7 Older Women On Their Personal Style

This week on Refinery29, we’re filling your screens and consciousness with inspiring women over 50. Why? Because living in a culture obsessed with youth is exhausting for everyone. Ageing is a privilege, not something to dread. Welcome to Life Begins At...

As with most industries, it seems like as soon as a woman hits 40, she's no longer deemed relevant to fashion. Clothes are no longer made for her, campaigns don't reflect her image, she is shut out of the conversation. Well, in the dominant narrative at least. Look a bit closer, though, and you'll see that the new floral Whistles dress looks as contemporary on you as it does your 60-year-old mum, and that Kitri's deconstructed shirt is as appropriate for the office as for your grandmother's Sunday get-up.


"One thing has become abundantly clear: the common wisdom on what is appropriate to do, say and wear over 40 is no longer relevant," fashion journalist and author Alyson Walsh told Refinery29. "Having rocked out to the Rolling Stones and pogo-ed to the Sex Pistols, baby boomers are never going to be told what we can and cannot do. We’ve grown up breaking and remaking the rules – gone are the days when hitting 50, 60, 70 or beyond meant conforming to a ubiquitous look. Looking good rather than looking young is the new mantra. It’s not about age, it’s about style."

One scroll through our Instagram feed and Walsh's words come alive – we're looking as much to women twice our age as we are to twentysomething influencers for styling tricks, body confidence advice, and shopping tips. Sure, you can adore Joan Didion in Céline's SS15 campaign, or admire Lauren Hutton on Bottega Veneta's SS17 catwalk, but it's time to follow the real women repping style through the ages; they have much to teach us.

Ahead, seven women talk personal style, confidence in ageing, and representation in the industry.

1 of 8
Maye Musk

"At home, I’m casual - it’s jeans, T-shirts and sneakers when with my grandchildren. Add a sun hat and sunglasses when I walk my dog. For events and red carpets, it’s fabulous, with amazing glam teams. My inner style is comfort and basic.

"When I was a teenager in the 60s, I thought I had great taste. I would make my own bellbottoms and tent dresses. Although I've modelled since I was 15, I was a science nerd and concentrated on my degrees, and dietetics practice where I wore a suit every day. Now I wear designers mixed with less expensive items.

"I’ve become less confident in my personal style, as there are so many changes in fashion, textiles, shapes and colours. I’ve been dependent on my stylist, Julia Perry, for the past 26 years. She sorts out my wardrobe every six months, from casual wear to formal wear. She mixes and matches a lot of clothes and accessories, which don’t make sense to me. Creativity is not something you can learn, but I’m a good student.

"I don’t know what people’s attitude is about style and age, because everyone appreciates my style in posts on Instagram. I haven’t seen any negative comments. Women are beautiful at every age. Even though we are seeing more age diversity in fashion magazines, on the catwalk and beauty campaigns, more is needed."
2 of 8
Grece Ghanem

"I like mixing high and low, vintage and contemporary. I'm inspired by art, photography and people on the street. I choose luxe fabrics and sophisticated prints and try to look like a lady of leisure – and try not to be one! I lay the foundation of a look by starting off with one piece, whether it's an awesome pair of shoes or a great blouse, then I make sure that everything is quiet and subtle around it; my centrepiece must speak for itself.

"My personal style hasn't changed a lot since my youth. I always had a penchant for elevated basics, power prints and, ultimately, my style is always harmonious with my mood. It is impossible to be stylish without confidence. When you are older, you know what to hide and what to show. It is far more important that you smell delicious! With ageing, beauty transforms; what's important is to have a good sense of humour.

"Currently, the fashion and blogger scene seems to be dominated by a younger crowd of women, but I’ve encountered inspiring ladies of all ages showing off their unique looks on Instagram. I follow what's happening with trends but I buy the piece that I covet because it makes me feel empowered. To be stylish you should have self-confidence. Being in my 50s does not mean I must have an old-fashioned and classic aesthetic. That’s why I want to use Instagram as a platform to express my personal style and to inspire women that no matter their age or their professional background, they also can do the same. No matter your age, feeling young is definitely a state of mind."
3 of 8
Renia Jaz

"Above all, I appreciate comfort, but I value timeless classics and the dynamics of the latest trends. I would say my style is a mix of classics with masculine elements, and freshened up by the latest trends. In retrospect, I think that fashion has been present in my life since I was a teenager. Back then my outfits were inspired by models from the pages of fashion magazines, and I went through a period of emphasising my femininity, wearing pastel colours and floral prints. However, this didn't last for long, and I changed it out for a more masculine style with more neutral colours.

