I am writing to you on behalf of stylish older women everywhere. Now, by older women you probably think I mean someone north of twenty-five years old, but I am talking about women who are properly old. You know, like 85 year old Dame Judi Dench who you decided would make a suitable subject for your latest front cover. And why did you make that decision, I wonder? Was it because your entire team of young trend-seeking fashionistas had suddenly had a Damascene conversion to the notion that older women are just as worthy of prominent display as younger ones, or was it a cynical ploy to create a stir, garner hundreds of adulatory column inches in the press and sell lots more copies of your magazine during a pandemic?

Let me make a few things clear. I absolutely love Dame Judi. I love everything about her, including her phenomenal talent as an actor, her face, her hair, her twinkling eyes, her wicked sense of humour and her joie de vivre. 

You could not have chosen better in my view if you wanted to celebrate the beauty, vivacity and authenticity of an older face, unaltered by the needle or the surgeon’s scalpel.

I wonder who else was in the frame when you all got together and came up with the brilliant idea to ‘create a big fuss with an older face cover’? The Queen? Mary Berry? I bet Helen Mirren was considered and maybe Joanna Lumley, national treasures both, but perhaps you felt that they were just too young at 74 to make the kind of splash that you were after.

 

And now what? Because you know what? You have whetted my appetite for more age inclusivity, for a greater challenge of prevailing beauty norms and some real and lasting change when it comes to clothes that might work on my slightly lumpy older body! At 72 I am ready and waiting for you to fulfill my needs as someone who has some disposable income, would absolutely love to be able to buy nice stylish clothes and who longs to be inspired by seeing fashions on someone who looks vaguely like me.

 

And it’s not as though you were always so ageist! Back in the late 40s and throughout the 1950s you developed a character called Mrs Exeter. She was described as ‘approaching sixty’ and even appeared on your front cover a couple of times. At that time, you had no problem with Mrs. Exeter being unrepentantly an older woman and you even described her like this: ‘Approaching 60, Mrs. Exeter does not look a day younger, a fact she accepts with good humour and reasonableness’. She was also allowed to have white hair and was sometimes included in glamorous fashion shoots by the likes of Cecil Beaton. In other words, there was a tacit recognition that Mrs Exeter liked to engage with fashion and beauty but on her own terms.

 
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Contrast all of that with the following quotes from your erstwhile editor Alexandra Shulman:

I don’t think people do really want to look at older women as kind of exemplars of fashion and beauty. I don’t think they find them as such. You could say why? Although I think it’s quite obvious really.”• Turning to a copy of Vogue, she explained:

 
“Let’s just have a look - you can’t see many pictures there that wouldn’t look really slightly ridiculous….This (pointing to a shoot) would look horrible. Not just strange, absolutely hideous, I think. This, which looks rather lovely on a very young model, would all look rather sad and tired on an older person.You know (shrugs). That’s life.”•

 

 

 

Ridiculous. Strange. Absolutely hideous. Sad. Tired. That’s me you are describing there, Alexandra, ex-editor of what you were no doubt proud to be called the foremost high fashion magazine in the world! Now, I know Dear Vogue, that you have got rid of Alexandra and quite a lot of the ‘posh white girls’ that surrounded her. You now have a 48 year old man in charge called Edward Enniful who is a Ghananian with some new and radical ideas. I am delighted to see that he spearheaded Vogue Italia's Black Issue, which he hoped would end the 'white-out that dominates the catwalks and magazines.' And now he has put our fabulous Dame Judi on the cover of your magazine in the U.K!

So, does this mean that we can look forward to an end to the ‘profound and deeply ingrained ageism that dominates the catwalks and the magazines?’ I’m holding my breath here Vogue…… don’t let me down now you’ve raised my expectations!

 

Yours (not very) hopefully

 

Tricia x

•From the book: 'Fashion and Age' by Julia Twigg (pp 109).

 

Image from Vogue. CREDIT - Photo: Nick Knight. See here

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