The recent Fendi couture show in Paris - London designer Kim Jones’s first for the house - was a tonic for older women, featuring as it did Demi Moore (58), Christy Turlington (52), Naomi Campbell (50), Farida Khelfa (60) and a 47 year-old Kate Moss.
Alas, just like tonic, the show left a bitter taste in the mouth for some commentators. Nobody turns to social media for succour, but even by its own standards of meanness, the rancorous comments directed towards these older models - in particular, Demi Moore - were extremely unkind.
Moore’s crime? That her face looked changed - “changed” being a euphemism for “made more youthful with the help of a plastic surgeon”.
Forget appraising the merits of the clothes: the internet was far more interested in appraising the cut and drape of Demi’s face. “Used to be beautiful - now a poster child for why not to get plastic surgery,” said one Twitter user. “Painful insecurity,” said another. “What’s the point of trying to represent age diversity by casting older models who seem to be vying to look 18?”
Ageing is, of course, a privilege - the greatest privilege there is. It shouldn’t take a global pandemic to remind us that we’re all lucky to be alive, regardless of the face God and genetics have bestowed upon us. How petty, then, that keyboard critics seem as voracious as ever in attacking older women’s looks - completely unaware that they’re part of the problem. Consider the recent criticism of Davina McCall (53), called out for wearing a tight dress because she looks “wrinkly and crinkly”. The more people criticise, the more insecure a woman will feel - and the more likely she’ll look in the mirror and find herself wanting.
Rather than questioning how much work a woman has had, a better question might be “why do we care?” And why are women too often each other’s worst critics? Any woman over 40 will agree that ageing is as much about nature as nurture. Diet, exercise, sleep and SPF might help you grow old gracefully, but luck plays a far greater part.
Besides, who gets to define “graceful?” It’s wonderful to be as genetically blessed as Salma Hayek (54), Jennifer Lopez (50) or Lauren Hutton (70), but what if your face headed south as soon as you turned 41? Or you inherited your mother’s jowls, your father’s eyebags or your granny’s premature wrinkles? If a trip to a licenced surgeon makes you feel better about yourself, who’s anyone to judge?
Yet judge they will, using a lexicon far more disparaging than the one used to describe ageing men. They get to be “craggy”, “distinguished” and a “silver fox”, while the best an unaugmented older woman can hope for is “brave” and “characterful”. If you want this to change, stop being part of the problem.
We only have one face: other people’s, and what they do to it, is nobody else’s business but theirs.