Helena-Norowicz

Older models: Empowering or Not?

“[Vogue editor] Anna Wintour is past 60, yet every issue and every online email is focused not only on Gigi, Kendall, and Bella, but also what they’re doing and what they think. Really? They are lovely girls but that are just that: girls.” —Online commenter

Who woulda thought? Vogue magazine has taken a stand against ageism on the runway and in fashion mags. In an online editorial, “We Need to Talk About Fashion’s Ageism Problem,” the magazine’s fashion news writer Janelle Okwodu points out that there is no shortage of mature models out there — so why aren’t we seeing them?

Indeed.

More interesting than Okwudo’s opinion are the comments under her piece on Vogue.com, where several readers have suggested that Vogue go beyond talking about the problem and start featuring older models in its own pages.

Among the comments: 

“We follow fashion, what we need is your stylists to pick those garments which compliment our age rather than making us look dull or showing off the bits which are not great- like knees.”

“Yes, and what about Iris Apfel?   More style in her little finger than a lot of these “babies” have in their entire bodies!!!!   Style has NOTHING to do with age – it is a state of mind – you are born with it!  And heaps of older women (and men) have so much style and fashion nous – which has taken years to acquire and refine!!!”

“Every issue of Vogue Magazine and Vogue.com filled with the same group of 19, 20 and 21 year old models that are on the runway…. If Vogue is going to write about this problem, let them be the leaders in correcting it.”

Then again, do we really need beautiful older models?

In the same week that Vogue took on ageism in the fashion industry, art-and-style blog My Modern Met suggested that the success of 59-year-old model Yasmina Rossie (yes, 59 is ancient in fashion) signals that an age revolution in the industry is already underway. But Modern Met’s Facebook page offended many of the blog’s followers, these three words especially: “empowering women everywhere.”

my-modern-met-facebook

Does the fact that the world is celebrating a beautiful older model “empower” you? Or is it a case of same-old. As one commenter wrote:

Women: you can be subjected to impossible standards even at 60. Try to contain your excitement”? 

Another commenter wrote: 

“Because she looks like a different species than most of the rest of us, and can get modelling jobs, she is empowering us? What does she have to do with me? Congratulations on being beautiful, it is awesomely lucky for you…but really, it’s a little ridiculous to think it affects most of us other 60-year-olds at all.”

And the discussion was underway. One commenter was unimpressed by Yasmina Rossi but pointed to 81-year-old model Helena Norowicz (pictured above). Another felt empowered by any representation of beauty in an older woman:

“I see that a lot of people seem kind of offended that this was called empowering, but I think it kind of is. She has about 20 years on me, but I think it’s heartening to see an older woman’s beauty and sexiness being acknowledged, whether her beauty is ‘classic’ or ‘lucky’ or not. Maybe by the time I’m her age it won’t be anything out of the ordinary for beauty to be appreciated in women of all ages.”

 

Is representation empowering? Would Vogue’s inclusion of older models help to stem ageism, as some commenters there suggested? Or is representation of older people in mass and online media only valuable when it reflects qualities other than a beauty that’s unattainable to the majority of us?

Issues of age and ageism are coming to the fore at a time when we can all weigh in (thank you internet). So, what do you think?

 

Let us know in our comments section below. We’re listening!

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28 comments
  • Deb Wood
    REPLY

    Interesting food for thought and discussion. While we appreciate “patina” on antiques, it is still hard to see the beauty of “patina” on humans.

    • Daphne Lawton
      REPLY

      I agree with you. They may be more beautiful than the rest of us, but they are positive images of aging. I really wish Senior Planet would begin calling out the negative stereotyping of seniors in the media, because it’s really getting out of control, IMO. Even, or maybe especially in “liberal” publications, like Huffington Post. Racism is being attacked in the media, but agism is getting worse and is not challenged at all. Calling everyone over 60 “grandma” and “grandpa” and endless articles about a life of just cooking, changing diapers, and memory problems are examples of negative stereotyping, assuming that someone fits into this one role just because of age is condescending and negative stereotyping.

      • Barbara, Senior Planet editor
        REPLY

        Hi Daphne, thanks for your comment. Senior Planet tries to consistently present non-stereotypical views of older people to counter the stereotyping we see in mainstream media. We also make a point of commenting under ageist articles we see on other sites.

