Don’t Dress Your Age: Six Women Say No to Drab

A new TV documentary on Britain’s BBC4 has been tickling people’s fancies across the pond and stateside. “Fabulous Fashionistas” features six women of advanced years who share a love for style and a “screw that” attitude to the standard dictates of age.

Audiences in the U.K. have embraced the documentary’s message that when it comes to aging with attitude, style – whether it’s costly designer, handicraft or thrift shop find –  is a crucial part of the package; you can’t be walking around in baggy beige, which is what one of the Fashionistas calls “the color of death.” Sorry!

The documentary doesn’t just tell us about six seniors’ style choices. By the end of its 45 minutes, these women are much more than clotheshorses – just as they’re much more than “old.”

“It’s not about money or looking younger,” one of the six says. So, what is it about? “Having an identity beyond old lady.”

The documentary makes a strong case for age being what you make of it. But one lone critic, blogging in the Guardian, has taken issue with it. “Fabulous Fashionistas,” Michele Hanson writes, has simply picked something that these women have done all their lives – being stylish – and called it remarkable because they’re old. We wouldn’t have made a big deal of it if they were their younger selves, and so isn’t that ageist? Why can’t we get used to the idea that someone can be an “old woman” and also a person who is interested in style? And is an older woman who’s not interested in style – never was, never will be – any less of a remarkable person? 

The fact is, these six women break with the stereotype in many ways. We learn that when Jean Woods’ husband of 56 years died, she applied for a job at Gap to make ends meet and ward off loneliness, and then switched from that job to a new one in a fashionable boutique. “Just because you’re 71 doesn’t mean you’ve stopped being able to converse with people and hold down a job,” she says.

Gillian Lynne, the 87 year old choreographer responsible for “Cats” and “Phantom of the Opera,” has been working nonstop since the ’40s. She says she loves her life because she loves her job – and loving life keeps her living. “You mustn’t allow it in,” Lynne says about age. “The minute you give an inch, it will take a mile.” She had just recovered from a serious bout of pneumonia.

And let’s face it, when you’re feeling invisible, the message that you don’t have to agree to fade into the background is inspirational. Just read the comments under Hanson’s blog post. Then take a look at the documentary trailer taster, below, and judge for yourself. (A DVD of “Fabulous Fashionistas” is available by clicking here.)

What’s your view? Share it in the comments below.

Read our Q&A with “Fabulous Fashionistas” director Sue Bourne (and see another taster) here.

Leave a Reply

191 Comment threads
62 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
214 Comment authors
newest oldest most voted
Notify of

Love this …shows age is not important

gives you a lot to think about style clothes

colors and creating your look can be a blast.



I have always said to my dear mom – hey! would Goldie Hawn wear it?? Do it! And now I find myself at 58, repeating to myself…Goldie Hawn…Goldie Hawn…do it… and I am in great shape, running, practicing yoga, but I want a certain dignity that means I look stylish and classy, with no holdbacks. So – rompers probably not, even in GH mode. Heels – yes! Miniskirts – well, I have great legs, even Tina Turner worthy, but still…OK yes! A bikini? Well, in the backyard, at the far end of the beach, and in Mexico on vacation…because here… Read more »

Jeanne Stein

I will NEVER stop dressing in my signature animal print ; I’m skinny and look 25 years younger, so why not show it off !


Love this! Would like to see more about all older women dressing creatively outside the box.


I am age 74, in good health and I consider myself a pretty well educated person (BS in nursing) Yet I feel as though I do not fit in anyplace. Yes, I am active, I sing in two chiors, work out at least twice a week, and I am trying to market a soft-sculpture sock monkey doll (it is patented) I do not dress in “senior” type clothing. But why do I feel so lonely and isolated. Yes, I live alone. I am single and I really do not like it, but there are worse things. I feel like a… Read more »


Maybe you need to be more socially involved, especially with other women doing fun activities. It can help!


