After decades of older women being ignored by the fashion and advertising industries, we’re now seeing a positive new trend: increasing numbers of mature models are gracing the catwalks and pages of billboards, magazines and websites. Does this mean that the fashion world is more enlightened and age-friendly than they used to be? Not really. Fundamentally, it comes down to economics.

The Use of Older Models is a Reaction to a Massive Business Opportunity

According to retail analyst Neil Saunders, people over 50 now make up 40 percent of all consumer-spending in Britain. Marketing companies have finally woken up to the vast commercial potential of women over 50 – and are featuring older models who look and live like women in that demographic.

On a positive note, these older models don’t look like they’re feeling the pressure to stay thin and project perfection. Instead, they look like they are authentically enjoying life. Companies are getting more savvy about what consumers want to see in advertising, and instead of just showing a beautiful face, advertisers are sharing “experiences.” Advertisers want women to say, “Wow, that woman’s having an incredible time on that cruise!” and not just “Wow, she looks pretty!”

Are Older Models a Part of Something Bigger?

Photographer Nick Knight was quoted as saying that the success of older models is part of a broader cultural change. “We don’t live in such a youth-based culture as we did 50 years ago,” he says.

This group of “new” older models includes 85-year-old Daphne Selfe, who starred in a 2013 ad for TJ Maxx, and 81-year-old Jenni Rhodes, who modeled youthful Zara clothes in a recent photo shoot. Industry veteran Carmen Dell’Orefice is 82, having landed her first Vogue cover at age 15 and modeling ever since.

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What do you think about the recent trend towards featuring older models in advertising? Do you think that the older models that are being used represent our generation well? Why or why not? Please add your thoughts in the comments section below.

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