There is a preconceived idea among many that there is a correct way to grow old, especially for women. To grow old gracefully is a familiar expression, so what about those that challenge this adage? Who deems what is graceful and what is not? There is a conventional image of elderly women. However, just because society considers one way more acceptable, the reality is that there is no right or wrong way to dress.
There is a distinct lack of representation of more mature women modelling current styles. There are fashionable older women who do not necessarily follow the ‘grandma’ trope, but there are not as many that push the boundaries of the conservative ideal. This is why representation is needed to expand this trend and challenge the misconceptions of what styles are and are not appropriate for the older woman.
The conventional image for elderly women
There are certain taboos in society with what is appropriate attire for the older woman to wear. Longstanding prejudices buttress this belief. The purported requirement to grow old gracefully stem from a patriarchal heritage. The few men in charge have always controlled the images and stereotypes of the many. For females it was deigned they be sweet as children, sexy when young and conservative when old. The leniency is diminished regarding what is socially accepted for elderly women to wear.
Social acceptance is a key tactic for what society adheres to. Models on the catwalk are predominantly in their 20s overlooking the market for the older generation. The limited age for fashion models precludes the market from catering current trends to the older generation. The lack of inclusivity and representation for older women in this sphere also helps explain why there is a regressive attitude to their style. There are brands which model older women, but it is not a predominant trait. The more common it is made for older women to wear what is fashionable the more acceptable it will become.
Perhaps not an obvious choice when debating fashion icons; Theresa May is a prime example of the inflexibility surrounding elderly women’s image. Theresa May, not only female but over 50 when she came to office, was continually reported on based on her clothing; shoes being a major focus. Of course, the same scrutiny is true for women who are not over 50, but there is an increased pressure to dress accordingly and conservative for those who are. The same pressures are not faced by men who command high office. Their fashion is neither a topic of conversation nor grounds for attack. Fashion has the power to take away from political issues. It can influence a person’s image to gain them traction or lose them an audience.
Influencers with nonconventional fashion choices are using their platform to promote a new normal. A certain Baddiewinkle is captivating Instagram audiences with an incredible 3.6 million followers loving her style and flair. At 92 years young, Baddiewinkle is not your ordinary elderly lady. Her style is flamboyant and unconventional. This style may not be what is considered suitable for an elderly woman to wear, yet her millions of fans clearly disagree. It is a refreshing sight to see an individual defying social convention and living the life they want without fear of societal judgement. There are other older Instagram influencers which show a similar fearlessness. An encouraging article on the Insider website lists a few of these visionaries that people should keep an eye out for.
Unity in our differences
Everyone is different whether that be through gender, sexuality or something like styles and taste. Without this, though cliché to say, life would be very boring. It would be a safe and uncontroversial life, with little critique, but also little change and praise. Surveys have shown an impressive proportion of elderly people feeling cut off from society. Thus, denying them a security in the clothes they should choose is alarming. Expressing oneself through style should not be something society can suppress. Allowing more representation and less judgement could return an individuality to their style without fear of societal disapproval.
As we get older our confidence should not waver and be influenced by societal expectations. We should be getting bolder and experimenting with new fashions. Wanting to wear a bikini at the age of 60 or buy lingerie in our old age should not be shamed but celebrated. The same can be said for wanting to wear comfortable underwear or a swimsuit. Whatever your choice of clothing, it is and should be just that; your choice.