Hello – I love You, I feel connected! Which area do you live, hopefully in Western Australia….I love colour in fact Colour as used by Luscher can tell you so much about another human being, I write, people call ‘automatic writing’ , when I have a loud thought, find a piece of paper and write. The subjects are wide and from emotions through my life experiences, from love to abuse. I am now 79 and feel I have not yet fulfilled my reason for being here. I dress in colour, as far as I can support it, and find others… Read more »


Dear Irene,
Can so relate to what you’ve written here. It’s difficult to find connections at this age. So many friends/family have passed on and one feels vulnerable. Don’t give up! Love the concept of your creation. Perhaps the sock monkey doll could have ‘relatives’ of different nationalities, with native costumes?


Could be depression. Not an uncommon diagnosis for women of our age. You must help yourself feel better and for lots of us anti depressants and talking to someone professional is the answer.
I’m 72 and usually feeling good, with the help I’ve mentioned. Don’t cheat yourself. Age is just a number and sometimes we just need a little help to accept this.
Please get help. What you’re feeling is not fun.

Elizabeth Smiley

I adore these ladies ! I’m 54 years young ! I shop in the juniors section of all the major department stores ! Full of color & flair ! I love black tights and printed skirts ! These woman are the new COLOR to fashion ! I will be one always ….

meera paukner

you can wipe them out. dignity and edge are Not mutually exclusive! those who can get that can make the young “hotties” look very stupid indeed.intelligence expertise and taste.


It doesn’t matter what style you choose. Businesses want to make millions in sales, and better to target than a bunch of old women who no matter what they wear they are still just a bunch old women that do not look any younger, they are just old!
It would make more sense if they were in a word graphic, “HOT!”


“……they are still just a bunch old women that do not look any younger, they are just old!”

You’re rude! You don’t know these women and you have no real idea as to who they are. And for your comment,”they are still just a bunch of old women”….It’s mean, and cynical. Hopefully someday you’ll understand karma.


This may shock you, but everyone ages, even you are aging. From your post I am guessing you are still a teenager. Do you see your mother, your grandmother, anyone over the age of 39 as “just old”? That is a very immature and ignorant way of thinking.
I pray you don’t start hating yourself as you age, I hope you wake up and wise up. We are all human, from conception to death. You are no better than these women, because you are younger, you are just not as wise.


Sounds like a wonderful opportunity to see how other women of a certain age respond to people saying”you’re wearing THAT?” Can’t wait to see it!

lady magdalene

while i may not make the same fashion choices some of them did, they ROCK!

to not giving a d@mn but for what YOU want to look and feel like!


Age is a matter of mind, if you don’t mind.
it doesn’t matter.

I wish you all
**** A Merry Christmas****
**** and Happy New Year.****


Still Alive

I will be 70 in 3 months and I get a lot of noise from one of my kids about the way I dress. I just keep saying that just because I am a SR Citizen, doesn’t mean I am dead. Age is a number and that is all.


My kids say your granddaughters wear that. I say they have good taste. I have a good figure so I wear leggings short skirts etc. I feel like I am still in my 20yrs and as long as I can I will dress make-up color my hair blonde wear heals have a live in boyfriend .I am 83yrs young.and still going strong had 2 hip replacements colon cancer and I feel this age I could care what people say,my grandchildren like playing with me they say u r life that’s why we are here.


Let it go….Let it go…..Let it go!!!!!

Free to be what you want to be
Too long a caterpillar…NOW FLY!!!!!


Now that I am getting older I find myself questioning,”What is dressing my age?” I like wearing overalls, sometimes with my boots tucked in and the other day one of my associates told her daughter that I thought that I was young. No, I thought that I like what I decided to put on for her get together. I take care of myself, made good choices when I was younger not to drink, eat very little meat, not to smoke and these choices pay off in your 30s and 40s. Everyone has to grow older, not necessarily reach old age… Read more »

Emma Ward

I think there is nothing more beautiful than seeing a senior or lady of consent beautifully dressed. You know being sexy does not have a number on it. It has a look and we know men never stop looking.


The Golden Girls did it…nothing new. It’s all about positive attitude and getting older is being your better self. A reward of having survived all the trials & tribulations life threw in your path and people being in our faces, now we thrive and that’s important.


