“This Is What Sixty-Five Looks Like!”

Marilyn Kirschner
Editor-in-Chief Lookonline.com
(She turns 65 June 23)

On Monday, I turn 65. There, I’ve said it. And based on a friend’s reaction when I told her I was writing about it (she said I was “brave”) you’d think I was confessing to a double murder. But no, I am hardly trying to hide it; which is almost impossible nowadays because of social media, et al. And, if you know when I graduated college and started working, it would be fairly easy to figure it out. Plus, it’s too exhausting to lie (you have to have a good memory and remember all the ‘right’ dates you initially rattled off); and quite frankly, I’d rather people think I look pretty good for 65 than horrible for 50 or 55. It’s a rite of passage and a badge of honor to have made it this far.

Anna Wintour in Prada’s face printed fur coat
(She turns 65 November 3)

Things have certainly changed since the “old” days (pardon the pun), when there was a climate in our society that encouraged women to lie about their real ages (dictated or forced would probably be more to the point). Many, many moons ago, when my mom (who is now 94!) was asked her age, she would never divulge, but instead would always coyly answer: “39” (channeling the late Jack Benny). Of course, WAY back in the day, I used to think 39 was about as old as Methuselah and I didn’t understand why, if she was not giving her real age, she would make herself so “old” (who knew?). FYI, mom has always defined  “old age” as being “10 years older than whatever age you are” (that works for me!)

In any event, when it comes to age (and everything else), it’s all about “mind over matter” (if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter). And, as they say, “it’s better than the alternative”. While turning 65 is hardly as impressive as turning 75, 90, or 100, it is a milestone and one I cannot ignore. I am now a card carrying member of the ’49’ (1949) club (I will soon get my Medicare card, and my half price Metro card).

Miuccia Prada at opening of Fondazione Prada’s Exhibition Art
(She turned 65 May 10)

And guess what? I happen to be in good company. Among those high profile celebrities who have, or will be turning 65 in 2014: Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, Jessica Lange, Meryl Streep, Richard Gere, Wolfgang Puck, Sigourney Weaver, Jeff Bridges, Lionel Ritchie. And within the world of fashion: Paloma Picasso (April 19); Miuccia Prada (May 10); Vera Wang (June 27); Twiggy (September 19); Annie Leibowitz (October 2); Anna Wintour (November 3). To paraphrase Gloria Steinem (she is now 80), who, four decades ago famously said, “This is what 40 looks like; we’ve been lying so long, who would know?” this is what 65 looks like!

Paloma Picasso with Eric at the Mille Miglia Race 2014 in Brescia
(She turned 65 April 19)

As you can see, nobody in this group (all of whom are at the top of their fields), shows any signs of slowing down. Paloma Picasso is continuing on with her successful collaboration with Tiffany & Co. and her line of signature perfumes (for men and women). Twiggy (born Lesley Lawson) who literally defined the 60’s, is currently designing a line for Marks & Spencer (she has modeled for this British retailer since 2005 and has starred in their advertising campaigns). And we certainly know what Annie, Anna, Vera, And Miuccia have been up to as of late.

Twiggy for Hello MagazineUK March-2014
(She turns 65 September 9)

If there was ever a good time to grow old (or older), it is now, since life expectancies are longer and people are living healthy, productive, amazingly fulfilled lives well into or past, their ‘golden’ years. Age has almost become irrelevant; it’s just a chronological number, not a state of mind. And even though getting older has its obvious drawbacks and challenges (which I refuse to bore you with – you know what they are), thankfully, when it comes to the beauty and fashion landscape, things could not be better for us baby boomers.

Jessica Lange with Marc Jacobs at the 2014 Met Museum Gala
(She turned 65 April 20 )

This is a moment in time defined by ever changing points of reference, tolerance, and understanding across the board. The global perception of beauty has markedly changed as well: beauty comes in all guises and there is not just one standard with regards to height, weight, ethnicity, color or texture of one’s hair (or lack thereof); OR, age. Furthermore, one can choose to go with the flow and celebrate one’s lines, wrinkles, and strands of gray or white hair; or one can opt to camouflage and turn back the clock (though, in my opinion, too much ‘work’ never works and continually going under the knife can often have worse results than going au natural).

