There comes that point in every woman’s life when, however reluctantly, you have to hand over the fleshpot-at-the-party baton to the next generation.
Helena Christensen is usually the most stylishly understated of the supermodels. At the peak of her career, she always looked utterly scrumptious in a simple dress and flat shoes, wore no make-up and liked to hang out with girlfriends. So why last week, at the age of 50, did she decide to pitch up at
Helena Christensen, 50, usually the most stylishly understated of the supermodels, at Gigi Hadid’s 24th birthday party in a black lace bustier
It’s possible that she just panicked, as you do, when faced with a themed party (this was denim) and thought that turning up as the madam in a one-horse town would fit the bill. But it’s more likely that she did it to show she’s not past it. She’s not going gentle into any good night when it comes to getting her share of the paparazzi’s attention. It’s understandable but unwise.
There isn’t a guidebook on how brazenly women can dress as the years pass. And neither should there be. Prescriptive rules and formulaic dressing for your age are dull.
You don’t have to condemn yourself to trench coats, navy blazers and a crisp white shirt once you hit the big Five-O. But, even so, surely you should call time on Ann Summers style, a look, incidentally, that no stylish young woman would dream of wearing. Even the birthday girl was in a plain white T-shirt.
We might like to think that 70 is the new 40 and 50 the new 30 but our clothes know the true story.
No matter how pert your breasts, how great your legs, how invisible your bingo wings, our clothes simply don’t look the same as we age because they are about the person wearing them, not the items themselves. They are about the people – not just the bodies – that we have become.
There’s nothing wrong in wishing to be desirable – it’s just not best achieved wearing a black lace corset in public. Helena Christensen arrives at Gigi Hadid’s 24th birthday party in a black lace bustier
Something you wore at 30 will never look the same on you 20 years later. Clothes don’t lie.
While men can receive sex symbol status until they are in their box, for women it’s more complicated. As a society, we are frightened of sexuality that doesn’t come accompanied by fertility. Wrinklies like Richard Gere, who has fathered a baby at 69, or Ronnie Wood, who now takes his three-year-old twins on the road, have the advantage of this proof that their sexual function is still in working order.
When women’s bodies no longer serve any child-bearing purpose, we find flaunting them disturbing and slightly tragic. I don’t claim that this is fair. But it’s true.
This doesn’t mean older women should give up and go into purdah. There’s nothing wrong in wishing to be desirable – it’s just not best achieved wearing a black lace corset in public. One of the great plusses of growing older is gaining the confidence and freedom to value yourself as something other than a sexual object.
Helena’s contemporaries, such as designer Bella Freud, model Stella Tennant, actress Gillian Anderson and author Zadie Smith, take pleasure in their appearance and play around with their clothes but they don’t trade on clichéd pin-up style. And that can continue for the rest of their lives.
Last summer I had tea with Julie Christie. She was bare-legged, dressed in a waisted crimson cotton frock paired with white plimsolls and wearing violet tinted spectacles. At nearly 80 she was still extraordinarily beautiful with a dress-down style very much her own.
Now, we can’t all look like Julie Christie (sadly) but we can all pay attention to some advice I was given years back by an older woman. ‘By the time you reach 50,’ she told me, ‘you must have learnt how to be a good conversationalist. Before that you can just flirt.’
Plumbing the depths of my ignorance
My degree in social anthropology has been of little use to me. A nodding acquaintance with the potlatch economy of indigenous North American tribes has never come in handy. How much more useful it would have been if I had learnt how to mend my boiler.
A couple of years ago, I published a diary of my year orchestrating Vogue’s centenary celebration. It included tales of the Duchess of Cambridge’s magazine cover shoot, trying to persuade David Beckham to be photographed as a nude gold statue and Kim Kardashian’s appearance at dinner.
But what do most people who have read the book now ask me? Have you replaced that boiler? Throughout the year it broke down at every vital moment, a mechanical avatar of my stress. I even had to kitty-bathe the evening of the gala dinner using a saucepan of water from my neighbours’ kettle. Finally, I have decided the boiler has to go and the quest is on to avoid saddling myself with a similarly hopeless one. But can the countless plumbers I’ve consulted come up with a consensus?
Of course not. How I wish I knew my condenser from my pump from my thermostatic valves, instead of being able to bore for Britain on the symbolism of red.
Greta Thunberg at the Italian Senate conference ‘Climate: time changes. It’s time to change’
Pigtails make Greta everyone’s heroine
GRETA THUNBERG, the baby Boadicea of the climate-change movement, has the kind of leadership appeal politicians around the world would kill for.
Who else has united Michael Gove, Jeremy Corbyn and a global community of schoolchildren?
There are many others who have voiced similar opinions to hers but few who have the added benefit of pigtails. While Greta’s implacable conviction has impressed everyone, you can’t discount the appeal of those plaits. Who hasn’t loved a pigtailed heroine in their childhood – Alpine orphan Heidi, Frozen’s Anna and Elsa, Pippi Longstocking – rocking a braid, one and all.
Killing the planet – by flower arranging
WE THINK of flower shops as healthy places but it turns out they’re depositories of toxicity.
Not only does flying in the flowers from abroad leave a galumphing carbon footprint but my florist friend says Oasis, the water-soaked foam used in their arrangements, is pure environmental poison. It never breaks down.
As yet though, there’s no satisfactory replacement, especially for floral tributes at funerals. Even when wishing the planet well, nobody wants to risk water-filled containers sloshing all over the coffin.
Why travelling solo really suits William
IT MUST be a relief for Prince William to have travelled solo to New Zealand. Not having to hang around while his wife has a blow dry and frets about her outfit. He can just jump into the same dark suit and crack on it with. Nobody cares what he’s wearing.
Prince William, Duke of Cambridge visits Christchurch Hospital on April 26, 2019 in Christchurch, New Zealand