I’ve recently subscribed to Vogue. I see reading Vogue as similar to studying military history journals when I was editing my dad’s memoir (of his life in the Indian Army). It’s homework. Yes, truly, it is! I check out the current must-buy and what the designers are doing. It’s a frivolous experience with me going – ‘oh lovely’, ‘wow’, and ‘how beautiful’, tempered somewhat by, in the next second, ‘it’s how much!’ (Although, I have to say there are some reasonably priced clothes within those glossy pages. Next and Florence & Fred for example, in their adverts.) Then I look at the people who feature in Vogue; this is my sociologist’s eye working. They’re monied – mainly, iconic – a few, beautiful – some.
And finally, I look at what I should be concentrating on; the editorial and advertising fashion spreads. I clock the shape & texture of the clothes, I note the hemlines and then I look at the models. Now they’re not all like this, but many are. They’re ultra tall, pale, with tousled hair and dark troubled eyes, and thin, oh so thin. They’re also young, some of them very. Designers, magazine editors, this is meant to sell the clothes? Well, yes, I can hear them say. Remember the response in the documentary Fabulous Fashionistas? That Vogue is aspirational. What did that mean? I wasn’t sure. Is it that no one, obviously, aspires to be like an older woman, so we can’t have them modelling in the fashion spreads? Well huh! I mean I wonder about that. Vogue has a circulation of around 220,000 and clearly the over 65s buy the least numbers within that circulation – so, perhaps the proprietor and editor is missing something somewhere, hmm?
Professor Julia Twigg(1) has looked at how older women feature in Vogue by doing a content analysis of every magazine published between 1999 and 2009. And she found, and I would agree with this, that older women do feature, but not as models of high fashion. No, we often turn up in the beauty pages, but it would be predominantly a story-line of say, ‘how not to age’ somewhat under-illustrated, as in, with not many images of older women. Indeed, I swear I saw anti-ageing article in another mag illustrated by what must have been a 30-year-old with not one line on her beautiful skin – sigh, shakes head with exasperation! And we also appear in articles on ‘decades’, what you might be wearing through the ages or on ‘generations’, mothers and daughters grouped together or there are the items on named, often iconic older individuals. And then there’s apparently, the current oft-repeated idea in Vogue of ‘Ageless Style”.
Now that (Ageless Style) does sound better. Professor Julia Twigg talks about how older people now are, in fact, seeing their lives, until they become ill or frail that is, as a kind of an extended plateau of middle age. And an ‘Ageless Style’ is in our grasp, I mean I wander around Urban Outfitters Europe and the clothes set out on the tables are just as much for me as they are for any 20-year-old (well, perhaps not the teeny, torn shorts). But Ageless Style, won’t wash if the images to depict this style are either not there or of botoxed 50-60 year-olds with narry a line on their respective faces. Where are the ageing faces in the high-end fashion spreads; the older, interesting, sharper, lined faces?
Well, I guess we won’t get them for a while. Although, does anyone see Guardian All Ages? These often feature one older model, who’s lovely but a bit severe and very thin, so not exactly typical. What about having someone short and squat and smiley?
One of the most interesting things that Professor Twigg says is that we are at the same point in relation to age as we were in the 1970s to gender. When I got pregnant in 1976 with my first child I had to resign my post in the Civil Service. That was the norm in those days, absolutely unthinkable now.
Perhaps, 50 years on, people will look with amazement at the high-end glossies of today, and be astonished at the lack of older models.
My view is no, I don’t see myself as old, you never do, until you look in the mirror on a bad or sometimes even a good day! Otherwise, the ageing and aged are always the people (with apologies to anyone of 82 years reading this) who are 15 years older than oneself. But I am a baby-boomer, so I do want, no, I demand, recognition, respect and an identity in magazines like Vogue. If you don’t mind. This said with an exasperated but emphatic tone of voice! Not sure how this might come about but it’s early days yet for this ageing demographic – any ideas?
Do let me know if you disagree with me – as in no, you don’t want older women acknowledged in the high-end glossies. Or if have any ideas.
That’s all for now. No photo of a bargain in this blog but you can go back to a blog on kilts I did earlier this week and find a photo there (click at the top of the page).
With love to you all
The frugal fashion shopper
(1) Fashion Theory, Volume 14, Issue 4, pp 471-490 How does Vogue Negotiate Age?: Fashion, the Body and the Older Woman.
P.S. Did you spot the spelling mistakes in my last but one blog – oops – I corrected them quite quickly thanks to someone who saw them. Thank you again, you know who you are!