Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Fashion and Age: Dress, the Body and Later Life: Books

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Fashion and Age: Dress, the Body and Later Life: Books

Article excerpt

Fashion and Age: Dress, the Body and Later Life. By Julia Twigg. Bloomsbury. 184pp, Pounds 65.00 and Pounds 19.99. ISBN 9781847886965 and 6958. Published 4 July 2013

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple," wrote Jenny Joseph in her 1961 poem Warning, "With a red hat that doesn't go, and doesn't suit me".

Not so, says Julia Twigg in this fascinating discussion of what happens to our sense of fashion as we reach later life. As she puts it, "age is not just peripheral to fashion but positively erosive of it". Drawing on interviews with those who wear, sell and write about fashion, Twigg addresses a range of questions about how we negotiate fashion as we get older. Her conclusions are alarming, not only for dedicated followers of fashion but for the majority of the population who on a daily basis confront the question: "What to wear?" Central to Twigg's thesis is that with age we become estranged from the world of fashion, wearing "rectangles and squares" in sombre colours with little ornamentation, instead of choosing clothes that fashionably drape and shape our older selves, and are part of the present rather than the past.

Fashion and Age is based on interviews with fashion journalists and the design directors of clothing companies, as well as the individual stories of women in later life. Powerfully effective in their narration of everyday lives, these voices of older women range from a 59-year-old goth's determination to wear what she likes to the recognition by an 80- year-old that "passing muster" still matters.

Alongside this, Twigg addresses critical debates about age, the body and dress that help to frame the interviews and give shape to her initial questions: how does fashion and the fashion world treat old age, and why is fashion preoccupied with the youthful and the transgressive rather than the everyday clothing needs of people over a lifetime? …

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