Say what you like about underwear models (and I know I have in the past) but you can’t fault 58-year-old Kathy Jacobs, who has become Sports Illustrated magazine’s oldest-ever bikini babe. And her decision to bare (nearly) all got me thinking about midlife models. Why do we see so few 50-plus women strutting their stuff on the catwalk and in the pages of glossy mags?
Google Jacobs and you’ll see that not only does she look fabulous for any age, but she has a sensational attitude too. “Old is gold,” she told the New York Post. “I was, like, ‘Screw it.’ I’m going to be my biggest, baddest and boldest self.”
She’s well aware of what her success means to other midlife women. “I was talking to the ladies [in the audience], saying ‘I represent you’ as I walked.”
Big fashion brands have been slow to react to our economic clout. After all, the over-50s contributed more than one-third of the total spend on fashion in the UK in 2019 – £12.2 billion out of a total of £34.6 billion, according to Kantar.
Jacobs nailed it when she said: “Put ladies over 50, 60 and 70 in your ads and on the runway. We should be honoured by major brands because we’re the demographic with the most disposable income.”
So why has it taken so long for high-end fashion houses and the high street to wake up to the power of the older woman? It’s not like we haven’t been banging that drum for a while here at Studio10.
Finally, though, there’s a glimmer of light on the horizon. JD Williams has just announced that it is joining forces with Amanda Holden and Davina McCall to launch two new clothing collections. Both of these fiftysomething women will be fronting their own brand, modelling the looks, rather than some 17-year-old to whom they will mean, frankly, nothing.
We aren’t short of representative style icons out there in the real world. Head over to Instagram and check out stylist-turned-beauty-brand Linda Rodin (293,000 followers) and socialite/author Costanza Pascolato (735,000), both of whom are in their sixties/seventies. Could they look any cooler? So why aren’t we seeing women like these in big ad campaigns? John Lewis, I’m looking at you for starters...
Surprisingly, high fashion is upping its game when it comes to sending older models down the runway. Demi Moore, Naomi Campbell and Christy Turlington all walked for Fendi earlier this year. Cindy Crawford is on the cover of Tatler in a Chanel miniskirt.
Coach loves J.Lo. Dolce & Gabbana comes back over and over again to Monica Bellucci, while Louis Vuitton favours Catherine Deneuve. Higher up the age range, check out Jan de Villeneuve and the remarkable Daphne Selfe, who’s still working for the biggest names at the age of 93.
Admittedly, these women may not be your typical midlifer (I wish I woke up looking like Bellucci every morning), but you can’t fault the idea: they’re all helping to break down the ageist assumptions of how women should be at 50, 60, 70 and beyond. And that’s something we should all be joining the fight against.
So let’s applaud Kathy Jacobs and her decision to strut her stuff in celebration of her age. I, for one, will be taking a leaf out of her book.