Kate Emery: Grey hair the new glam as growing older is finally in fashion

Kate Emery
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Helen Mirren wears a creation for the L'Oreal Spring/Summer 2024 womenswear fashion collection.
Helen Mirren wears a creation for the L'Oreal Spring/Summer 2024 womenswear fashion collection. Credit: Vianney Le Caer/Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP

Good news for anyone planning on getting older: it’s OK to look your age now.

We know this because of the rapturous welcome just afforded to a trio of women at Paris Fashion Week.

Pamela Anderson, 56, “stunned” make-up free, Andie MacDowell, 65, “looked fabulous” as she “showcased her natural grey curls” and Helen Mirren, 78, was “proudly grey” — so went the gushy coverage as journalists and attendees struggled to contain their excitement at the idea that women over 50 might be allowed to exist in public without having first donned the carapace of a 35-year-old.

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These naturally gorgeous women did indeed look, well, gorgeous, with cheekbones sharper than one of those knives from the telly that cuts through shoes and designer wardrobes that could probably fund a second Voice referendum were they to be sold at auction (please, no).

Pamela Anderson attends the Isabel Marant Spring/Summer 2024 womenswear fashion collection presented Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023 in Paris. (AP Photo/Vianney Le Caer)
Pamela Anderson attends the Isabel Marant Spring/Summer 2024 womenswear fashion collection presented Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023 in Paris. (AP Photo/Vianney Le Caer) Credit: Vianney Le Caer/Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP

This is being heralded as a moment because age discrimination against actresses is real. Historically once an actress hits 40 she’s doomed to play mothers to her male contemporaries, while Tom Cruise’s love interests continue to be culled from actresses who were too young to see Top Gun at the cinema.

Famous men mostly have it easier — not just Cruise, who presumably has a clause in his contracts so he never has to feign romantic interest in anyone who knows how to use a rotary phone — but outside the world of entertainment. When the US goes to the polls next year it’s entirely possible they’ll have a choice between an 81-year-old man and his sprightly 77-year-old rival.

For famous women, leaving the house without a face full of slaps is an act of defiance. For the rest of us, it’s a Wednesday.

The popular takeaway from Mirren, MacDowell and Anderson seems to be that of empowerment. Actress Jamie-Lee Curtis shared a photo of the former Baywatch star online, heralding her make-up-free appearance as an “act of courage and rebellion”.

As someone who performs her own act of courage and rebellion on a daily basis, I am heartened to see images of older women looking beautiful without trying to look like they’re still 40.

Once, Mirren’s laugh lines would have been airbrushed into nothingness, here they stand out like war paint. Despite having grown up seeing Anderson’s face I’m not sure I ever realised she had a face full of freckles.

But what stood out to me most about the whole hoo-ha is the reality gap between celebrity women and the rest of us and how awful it must be to be famous and ageing.

Andie MacDowell wears a creation for the L'Oreal Spring/Summer 2024 womenswear fashion collection presented Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023 in Paris. (AP Photo/Vianney Le Caer)
Andie MacDowell wears a creation for the L'Oreal Spring/Summer 2024 womenswear fashion collection presented Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023 in Paris. (AP Photo/Vianney Le Caer) Credit: Vianney Le Caer/Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP

For famous women, leaving the house without a face full of slaps is an act of defiance. For the rest of us, it’s a Wednesday.

Civilians without access to make-up artists, fillers and an industry that says they need both know a secret celebrities are just cottoning to: it’s already OK to look your age.

Grey hair, post-menopausal hips, wrinkles that resemble the Mariana Trench: in the real world looking your age is already in fashion, not just because most of us don’t have a choice but because life is too short to pretend getting older doesn’t beat the hell out of the alternative.

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