      • Trisha
        REPLY

        Agree with Ms.Lawton. I dislike heartily being called “grandma.” Also wish someone would have a talk with Dr. Oz, a pretty influential tv guy. Some time ago, he presented a “mocked up” human purporting to represent a 74 year old. The space-suited individual could barely walk, go up and down stairs, or move its head, whatever. Are there folks out there with severe problems as this research model represented? Absolutely! However, to present as fact that this model represented everybody at 74 was disgraceful!

  • Kathleen Shelby
    REPLY

    No this does not empower me. I am short and overweight and 65 and healthy as all get out and beautiful in my own eyes. I resent the older tall willowy abnormally perfect women just as much as I resent the younger ones. Why? Because I can’t wear the fashions they show. It’s just as demeaning now as it ever was. But now, as I am older and more likely to speak my mind — it makes me angry. Damn angry!

  • Geri
    REPLY

    Women over 50 with long, white/gray hair look ridiculous. A chic, short, well styled cut…any color is very becoming. I’m 77. I keep my hair straw berry blond ( used to be red many yrs.!ago ) short and stylish. Basketball & pickleball, among other sports, keep me active & young.

    • Maggie
      REPLY

      You’re certainly entitled to think so. I don’t agree with you. I think women with short, old lady haircuts look ridiculous.

  • Joanne Swain
    REPLY

    You should also look into Black senior citizens with class. I am 66 years young and have created my owe vintage look and I have been told many times that I don’t look my age and I should consider modeling. We’ll see.

    • Daphne Lawton
      REPLY

      That model does NOT look “ridiculous”. She is very attractive. I see women with gray hair worn long frequently, and it looks fine. Looks good, actually. I say a woman with long grey hair halfway down her back in Target the other day, and she really looked terrific.

  • Patricia Kirby
    REPLY

    Who do I contact to discover whether I am suitable for more mature age group modelling.

    I am 77, petite, slim hourglass, five foot 2, and forever being told I have great dress sense.

    I would appreciate any advice you can give me.

    Thank you.

    Patricia (Kirby)

  • Elysse V. Cooke
    REPLY

    I am over sixty, and am struck by the style and grace with which my contemporaries and older women exude. I remember my mother and friends at my age. They were mostly identified as wives and mothers, and stlye was not a #1 option for them, although I do remember my mother did stand out in her group. She was beautiful, and sewed a lot of her clothing. She alternated between designing and using Vogue patterns. I like to feel I inherited her fashion genes!

  • Trish Martin
    REPLY

    Sorry, the woman in the dusky pink outfit, with long blonde hair, is an abject turnoff. She is of a generation who (should) know that ladies do not sit with their legs apart!! Forget the bling ring. I don’t even see the clothes, just the bad manners and poor upbringing.

  • Teri
    REPLY

    I have to believe that seeing more older models is empowering and does fight against ageism. By featuring older models you are proclaiming that just because you are older that does not mean that you are “washed-up, a has-been, or of no consequence.” It does not matter whether you are classically beautiful or not; it still makes a statement that older women, just like older men are still viable, worthy, sexy, intelligent and bring something to the table every day, and how.

  • Trisha
    REPLY

    A couple of different stories here. In 1976, Vogue announced that women had finally arrived – women’s liberation was here and now and clothes reflected that. In particular – NO MORE HIGH HEELS – EVER – BAD!! So much for what Vogue thinks, says, or does. Style, attractiveness, whatever for women 50, 60, 70 or more: some terrific blogs out there to help us seniors find our way. There are other clothes to choose from than, say, Alfred Dunner. Models are way too skinny: think such images are bad for our young women. Personally, at 76, I’m not impressed with any model’s body parts – my body, complete with surgery scars and a missing breast, is no longer a problem for me. Our returning injured veterans have shown me how to live with my own personal wounds – I salute our wounded warriors! And one more thought: elderly women today look and dress soooo much better than did those dear ladies I remember from my childhood. As the ad said, “we’ve come a long way….”

