A few weeks ago, the hazards and clicks gathered from Facebook opened on my screen an exceptional documentary. “Fabulous Fashionistas”, a production of the British television Channel 4, is the profile of six women with an average age of 80 years old (they have between 73 and 91 years old). It is true, they are pensioners – but not the typical ones.
What is staggering about these English women that are delightfully eccentric is the care, courage, and joy they have for getting dressed, besides the fact that their aspect became for them, literally, a matter of life and death. They tenaciously refuse to become invisible and redundant, in a society that validates only the endless youth and perfect beauty. The preoccupation and energy dedicated to their lives transfers to the clothes they wear as well. I chose to write about them today not just because their clothing style is amazing, original, spectacular, and entirely unique – but more because of what I feel that these women transmit to us.
Of course, the documentary focused on their apparel choices, but these six women talk for an entire hour about how much they love life, about their identity, about beautiful moments and painful memories, about the experience of getting old, about how they choose to live every day, and what keeps them “standing”.
We have Sue Kreitzman, of 73 years old and an artist, who loves highly colored outfits. Back in the days, she used to write cooking books and hosted a cooking show on TV, but gave up this career in favor of art. “I don’t think that I’m eccentric. It’s not a conscious thing. It has happened organically around me. This is the way I am!”, she was joyfully giggling in the documentary. Another one of her replicas I would transform in the mantra of all women, regardless of age: “You know what I really hate? I hate beige! Beige is the color of death. It just leaches all the life out of you!”
Second is Jean Woods, thin and athletic, with a clear preference for the Doc Martens boots. At 75 years old, she cuts her silvery bang very short and modern and talks about the void created by the death of her husband, after a marriage of 56 years. In a conversation with her son about the directions shift of senior age, he suggested to his mother – pawkily – to look for a job at Gap, because she loves clothes. Sakes! Gap offered her a position on the spot! Her stylistic philosophy is a very simple: „If I like something, I tend to wear it a lot. It doesn’t bother me if I wore the same dress six days a week and somebody would think… „Ooo heck, she’s got that dress on again.” That wouldn’t enter my head. I put it on for me.”
Third is Bridget Sojourner, of 75 years old as well, intensely active in social campaigns that march against ageism. Often photographed for street style blogs, Bridget lives by following clear stylistic principles: buy clothes only from second-hand stores (she never accepts paying more than £3 for any clothing piece!); always wear comfortable shoes; don’t be afraid of overalls, fiery colors, kimonos, overlaps, flowery dresses and stubby boots; stop wearing jeans; don’t get out of the house without wearing earrings. „I don’t give a damn what people think of me and the way I dress,” she declared with self-confidence. „I dress for myself, because I love style and design and color.”
In the documentary can also be seen Daphne Selfe, the graceful 85-years-old mannequin (for that matter the oldest model in the UK, her first modeling contract with a modeling agency being signed when she was 70 years old), of a discreet elegance, incredibly beautiful and with a wardrobe that would make her envied even by Cara Delevingne; Gillian Lynne, the former dancer and choreographer, who at 87-years-old is more flexible and sexier than many women at 25-years-old and, finally, Lady Trumpington, of 91-years-old, the dean of age of the Lords Chamber, addicted to catalogue shopping, who concludes: „It’s frightfully important to look after yourself. The moment you start letting yourself go is the moment when you are old.”
By the way, how do you imagine you’ll dress at old age?