"Now, after many years of experimenting with fashion, I think I've became more self-aware. I know what I like to wear, what makes me feel confident and comfortable, and what type of clothes look more flattering on me. I still have an appetite for fashion, and new trends that lead to new ideas when it comes to creating outfits and a fresh look at the classics.

"I think we live in a time when mature women are still professionally active, creative, inspiring and ambitious. Our style should mirror these qualities. We feel young and want to be attractive and fashion can help us to express ourselves. I would like people to be less surprised by the idea that mature women wear the same clothes as women who are in their 30s or 40s. I want to change the notion that older ladies aren't stylish enough to inspire others. I believe that age doesn't define a woman and I think that whether you are 50, 60 or 70, you can still have fun with fashion. Just look at Anna Dello Russo, Carine Roitfeld or Maye Musk. Mature women can be and often are authorities in many areas of life and I believe that there are no obstacles for them to also be authorities in the field of fashion."
4 of 8
Sarah Jane Adams

"Within any context my style is ambiguous. In my dress I use cross-cultural and cross-gender references, transitioning between identities, specific looks, but with my own clarity. I use my clothing to question relationships between various identities, to play with expectations, context and rules. I dress for myself and myself alone. I use irony, excess, practicality, and confrontation in my dress.

"In the early 1970s, high street shops offered limited choice. I worked in the flea markets of London, where heirlooms from other lives and foreign lands became my obsession, my escape, and my new reality. As a teenager and into my early 20s I absorbed the hippy ethos of sustainability, using natural fibres and dyes, finding and working with scraps of fabric and clothing in the markets, reusing cast-off outfits. When punk burst onto the scene, the ethos and energy of the movement resonated deeply with me. However, I couldn't reject the hippy influence of my youth, nor the treasures found in the markets of London, but rather I combined these components to reflect the multifaceted young woman I was becoming.

"My style advice? Understand your body shape and work with that first and foremost. Find what works best for you, what you believe to be appropriate, and be confident and comfortable with your choices. Dress to reflect your mood, your attitude and how you feel you want to look to face the world each morning."
5 of 8
Yasmin Furmie

"I’d describe my personal style as a true reflection of who I am; a representation of a woman who does not easily tick boxes. I use clothes as part of an ownership of space and an unapologetic reflection of the unique individual I am.

"An individual’s style changes with the growth, maturity and confidence that comes along with one's experiences. Looking back, my style has probably taken on elements of androgyny, and is now in a space where I wear what I’m truly comfortable with regardless of what’s fashionable. It’s also focused more on my accessories and how that changes an outfit. When I was younger it probably reflected the fashion zeitgeist, but I always added my unique twist to it.

"It seems like a natural progression for style to change as one’s growth is chartered positively, body confidence is nurtured and one assertively uses clothes to state this very issue. Style and age are often never seen as equivalent. But there are enough women who prove that we are not to be boxed in by age.

"My pet peeve is the advice for dressing for particular ages. I wear what I like. If I like something a 20-year-old likes, so what? There’s no formula, no prescription any longer. Women look great at any age wearing what they feel comfortable and confident in. I share some of my wardrobe with my 20-year-old daughter and my 25-year-old son. So stop the admonishing of women who want to wear what they like."
6 of 8
Mel Kobayashi

"My style is experientially cinematic/ rockstar/ imp/ time-gender-adventurer. It's less about the look than it is about the feeling or the script unfolding between me, my clothing, and the environment, based on what I'm wearing. I've always been unconsciously bold in my personality and style, and took my presence for granted – until my late 40s.

