Fashion for older women: Our AI studied the women breaking these rules

Women with handbag on street
Photo by Tamara Bellis on Unsplash

The fashion world is scared of aging.

With the industry’s obsession with the newest and latest, it has also translated into an obsession with youth. 

An oddity, given how many of high fashion’s top designers are in their silver years —  think Vera Wang, Donatella Versace, and Giorgio Armani, not to forget that the demographics with greater spending power are also usually the older ones.

In fashion shoots and on the runway, statuesque, fresh-faced models are everywhere. Typing in “fashion for older women” into the search bar on Google, we see this:

The pressure to tone down?

Colour-wise, it seems from this featured snippet that there’s a general consensus that older women should opt for duller shades — white, dark colours or black.

From the snippets that popped up for our google search, we see that the language of policing features. Verb phrases like “What should a woman over 60 wear” and “How should I dress after 60” indicate policing in the former and self-policing in the latter, hinting how there is a social pressure to dress a certain way.

In truth, we know that fashion has no age or era boundaries. Currently, younger people are riding the wave of retro revival: Grandma Cardigans, Dad Sweatshirts and 60s blouses are thrifted on Depop and ASOS Marketplace.

On this note, we studied social profiles of some older fashionistas pushing against the boundaries of mature womens’ fashion. How does style look like to these women?

They are Maye Musk, Iris Apfel, Renata Jazdzyk and Lyn Slater. We ran several hundred instagram posts from each account through our Culture AI.

The Vibrant Emotions of Advanced Style

The top emotions detected by our cultural AI were happiness and sensuality, followed by solitude and creativity

In posts tagged as sensual, we saw images like these with elements that strongly connote glamour. They were: leaning from balconies, invoking a classically Parisian Glamour Shot elegance, and neither-pout-nor-smile lips communicating coy distance.

Fashionistas over fifty
Source: Instagram., @iconaccidental , @mayemusk

A Love for Daring, Experimental Colours

Looking at the results from our colour detection model, we see how a lot of photos do comprise of “safe” colours like tan, saddle brown and maroon.

However, a sizeable number of pictures also had use of bright, bolder colours such as crimson, teal, coral, and orange, which indicate to us that in terms of clothing and accessories, there was no self-restriction against wearing certain colours for fear of dressing too loudly.

Pretty in Prowl: All About Animal Prints

Our attributes detection model revealed a strong Animal theme. Animal prints, faux fur, and fur were prominently detected across images in the four accounts. 

This theme occurred not only in the fashion choices of these women, but also in the curation of photo backdrops. Fur throws, signalling glamour, refinery and a touch of extravagance, featured.

This contributed to crafting an atmosphere of glamour with a touch of wildness, showing that being more advanced in age doesn’t mean taming down.

The Curious Case of the Side Gaze

Examining the clusters identified by the culture AI image semiotics model, we found several key clusters. One consisted of long-distance shots capturing the subjects’ full bodies in the frame, set against backdrops like buildings, landscapes and lavish interiors.

Another cluster consisted of close-up face shots which prominently displayed the features of these women — wrinkles, smiles and all, which shows us that a common feature of all these feeds was their acceptance and flaunting of their age.

No touch-ups or airbrushing — unlike certain younger influencers who often end up drawing media flak for photoshop fails when editing their pictures.

But it was the third cluster that stood out to us the most: we observed numerous data points of these women shot from medium to long distance, showing a side-gaze perspective.

In an Instagram world of come-hither influencers staring straight at the camera with their expressions set in the now stock influencer pose of the gaze-and-pout, these side-gaze shots of these women mostly looking everywhere but the camera stand out.

The side gaze indicates a refusal to give the viewer one’s full attention, and by extension, a refusal to give the permission access into one’s personal thoughts and feelings.

By not establishing eye contact with viewers, these women exude an air of indifference to the camera, and possibly indifference to attention and validation on social media.

What does this mean for fashion brands who want to target older women?

These intentionally distant shots indicate to us the types of glamour that appeal to older women: a sophisticated sort that maintains elements of mystery and coyness and a laissez-faire attitude.

As the fashion world slowly starts catering to a more diverse age group, this could mean a broadening of marketing strategies in order to target the different demographics effectively. While billboard shots of models looking straight ahead with a fierce stance may be all the rage among the millennial audience, it’s likely that this might need to change to target different age demographics of women.

Beauty is not always fierce and proudly in-your-face. Sometimes, beauty enjoys keeping her distance and remaining ever so out of reach.

For more of our explorations in AI & Fashion, check these out:

Walking down the High-Street: Streetwear in the 2020s

A Tale of Two Beauties: Makeup branding across cultures

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