Harper’s Bazaar (Malaysia) - - THE STYLE -

ge can­not wither her, nor cus­tom stale her in­fi­nite va­ri­ety … ” The glam­our of the older woman has been cel­e­brated for cen­turies; the his­tor­i­cal temptresses Diane de Poitiers and Cleopa­tra are no less mem­o­rable than un­for­get­table lit­er­ary se­duc­tresses such as the in­fa­mous but ir­re­sistible Mar­quise de Mer­teuil in Les Li­aisons Dan­gereuses. For only in ma­tu­rity was a woman con­sid­ered to en­ter her full sex­ual and so­cial prime: no won­der lit­tle girls al­ways wanted to dress up like their moth­ers, don­ning the heels and gloves that lent them that man­tle of adult wis­dom and mys­tery.

But then came the 1960s Youthquake as de­fined by that pow­er­house older woman, Diana Vree­land, ush­er­ing in an era ded­i­cated to the pur­suit of eter­nal ado­les­cence. Fear­ful of frumpi­ness, women now sought to dress like teenagers, in the process damp­ing down their own mys­tique; those who could not, or did not want to were ex­pected to wear clothes to con­ceal their lack of youth, rather than to dis­play their ma­tu­rity. Con­se­quently, by the 1990s, Ger­maine Greer was declar­ing with some truth that to be a mid­dle-aged woman was to be vir­tu­ally in­vis­i­ble.

No longer; in fact, she has never been more vis­i­ble. In part, the trans­for­ma­tion in at­ti­tude is a re­sponse to chang­ing de­mo­graph­ics. The baby boomers have grown up. More than a third of the Bri­tish pop­u­la­tion is aged over 50, and life ex­pectancy has soared. What is more, it is older women, in­creas­ingly the main bread­win­ners and at the peak of their earn­ing power, who hold the purse strings. A re­cent study found that almost all fi­nan­cial de­ci­sions in a house­hold are taken by women aged be­tween 40 and 60. Fash­ion and beauty brands have re­sponded; it would be fi­nan­cial sui­cide not to.

So Christy Turling­ton, who be­came the teenage face of Calvin Klein’s Eter­nity 25 years ago, re­cently re­turned to front a new cam­paign for the brand, and Cate Blanchett has signed her first beauty con­tract with Gior­gio Ar­mani. Both are in their mid-for­ties, with an el­e­gance and beauty that only seems to have grown with the years. Mean­while, Jessica Lange, at 65, has just be­come the face of Marc Ja­cobs make-up, and the age­lessly se­duc­tive Char­lotte Ram­pling stars in Nars’s 20th an­niver­sary cam­paign.

The use of re­touched photographs of teenage mod­els to sell make-up and anti-age­ing creams to ma­ture women is now a thing of the past. To­day’s grown-up con­sumer is pre­pared to spend her money – Clar­ins’s Su­per Restora­tive creams, de­signed for menopausal skin, are the French brand’s fastest-grow­ing range – but she does not want to be pa­tro­n­ised in the process. Hence the choice of Nancy Tate, a model of 49 with vis­i­ble lines un­der her eyes, to front the cam­paign.

Fash­ion de­sign­ers, too, have been pay­ing homage to the older woman. At 53, Tilda Swin­ton has been the face of Chanel’s Paris-Édim­bourg col­lec­tion, with Karl Lager­feld pro­claim­ing her “a time­less icon of el­e­gance”. Dolce & Gab­bana’s cam­paigns have starred the volup­tuous Mon­ica Bel­lucci, who is now 50, along­side the 85-year-old Bri­tish model Daphne Selfe – whose grey mane and chis­elled fea­tures make her far more strik­ing now than she was as a young model in the 1950s. The white­haired stylist Linda Rodin was re­cently cast as a model for The Row, the Olsen twins’ fash­ion la­bel; Lau­ren Hut­ton, now 70, has also mod­elled for the brand. Hardly sur­pris­ing, then, that a re­cent study for L’Oréal found that 80 per­cent of women over 65 agreed with the state­ment ‘you should make an ef­fort to look good at any age’.

Ad­mit­tedly, look­ing fab­u­lous at 50 may re­quire more thought than it does at 20, when bloom­ing health and un­lined skin can make a show-stop­ping en­sem­ble of a T-shirt and jeans. But the grown-up woman has other ad­van­tages: greater con­fi­dence, more money, and a style she has honed over the years.

Inès de la Fres­sange, 57, model, au­thor, and col­lab­o­ra­tor with Uniqlo and Roger Vivier

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