  • Emily
    REPLY

    I love seeing older women models. It’s one more weapon against stereotyping older people. I think that it is also a good way to showcase diversity by featuring older models of different ethnic and racial groups. One thing I would caution against is the use of models who have had too much “work” done on them. That in itself is a form of ageism. And honestly, even in Vogue, not every model has to be tall and thin. A catalog I receive features, among the younger models, an older woman who is neither, and she looks fabulous in the unstructured garments the company specializes in. In my mid sixties, I think I look pretty darn good, and seeing women in my age group featured in magazines, not just in drug ads, makes me feel fantastic.

  • Honor Finnegan
    REPLY

    Anything that expands the current depiction of femaleness is great. Differences in age, weight, color, ability/disability. In my interesting opinion, it is good for all of us, men and women, and especially the youth who are terrified of aging.

  • Emewe
    REPLY

    Most people spend a fair portion of their lifetimes trying to look nice and arrange their appearances appropriately based on social norms. By the time you get 50-ish, you don’t see many depictions of your peers looking stylish and well-groomed, and you begin to feel discarded, irrelevant, and unattractive. I want to see sharp stylish clothing, make-up, and hair styles that are designed for my age group and modeled by my age group. It’s not so much about looking “sexy” at this point, but more about looking striking, dignified, and admirable.

  • Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com
    REPLY

    My answer is “yes!” While I would prefer even more diversity (different sizes, shapes and skin tones) I think it is good to see older women looking just as stylish (or more so) and beautiful and those who are uber young. How can that not help but make everyone who sees it become more used to older women? Ageism means that past a certain age you are invisible. This helps to counteract this and I would strongly support it in Vogue or any magazine. While it doesn’t necessarily empower me any more than seeing anyone without my skin tone or body type looking good, it does start changing the conversation about age.

  • Amanda Bolton
    REPLY

    I think it is a refreshing change to see women over 18 in fashion. I have wondered for many years (I am 56) why fashion and particularly cosmetics seem geared toward youth. Certainly there are young people of means, however, mainstream consumers with the most disposable income are 30 +. Why show cosmetics to defy aging on a teens face? I love it when the cosmetic companies (Lancôme has always done a good job with this) show women over 30. We are the ones, after all buying the anti-aging products! Why not show a 60 year old woman with great skin?? Same with fashion. I want to see people of my age depicted wearing fashion forward clothing with great design. Nothing wrong with seeing a gorgeous 60 year old. And nothing wrong with seeing an amazing woman in her 50’s in a gold swimsuit that is not a size 0 looking beautiful and smoking hot!!

  • Erica Manfred
    REPLY

    I like seeing older models but not in a special issue or article about “ageism.” Why can’t they use models of all ages and sizes for that matter. Why do models have to be teenagers. Why not 30 or 40 or 50. Ironically the skinny models don’t look so great at 60. A little flesh on the bones is way more flattering at our age.

  • Kathy Weisner
    REPLY

    That’s wonderful for symmetrically featured, good bone structured people who have been fortunate to be photogenic at any age. That does not relate to me at all. I’m not lovely to look at. I have way too many dents and dings and blemishes from living. And I’ve lived enough to see beyond fashion. Get real. Worth is not on the surface.

  • Roxanne St.Pierre
    REPLY

    Empowering? YES. When I turned 60, I took a long, hard look at myself and was appalled. What I saw was a dumpy old woman hiding herself in ill-fitting mom-jeans and oversized sweatshirts. All sense of style had drifted away. At some point I bought into the notion that aging gracefully meant looking matronly. That’s when I began the excavation, clawing through layers of emotional dust and rubble to find some kind of lost passion. A change of lifestyle emerged with fitness and improved nutrition leading the way. I was seeking out a new sense of style. But I felt alone in all of this. Thanks to Senior Planet and other sources, I have begun to see other women my age – and beyond – maintaining their own styles and I don’t feel alone anymore. I’ll never be featured in a fashion magazine. I’m not built for it. But that’s OK. It’s just good to see ‘my own kind’ being represented. We don’t have to be invisible and frumpy just because we’re not 19 anymore. Just as we don’t all have to be built like super models in order to be stylish.

  • Carol
    REPLY

    I can relate to models my age. Lovely ingenues with tan bamboo legs and hair down to here are just not interesting to me. That was one of my former lives. I’ve moved on.

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