Look at the novelist Joan Didion in the new ultra-cool photo shoot for high-end French fashion brand Celine, wearing a tight black pullover, giant sunglasses and what looks like a brass cowbell around her neck. She’s 80.
Or the latest campaign from Dolce & Gabbana. No skinny scantily-clad 20-somethings here, but instead three old women in widow’s black — very chic, naturally — clasping D&G’s latest must-have handbags. I’m guessing they’re all well past their 70th birthday.
For the way in which these older women are photographed by the fashion industry — all sagging skin and lifeless hair and stark lighting with its deep, dark shadows — does them no favours. The images are striking and headline-grabbing, but they are not designed to lure my generation into the shops.
And they do look very old, these women. Only Joan Didion could carry off the austere look she’s been given, make-up free and with her grey hair combed flat. I admire her intellect enormously, but I don’t want to look like her in the Celine advert, and it doesn’t make me want to buy the sunglasses.
But these advertisements are not directed at me and my generation. They are far too exclusive for that, with their sheen of urban sophistication and layers of irony. Look at us, they say: aren’t we radical? Putting wrinkly old ladies in young women’s clothes.
At 47, actress Julia Roberts has been hired as new face of Givenchy cosmetics. Indeed, the real champions of the fashionable pensioner are the make-up companies. At last they have begun to appreciate who their real customers are, and how much disposable cash they have.
A third of the British population is aged over 50, while most major household spending decisions are taken by women aged between 40 and 60. More women over the age of 50 are working than ever before.
Twenty years ago, the radiant Isabella Rossellini was famously dropped by make-up company Lancôme for being ‘too old’ days after her 40th birthday.
There aren’t many good things about growing old, but one is that you start to care much less what other people think about you. Which is a good thing in my book. Otherwise we’d all be posing in sunglasses and polo necks and impractical dresses which would look much better on our daughters. Or our grand-daughters, come to that.