We all want to slay our goals, revel in suc­cess at work and at home and feel com­fort­able in our own truly be in our el­e­ment. But that looks dif­fer­ent, de­pend­ing on where you are in life. Here’s what be­ing in one’s el­e­ment looks like for women of

Fashion (Canada) - - Culture Feature - By Court­ney Shea

M rs. Robin­son didn’t have a first name. When the sem­i­nal ’60s movie The

Grad­u­ate de­buted in De­cem­ber 1967, the idea that Dustin Hoff­man’s 21-year-old would re­fer to his older lover us­ing any­thing other than a for­mal hon­orific was laugh­able. Just the no­tion that a man in his 20s might be in­ter­ested in a woman al­most twice his age was ex­plo­sive enough to in­spire the en­tire plot of an al­most two-hour movie. “I think you’re the most at­trac­tive of all my par­ents’ friends,” Hoff­man’s Ben tells Anne Ban­croft’s “Mrs.” shortly be­fore hop­ping into bed with her, fur­ther un­der­scor­ing the idea that she was ma­jorly hot—for a mom.

Fast-for­ward 50 years and the pair­ing of younger men and older women is barely worth an eye­lash-bat: Heidi Klum (44) re­cently dated Vito Schn­abel (31), who pre­vi­ously dated Demi Moore (55), who was once mar­ried to Ash­ton Kutcher (39). Madonna (59) ap­par­ently dumped her 26-year-old boyfriend to date a more ma­ture 31-yearold last sum­mer, around the same time that Kate Beck­in­sale (44) was pho­tographed smooching a guy whose mom is re­port­edly younger than she is. True, the age dif­fer­ence be­tween French pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron (40) and his 64-year-old wife formed a ma­jor nar­ra­tive dur­ing last sum­mer’s elec­tion—but he won.

And it’s not just in the dat­ing world where “women of a cer­tain age” are en­joy­ing some long over­due adu­la­tion. This past fall, 73-year-old Lau­ren Hut­ton be­came the old­est woman ever to ap­pear on the cover of Vogue, around the same time that Al­lure an­nounced its de­ci­sion to ban the term “anti-ag­ing” in its pub­li­ca­tion. “Whether we know it or not,” wrote edi­tor-in-chief Michelle Lee, “[the term is] sub­tly re­in­forc­ing the mes­sage that ag­ing is a con­di­tion we need to bat­tle.” At the 2017 Emmy Awards, 14 of the 19 ac­tresses nom­i­nated for lead­ing roles were 40-plus (more than half were over 50), in­clud­ing Reese Wither­spoon and Ni­cole Kid­man of Big Lit­tle Lies—a show that proves teenage Gos­sip Girls ain’t got noth­ing on Mon­terey moms.

Here in Canada, At­wood Ma­nia is the new Bieber Fever, Sha­nia Twain’s lat­est al­bum de­buted at the top of the Bill­board charts and Cé­line Dion (a celebrity who, un­til re­cently, could have lost a cool-off against Bar­ney the Di­nosaur, has be­come the fash­ion world’s most un­likely It girl—make that It woman—just be­fore her 50th birth­day. Dion’s im­prob­a­ble as­cent peaked last sum­mer at Paris Fash­ion Week, where her street style wardrobe earned »

props from all the right peeps: Vogue gave her her own hash­tag (#Ce­lineTakesCou­ture). Drake even said he may get a tat­too of her, which is—let’s face it—the great­est stamp of ap­proval this mod­ern era has to of­fer. On the topic of tat­toos, 83-year-old Judi Dench re­cently ad­mit­ted to get­ting inked for the first time two years ago—block let­ters spell­ing out two words across her in­ner wrist: “Carpe Diem.”

Whereas in pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions menopause may well have been an in­vi­ta­tion to slip into a pair of house slip­pers and hun­ker down in front of The Price Is Right, to­day women in their so-called “third chap­ter” are, in­deed, seiz­ing the day. In 2016, 50-year-old tech en­tre­pre­neur Gina Pell coined the term “Peren­nial” to de­scribe in­di­vid­u­als of var­i­ous ages linked by the de­sire to live in the present and keep up with trends and tech­nol­ogy and the re­fusal to be de­fined by their birth year.

