No cleavage after 50? Spare us, please

Actress Susan Sarandon gave two fingers to the notion of 'age appropriate dressing' at this year’s Cannes Festival

Actress Susan Sarandon attends the 'Ismael’s Ghosts' screening and Opening Gala during the 70th annual Cannes Film Festival. Photograph: Antony Jones/Getty

If there’s one detestable thing in fashion it’s the expression “age-appropriate”. Here are just a few of the meaningless and irritating age-related fashion rules: No leather bombers after 40. No mini-skirts at 60. No cleavage after 50.

At this year’s Cannes Festival, a gloriously attired Susan Sarandon gave two fingers to “age-appropriate” in a stunning emerald green velvet gown with plunging neckline, a thigh-high split and festival shades.

The Thelma & Louise actor knows that what we wear is an expression of self and how we present ourselves to the outside world. Clothes have that power to transform, express identity and communicate without words. Does age have anything to do with dressing well? Is it conceivable that a woman can look good after 50 when she is bombarded by clothes worn by moody magazine models - invariably size 10 pubescents? Spare us, please.

I would not walk from the bedroom to the bathroom in something belted and fitted"

Catherine Condell, Ireland’s leading stylist known for creating some of the most beautiful fashion images both here and abroad, has strong views on the subject, being, as she says “a big girl all my life”. She stresses the emotional potency of clothes and argues that feeling good is as important as looking good. Like Grace Coddington former creative director of US Vogue (and now 76) whom she admires, Condell has her signature uniform and has always worn tunic style dresses with jacket versions because they paint a picture of who she is.

Grace Coddington attends the Proenza Schouler collection during, New York Fashion Week: The Shows on February 13, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Ben Gabbe/Getty Images)

“I know how I feel in my clothes – and feeling right inside whatever it is. I have always looked like this and I always will. I would not walk from the bedroom to the bathroom in something belted and fitted.”


Her best style advice for any woman whatever age is a good haircut and a makeup lesson and she is scathing about “makeovers” where the subject’s natural style rather than being polished and improved with a better version is made to look like “running with the pack” by a trend driven stylist.

Designer Mariad Whisker’s views on age–appropriate dress are equally forthright. “I have never been defined by other people’s rules and regulations. I am dressed today in a pair of Adidas leggings, a little skinny Adidas top and big clumpy Marni sneakers, so I would not say this is age-appropriate - a ridiculous notion.”

Looking too put together in the latest trends is self defeating because the effort shows

She does, however, have one law when it comes to dressing at a certain age. Citing the recent photo of Melania Trump standing with Brigitte Macron in Brussels, the former in a belted suit, the latter in a short Louis Vuitton dress and heels, she reckons Macron would have looked better if the dress was 2” longer or if she had worn dark tights.

Brigitte Macron, wife of French President, arrives to take part in a visit to the Magritte Museum, on May 25, 2017 in Brussels on the sidelines of the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) summit. / AFP PHOTO / BELGA / ERIC LALMAND / Belgium OUT (Photo credit should read ERIC LALMAND/AFP/Getty Images)

The combination of bare legs, high heels and above the knee skirts is a pet hate. “It’s all about balance. Something loose and flowy can look great on someone who is 5’10, but the same dress on 5’2” whether she is 20 or 104 will not look the same. It should be body, not age, appropriate”, she says.

Let's free ourselves from this "age-appropriate" tyranny and for God's sake grow up.

It may be argued that the only fashion faux pas these days is lack of self confidence. Looking too put together in the latest trends is self defeating because the effort shows. Given present emphasis on what’s called “athleisure” and going to the gym, a fit body can look much the same at 20 as at 40. The easy, relaxed, “effortless” style so much admired at any age demonstrates outward self assurance. And that maturity, being aware of what suits one’s personality, body shape and lifestyle speaks for itself. So let’s free ourselves from this “age-appropriate” tyranny and for God’s sake grow up.