Last month saw the new Channel 4 documentary ‘Fabulous Fashionistas’ report on the lives of six stylish women living the UK, with an average age of 80.
The women featured are inspirational in a variety of ways. Firstly, they each display a strong sense of style. Crucially, these women do use fashion in order to look younger; rather they use their clothing and accessories as a means of maintaining their individuality and expressing their uniqueness. In our youth-obsessed society, the way these women maintain creativity in their wardrobes well into their eighth decades is inspiring, and brave.
Yet aside from maintaining their amazing sense of style, each of these women all succeed in preserving their independence by continuing to work, despite being many years past the previous default retirement age. After the death of her husband, 75 year-old Jean began working at the international high-street chain Gap. She worked there for a year, and was the company’s oldest employee. Since then she has started working at an independent boutique in Bath, which she feels brings her fulfilment and enables her to maintain self-determination. The other women featured are equally motivational. Jilly, 87 tells us that she loves her job as a dance choreographer/director. She hasn’t stopped working since commencing her career as a ballet dancer in the 1940s, and is never happier than when her studio leading a team of dancers. It is clear that she loves her job, and she even views retirement as ‘dangerous’.
Daphne is 85 and has worked as a model for the past 15 years. She is now the UK’s go-to older fashion model and has been referred to as a ‘supermodel’. However, it becomes clear as the episode progresses that Daphne is an exceptional case, and that older women remain very much unrepresented in the fashion industry today. Bridget, a life-long campaigner visits various agencies in London with the aim of dispelling ageism in fashion, and is unanimously rejected despite being enthusiastic and stylish at 75.
However, she is not put off by the rejection, and resolves to continue her fight against the structural ageism in society which prevents so many from finding fulfilment and reaching their potential. Like all the ‘fabulous fashionistas’, Bridget is in possession of not only a magnificent sense of style, but also a strong work ethic and steely perseverance. These women should be applauded for their refusal to ‘blend in’, but also their determination to not let their age prevent them from living out their ambitions.