‘They say I’m an old lady who doesn’t give a damn, and that’s sexy’
In an age obsessed with youth, Sarah Jane Adams, 61, tells Beverley Hadgraft how she’s managed to become a style icon to thousands
“Istarted my Instagram page @saramaijewels three years ago to promote my jewellery business. I’d just set myself a goal of 300 followers when I came downstairs wearing a red vintage Adidas jacket my daughter, Olivia, had bought me and a picture of it attracted a couple of smart-arse comments online.
Why do people think they can do that?, I thought, and I got my husband, Dave, to take a photo of myself outside our inner-Sydney home looking p-ssed off. I posted it on Instagram and wrote: So far today I’ve been told I look like someone from Grease and Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz and it’s only 10[am].
Then my other daughter, Tash, rang. ‘Mum, what do you think about what I’ve done?’ she asked.
She had reposted my photo with the hashtags ‘My mother’s cooler than me’, and ‘Advanced style’.
Ari Seth Cohen, creator of the blog (now a book and film) Advanced Style, had seen it and wanted to photograph me. Then Adidas reposted my shot with the hashtag: ‘Originality is timeless’.
JEWELS IN THE CROWN
Since then, @saramaijewels has gone crazy – I’ve currently got 62,000 followers – and I’ve posted photos of myself wearing a variety of colourful, unconventional outfits in all parts of the globe. They continue to include Adidas, not because they pay me, but because they’re colourful, timeless, practical and stop me looking like a sad old hippy.
It’s become a daily diary, almost a therapy. I love the visual side of composing photographs and the therapeutic side of putting secret messages in the pictures.
I don’t like being called a fashion icon. I’m an anti-fashion icon. I find the pressure to keep up with fashion alien. I always have. I went from school uniform to jumble sale and thrift shop finds. I never go to shopping centres or department stores. Although I sell jewellery, I rarely wear it.
It’s too meaningful or valuable and I’m not interested in wearing rubbish that looks like a weapon of mass destruction.
I don’t wear heels, I don’t own a fulllength mirror and I’ve never worn a bra because there isn’t one small enough.
I don’t try to be ageless. I’m fine being 61. It’s like money – I’ve learnt through business that money’s just a commodity to allow you to do things. Age is just something you are, so deal with it.
I can’t cope with people who have cosmetic surgery and put rubbish in their hair. Ageing gracefully is ageing as you are, not with a face that looks as if it will melt as soon as you go out in the sunshine.
In fact, I created the ‘my wrinkles are my stripes’ hashtag after I was bustled into a shop in Sydney’s city centre (I mistakenly thought it was a jewellery shop) where a girl started dabbing creams on my face.
‘This gets rid of your wrinkles for a week,’ she said and I leapt out of my seat. ‘No, no no! I love my wrinkles,’ I replied.
ATTITUDE TO BOOT
Equally I’m not obsessed with weight.
I own no scales, no tape measure and none of my clothes have sizes in them. All these things are what give me my sense of freedom and the courage to do crazy sh-t.
I practise yoga but I eat whatever I want. I never eat low-fat. I don’t eat red meat or sugar and I prefer organic when I can but I’m not hung up about it.
That’s not to say I ignore ageing. I sold my family home and got rid of most of the contents because I don’t want my daughters to have to clean up after me when I’m gone. There’s so much anxiety in getting rid of parents’ things. We’ve been sold this story of how there’s security in having stuff but it’s simply not true.
On a visit to New York, I was besieged by fashionistas and stylists. ‘How do you get so many followers?’ they kept asking.
‘I have no clue,’ I replied honestly. The next morning I posted a photo of myself with my face red from its daily exfoliation and asked: “Why are you following me?”
There were many replies.
‘You make ageing look like something to be excited about and at ease with.’
‘I’ve been feeling the pull to break free of the tiny box I’ve put myself in. You make me want buy nothing but bright colours.’
‘You’re an old lady who doesn’t give a damn. That’s so sexy and makes me look forward to constructing my own definition of age.’
I’ve been offered lots of business opportunities. I’ve said no to most because I didn’t want to go there or sell that and because I fear age has become a sales technique, the new ‘heroin chic’.
However, I have just filmed a campaign for a European department store, signed as an ambassador for the Grey Model Agency, and been invited to be guest of honour at the wedding of a woman who dances on icebergs and is marrying an Inuit. I wouldn’t miss that one for quids!
We’re all given opportunities in life, we just have to decide which ones allow us to remain our authentic selves.”
“To me, ageing gracefully is ageing as you are, not with a face that looks as if it will melt as soon as you go out in the sunshine.”