Age is a matter of mind
Don.t dress your age. Be fashionable
and dress to look good and to look

Happy Thanksgiving to all


I love getting older; daring, colorful, alive, creative and courageous about clothing, and all aspects of this marvelous age of NOW!. I’m 83 and live life loving it and discovering ways to express my inner feelings of youth and creation. I want to become a true fashionista to leave a marvelous outside expression of how I feel inside… of love and way of relating to life… to my children and grandchildren and the world! What a way to go!!!!


Right on!! At last…..


These women are terrific! They’re exactly what I aspire to be when I grow up, and I’m 65 now … I’ve never wanted to see myself walking toward me on the sidewalk. How boring! Dressing our bodies should be fun, colorful and make us feel good, and to heck what others think. It’s not about them. We’ve only got one body, so have fun dressing it.


“Fashion” is just another product that is continually sold to us. Think about it. If a particular style looked fabulous ten years ago, why does it look awful now? Because advertising agencies working for corporations tell us that it does. For the most part, people (especially women) have no idea what they like; they know only what someone else tells them they like. If someone wants to dress up in bright colors with crazy jewelry and makeup, I say GO FOR IT / ENJOY IT as long as it’s truly her own style. Same goes for someone else who wants… Read more »


In a sense it does suck; but this is what we are stuck with as social creatures they need to conform and fit into hierarchical structures. What bothers me most about the dress codes is how they apply to women in particular, how they are used to display and limit us when we’re young and marginalize us as we grow older. But I suppose if it wasn’t the clothing it would be something else entirely.


With all due respect, neck ties have evolved from cravats worn by gentlemen of means. I believe it still carries that connotation, esp for young men or working class men who appear at church, weddings, funerals, etc., to much ribbing/admiration. Clothing, for better or worse, is like grammar. It signals who you are/aspire to be.

Trudy Harris



I just discovered that there is another documentary, called “Advanced Style,” about older American women with a similar stand-out attitude to style!

Jane, thanks for commenting. Do you know Ari Seth Cohen’s Advanced Style blog? It’s a wildly successful blog by a young NY-based photographer who shoots and writes about street style with a senior focus. He’s grown close to several stylish older women who appear regularly on his blog. The movie takes off from the blog. The film debuted in London last month and as far as we know does not have a US release date set yet – but as soon as it does, we’ll be featuring it.


I dislike that I keep getting emails about further comments in “my thread”, when my comment was never published. Also, please inform us in the US when the full doc is again available.

Ms Teri, we can remove you from the comment notification list, and we can notify you if the documentary becomes available to stream online. DVDs are available from Wellpark Productions. (By the way, the reason we didn’t publish the hundreds of comments we received was to protect commenters from receiving hundreds of notification emails. We’re very sorry that the notification system is not more sophisticated and sends an email whenever someone comments in the thread.)


So there’s no way to get off this list?

Hi Fritzie, we’ll be happy to remove you from the notifications list, if that’s what you’re referring to.


Can you remove me too from your email thread, I get too many emails now and need to keep them to a reasonable limit.

Hi Audrey, we’ve removed you from the notifications list.


I THINK THAT THEY ARE GREAT…WHO SAY’ S to dress a certain way because of age? I know women in there sixty’ s that look 85-90 and act that way. I also know women who are in there 80-88 and are stunning dress young and beautiful,make-up are dating yes and enjoying you know what. I say keep going on do not stop that is what keeps you young.only am

Don't Dress your Age

They are fabulous! I agree with them. I am 70 and always dress differently than people my age. Can send you some photos or do a photo shoot


I agree with Michelle Hanson about the ageist aspect. These women were probably fabulous at every age, so why focus on them now….. just because they are “old” and stylish? Nevertheless, I think the major take away is to be adventurous in old age, define for yourself who you will be as you age rather than what society would prefer…..fading into the background in our youth oriented cultures so people don’t have to think about their own mortality. We all will die, so let’s have some fun while we’re here!


Hooray for these girls!!

More women should feel this way!
Older women got a bad rap with the smart Alec’s “cougar crap”. How come men have been doing it this way for years with perfect approval. I would like to know who started this
passive, obedient, little woman , submissive to the male, etc., stuff. If it wasn’t for the
Women behind the men, nothing would ever have gotten off the ground.
Let’s even it out now, but do it nicely.

