Last month we explored what we can wear after we turn 70. But that begs the question, “Who dresses like me? Where can I find some inspiration?” As with any marginalized group, older women are disproportionately under-represented in the media. It’s kind of ridiculous, really, considering that today there are about 400 million of us over-70 women worldwide.
That’s because time and science are on our side. We are living longer than ever before. And fortunately, that means there are more style icons our age to offer us inspiration. Let’s look at some of them and consider what we can take away from how they have adapted their wardrobes to their current age.
The whole idea of featuring older women in media probably started with the Advanced Style books by Ari Seth Cohen that also spawned a movie about older fashionistas in New York. Those women wore wildly creative, colorful, striking, expensive, and pretty dramatic outfits.
Then came the “overnight sensation” of (now) 101-year-old Iris Apfel, a former textile importer turned designer. Iris embraced a signature look that incorporated all the bold and bright accessories (including her iconic glasses) that she loved over her lifetime.
But every day we are seeing more and more women over 70 who are still living large and rocking their style, both in public and in their day-to-day lives. Let’s look at some of the ones we have followed over the years.
Joanna Lumley entertained us wildly in Absolutely Fabulous. Today she dedicates herself to humanitarian and animal rights activities. Her style was always classic with a bit of a twist. And she demonstrates at 76 that style doesn’t need to change at all. Here is an Instagram fan page that shows some of her more recent looks.
At 75, Helen Mirren is one of the most photographed older women on media pages these days. Her wardrobe incorporates a lot of her fundamental classic and romantic style, plus a little bit of the youthful elements she still expresses (which is why she can wear something like polka dots and get away with it).
This is a demonstration that elements like dots and small prints still will work well for you if you have rounder cheeks and an innocent expression that is part of the youthful style.
And we would be remiss if we ignored two of the fabulous women we featured in the past, Jane Fonda, 84, and Lily Tomlin, 83, the stars of the show we still miss, Frankie and Grace. Their off-camera wardrobes aren’t too far off from those of their characters (with the exception of Tomlin, who dresses up more for the red carpet.)
Fonda is fundamentally Classic and simple classic pieces still work best for her. Tomlin is primarily Natural in style and a bit Bohemian, as her character was.
76-year-old Diane Keaton honed her style during her Annie Hall role and has perfected it since. Her wardrobe is always fun, playful, quirky and unmistakable. And it’s almost entirely black and white. (But she looks lovely in pale colors too.)
When you have individual pieces in the same or similar colors that work together you can create a huge and varied wardrobe by interchanging the pieces. And if you are known for some element, like your hats, keep wearing them!
Actress and model Lauren Hutton, 79, still enchants us with her gap-toothed smile, a feature that originally kept her off magazine covers as being “too controversial.” And, she’s still working the runways, having appeared on the Valentino runway just a few years ago, and nearly nude this year (hands covering bare breasts) on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar.
Out in the world, her hair is often tousled, her attire is very relaxed and classic, but she remains very stylish and current. Trends work for us if they reflect our fundamental nature, regardless of our age.
We would expect that women who have appeared in wild, glamorous, or flashy outfits performing before tens of thousands of fans carry through their style as they age. For the most part, this seems to be true, although off stage, they can be more relaxed.
In the case of 75-year-old Diana Ross, we see that she continues to let her glorious natural hair take center stage, and just about all her looks off the red carpet are black. It not only suits her on-stage persona, but is perfect in her errand-running clothes, which are also almost entirely all-black. It definitely works for her.
We might expect Tina Turner, 82, to be garbed in fringe, feathers, and sequins. But she has come through some huge challenges in the last few years, including a kidney transplant (donated from her husband, Erwin Bach, 62) so her public image remains pretty carefully controlled.
We aren’t seeing a lot of what she wears outside of formal events. But in an interview with her years ago the reporter commented that off stage she was extremely elegant and refined. (The very simple silk button down blouse she wore for the article was simply gorgeous.) She is happy to be alive and enjoying retirement, but doing it comfortably and elegantly.
Debbie Harry, 77, of Blondie fame, inspred many a young woman to dye their hair blond in the wild fashion days of the 70s and 80s. And, she is still performing! Both off stage and on she still rocks wild and artistic outfits.
Proving the point about how our style doesn’t have to change, fashion designers Vera Wang, 73, and Donna Karan, 74, continue to represent what their respective brands define in terms of style, color, and silhouette in their own wardrobes. (We would expect nothing less.)
As with most designers, at least the ones who have been around for quite a while, you will always find a lot of black in their wardrobes. It suits both of them, considering their fundamental coloring.
Anyone who has ever worn a wrap dress, the garment that makes every body type and size look attractive, can thank designer Diane von Furstenberg. Diane loves color and pattern. But IMHO she wears many of them that aren’t really in her own color harmony, which is primarily autumn or “Earthy Rich” combined with winter or “Striking Contrast.”
Still, she is a stunning woman and at 75 can wear whatever she pleases. Her wardrobe varies from relaxed to playful to bombshell elegant.
The takeaway from all of this is that we can – and must – continue to wear what delights us, what flatters us, and what helps keep us visible. If they can do it, we can too!
What is your style now? Who are your over-70 style icons? What, if anything, would you not be caught dead wearing now that you did in your 50s?