Iris Apfel the ultimate 93 year old rule breaker 

In terms of fashion, simply put, anything goes; there are no hard and fast rules to live, grow old by, or dress by. And anyway, rules are made to be broken. I never tire of pointing out that at 93, Iris Apfel, a celebrated rule breaker if ever there was one, is always the coolest cat in any room (not to mention easily the best dressed and the best accessorized) and she has the spunk and energy of someone half her age. Among the key elements that keep her ageless and young at heart: she is passionate, taps into her creative side, and remains curious about the world around her. You too can channel Iris and be bold, out there, and as expressive and as eccentric as you want; if you’ve come this far, you’ve earned it!

I beg to disagree with those who complain that fashion is only for the very young, that the older customer is summarily ignored, and that designers don’t address their needs. I’ve heard women say they can’t find dresses with sleeves, everything is too short, and pants are too tight. Say what? I don’t know where they’re looking. If you want to complain about the astronomically high prices for fashion, that’s one thing (and there are plenty of ways around that too, as you know), but to suggest there are no clothes for grown-ups is preposterous. Quite frankly, I can’t think of another time quite like the present, where there are so many options across the board (vis a vis style, overall look, length, shape, silhouette, color, etc.) and  that is not about to change.

Vera Wang
(She turns 65 June 27)

Actually, fashion is the ultimate equalizer. It works as a perfect camouflage and is a great tool, if you know how to use it to your best advantage (accentuate the positive, downplay the negative). If you don’t like a part of your body, or simply want to (or need to) cover up your arms (perhaps you suffer from that dreaded UAJJ – under arm jingle jangle), legs, tummy, etc., you can easily do so without looking as though you have to. Legs are usually the ‘first to go’, so if you want to show off your great gams, great! If you don’t like your legs, who says you have to wear skirts or dresses? Pants are always a viable and chic option. Hate your feet? Don’t wear bare sandals; opt for closed toe pumps. Do you hate high heels or are simply uncomfortable in them? Low heels and flats could not be more ‘of the moment’. Not that they were ever out of style. Just look at past fashion icons, (the chicest women on earth), such as Coco Chanel, Gloria Guinness, Diana Vreeland, Babe Paley, Slim Keith, Audrey Hepburn and Jackie O, who favored flats or moderate heeled shoes both day and night (in my opinion, there’s nothing worse than seeing an “old lady” having a hard time walking in unwieldy high heels. It’s far more attractive and chic to be able to glide around gracefully).

Feel bad about your neck (a la Nora Ephron)? There’s no problem hiding, or deflecting attention away with a black turtleneck (a wardrobe staple),  a sculptural collar, statement necklaces (chokers, collars, bibs), and scarves (narrow, wide, long, short, solid, printed) which always add just the right touch. Having a bad hair day? There are so many great hats these days. Try turbans (it worked for Eleanor Lambert). You can also invest in hair pieces or wigs; or simply chop it off and wear it very short, which is not only practical, but really stylish. Do you hate prints and find them unflattering? Opt for monotone solids.

Sigourney Weaver
(She turns 65 on October 8)