Mary Lou

In my last comment I should have said in the line about (it doesn’t matter what you think) to say it doesn’t matter what we think( society). I was not trying to insult you. Sorry if it seemed like that. I do agree tho, that the pic looked more like it was staged for a model pic. I would not wear it but hay that’s me.


Thank you, Mary Lou. I really appreciate that. And I didn’t really mean to cause such an uproar …


You are fabulous and inspiring!


Small explanation and then goodbye: I heartily approve of anyone at any age wearing whatever they want. What I was trying to express was that – to me – most of these women look like they’ve “been dressed” or are deliberately wearing things to make a statement, which is FINE … but what they’ve chosen (or what’s been chosen for them for this shoot) is not flattering, with a couple of exceptions, and is not beautiful. It’s jarring and outlandish! WHY? Who wants to wear such clothing? I’d rather wear beautiful clothing or at least outfits that are flattering and… Read more »


It has not always been that women can wear what we want. It has been subtly frowned upon to dress in ways that others don’t approve of. Have you not heard the “mutton dressed as lamb” line ? As I steer through my 60’s it’s fantastic to know women have paved the way for our self expression. I raise a glass in gratitude to the ladies in this film.

Mary Lou

Although I don’t care for some of outfits these woman wear or for that matter either in the rest of society. But good taste or bad taste is in the eye of the beholder and it doesn’t matter what you think. Everyone is entitled to be the way they are and dress the way they like, as long as they are not hurting anyone, or breaking the law. Variety is the spice of life and beauty is in the eye of the beholder.


These women are embarrassing themselves by wearing outlandish outfits unflattering to a woman of ANY age. But the photographer goes on shooting …


What a load of rubbish! They are expressing themselves and their personality! Why should a woman of over 65 suddenly become a drab? I hope that I continue wearing my reds and pinks and pretty clothes until I am into my 80’s and 90’s. I am now 70 and feel about 40 and enjoying life more than I have ever done.

Gina Parent

so how should they dress, to suit you????


sounds as though you are the one embarrased for some reason…….these women should wear whatever they wish…………their choice may not be mine , but more power to them in their “third age”…………..


I feel we should all make the best of ourselves re. Makeup,clothes and hair, no matter what age.


Fritzie, I am quite sure you posted this comment to get a response. You couldn’t possibly be so narrow-minded…..


For heaven sake Fritzie, get a life! You really should listen to yourself in a few years from now when you reach their age, or, if you are their age then just let them do what they want to do and you get on with your life.


If someone feels comfortable in their own skin, they will feel comfortable in the clothing they choose.


It’s not for us to judge how people dress. If it is offensive, hopefully they will come to terms with it themselves.

La Tanya

I live in the U.S. I loved this movie! I watched it twice and then showed it to my husband! Very inspirational! I loved these women! Daring! Energetic!


You should live until you die, period. I just turned 50 a few months ago and already society is giving me the message that I am already old, that I should slow down, that I should temper myself and show constraint in how I dress and become serious, stable, that I should fulfill the role of a stereotypical “older” woman. To hell with all of that. I am still a part of this world and I refuse to be put out to pasture or to conform to someone else’s ideas about who I should be. Personally I rarely consider my… Read more »


I couldn’t have said it better!

Jamie J

So true. I’ve found that now that I am in my 30s I have good friends from the ages of 25-85. Once you are an adult your an adult. I think everyone should be allowed to be who they are no matter what. Love the idea of this documentary.

nona Pandil

I am still dancing literally through 85years of life with all the challlanges and joys that come with 4 children and now numerous grand and great grand children. One of the on going sources of fun and joy is dressing a little funky. Usually lots of color, a flower,saucy hat,or unique leotards that show a little skirt above bppts or interesting stockings. Creating an outfit enforces my feeling of part of the young living world. Not driving these days, but still getting out to Starbucks, Tango dances, and engaging in all of life keeps me near the youngsters. I often… Read more »


I am loving the discovery of this site thanks to the blog of artist Kelly Rae Roberts…I am 75 years old and refuse to dress the way that is considered appropriate for my age…in other words, dowdy; tho stringently avoiding the teen age look, I often find what I like in the junior section. I hike/w a friend & dog for 2-1/2 hours a week in a park/w great hilly dirt trails; I also have an active sex life/w a wonderful male partner who is 7 years younger than I am, but we both feel like teenagers when together; I’ve… Read more »

Pat in Belgium

Only 20 more years of an active sex life?!? Heck, go for the whole enchilada (no pun intended…well, maybe…). In short, rock ’til you drop!