Nowhere is this so-called “gen­er­a­tional blur­ring” more vis­i­ble than in the style realm, where so-called “age­less fash­ion” has be­come both a move­ment (the re­ject­ing of the no­tion that in­di­vid­u­als must fol­low fash­ion rules in ac­cor­dance with their age) and an im­por­tant mar­ket­ing in­sight, con­sid­er­ing the buy­ing power of both young and old. “It used to be that women kind of aged out of main­stream fash­ion,” says Susie Sh­eff­man, a cre­ative di­rec­tor and stylist based in Toronto. Born at the tail end of the boomer gen­er­a­tion, she says it makes sense to see her age group throw­ing out the rule book: “We burned our bras, we were the youthquake of the ’60s.” At 58, Sh­eff­man will of­ten find her­self grav­i­tat­ing to the same cloth­ing as her 25-year-old daugh­ter (though they wear their pieces dif­fer­ently), and when she pulls looks for models and clients, she rarely thinks in terms of age-ap­pro­pri­ate. She re­cently posed for a mag­a­zine shot in a jean miniskirt and a hoodie. “It’s hard to imag­ine my mom in some­thing sim­i­lar.”

I can re­mem­ber my own mom telling me that af­ter a cer­tain age, a woman in jeans looked a lit­tle bit des­per­ate. Mind you, she said that 20 years ago—be­fore ma­jor fash­ion cam­paigns fea­tured the likes of Joni Mitchell (74), Joan Did­ion (83) and Iris Apfel (96) for Saint Lau­rent, Cé­line and Kate Spade re­spec­tively; be­fore hip­ster fash­ion grannies were among the hottest In­sta­gram in­flu­encers; and be­fore 20-some­things like Ari­ana Grande and Cara Delev­ingne started sport­ing grey hair—on pur­pose. The re­sult is a Wild West where the old rules don’t ap­ply. “It’s funny, be­cause I think there are some women who wish some of the rules would come back,” says Sh­eff­man, speak­ing of for­merly triedand-true guide­lines, like your shoes should match »

your purse or your age should match your hem­line. “There’s a lot of con­fu­sion out there. Women are afraid to make costly mis­takes, and rules can help—but, sorry, those days are over.” So there’s a lot of pres­sure.

It’s no won­der that women have been so ea­ger to en­joy an ex­tended ju­ve­nes­cence given the al­ter­na­tive. The “In­vis­i­ble Women Syn­drome” de­scribes the so­cial phe­nom­e­non in which fe­males over 40 of­ten feel com­pletely un­no­ticed—to not only the lewd cat­callers at con­struc­tion sites but also po­ten­tial em­ploy­ers, suit­ors, store clerks and so­ci­ety in gen­eral. Preter­nat­u­rally gor­geous 73-year-old Vogue cover models notwith­stand­ing, women con­tinue to ex­pe­ri­ence ap­pear­ance-based judg­ment and ageism at rates that vastly out­pace their male coun­ter­parts. Maybe you saw the Amer­i­can pres­i­den­tial race, where, at 68, Hil­lary Clin­ton was of­ten slagged as a po­ten­tial “Granny in Chief” (her rou­tine bout with pneu­mo­nia was cov­ered as if she’d con­tracted the plague), while Don­ald Trump’s age—70—never came up. In this con­text, it’s easy to see why a ma­ture woman might be all too happy to throw on a pair of Vans if that means main­tain­ing her sta­tus as a valu­able mem­ber of so­ci­ety. But she shouldn’t have to.

And here’s where the whole age-free ethos falls apart a bit. Be­cause, sure, 50 is the new 30, Big Lit­tle Lies is the new Pretty Lit­tle Liars and so on, but what are we ac­tu­ally cel­e­brat­ing when we ap­plaud older women for cheat­ing time? “Anti-ag­ing” may be out, but the re­lated in­dus­try is boom­ing—it’s ex­pected to be val­ued at $269.25 bil­lion by 2021. Which is an ironic but also a di­rect and to­tally log­i­cal con­se­quence of a cul­ture tout­ing old as “the new young.”

Peo­ple re­cently shared the back­story be­hind Queen Cé­line’s sar­to­rial trans­for­ma­tion: In­spired by the red car­pet looks of Zen­daya, she hired the ac­tress/singer’s stylist to re­tool her look. So af­ter a decades-span­ning, chart-top­ping ca­reer, Dion was fi­nally deemed “cool” by pat­tern­ing her­self af­ter a woman who was a year old when Ti­tanic came out. Which is not a bad thing—let’s not for­get what it is we’re as­sign­ing value to when we praise older women.

In The Grad­u­ate, what was so great about Elaine, Mrs. Robin­son’s 19-year-old daugh­ter whom Ben ul­ti­mately runs off with? Sure, she was pretty, but Mrs. Robin­son was ridicu­lously sexy. Emo­tion­ally dam­aged, maybe, but let’s just put that down to a re­pres­sive so­ci­ety. I’m pretty sure that to­day Ben would have cho­sen the older model. And he would have called her “Barb.”

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