Huffpost UK Lifestyle
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Jan Shure Headshot

Grr, Glam-ma! Could a Title Be More Patronising to Grown Up Women?

Posted: Updated:

Well, there's no point in being coy about it: based on the criteria set out by Kaleidoscope, the mail-order brand which has published its survey on over-50s fashion-heroes, both I and my SoSensational.co.uk co-founder, Cyndy Lessing, are 'glam-mas'.

That was the name given to grandmothers who, according to those surveyed by Kaleidoscope, rank highly in the fashion stakes despite being old enough to have children who have their own children.

According to their survey, Carole Middleton, 58, is the glam-ma in chief, with 40% of respondents rating her highly for her style. Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, by contrast, won just 2% of the vote. Other glam-mas rated highly for their fashion sense include Goldie Hawn, Mary Berry, Sharon Osbourne and Jane Fonda.

And, as a grandma - or glam-ma - aged 62, I might be flattered if I didn't feel so patronised.

Why patronised? Well, simply by carrying out the survey and giving stylish over-50s with grandchildren that rather twee title and a style ranking, the subliminal message is: "We think you should be over, fashion-wise, but, hey, you're not".

According to the survey, "grandmothers are now choosing to step away from their traditional stereotype". Well, who created the stereotype in the first place? Could it have been illustrators of Grimm fairy tales and children's literature where a woman with a wiry grey bun, specs slipping down her nose, a shapeless body and a pastel cardi was easy shorthand for 'grandmother', whereas a more realistic looking older woman might not be instantly recognisable?

If grandmothers looked less gym-fit and sassy 40, 50 or 100 years ago, it was because fashion demanded less of them and everyone else. Look at pictures of the Queen Mother taken in the 1960s; she was a grandmother and a very stylish woman. While her style didn't resemble that of Goldie Hawn or Sharon Osbourne today, with their body-con dresses, immaculate maquillage and Louboutins, nor did anyone else's in the 1960s

They key style of the day, mini-skirts and platform shoes, were reserved for the under-25s. And for everyone over that age - regardless of whether they were mothers or grandmothers - fashion was alarmingly homogenous. In fact fashion, for a vast majority of the population, was a misnomer. They wore clothes - some lovely, some not so lovely; they didn't "do" fashion, because practically no-one of their generation did. 'Fashion', as opposed to clothes that followed trends in a fairly undemanding way, was primarily reserved for the under 30s.

Grandmothers haven't changed. The world has changed. And it now has expectations of women over 50. They are expected to keep up, fashion wise. But the good thing is, they want to keep up - or most of them do (92% according to that survey) because looking good is part of the agenda for living.

We who are over 50 know about healthy eating and the 5:2 diet; we go to the gym or the yoga and pilates classes to keep our bodies in shape; we see glamorous role models splashed all over the pages of OK! Hello and Heat, and - via websites like SoSensational.co.uk - we know we can find the fabulous clothes which will allow us to look as on-trend and stylish as we want to be.

And while we are on the subject of grandmother stereotypes and how ludicrously outdated they are, let's pause for a moment and consider fashion ubermensch, Carine Roitfeld, the 58-year-old former editor of French Vogue who stars in her own documentary, Mademoiselle C, which is released in cinemas on 20 September. Although not included in the survey, Ms Roitfeld is also a grandmother, and with her panda eyes and bondage outfits straight off the catwalk, it would be hard to find a woman who contrasts more strongly with the grandmother stereotype.

Unless of course we all get a grip and realise there is really no such thing, in 2013, as a 'stereotypical' grandmother, and recognise that a woman's ability to bear children (and the ability of their daughters or daughters-in-law to, in turn, bear children) is completely irrelevant to how she looks, dresses or behaves at any age.

As for being a 'glam-ma', I won't be buying the souvenir mug just yet...

Presented by Breast Cancer Campaign