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What Older Women Want Advertisers to Know

When you ignore women over 50, you lose


(This article appeared previously on HuffingtonPost50.com.)

All women who are 50 or older know the shopping ordeal. We are willing. We’ve got the looks. We’ve got the money. What older women don’t have are the clothes that are clearly made for us.

Have you noticed that practically anything fashionable is worn by very thin, very young women in nearly all ads everywhere? So where are we — the women who dare to be older than 50 and who refuse to be invisible bystanders? Probably hiding in that empty closet that should be filled with great looking stuff to wear.

No woman of 50, 60 and up that I know of is impressed, inspired or tempted to buy clothes or other products that are worn by gawky teens. Not one!

But here comes the good news for all the women who’ve had enough of this Game of Shame. You’re not alone! A new study by the London College of Fashion asked more than 500 women aged 40 to 89 about their views on fashion and beauty products aimed at their age group. Not surprisingly, nine out of 10 women feel ignored and don’t think they are represented at all. They demand to see a greater number of older models or celebrities in such ads.

Are you listening, all you designers in love with youth?

Tired of Lip Service

Of course, you have your 72-year-old Joni Mitchell and your 69-year-old Jane Birkin — who Yves Saint Laurent grabbed to “celebrate” age — for a few weeks last year. Then they were gone.

Designer Tom Ford, 54, ever so crafty, went further and practically declared war on ageism: “I am tired of the cult of youth. The cultural rejection of old age, the stigmatization of wrinkles, grey hair, of bodies furrowed by the years. I am fascinated by Diana Vreeland, Georgia O’Keeffe and Louise Bourgeois, women who have let time embrace them without ever cheating. Society today condemns this, me, I celebrate it.” And so on and on.

Well, thanks, Tommy! Weighty words, unfortunately not backed up by much action since he keeps on using very young models for clothes older women are supposed to wear.

No woman of 50, 60 and up that I know of is impressed, inspired or tempted to buy clothes or other products that are worn by gawky teens. Not one. And we aren’t all dead fashion icons or famous artists either — we are women in our best years who’d be happy enough with some fabulous, wearable clothes that don’t break the bank.

A Question of Design

So, here’s the question I have for the male designers: Is it ageism, sexism — or fear of your own age? I’m talking to you — Lagerfeld, Lauren, Klein and Kors — all old men.

But that doesn’t excuse the designing women who do the same. Jil Sander, Miuccia Prada, Diane von Furstenberg, Donna Karan, Eileen Fisher (yes, even her), Donatella Versace, are all women well over 60 who take their generation completely out of the picture. Don’t they like and trust themselves?

Miuccia Prada, the 67-year-old star-designer and rebellious spirit behind (and in front of) Prada preaches: “I hate the idea that you shouldn’t wear something just because you are a certain age.” Pradissimo! But does she actually follow up with her collections? Not really. But she adds a lot of very old typically Italian Mamas dressed in Prada to her amusing spreads in magazines. And in a way they steal the show. Amusing, but not us either!

Older Women Say: Rejuvenate This

Cosmetics are even worse than fashion.

Isabella Rossellini, 64, still tells the humiliating tale of being ditched by Lancôme once she hit 40. Yes, L’Oreal and NARS took on older stars this year, such as Dame Helen Mirren, 70, and Jane Fonda, 78, to sell their products. But the majority of models for fashion and beauty brands remain under 40. Which, of course, is truly insane since women between 50 and 70 — not dewy young things — are the biggest buyers of “rejuvenating” beauty products.

Maybe it hasn’t reached public knowledge, but there’s more to older women than being shown cavorting around in white-haired senior groups or being stuck into ads for products with negative stereotypes of old age, like stair lifts or hearing aids.

So what does it take to make the designers and advertisement people understand that they are losing one of the largest and wealthiest groups of consumers ever, by pretending they don’t exist or are miraculously forever 21?

Here’s an idea: Repeat after me — just like in the fantastic movie classic Network where the entire duped TV audience rebels and yells: “We’ve had it! We’re mad, we’re not taking it anymore!”

It’s time for the style industry to get real and pay attention to what we have to say.

By Sabine Reichel
Sabine Reichel writes a style column called "Gray in L.A." for HuffingtonPost50.

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