I talk a lot about beauty – beauty that it is ageless, that is not just an arena for the youth, but for midlife women to uphold and embrace. I talk about celebrating our age, about redefining age, and about challenging the outdated misconceptions of middle age that still seem to invade so many aspects of today’s society. I also talk about having the freedom to wear whatever we choose, regardless of age. So imagine my delight to see misguided midlife stereotyping knocked out of the arena last week with the media coverage of the 75th Annual Cannes Film Festival.
Two women in particular stood out for me, and I was struck by their sheer beauty as they walked along a red carpet that more often than not highlights the younger glamour in film. At 54, model, singer and actor Carla Bruni was the essence of womanhood in a dress that was simple, elegant, sophisticated and – yes – totally figure hugging. Equally stunning was 64-year-old actor Sharon Stone, still at the top of her game in a beautiful haute couture dress that when she dramatically removed an oversized train also clung to her fabulous figure.
These women owned the carpet – and they owned their age. As I watched them, I found it hard to believe that the stereotypes and assumptions placed on middle age still exist – and yet we know they often do, even though we consistently prove them outdated and far from the reality of our everyday lives. But – having said that – what was particularly pleasing was that when you saw these mature women on the red carpet, they brought with them a long overdue sense that the rise of ‘ageless beauty’ and the talent of mature women is slowly being recognised.
Recently there have been more and more prominent older women standing up against the societal notion of ageing and celebrating their age as a huge positive – particularly in an industry that has previously been notorious for ageism. Think Reece Witherspoon, Jenifer Aniston, Nicole Kidman, Viola Davis, Helen Mirren, Emma Thomson, Kate Winslet, Jane Fonda – and I could go on and on – it’s an endless list of mature women who are fronting the television programmes and films we admire most. A huge indicator that the old standard ‘women aren’t watchable’ is being outed as a sexist and biased myth.
It’s hard to evade the stereotypes and assumptions placed on women in middle age, but why should we all stay in our age-appropriate little boxes? Society may not always see beauty in ageing, but that’s no excuse for allowing ourselves to fade into the background. If we want to wear leather trousers at 60, or leopard print at 70, why the hell shouldn’t we? And who’s to tell us that we can’t? We’re breaking down taboos every day, but we are still a long way from being able to dress exactly as we want without fear of derision or abuse – and I don’t think that’s a great deal to ask for in a civilised society.
As far as I’m concerned, when it comes to our personal freedoms, ageism is old news – and surely, in a fashion context, pushing the boundaries is fun? Who says we can’t be stylish in our 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond? Technically I am 'middle-aged’ and I don’t have a problem with it. I will wear whatever I want to wear, regardless of any ‘age appropriate label’ that’s misguidedly placed on midlife fashion. Our right to choose has to be supported. So of course anyone can dislike what I’m wearing if they choose to and that’s their personal taste – just don’t make it about my age.