Ageless Beauty: How the Fashion Industry is Gradually Pushing Ageism Aside
Ageless Beauty: How the Fashion Industry is Gradually Pushing Ageism Aside
Ageless Beauty: How the Fashion Industry is Gradually Pushing Ageism Aside


Diversity & Inclusivity

Ageless Beauty: How the Fashion Industry is Gradually Pushing Ageism Aside

read 4 min

Do you know what ageless beauty is?

Slowly, the fashion industry is becoming more inclusive. That means there has been a change in attitude, marketing but also in the products offered to the market.

In a certain way, ageless beauty is a protest against ageism. It shows and proves that there’s no age for prettiness. People must be proud of their age, their story, and, of course, of their bodies. They deserve to find pretty clothes in the stores as well as cosmetics. They deserve to be seen on catwalks and advertisements.

One thing is for sure: everyone gets old. And with it, multiple consequences are seen ahead of us. From health impairments to ageism, aging has been considered taboo in the fashion and beauty industry for a long time. However, names such as Iris Apfel and Lyn Slater are changing this reality for good.

Ageless Beauty: IT’S UP TO YOU 

What is fashion, anyway? According to Debra Rapoport, 75, fashion is about trends. “Suddenly, everyone looks the same,” she says in the documentary “Advanced Style.” However, recently fashion has shifted away from tendencies to a form of art. 

We are so used to limiting people, how they can dress and behave that we forget that everyone wants to feel good being the authentic version of themselves. And the same can be said about the elderly population. As Zelda Kaplan (1916-2012), a New York fashion scene fixture, once said, “if you feel good, you’ll look good.” That is what fashion has become for everyone. Fashion is now the way to show your creativity and personality. With that mindset, the industry has finally opened doors to allow older people to express their true selves.


Understandably, not everyone has the confidence to dress the way they actually want and not the way they are expected to. The main reason for that is the lack of representation of seniors in fashion due to ageism. Ageism, according to the World Health Organization, is discrimination against people because of their age. Likewise, ageism affects the beauty standards in our society, leading brands to not hire older models. As a result, the industry gets even more underrepresented. “Everywhere she looks, there are pictures of sweet young things, wearing all these gorgeous clothes and all this makeup and everything else. How can you possibly look like that?” confessed the fashion icon Iris Apfel, 100.

With that in mind, Lanvin Paris, then directed by Alber Elbaz, picked Jacqueline’ Tajah’ Murdock, an 82-year-old former Apollo dancer, as the face of their campaign. This was a massive deal for the fashion industry because hiring “non-fashion civilians” to model luxury brands wasn’t common. “I was interested to bring these clothes back to the street somehow, and see them on different ages, different sizes,” said the director for the Women’s Wear Daily

After that, many brands started to include age diversity in their catalogs. Although it is still far from the ideal, changes have been made to create a more diverse environment in the fashion industry.


The increase of representation of older people has also caused fashion enthusiasts to pursue it as a career instead of a hobby. That is the case of Lyn Slater (67), also known as Accidental Icon. Lyn Slater was a professor at Fordham University when she was waiting to meet with her friend during New York Fashion Week. Suddenly, a photographer who had mistaken her with a fashion industry insider asked to take a picture of her. The photo went viral, and that is how she became an Accidental Icon. Lyn now has a fashion blog and works full-time as an influencer in New York.


The beauty industry has also changed to represent older people. For instance, L’Oreal Paris hired Viola Davis (56) and Helen Mirren (76) for their campaigns, Charlotte Tilbury cast Joan Collins (88) as the face for the company’s new foundation in 2019. Even new makeup brands are targeting the older population in their campaigns.

In 2012, Drew Barrymore (yes, the actress!) founded Flower Beauty, a makeup brand thinking about mature skin. Her philosophy is “aging is a luxury,” which is the message that she wants to the world. She wants to show that makeup is not about hiding the aging imperfections in one’s face, but it’s about innovation. 

The makeup artist Wayne Goss also came up with his product line focused on older people. “Older generations think the problem is with them because they are not getting the same results [in their makeup looks] as the younger generations,” he said in his Youtube channel. He also mentioned that his focus was to create makeup for the older generations because it will look good in all ages if it looks good on someone older. Still, not always it works the other way around.


According to Zelda Kaplan, “When one becomes older, one has learned how to accept one’s self.” This sentence portrays precisely what fashion is at an older age. It is about accepting how you like to dress even though it is not what the world expects you to. This philosophy is what keeps Iris Apfel in the fashion industry to this date. 

Iris Apfel is a fashion icon that started working for the modeling agency IMG at the age of 97. She took part in multiple campaigns, such as Tommy Hilfiger, Kate Spade, Blue Illusion, and more. 

She was passionate about fashion throughout her whole life. Iris collected numerous items from the most diverse brands. In 2005 those items were at the exhibition named “Rara Avis (Rare Bird): The Irreverent Iris Apfel” in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Iris is known for her “over the top” fashion: big bracelets, big rounded glasses, color and texture variations, and exuberant hats. However, what makes her unique is her sense of style. In the documentary “Iris,” she mentions that “Fashion you can buy, but style you must possess. Style is in your DNA”. 

In addition, Iris makes clear that she does not do things to impress anybody; she dresses for herself. This is one of the many reasons she has become the fashion icon she is now: she inspires older women to dress the way they always wanted. Iris Apfel shows the world that older women can dress and feel beautiful and that there is no such thing as “being too old” for anything in fashion.


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Laura Lourenço

Editorial Team

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Laura Lourenço

Editorial Team

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