'Age is just a number'-then why does fashion still care?

In light of Dame Judi becoming British Vogues oldest cover model, Shamara Mohsin discusses how age still impacts the fashion industry

Shamara Mohsin
7th May 2020
Image Source: @huyennguyen on Unsplash
This week Dame Judi Dench graced the cover of British Vogue for their June issue and snagged the attention of countless news sites all around the UK who dedicated entire articles to the fact that she is the eldest person to grace their cover.

In a time of chaos, it seems that media outlets everywhere grasped at the headline of Dame Judi as their newest piece. But why did this garner so much attention? Does the general public still care about age so much within the fashion industry?

While we may not want to say it, fashion is a youth centred market, despite the fact that half of the world’s population is over the age of thirty, an old figure from 2012- though -maybe not just in the figurative sense. 

Image Source: @britishvogue on Instagram

Style is idealised in youth culture, as it has been for decades, as is beauty and opportunities, as every person has been reminded at some point in their lives-these are your best years. And while the clothing industry may seem large the number of mature individuals decorating the covers of magazines and online sites remains just a fraction of this amount. It seems despite the move to inclusivity in recent years discrimination is still at large within the age department.

In her article with British Vogue Dame Judi, described her experience with isolation- despite the cover shoot taking place pre-lockdown the interview exists in two parts; one before the initial quarantining was announced, and one during it. The article weaves together both as it discusses Judi’s planned trip to Barbados in March and her life now in her self-isolated English Countryside home.

The article, which reflects on the actress’s career from her time in Shakespeare to her most recent dabbling in failed film Cats, Vogue often quotes Judi directly and doesn’t fail to encompass her charm. However, they also often reference her appearance too- Judi’s ‘milky blue eyes’ that are beginning to wain in their ability to see, her ‘grandma vibe’ that she now has at 85 years of age.  Judi herself comments on how much she hates the number; reminding us she is infact much a victim of ageing, regardless of her national treasure status, as the rest of us as it appears to strike her much the same. 

Image Source: @britishvogue on Instagram

Then how did we get here? Where a woman who has bestowed the public with more movie gems than most and has righted herself as a cultural icon- to feel old. While age is a cultural construct it seems to affect us all, but maybe the lack of coverage in mainstream media has something to say about that. Could it be that if we saw it more on our TV screens and magazine covers we would feel a little more casual about the ageing process- would it seem less despicable?

The average length of a model’s career is estimated at five years, and it’s thought that it may be too late to join the industry past your teens or early twenties. But it seems social media has allowed many to build themselves a following outside the industry and uphold a career of sorts far longer-though the longevity of this unknown with social media so new. 

But considering mature modelling is still widely unknown, and rather looked over, it's unbeknownst where it will go in the future. For all the landmarks met and surpassed in the last few years of diversity in film, TV and so many more fields it seems that maturity is still forgotten. 

While designers like Versace, Saint Laurent and Calvin Klein are actively trying to include more mature models, they appear to be in the minority and a rarity on their social media feeds.

Image Source: @britishvogue on Instagram

It's considered that stardom is fleeting and that the best years are few and far between, with careers that last rather coveted in Hollywood and bestowed upon a select few- yet despite Judi being one of them she still finds fault in something she can’t stop.

The fact that the dame is over retirement age with no semblance of quitting anytime soon makes her a novelty to many. There are few celebrities who are never met with the ‘has-beens’ status in their older age. But if ageing is such a natural thing then how is it still so looked over in an industry worth over one trillion pounds? 

After her interview with British Vogue, the dame left: ‘thinking she was Beyoncé.’ said her son William. Therefore, maybe we all just need reminding that ageing is nothing, but a silly notion reinforced in society. If we featured mature models in our fashion shows, and marketing campaigns on our social media feeds with faces that were over the age of thirty then maybe getting older wouldn’t seem so daunting.

We would be reminded that your thirties, forties and fifties can be just as fantastic as your teens and twenties- if not better for many people. 

It’s also worth remembering for as much as Judi hates being the age she is; playing football in our gardens, day drinking champagne, memorising sonnets, and sorting out our next acting job at the tender age of 85 doesn’t sound too terrible.  

Words courtesy of Vogue.co.uk

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