The fashion industry is all about trends. From season to season, designers zigzag around everything from a free-wheeling bohemian aesthetic to a sleek, minimal look. One constant in fashion, however, whether on the runway or in advertising campaigns, has always been young models. But the tide seems to be turning.
In recent years, some of fashion’s biggest brands have used models over 50 in their campaigns. And just last month, The DailyMail dubbed 69-year-old Maye Musk “the queen of NYFW,” after the silver-haired grandmother of 10 and mother of inventor Elon Musk walked the runway at the Concept Korea show.
It seems that the fashion industry is finally waking up to the fact that older women have both the desire and the money to spend on luxury goods. Not only are today’s older women wealthier, they are also healthier than in previous generations and have more time to spend their earnings both before and during their retirement years.
Stylist Virginia Dowzer commented on the uptick in the presence of models over 50 in fashion to Australia’s Herald Sun, saying, “It’s an incredible social statement that is really important. … It’s an affirmation that women are not invisible anymore once they reach a certain age.”
In 2014, Donatella Versace made a bold statement on the power and sex appeal of the older woman, featuring a then 55-year-old Madonna in her line’s spring campaign, explaining to The New York Times, “She is her own woman, a role model who shows other women how we can do what we want, and get what we want, and do so for all of our lives.” The idea that a beautiful and powerful older woman could occupy a significant space in an industry typically dominated by under 25-year-olds clearly resonated with fashion’s elite, as other designers quickly followed suit.
Literary icon and octogenarian Joan Didion donned oversize sunglasses, a sleek black turtleneck and a gold pendant necklace in an ultra-chic image for Celine’s spring 2015 campaign, while legendary musician Joni Mitchell posed for a series of Saint Laurent ads in 2015. At the age of 71, she was photographed strumming a guitar and wearing an embroidered tunic and wide-brim hat.
Saint Laurent put up French actress Jane Birkin for its glamourous 2016 ads, modeling the brand’s famous le smoking tuxedo at the age of 69. That same year, fast-fashion giant H&M chose 60-year-old stylist and model Gillean McLeod to lead its swimwear campaign in a sexy one-piece, and perhaps most notably a group of the “original” (and now over-45) supermodels including Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell and Claudia Schiffer took center stage in Balmain’s spring 2016 campaign; quite a departure for a brand generally associated with PYT’s like Kendal Jenner and Gigi Hadid.
Designer Tracy Reese recently cast older women in her spring 2017 presentation, telling Vogue, “Women of all ages wear my clothes, so I wanted to show that it’s not just about chasing youth, it’s about dressing real women.” And at 79 years old, actress Vanessa Redgrave starred in Gucci’s cruise 2017 campaign, modeling mismatched florals, stripes and patches for the Italian brand.
Big-time names aren’t the only older faces showing up in fashion campaigns. Social media influencers of a certain age — over 60, that is — have popped up in recent years. Mango tapped Accidental Icon Lyn Slater for its April 2017 campaign titled “A Story of Uniqueness.” In 2016, Yazemeenah Rossi wore a white one-piece in The Dreslyn‘s campaign for its swimwear collab with lingerie brand Land of Women. The year before that, popular shoe brand Steve Madden put Senior Style Bible’s Dorrie Jacobson, who was 80 at the time, in a video challenging “age-appropriate” fashion.
It’s all very validating for older women who, today more than ever, are as sexy and stylish as their 30-something counterparts. Though the fashion business still has quite a way to go when it comes to including different ages, skin colors and body types, it’s nonetheless inspiring to see more fashion brands pushing boundaries, showing that style and beauty can be truly ageless.