September 27, 2010 Leave a comment
Last week Debenhams announced that it was to “break a fashion industry taboo and became the first retailer to launch a campaign featuring models in their 40s, 50s and 60s to target ‘forgotten women’.”
A laudable aim, although a questionable claim as Woman and Home, M&S and Saga Magazine in particular regularly feature older models. However, their underlying point is a valid one: high fashion and high street imagery is dominated by models under 25 with the result that older women are neglected in terms of fashion advice and styling tips – and clothes that we might actually want to buy.
The campaign, which the retailer is calling ‘The Style List’, sees Debenhams joining forces with fashion commentator and diversity campaigner Caryn Franklin. The Style List will give ongoing solutions, advice and guidance on how women 40+ can achieve any desired look, whether it be evening, day or weekend wear. This will be delivered in stores, online and through photography used by Debenhams.
There are three looks highlighted in the launch campaign; Power Dress, All Woman and Casual Cool. The photographs of each do not, however, fill one with confidence. The “oldest” person (presumably the one representing the 60s age group) is differentiated by her silver hair. The clothes the models have been given would be difficult to wear at any age unless one is exceptionally thin and has fantastic legs.
The campaign seems to miss the point that there is a gap in the market for wearable, aspirational clothes for real women, aged 50+, living real lives. Not plus sizes, not glamour, not overly youthful trends, but clothes that hide your ageing bits and make the rest of you look as good as possible 24/7. Helen Mirren, a great fashion icon for the over 50s, bemoans in this month’s Woman and Home magazine that there is a lack of dresses with sleeves for older women, commenting, quite rightly, that “As you get older, there’s more you want to cover up”.
Still, it’s good news that at least there is an increasingly acknowledgement (no doubt driven by the value of this largely untapped market) that older women don’t want elastic waisted pants, fussy prints, ugly shoes and pastel cardis. We’ve just yet to see a truly inspiring representation of what we might actually want.