As kids and teenagers we love the idea of getting older. We have an idealized, glamourized vision of what being a grown up looks like, and can’t wait for it to become realized. And if someone tells us we look older than our age it’s a compliment because it implies maturity.
But after we hit our 20s that all goes out of the window. Suddenly, the younger we look, the better, and every birthday becomes increasingly full of dread. We claw onto any last remnants of our youth, whether that’s slathering on anti-ageing products, dyeing those inevitable grey hairs or even lying about our age.
At 27, I’m often told how ‘lucky’ I am for still being young. And yes I do recognise and appreciate the privilege I’m still afforded by society for being in my 20s, especially when it comes to my looks. As women, we all know how much pressure we feel to look younger given how little society allows us to age, so at least that’s one less thing for me to worry about – for now. But, internally, it’s a different story.
As the founder of the first pro-age online independent fashion boutique - the-Bias-Cut.com - and the movement/community 'Ageism Is Never In Style', I work and mix with women across a huge range of ages every day, and there’s one thing that predominantly stands out amongst women over 45: their self-confidence. With age, women increasingly become surer in themselves and care far less what others think. This is even evident when it comes to style; I’ve generally found that women become less trend-driven as they age because they know what they like and what they feel good in, and have less of a need to fit in.
I’ve always felt like a bit of an outsider (haven’t we all?), and whilst I have always moved to the beat of my own drum, it’s not always easy. I do care what other people think and lack confidence so, even when I’m being defiant in not following the crowd, it doesn’t mean it’s easy. So when I see the level of confidence women over 45 exude, I feel they’re the lucky ones, and I can’t wait to get there.
And I know I’m not alone. Many of my peers tell me how much they want role models they can look up to and aspire to become. And whilst we’ve been brainwashed into being fearful of growing older, when I see a 45+ woman looking and being awesome, it immediately washes away those fears. Suddenly getting older seems exciting and becomes something to look forward to.
For too long ‘older’ women have been depicted as becoming decrepit, frumpy and irrelevant. It instils a sense of dread and uncertainty, and a belief that ageing is a steady decline. But this does nothing for anyone; it’s offensive and damaging to those who are older, and terrifies those who are younger. But if we disrupt this stereotype, and show that in truth life can become even more thrilling, dynamic and richer with age, everyone is better off for it.
That’s why fashion & beauty in particular have such an important role to play in disrupting ageist stereotypes and bias. We see 3-5 thousand adverts a day – many of which are fashion and beauty related - which has a profound impact on our psyche. So imagery and campaigns need to accurately depict who 45+ women really are today. Women over 45 need to feel represented, valued and highly visible, whilst women under 45 need to feel hopeful and excited about the journey ahead – more so than ever with low self-esteem amongst youngsters on the rise.
Fighting ageing is futile. It’s a natural part of life, and it’s not going to stop; we’re getting older by the second. But we should be embracing and celebrating that, not the reverse. Because, like a fine wine, life only gets better with age. And ultimately ageing is a privilege we should be grateful we get to enjoy!