Step aside, Millennials
Freedom, playfulness, and joy of life no longer apply just to youth. It girls and trend setters over the age of 60 lead the way as senior women and men play an increasing role in fashion as both muses and models.
Gucci’s AW 2015-16 collections, the first under the direction of Alessandro Michele, changed the course of direction in fashion and accessories. Models walked down the runway dressed in sheer bow-tie blouses and pleated knee-length skirts with their feet inside fur slippers. Both female and male models wore frill shirts and berets. Looking at Gucci’s latest collections, the AW 2015-16 collections are modest in comparison. Yet, they stood out completely from the majority of the minimal, sportswear inspired collections that dominated the fashion world at the time. The embroidery, frills, ”nerd-glasses”, and metallic and glittering fabrics seemed to be a reaction to the many seasons of sophisticated and toned-down fashion trends. Alessandro Michele made fashion fun again through an eccentric and over-the-top styling. He also showed a different side of androgynous fashion by enhancing feminine elements that softened men’s looks.
Now, in the spring of 2017, sneakers are traded in for slippers and loafers, and mannequins dressed in floral frill blouses stand in the windows of both luxury and commercial clothing stores. The look is vintage-inspired, quirky, and feminine with brocade boots, velvet pant suits, and oversized fluted sleeves. Embroidered patches cover the backs and sleeves of leather and denim jackets. It’s beautiful for the sake of beauty. A visual retreat to a place of opulence and whimsical creativity.
There is a strong sense of nostalgia associated with this trend and we look at older women and men for sartorial inspiration. The project Advanced Style started off as a blog where photographer Ari Seth Cohen turned his lens towards women and men over the age of 60. The aim of the project was ”capturing the sartorial savvy of the senior set”. He questioned the lack of seniors in lifestyle and fashion media, fashion campaigns, and websites dedicated to street style. The blog then turned into two books; Advanced Style (2012) and Advanced Style: Older and Wiser (2016), as well as a colouring book and documentary film directed by Lina Plioplyte (2014).
These senior women are redefining the visual process of ageing and inspire designers and brands with their eccentric, colourful style. A style achieved by experience. Older women and men are also increasingly used in fashion advertising campaigns and editorials. Another example are the senior women who walked down the runway during Vetements’ AW 2017-18 fashion show that revolved around ”normal people” and stereotypes.
In an industry that is so obsessed with youth and youthful beauty as fashion there are few things as radical and revolutionising as using senior women and men as models and muses. There is a new generation of it girls over the age of 60. Not only do they inspire other women of the same age group but they also influence the style of younger groups such as the so-called Millennials and Affluent Midults (aged between 35 to 55). The Affluent Midults especially crave for brands to ditch the tired assumption that age is a barrier to style. They also desire a playful luxury with products that show their cheeky side yet are still sophisticated and age-appropriate.
Today, when consumption is driven by the number of potential likes on social media such as Instagram, there is no wonder why these ladies set the trend. They are one-woman-shows with their faces covered by oversized sunglasses and with turbans or floppy hats on their heads, standing out from the crowd in bright patterns and prints. Their grey hair is dyed in unnatural colours like orange or purple and they wear heavy makeup and rows of pearls around their necks. Golden rings cover their fingers, and on their wrists are bangles in coloured enamel. Their looks demand attention and catch people’s eyes both on the streets and on the web.
One of the most famous trend-setters is Helen Ruth Elam Van Winkle, known as Baddiewinkle. She became an internet celebrity at the age of 85 and currently has 3 million followers on Instagram. With her catchphrase ”stealing yo man since 1928” and bold, youthful looks she has built a huge fan base of girls and women of all ages. Along with the likes of Iris Apfel (who also rose to fame late in life) and other 60+ fashion icons she redefines senior style in a way that speaks to juniors. As Baddiewinkle poses in a fake septum piercing or a pair of rainbow-coloured and metallic platform sneakers she also redefines the expression of youth.
Not only do these women inspire through their playful sartorial choices but they also possess a positive attitude and joyfulness that they’ve gained by living life to the fullest. Age is indeed only a number and there is no expiration date on style.