Here in the UK, over the last fortnight, we appear to be experiencing seismic shifts on a daily basis across the nation’s economic, political and social landscapes. The results of our referendum on 23rd June revealed a fractured country with people divided not just by income and political parties but by education, age, geography and leisure. Arguably this is not new news but given that voter turnout was at an all time high, the differences between us have been starkly highlighted. In addition, they have been done so in a negative light, making it harder to focus on difference as both positive and necessary for a flourishing society.
In amongst all this upheaval, regularity offers some degree of reassurance and, in this case, some hope for a cohesive and diverse future. For me, it is the Guardian’s Saturday magazine Weekend’s fashion feature. Entitled Fashion for All Ages, a stylist along with the photographer David Newby present a current trend on models that represent different age groups, both male and female.
Fashion For All Ages seems to have been a feature since 2009 so I am perhaps late to the party on this one. However, I appear to be earlier than any other UK broadsheet fashion features editor because there is nothing like this elsewhere. Trying to find examples of mainstream fashion where youth is not the only age portrayed is not easy. The ‘now’ seems to only be the prerogative of our youngest while those considered mature, senior or advanced in age are rarely seen enjoying contemporary forays into fashion. When they do, they appear at the fringes, held up in reverence or ridicule. Rarely as the regular.
Yet, the median age of Britain’s population has been steadily maturing itself, currently holding at 40 years old. People in their 60s today describe their age as ‘middle adulthood’ and one in five of us will live to 100 years old. As the senior proportion of British society overtakes that of the younger segment, it seems there is a strong case for more attention given to the former and their interest in dress and fashion. That’s why Fashion For All Ages makes me smile. It suggests that not only does the fantasy and fun of fashion belong to everyone, whatever your state of maturity, but it also goes some way to embracing the notion that there are diverse ways of aging. In other words, there are many ways to get older. Hurrah.
One last observation. Fashion for All Ages doesn’t just work because of its appeal to a more mature audience. It also provides a strong visual example of how different age groups can come together to enjoy something in common – dress and fashion. While the webpage for the feature presents models individually, the magazine puts everyone on the same double page spread thus creating a sense of community across the ages. I love how the models are stood together, joined in their different ages and different takes on that particular trend of the week. Of course, it would be naive to suggest that Fashion for All Ages provides an answer to the current divides revealed by the UK referendum. It clearly does not. Yet it does offer a welcomed antidote to the increasing stressful emphasis upon negative difference and discrimination as a result of recent political events.