The fashion world is known for being especially youth-centric, and its seasonal change in direction seemed to be powered by pop culture as much as by the whims and wisdom of the designers themselves. With the fraught political climate of today seeping into every corner of our culture, one might expect things to be getting more polarized in the fashion world. In fact, we seem to be witnessing the opposite: an embrace of diversity in race, gender and age.
It’s about time, but other conversations about gatekeeping in fashion apparently had to happen first. For example, there has been the longstanding conversation about labels, which will still lend prestige to an article of clothing. But there’s more to a garment than its label, of course, and we seem to be awakening to how we have labeled people, and how this collectively robs us of creative resources that should not be defined by numbers.
Many of the fashion houses this past season have made headlines with their use of mature models and muses on their runways. One can hope that someday soon this will no longer be news at all, but the norm for how designers seek to have themselves represented and presented. From Lauren Hutton modeling in the Spring 2019 edition of Porter Magazine at age 75, and the older men dominating the runway of Junya Watanabe, to Rachel Comey’s diverse collection of nonprofessional runway models made up of artists, writers, and other creatives, fashion’s future is looking distinctly more interesting.
And so the point is made: An individual doesn’t age out of fashion, nor does one suddenly have an epiphany about one’s personal style at a specific age. Style is how we present ourselves and our story in the world, and so our relationship to fashion is necessarily lifelong.
Assuming that people of a mature age are irrelevant or out of touch is as wasteful as pigeonholing a person in their twenties as entitled or inexperienced. When youth is revered above all else, misconceptions of a person’s perceived “shelf life” squander potential and stifle creativity. When we see our value individually, that is when artistic endeavors shine, ideas grow and good things happen.
I’m reflecting on this especially as I hit my own milestones. Spring of 2019 marks the sixth year of my work as the Fashion and Style Writer for Vanguard Seattle, and my 57th spin around the sun. While this makes me somewhat of an anomaly among the Gen-X and Millennial bloggers and fashion set in Seattle, it sets me apart in a uniquely positive way. When people of all ages work together, experience, perspective, and fresh ideas can mesh together to make really great things happen.
Each season, each year, each decade is an opportunity to introduce new ways to express yourself, to be inspired in how you want to present yourself to the world, and to tell a fresh story that is uniquely yours. To acknowledge that style and fashion are not limited by age (young and old) is to reject the notion that everyone’s story is the same.
We’re a long way from seeing a world that doesn’t revere youthful beauty and vigor above all else. The root of that goes far beyond fashion, to a fundamental fear of mortality in our culture. The fashion and beauty industries just seem to be the most obvious face of it, which makes them easy targets. But one’s interest in fashion can and should be about joy and play, and those who assume it is always about fear or conformist anxiety are really missing out.
While people chase immortality and the fountain of youth, or opt out of style as a creative pursuit for themselves, there is nothing stopping us from connecting with our most authentic selves, synthesizing our personal style, age, perspective, experience, inspiration and more. This choice was always possible, but I am happy to say that the fashion world itself is embracing this notion more openly, which means that those of us who forge our own path are seeing less friction from those who are more inclined to follow the lead of others.
Which brings me to end on a personal note: Six years ago the two editors of Vanguard Seattle, with amazing plans to create an online magazine that celebrated art, fashion, music and culture, made a nonconventional choice to hire a 51-year-old as their style writer. None of us have every looked back. The age of fashion is in itself ageless. It is modern, classic, gender-bending, ladylike, beautiful, creative and above all, uniquely yours.
Featured photo by Kirsten Beeksma Morse