Age Is Just a Number:

Why We Need More Mature Models in Fashion

Even though aging is something that happens to us all, ageism is everywhere. Women are bombarded with messages telling us not to age, that youth is the hallmark of beauty and worth in today’s society. From fashion to the workplace, older women are overlooked, underestimated and underrepresented. But people are fighting back. Mature modelling is on the rise and the fashion world is finally realising that you can never be too old to become a model.

Written by Elizabeth Harrington

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The term “anti-aging” needs to go

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Beauty advertisements boast products that are “anti-aging” and can “reverse the signs of aging”. The language we use to describe aging is as if it’s something to be feared, to be fought, to be conquered. The older a woman gets, the more she’s expected to cling to her youth. This isn’t the case with men. There’s a double standard when it comes to aging. A recent study found that women’s sexual desirability peaks at only 18 years of age, while men’s doesn’t peak until they are 50. When a woman’s attractiveness is tied up to her age, it’s no surprise women will do anything to fight it. It’s a terrifying thought that no matter what age, women feel pressured by unfair beauty standards. 

It’s time we open a dialogue to talk about aging. Everybody ages. Injections and anti-aging creams are a band-aid, not a cure. They’re unable to stop what’s happening inside each and every one of us. While there is nothing wrong with taking care of your skin, many women are driven to extreme lengths for fear of losing their youth and beauty. If aging is an unavoidable natural process, why is it still so stigmatised in fashion?

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We need to reconsider what we think is beautiful

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There is a beauty to growing old. Wrinkles tell your story, etched onto your face like art. They tell of your joys and trials. Smile lines and crow’s feet are not something to be self-conscious about—they tell the world you like to laugh. What is more beautiful than that?

How often have you heard someone say “she’s aging gracefully” or “she looks good for her age” or “she’s still got it”? At first glance, these compliments give validation of a woman’s beauty in an image-focused world. But the problem with this language is that it associates beauty with youth, as if youth is something worth praising. We don’t talk to men like this. In fact, men are often seen as growing more attractive as they age. Silver foxes like George Clooney and Pierce Brosnan are seen as being in their prime, but women of the same age are seen as past their prime

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The fashion industry ignores older women

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In the modelling world, anyone female over 30 is classified as a mature model. For decades, the default fashion model has been young. Models are scouted as teens and traditionally, their success has a time limit. Supermodel Gemma Ward was told her looks were fading at only 20. It seems the moment a model matures in her body and grows into womanhood, she is suddenly less appealing.

This is far from the truth. Older women can be just as desirable as younger women. There are plenty of older women embracing their sexuality, proving that sex appeal transcends age. Just take a look at Carmen Dell’Orefice. At 88 years old, this mature model is the epitome of beauty. 

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Style and beauty have no age limit

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What is it about being older that is less appealing to the fashion world? Older women can feel judged if they are too sexy or playful with their style, so there’s an expectation that they dress in more modest clothing. But in reality, older women are often stylish and impeccably dressed, informed by a profound sense of who they are after years of growing comfortable in their skin. They are role models for young women to look up to—but our media does not portray this.

Older women often feel invisible in the media. They have a tendency to be ignored in beauty campaigns, even when the product being promoted is “anti-aging” and targeted at them. Fashion brands rarely use mature models in advertising, leading older women to feel excluded as consumers, as if they don’t belong and shouldn’t shop there. But as the industry becomes more inclusive, things are finally starting to change. 

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Fashion is becoming more diverse

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Diversity is a hot topic in the fashion world. Brands are becoming more inclusive, with models of different races and sizes being represented more than ever before.  Even giants like Victoria’s Secret are making waves by casting their first transgender model (for more info, read our article Is Victoria’s Secret Rebuilding Its Reputation?). It seems brands are finally realising the importance of representation.

In 2017 Allure Magazine banned the term “anti-aging” from their pages. They wanted to remove the shame that’s associated with aging by first changing the way we talk about it. Editor in Chief, Michelle Lee, said the term “anti-aging” sends a message that it’s “a condition we need to battle”.

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There are more mature models than ever before

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The supermodels of the 80s and 90s have grown older, but their influence has never waned. Supermodels like Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell and Christy Turlington are just as successful in their 40s and 50s as when they were young. Our article on the Top 10 Models Over 40 show just some of the success stories out there.

There are also hugely successful models over 60. In 2017, Lauren Hutton graced the cover of Vogue Italia at age 73. She’s just one of the mature models who is finding success in spite of—or because of—her age. Fashion is finally recognising that there is an elegance to aging. From Iris Apfel to Carmen Dell’Orefice, these women are owning their age and thriving.  

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Australia is leading the way for mature models

Published in PAGEone Magazine, photographed at The Photo Studio

Australia is home to Silverfox MGMT, an agency that represents only mature models. With models ranging from 30 to 90 years old, it’s refreshing to see the only cut-off age is at the bottom. Agencies like Silverfox give hope that anyone can start their modelling journey at any age. 

Here at The Photo Studio, we have photographed many inspiring mature models. One of our favourites is Carol Green, a mature model in her 70s. When we first shot Carol at our studio, we were inspired by her unabashed confidence and charisma. She’s walked for Melbourne Fashion Week and done countless campaigns—and she’s showing no sign of slowing down. 

Mature models like Carol are proof that you can start your modelling career at any age. Finally, the world is realising that beauty doesn’t fade as we age, it just changes. 

Published in PAGEone Magazine, photographed at The Photo Studio


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