Surveys are strange things. Despite their evident banality and absence of intrinsic worth, news desks love them. Especially on slow news days or at weekends when they are making up early pages for Monday's editions because they fill a downpage slot and can easily be pulled if something newsier comes along. If they have even the remotest connection to a celebrity, that makes them even more valuable as what the trade calls 'fillers' or NIBs.
Coverage was guaranteed, therefore, for one such survey from isme.com, a subsidiary of catalogue giant Marshall Ward, by a quote from 'brand ambassador', Carol Vorderman. This survey 'found' that eight out of 10 people believed women should start "dressing down" after they hit 50 which, apparently leads to "almost half of all over-50s being terrified of wearing fashionable clothes" and "turning to dowdy, shapeless garments" for fear of what others will say.
And, as the co-founder of SoSensational.co.uk the shopping and style site for grown-up women, I have two things to say to those findings: 1) I offer you Oscar Wilde's comment "Lies, damned lies and statistics" and 2) where, in the name of Anna Wintour and Tom Ford, aka the Gods of Planet Fashion, did they do their research, the Eastbourne prom in February?
If nothing else, sheer exposure to celebrities over the age of 50 disporting themselves, for better or worse, in fashionable clothes across magazines, newspapers and the internet should have banished forever the notion of fashion being for the under-50s alone.
When my SoSensational co-founder, Cyndy, and I were guests recently on the afternoon show of Radio London's fabulous Jo Good, the subject we discussed was what was "appropriate" for older women in fashion terms. As well as our view that older women can wear virtually all trends if they style themselves properly, that was also the overwhelming view of the 50-something and 60-something listeners who called in, every one of whom was engaged by fashion. They told us they wore skinny jeans, little lace tops and biker jackets; they shopped in Topshop and H&M, they wore their hair in fashionable cuts and they still loved fashion.
Of course it can be a minefield finding clothes that are fashionable yet don't shriek "mutton". That's why we created SoSensational, to help grown-up women find clothes that were fabulous and fashionable but would not look as if they belonged on an 18-year-old.
And if you need hard evidence that looking fabulous has nothing whatever to do with age and everything to do with taste, styling tricks and knowing what suits you, you have only to look at Jerry Hall papped recently in a short, tight black satin skirt and fishnet tights. Even at age 30 she would have looked slapperish in that get-up. Anna Wintour, on the other hand, 63, and still at the helm of American Vogue, never looks less than totally fabulous. Of course she has the pick of the collections, but it is what she selects and what she rejects, that guarantee 100% success.
The reality is, it's never about age. It's always about being style-savvy, knowing what works on your body shape, and recognising tacky when we see it. And getting that wrong is certainly not reserved for the 50-somethings, as a flick through Heat, OK! or Grazia any week will demonstrate.
So let's dispense with this fashion ageism and recognise that 100% of women over 50 have the potential to look fabulous 100% of the time just as 100% of women under 50 have the potential to look like a fashion disaster 100% of the time...