It wasn’t so long ago that women over a certain age, probably around 40, became invisible. Remember the scandal that ensued when a particular female news reader got the boot, and all because she was over a certain age? Actresses often complained that roles for them dried up as they aged and the fashion world never really considered the mature woman. But right now, the press is full of articles about the midlife woman, whether it is her style, what she has to say, her beauty or how good she looks in a bikini. I say hooray – it’s about time, especially as midlife is where I find myself right now.
In my mother’s day, women over 40 wore crimplene dresses, visited the hairdresser for a perm or a blow-dry once a week and were mostly expected to look after the home and their family. When she was a young lady she had two career options (if she didn’t want to just get married and become a housewife): she could either be a nurse or a secretary. My mother chose to be a nurse and was extremely good at what she did climbing the ranks to matron before having to leave full-time nursing because she was getting married. How times have changed!
I wonder why the midlife woman has become so much more visible now? Is it because the original supermodels of the 90’s are hitting their forties and fifties and still looking fabulous (Christy Turlington, Cindy Crawford and Yasmin le Bon to name just a few)? Is it because so many more women are punching through the glass ceiling and showing us it can be done (think Teresa May on becoming our second female Prime Minister, Alexandra Shulman resigning from Vogue after being their incredibly successful editor for 25 years or even Mary Portas who is still showing retail how to turn things around well into her fifties)? No need to feel side-lined in your career then.
The message used to be that it was all downhill past a certain age and that the menopause was a bit of a taboo subject. Thank goodness women are now being more vocal about this particular stage of life and the press are being brave and talking about it. There are as many changes around puberty and that isn’t seen as an embarrassment so why should the menopause and midlife be? It doesn’t have to be a time of gradually becoming invisible and irrelevant – it can be a time of freedom as the children leave home and there might be more financial independence. You are certainly likely to have more self-confidence as you age. Midlifers today are fitter than ever and sometimes look better than they ever have. I know I certainly think it is a bit like last chance saloon and wanting to make the most of things before it’s too late.
It is so true that youth is wasted on the young. When I was still in my mid 20’s the thought of turning 30 used to freak me out, never mind the milestones of 40 and beyond. Which, looking back, was ridiculous as I was probably such a babe! If only I could go back and have words with my younger self. When my 40th birthday actually came around I felt rather cool about it because there were a few trailblazers that had gone before; Stella McCartney is still at the top of her game and Charlotte Tilbury has never had such a high profile (40’s), Elizabeth Hurley still has a waist and Elle Macpherson looks fabulous (50’s), the original supermodel Twiggy is still incredibly successful and Meryl Streep is still making good films (60’s) and both Helen Mirren and Joanna Lumley are going forth and showing us how it can be done (70’s). Let’s not forget Dame Maggie Smith and Mary Berry (80’s) and of course our very own monarch the Queen still giving her all for her country and influencing style in her 90’s
The High Street is taking note and finally catering to the midlifer. They have realised that older women have a higher disposable income and perhaps more expensive tastes than their younger clientele. When I was a young girl, the only time you would have found my mother in a shop like Top Shop was when she was helping my sister and I to buy clothing. Nobody bats an eyelid these days to see an older women shopping in Zara, H&M or Warehouse.
It makes me sad to see a woman who has clearly had a fair amount of plastic surgery – I firmly believe that we earn our wrinkles and we should be celebrating our age not trying desperately to cling on to our youth. We can’t anyway, so spend the money on something more worthwhile.
So I say that we should celebrate our wrinkles, modify our wardrobes slightly (lower the hemlines a touch, raise the cleavage a little but carry on wearing a bikini on the beach), continue to wear leather (if it’s good enough for Teresa May and Mme Macron …..) and embrace all that is the ageing process without shame whilst carrying our heads high. To go back to my mother, who still looks absolutely incredible well into her 80’s, she has always told me that age is just a number. You are as old as you feel.