"That's when I noticed that people started looking right through me when I went out, like they were wearing silly invisible glasses that you'd buy from the back of a comic book, except this wasn't funny. My push-back was bold, swift, uncompromising, and came directly from my wardrobe. This was the first time I seriously explored the power of clothing to transform the world around me and myself. I am now more open than ever to the limitless possibilities of an overstuffed closet. Also, if Mick Jagger can still be a rockstar at 74, so can I."
7 of 8
Alyson Walsh

"I have a high-low, pick-and-mix approach to dressing and like to blend unexpected pieces together – masculine and feminine, smart and sporty, day and evening wear. Easy-to-wear essentials form the basis of the look and then I crank up the glamour with a pair of chandelier earrings, showbiz boots (velvet, snakeskin, white leather) or a kickass jacket. The aim is to look modern and chic – without looking like I’ve tried too hard.

"Style is undoubtedly a work in progress and I am more self-assured now than when I was younger (but, largely, this comes down to having more important things to worry about than crimping my hair). I’ve always been a bit of a tomboy – it’s just that now that I’m 54, I call it 'gentlewoman style' and throw a bit more money at it. In my youth I had a very experimental approach to style: army surplus, punk jumpers with holes in, DIY haircuts, my dad’s old shirts. And have found that there are certain items I’ve stuck with (I still live in jeans and trainers) and certain items I’ve revisited (the jumpsuit, Levi’s 501s). Needless to say there have been enough questionable incarnations over the years to allow me to know what works, and what doesn’t.

"I’d say that I’m more stylish now than I’ve ever been. When we’re young, we tend to worry unnecessarily about appearance, ability, everything – and as we get older, we learn to put things into perspective. The most important thing is to feel comfortable, at ease and feel like yourself. I do feel like I’ve found my style groove, thanks to some excellent advice I’ve picked up along the way from some of the world’s most stylish women, like Caroline Issa, Iris Apfel, Linda Rodin, Lucinda Chambers.

"I started That's Not My Age 10 years ago because I felt that women over 40 were being ignored by the fashion industry. Things have slowly changed and so a decade later, we are seeing older models in ad campaigns and have reached a position where industry influencers are telling brands what they want (not the other way around). Social media has had a massive influence on diversity and the increased visibility of older women. But there is still a way to go. Brands use a grey-haired, 70-year-old model and think they’ve ticked the ‘age box’ but there are many different ways of ageing – many different decades, body shapes, ethnicities, sizes. Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing all these wonderful older models, I would just like to see more diversity, a more nuanced version of ageing."
8 of 8
Judith Boyd

"I would describe my style as classic with a twist. I always wear a hat, which is usually the starting point of my ensemble. I have an extensive vintage collection, which I love to combine with modern pieces. They're usually discovered at estate sales, thrift shops and consignment stores. I also love to support artists who create wearable art. Sustainability is important to me. I will be 75 years old this week and I become more excited and experimental about style and self-expression as the weeks, months and years unfold. I have been interested in composing ensembles for as long as I can remember.

"I spent most of my career working as a master’s-level psychiatric nurse in an emergency setting. Choosing my outfits, which always included headwear, was a way to express myself creatively and as a form of meditation as I approached my day, which usually included extreme and painful stories told by interesting, traumatised people. Because of my love for style and headwear I co-owned a hat shop in the '80s and sold vintage clothing in an antique mall in the '90s.

"Since I began blogging as Style Crone in 2010, I have become more confident and curious in my personal style. It’s fun to push my own boundaries and take risks. With the blog, books and documentary by the visionary Ari Seth Cohen of Advanced Style, a movement has evolved which is changing the perception of older people in our culture. As part of this movement, I believe that it is important to be visible and to participate in age pride – to have a purpose and to represent.

"Style and creativity contribute to my self-acceptance and to viewing the ageing process as positive and life-affirming. I make my own style rules and I wear what I love. This in turn contributes to my health and quality of life. I would like people to look forward to ageing as a positive era of life and not fear the years as they transpire. I would like older people to be valued, with full participation and inclusion in all segments of society. We have much to contribute. This revolutionary approach to ageing would allow for the concept that the skin of an 80-year-old woman be viewed as beautiful as the skin of a 20-year-old woman, just different. When that occurs, we will know that ageism has been defeated."

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