Since several fashion lines have chosen older women as their public face, the most recent being Joan Didion for Céline, some fashion writers have decided that it’s finally hip to be old. That’s why I appreciated yesterday’s New York Times article by Vanessa Friedman, “On Age, Talking a Good Game” (online as “Fashion’s Two Faced Relationship with Age”). At the end, she brings up an often overlooked fact: aging brings changes to body shapes, and no amount of youthful spirit or adventurousness on the part of older consumers will change that fact.
Let me talk about my own body. I spend a lot of time trying to stay fit, with walking, yoga, and exercise classes. There are no sugary snacks in my kitchen and I eat a lot of vegetables. Nonetheless, in the last twenty years I have gained ten pounds and shrunk one inch. My back has expanded and my breasts have gotten bigger (talk about irony) and fallen further down my chest. My waist has risen and I now have a little pot belly, something I never had before. On my backside, my derriere has flattened and sunk lower towards my knees.
What does all this mean? Quite simply that clothing designed for the proportions of younger bodies do not fit well. Jackets pull across the back. Pants that fit across the hips don’t fit at the waist…and I could go on and on.
Unless designers start thinking about how our bodies change as we age, their beautiful clothes won’t fit an older demographic. As Friedman says, “If there really is a new market class of 60- and 70- and 80-year olds with disposable incomes and minds of their own, perhaps it’s time that fashion, and designers, grappled with their needs.”
Or we could all just make our own clothes.