Selfridges, famous Brit emporium, opened the 2015 fashion season celebrating 14 "Bright Old Things"—older women (and men)—in all 13 of its display windows! Wow! Does this mean we get to buy high fashion made to fit and flatter women over 55? Over 65?
Has fashion finally recognized the older woman?
Follow the money
Clothing designers and manufacturers are no doubt paying attention to the 2014 Bank of America Merrill Lynch report on the "silver economy," which found that the average wealth of U.S. households of people over 50 is $765,000, and it's even more for households with people over 65. (Average wealth for 50 plus households in Britain is about $690,000.) In fact, 78 million Americans who were 50 or older as of 2001 control 67% of the country's wealth, or $28 trillion. When you put this together with the shrinking spending power of the underemployed younger generation, fashion's sudden interest in older women becomes less surprising (though no less welcome).
Has the time of the mature woman finally arrived? A new trend may be forming. In 2013, a British documentary, Fabulous Fashionistas, featured the cutting edge wardrobes of six women with an average age of 80. Today, artist/writer Sue Kreitzman, 75, can be seen in the windows of Selfridges. Dolce and Gabbana's spring 2015 fashion ads feature three granny types. And there's been a recent stream of beauty- and fashion-ad campaigns featuring such older women as Charlotte Rampling (68), Diane Keaton (69), and Joan Didion (80).
Fashion shows still consist of tall, skinny child-women wearing short skirts, skinny trousers, and sheer and sleeveless tops. Chico's, a popular marketer of clothing for the mature woman, has been talking about changing its focus to younger women. Even internet marketers like Togs, who openly claim the mature women market, use slim young models. Clearly, fashion is trying to have it both ways. It wants to continue to pay esthetic homage to youth while casting a hungry eye at the older woman's pocketbook.
Bottom line, I'm going to bet on economic reality. There really is a new market class of 60-, 70-, 80-, and even 90-year-old women with disposable income, and enough energy, health and determination to go after what they want. Fashion designers and marketers will have to get with the program if they want to succeed.