Who among us wants to look like an “old lady”? The answer is, of course: no one. But if could look like Iris Apfel, with 100 years old on the clock, and whose glasses, bracelets, necklaces, colors, confidence and joie de vivre almost everyone wants, you wouldn’t say not no. You would also not be unhappy to look like Isabella Rossellini, the face of Lancôme at 63, 40 years after her debut for the cosmetics brand. Or the splendid Carmen Dell Orefice, who in the 2010s, at eighty years old, was back on the catwalk after losing her fortune when Bernie Madoff’s pyramid collapsed. And, how can we forget the sublime portrait of Marianne Faithful in Hedi Slimane’s Saint Laurent Music Project campaign?
What do these women have in common? Above all, aside from the makeup, they have chosen to let their faces and bodies show their age. No botox to tame their wrinkles, or even the temptation to dye their hair for most of them.
My mother tells me that until the 1960s, in parts of Lebanon, when a woman turned 80, they would throw a fantastic birthday party for her where they gave her a new things, designed to set her up for the rest of her life: beautiful bed linen and refined interior and nightwear that were supposed to console her for what would now come: settling in her room, preferably in bed, and receiving visits all day long, surrounded by goodies to offer her guests and a battalion of maids orchestrating a coming and going of platters loaded with coffee, lemonade, and desserts. This is how grandmothers prepared to leave this world: draped with dignity and white lace and with their feet in front of them.
The last taboo
True, times have changed, but old age has remained, that terrifying age that fashion has long warded off by employing ever younger models. This trend worsened before the pandemic, peaking in 2015 when celebrities began to throw their children into the arena. We have seen Lily Rose Depp, daughter of Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis, start her career at Chanel at 16, or Romeo, son of Victoria and David Beckham, pose for Burberry at the age of 12. Maybe this is nothing new, Kate Moss was already a model at 14 and Naomi Campbell at 15. When we know that the brands’ main customers are generally over 30, we can find the gap between the youth of the models and the identification they inspire among their targets in the luxury sector.
Accentuated by a pandemic that spared no one, the tendency to be inclusive, to accept differences, whether of color, sexual orientation, or disability, is the main characteristic of the early 20s of this millennium. Age is arguably the last taboo, one that has not yet fallen. But the pandemic also meant that we could no longer go to the hairdresser. Roots grew out, and eventually, and despite themselves, many women came to love this silver crown that surrounded their foreheads.
Aging is arguably as traumatic as adolescence. A wrinkled face is as hard to bear as one covered with acne. The pros and cons of Botox and rejuvenation surgeries, which are intimate, personal choices, will not be discussed here. It’s all about attitude in the end. Age, by drawing us closer to the end, also frees us from the tyranny of propriety. And this new freedom, which we have arguably never experienced at any other time in life, is a mine of fantasy, humor and freedom from inhibition. Under a silver crown, it’s not just osteoarthritis and cholesterol; there are often women touched by grace with no time for bitterness and regret. Little girls no longer afraid of the wolf, young girls who no longer want to blush. And how we envy them!