As recently as 2000, “The New York Times” declared women over 60 “Fashion’s Lost Generation.” But as baby boomers age into the senior demographic — 40 million are 65 and older — the times once more are a changin’. Boomers have never done anything quietly. Designers, models and fashion icons are turning 70 without batting an eyelash, setting the pace — and in Betsey Johnson’s case, even still turning cartwheels on the runway — for women who have found their fashion sense and intend to keep it.
More Are Working
While 55-plus women were almost always retirees or homemakers in past decades, increasingly, they’re remaining in the workforce. Between 1999 and 2009, the number of seniors still in the labor force had grown from 12 percent to 19 percent; it’s expected to reach 25 percent by 2019. That means a continued interest in a work wardrobe — classic suits, dresses and accessories — as well as resort and leisure wear. With this shift has come — and none too soon, older women say — representation in fashion magazines and in the marketplace. “Harper’s Bazaar,” for example, has a “70-plus” category in its “Fabulous at Every Age” feature.
Sense of Personal Style
Women approaching 70 likely have a sense of their personal style. “Developing your very best personal style — and that includes figuring out what works for your body type — involves a lot of trial and error. Youth is for trying absolutely everything,” model Lauren Hutton (born in 1943) told “People.” While that style is rooted in the past and one can pay tribute to it, one shouldn’t remain stuck. Designer Diane von Furstenberg (born in 1946) — often cited as one of the most wearable designers for any age — channels the glam-rock 1970s in her fall 2013 Read to Wear show, but with new upbeat twists: “gently modernized evocations of just the sort of flattering pieces that von Furstenberg wore as a young jet-set princess,” “Vogue” said.
While von Furstenberg’s jersey-wrap dresses — knee-length and long-sleeved — are perfect for needs of older women, designer Carolina Herrera (born in 1939) references her classically simple formula of a fitted white shirt with pencil skirt or formal skirt, or a tailored white shirt with trousers. Herrera wears neutrals, then spices up the look with a colorful belt and luxe scarf, bag and shoes. For Johnson, (born in 1942) however, fashion is a license to have fun: “Just enjoy getting dressed,” says the designer turned reality TV star known for her sense of whimsy.
Dressing Well Is the Best Revenge
A documentary about older fashionistas shows them doing just that — enjoying themselves. “New Yorkers of Advanced Style” interviews women in their later years — some in their 90s — who have a zest for style and for life. The blog Idiosyncratic Fashionistas, featured in the documentary, proclaims that growing old gracefully is outdated and “demonstrates that our overlooked demographic is still fabulous.” Designer Marc Jacobs said his fall 2012 show was influenced by the documentary.
References and ResourcesThe Guardian: Glam Grans: Style for the Over-60s
Harper's Bazaar: Fabulous at Every Age Spring Preview: 70+
Daily Mail: The Twiggy Effect: Women Over 50 Who Don't Want to Dress Their Age
Chicago Tribune: Fashionable Older Women Offer Advice on Staying Stylish
The New York Times: Over 60: Fashion's Lost Generation
Population Reference Bureau: America's Aging Population
Vogue: Diane von Furstenberg/Fall 2013 RTW
Redbook: Carolina Herrera's Rules for Perfectly Simple Style
US Weekly: Betsey Johnson's Best Style Tip: Always Have Fun With Fashion, Dress to Entertain Yourself
People: Lauren Hutton Shares Her Timeless Fashion Tips with J.Crew
ResourcesAdvanced Style: Trailer
YouTube: The Idiosyncratic Fashionistas