Paula/the sparkler

I live by the saying “we do not stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” At 85, I am not old and I do not plan to become old. I am a sailor and a walker; I own a business and I go to work every day when I am not traveling. My wardrobe consists of jeans and sweaters, workout clothes and swimsuits, as well as glitz and glamor for when an occasion requires it. I am comfortable in my clothes and in my body, so what do I care about age – not… Read more »


Yes to all the ladies that have responded, it gives us a shot in the arm to know there is brightness and fun available in our lives too….never accept the “label”….”Oh you’re too old to wear that, you’re too old to play that part, you can’t do that, you might hurt yourself, are you sure you should eat that, it might upset you.” I say Phooey on stereotypes!

alda facio

I don´t think it is ageist to find these women remarkable because the truth of the matter is that after a certain age, women in Western societies are expected to dress in a certain way and these women are not conforming to that expectation so they are not ordinary but extraordinary!


These women and the people who have put this video together deserve great applause!

We are in a time of creating a new and exciting world and you all are creating role models for the world. It’s wonderful to see women living fully in their bodies.

A giant hug and love to each of you! Well done and thank you!


The video is not 45 minutes, as stated in the article. It’s not even 2 minutes!

Hi Rose, the article is about a documentary that is 47 minutes long. Originally, we were able to show the full video on our site; however we are now only able to show a teaser for the video for copyright reasons. That’s why we say in the article that it is a “teaser.” We hope the full video will become available again in the United States in the future.

Jane S.

So sad, not to see the video again. I had gone back to my FB page for some inspiration and could not find the link. You-tube, no luck there either. Finally found this spot. Hopefully the full video will be available again soon. Wanted to share with girlfriends. Many of us need their food for the soul. Missing that tonight, when I really need it. Please come back soon. How will we know, when it is back up and running?


Love it but can we not say “old people” please. How about people of age.


I love my natural curly silver hair.
Stopped putting color on it 6 years ago.
It just costs money, takes too much of my time and is usually toxic. Get more compliments now than ever.


Love these ladies, but really we’re only scratching the tip of the iceberg here of how our society treats ANYONE who refuses to conform to stereotypes. And the delightful irony in this piece is that fashion, as a phenomenon, is just another expression of conformity. We have such a love-hate relationship with those who don’t conform. We love to put them on pedestals and look up to them (but usually only once consensus or those with ‘authority’ have said it’s OK to do that), and we love to knock them off again and revile them. In psychological terms, the message… Read more »


life changing. life affirming. Joyous


Although I’m 81 (born in 1932), I wear what I want. Sometines it’s jeans and a t-shirt,
sometimes some glitz with a low cut top.
I love these women in this video and I pal
around with like-minded women. Bravo!!

Rosie Balderston-Denbo

Love it! We can so easley get caught up in this age thing. It only has meaning if we give it meaning.It is fun tobe who we are


At 57, I am still a girl and always will be!

Subhadra Murphy

You Are Such Amazing Powerful Inspiring Women. I am Soo Glad My Grand Daughter Tagged Me This Wonderful Information. I Am Very Impressed And Happy To Have Found Support in Making My Aging A Beautiful Experience and Pleasurable Journey.


Quite honestly these ladies have it right and are “absolutely fabulous”… Why should we behave and dress a certain way just because society deems it to be so. I plan on leaving this world kicking, screaming and proud that “I did it my way…”!


If I dressed like this, I doubt that ANY of my grandchildren would be seen with me.


My daughter told me about the web it ……loved it. I cut off all my old lady hair and went back to my short and wild. i am back!!!

To complete your subscription, click on the Submit button and look for a confirmation email in your inbox. If you do not see our email in your inbox, please check your spam folder.

See our privacy policy