashion today was prompted, not by some cute little scene at my vanity mirror, but by an article in the New York Times. In Fashion’s Two-Faced Relationship With Age, author Vanessa Friedman recently explored the current trend toward older-than-twenty-something models and spokeswomen in the fashion and beauty industries.
Cases in point include Julia Roberts for Givenchy, Diane Keaton for L’Oreal, Kate Winslet for St. John and Lancôme, and Julianne Moore for Bulgari. In my demographic group, the article also brought to mind Kate Hudson for Ann Taylor, Jennifer Garner for Neutrogena, and Jennifer Aniston for, well, everything.
Friedman cited the larger net worth of more mature households, coupled with “shrinking spending power of the employment-challenged younger generation” as triggers of this trend. In other words, fashion and beauty brands are more frequently mirroring their target shoppers in advertising images.
The idea of placing a woman (or man) in an ad who embodies the individual you hope to reach isn’t new, but it’s been slow to catch on in the areas of which we speak today. Setting trends in so many areas, the fashion industry is so set in its ways in others. Here, I’ll echo the Times author’s note on the ages of Karl Lagerfeld (81) and Giorgio Armani (80), as well as Ralph Lauren (75), Donna Karan (66), and Anna Wintour (65).
Insert comment on the almost parental adherence to tradition that so many of these living icons represent. Their comparatively younger counterparts see aging differently, as do I, after so many years of thinking on the subject and exploring those aforementioned ladders and rabbit holes.
Friedman quoted the designer Joseph Altuzarra (31) as a case in point: “As it relates to fashion as a whole, I think the concept of ‘young’ points to being relevant and adaptable, excited about newness. …And I think in a way that is more a frame of mind than an age thing.”
A great quote, no? Funny that it takes a younger generation in this industry to finally begin shifting fashion’s paradigm on aging. As we approach our summation, realization, and call to action, I hope you’ll keep that in mind.
Coming off a time of the year in which, inevitably, tradition and innovation play tug-of-war, I believe that brands should continue pushing the envelope in the area of age and our perceptions thereof. But we have a part to play, as well.
Remember my ongoing conversation with myself about age? Remember what Altuzarra said about staying “excited about newness?” Well, when was the last time you dared yourself to try something new, deviate from the norm, make a little purchase just for the fun of it, or try on a trend for size? Like the oft-iterated wisdom of working through crossword puzzles to maintain mental dexterity, I love the idea of trying one new trend, product, or experience per month to keep your fashion and beauty game fresh.
It’s not just about looking our best. Creams and potions and treatments are great, but if age is a state of mind, let’s also inject new ideas and attitudes and perspectives.
And please pardon that corny turn of phrase. We can discuss my aging sense of humor another time.
Lisa Petty is the founder of DFW Style Daily.