The Question of Age

Is it me, or is everyone talking about AGE these days?  At first I thought it was me because I’m in the process of writing a post for another blog about vintage for the over 40 set.  I’m been giving the issue a lot of thought, but you’ll have to wait a few weeks for that one.

But while pondering the question of how wearing vintage clothing might be different for a person in their teens and one in their 50s, I keep stumbling over articles that deal with the issue of aging, and in particular, aging and fashion.

First up, the fall 2012  Lanvin ad campaign.  For this campaign, the people at Lanvin decided to use “real” people, including Advanced Style blog regulars 62-year-old   Tziporah Salamon and 82-year-old Tajah Murdock.  According to Lanvin designer Alber Elbaz, “The phenomenon I see today of women erasing their age – nobody is allowed to have an age anymore, nobody is allowed to have wrinkles or imperfections.  I thought, let’s change that, let’s show that fashion can be amazing on 81-year-olds and 17-year-olds, on Tziporah, who is not size 36, and she looks gorgeous.”

Okay, I can relate to that, being 57 and not size 36 myself.  (A European size 36 is like a US 4, and a UK and Australian 8)

Even more interesting is American Apparel’s  use of 60-year-old  Jacky O’Shaughnessy as the model in a recent campaign, Advanced Basics.   She was spotted while having dinner in a restaurant.  You’ve got to wonder if the ad people were told to “get out there and find us a stunning old lady.”  Not that 60 is THAT old.

I think is is a sad commentary on our society that this is even news.  Everyone wears clothes, so why aren’t clothes marketed toward everyone?  I really started thinking about that this week when Jody posted on her blog about how companies, even those that have been known for their quality products, have started skimping in order to save a buck on construction costs.  As an example, she posted a tee shirt from Eileen Fisher.

If you aren’t familiar with Eileen Fisher, you should know that the line is pretty much targeted toward the 40+ set.  The shapes are simple and forgiving, the colors neutral, and they make their products up to a size XL.  So why are all the models on the site a size 0 with an average age of 22?  Whether we like it or not, the simple truth is that as we age, our body shape changes.  Very few women have the same shape at 55 that they had at 25, even women who watch their weight and have remained slim.  With so much of our clothing purchases being made on-line with just the aid of a few photographs, it would be helpful if the photos featured women of the target purchasing group.

(Not to bash Eileen Fisher, as this is a problem industry wide.  And there is a nifty feature on their site where the Eileen Fisher employees get to play dress-up with the goods.  I got a much better sense of how the clothing actually would look on different body types from that slide show than I got from any of the sales pages.)

So two ad campaigns do not a trend make, but it is a step in the right direction.  Maybe we’ll even see a model who is 60, 5’2″ and weighs 130!  Don’t hold your breath.

17 Comments

Filed under Viewpoint

17 responses to “The Question of Age

  1. The Eileen Fisher staff picks feature was charming, and sure showed the clothing better than the super skinny models!

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  2. And I thought it was just me and the fact that I turned 70 last week. Yes, I think we will hear a lot more about age as the baby boomers go kicking and screaming into their golden years. You are spot-on regarding the fact that one may weigh the same but things slip and slide for sure.
    As far as wearing vintage if you ARE vintage: my rule of thumb has always been you can wear the stuff you were too young to wear the first time. In my case that would be 20s, 30s and 40s. Hurrah, because I am loving the 20s.

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  3. I would like to add some of my views here.

    Everyone wears clothes, so why aren’t clothes marketed toward everyone?
    – I believe the purpose of this is that the working class or young people have the most spending power, hence the advertising campaign is targeted to this group of demographics.

    – Using a younger group of people to advertise can act as a model or ambassador to them which they can more relate to.

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    • Yes, but most people in the US work until they are 62 or 65. And the longer one works, generally, the more money they make. From my own experience, even accounting for inflation, I made much more money at the end of my career than at the beginning of it.

      If the product is designed and made for young people, then it is appropriate to use young models. I’m not suggesting that Forever 21 use over 40 models. But it would be nice if the companies who want and need the $$$ of women over 40 actually portrayed their products in a way to which we can relate.