Furthermore, there are a number of creators (almost too many to enumerate) whose intelligent, sophisticated designs and aesthetic seem particularly well suited for smart grownups who are years out of puberty: Alber Elbaz; Phoebe Philo; Derek Lam; Dries Van Noten;, Raf Simons; Jason Wu; Mary-Kate and Elizabeth Olsen; Joseph Altuzarra; Damir Doma; Azzedine Alaia; Tomas Meier; Narciso Rodriguez; Anne Demeulemeester; Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez (Proenza Schouler); Oscar de la Renta; Francisco Costa; Nicolas Guesquiere; Alexander Wang; Vera Wang; Miuccia Prada; Christopher Bailey; Donna Karan; Stella McCartney; Ralph Rucci; Martin Grant; Haider Ackermann; Michael Kors; Carolina Herrera; Frida Giannini (Gucci); Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli (Valentino); Ralph Lauren, among them. (If I left someone out, you could blame on my having a “senior” moment). And let’s give a shout out to the likes of Rei Kawakubo, Junya Watanabe, Thom Browne, Karl Lagerfeld, etc., who enable us to tap into our creative sides, dream, and fantasize. In any event, most women don’t buy head to toe designer anyway: they pick and choose and incorporate select pieces into their wardrobes. The bottom line is designers can only propose. It’s up to the informed customer to make it her own.

Bruce Springsteen
( He turns 65 on September 23)

A far better suggestion would be to stop trying to be “fashionable”. As Coco Chanel said, “Fashion Fades. Style is Eternal”. Don’t follow trends; instead, tap into your personal style, own it, and tweak it. Personally, I find I am far more appreciative of fashion history (maybe because I’ve lived through much of it? LOL), which in turn, makes me more appreciative of my fabulous, unique, one of kind vintage pieces including icons such as the black vinyl Courreges logo embossed cropped jacket from the 60’s and an Azzedine Alaia faux leopard bolero jacket from his autumn winter 1991 & 1992 collection. (I have a bucket list that includes the iconic 70’s khaki Yves Saint Laurent lace up safari shirt and a vintage red Hermes Kelly bag). I am more interested in quality and integrity than “trends”, and am usually on the hunt for those perfect distinctive classic pieces that I know will last forever. Case in point, THE perfect gold buttoned navy blazer, a seasonless, timeless staple which everyone needs in their closets; I think I’ve found it: Joseph Altuzarra’s navy wool Seth blazer, $1695, available at Bergdorf Goodman. If it sounds like a splurge, (when you consider how often you would wear it), it’s really more of an investment and, of course, there are less costly examples.

Meryl Streep
(She turned 65 January 8)

Most importantly, it’s not about looking young, but about looking your best. There was a famed fashion editor (she shall remain nameless!) who was in great shape, had a petite build, and often dressed in a decidedly youthful manner, down to her printed Pucci leggings. If you saw her from the back, you could easily mistake her for a spry young thing; until you saw her wrinkled face (eeeuw). Being young at heart and wanting to affect a youthful image is fine (among those items that I consider to be forever young, yet completely ageless: Chuck Taylor’s red Converse All Star High Tops; leather biker jackets; jean jackets – -actually, anything denim; striped t shirts; crisp white button down shirts). But there is nothing worse than trying to look too inappropriately puerile. Oh, I just thought of something: trying to look too sexy.

There is nothing more unfortunate, than seeing a woman from the back, clad in a short tight provocative dress, wearing very high heels, and you think she’s a hot young chick, only to see her from the front, and realize she is no spring chicken (double eeeuw!). What you do in private is your own business; trying to look sexy in an overt way, (especially over a “certain age”) is well pathetic, if not desperate: kindly refer to www.manrepeller.com, as it works for all ages. Having said that, far be it for me to preach or tell anyone how to (or how not to) dress. It’s an individual matter and if that’s your thing — go for it.

It’s stating the obvious to point out that staying in good shape is not only recommended from an aesthetic standpoint (clothes will automatically look better on you), but health wise. While studies have shown that skinny rats live longer than plump ones as you get up there in years, the good news is that there is scientific proof that a few added healthy pounds can actually extend your life. So enjoy good food and wine! More good news: with age comes experience, knowledge, wisdom, and confidence. You are less hard on yourself and less inclined to care about what others think. You know what’s important and you can put things into proper prospective. You also appreciate everything much more; you don’t take anything for granted and you realize life is a gift.

So, relax and Happy Birthday fellow 49ers!

– Marilyn Kirschner

(Photos credits: Getty Images; Hollywood Reporter; .pretavoir.co.uk; Hello Magazine;)

Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

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