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    • People are living much longer and working much longer too. Therefore the elderly have more spending power than ever before. There’s a whole generation of people that are being overlooked.

      I think Lanvin using ‘real life’ models instead of professional models for their recent advertising campaign shows they are leaders in their field – and it makes such a refreshing change. I appreciate the majority probably want to see clothes on the young and super-slim. However, that’s only because we’ve never had the opportunity to them displayed on anyone else.

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  4. i think your whole blog is amazing! I love every article and this is no exception. Thank you

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  5. In almost every country, the proportion of people aged over 60 years is growing faster than any other age group. In the UK alone, more than 20 million of the population are aged 50 years and over.

    I live in hope that the media will start showing this ageing population in a much more positive light.

    It scares me that silly girls in their twenties are resorting to botox and other surgical procedures. This era will definitely be remembered for the ridiculous things people do to their bodies and faces. It feels like it’s a crime to have a wrinkle!

    The most beautiful women I’ve seen (on screen) are those who haven’t resorted to surgery. Annette Bening, Diane Keaton, Helen Mirren et all!

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  6. I just can’t get over the commenter on the Couture Allure post who is a stylist, and said the samples they use don’t fit the models. Nothing about this makes sense to me. How can the clothing look right when it’s sizes too big for the model? And when there are gorgeous models out there in a range of sizes and ages, why would companies only use the youngest and skinniest, and not the model who might be closest to their target customer? But then again, little about the fashion industry has ever made sense to me.

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    • I’m sure that the fashion world is much the same as the film world. Casting rarely sends actors who are the size we need (even when we tell them what we need beforehand) and many actors give us wrong sizes! A lot of times, I’m altering clothing at the last minute on the shoot day – we just have to make what we have work, especially with extras. (And to top all that mess off, you have to deal with directors and producers who don’t like what actually fits.) I’ve probably done more alterations on t-shirts than anything else for costumes designers. Almost nothing you see on camera (action or still photography) is ever truly reality.

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  7. Hi Lizzie: Thanks for this great post. As you know, we at Dobbin have puzzled over all of this and are constantly trying to learn and improve our product’s quality and fit, as well as our branding. I will say, as a new small company trying to address a wider range of ages and sizes than our contemporary market counterparts, that it’s been a very interesting process. Having been in the fashion industry for 12 years, I know that many designers still make clothes for the thin and tall ideal that the industry still uses. We had an eye-opening experience when we cast a model for our site–there are very few models over 30, and plus size is now considered size 6 and above at all the major agencies. We ended up using a model who was indeed plus size (size 8) and who was just shy of 30. There are a small handful of fashion models in their 40s, 50s and 60s who command an impressive fee because they are in demand by beauty brands, big box stores and major advertisers but were out of our budget. I know that Wilhelmina has a 40+ modeling contest every year, but I’m not sure how many of the winners end up on their roster. I will mention that our fit model is in her 40s and is a size 8; most brands use a size 2/4 these days. So in short, this is something we think about a lot, and are trying to change, even as a small company in a very big industry with longheld standards.

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    • Jessica,
      Thanks so much for adding your insights here. It really is enlightening, seeing this from one who is trying to use a more “realistic” model! Size 6 is plus size??? That.Is.Nuts.

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      • Yes, it’s pretty unbelievable! We had a slew of models of all ages (up to 55) come in for go-sees and our clothes really hung on most of them because they lacked curves. We ultimately chose our model because our line actually fit her and we liked her personality.

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  8. Ruth

    I know that fashion has changed a great deal since my youth in the 60’s, but then so have I! I’ve been a working woman, a mother, and now a grandmother. My tastes have changed, also. Comfort and durability are more important than fashion, or being fashionable, even, but I still want to look nice and well put together. I guess that’s my idea of fashion now. It’s been a ride from hot pants to loose fit jeans!

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  9. Pingback: Aging Gracefully | Monica D. Murgia

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