In 2022, 50-somethings are (finally) taking center stage

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·5-min read
Ageist portrayals are slowly being broken down in the fashion industry and other sectors.
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  • Naomi Campbell
    Naomi Campbell
    British model
  • Kate Moss
    Kate Moss
    English model and businesswoman
  • Kristen McMenamy
    Kristen McMenamy
    American model
  • Sarah Jessica Parker
    Sarah Jessica Parker
    American actress
  • Bella Hadid
    Bella Hadid
    American model

While the cult of youth retains its prominent position in the fashion and beauty industries, it seems that 2022 may be the year that 50-somethings (and beyond) get their just due. From Kate Moss to Cher, Naomi Campbell, Kristen McMenamy and Sarah Jessica Parker, the image of the 50-something is no longer limited to that of an organized but slightly frumpy mother; images of dynamic, active, fashion-forward and even ultra-sexy women are showing up everywhere. Time for 50-somethings to take the spotlight -- and their 'revenge!'

Could big-name models like Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid, and Hailey Bieber be worried? The year 2022 could sound the death knell of the cult of youth, long upheld by the fashion industry, and put an end to age-related preconceptions and expectations. One thing is sure, the 50-,60-,70-somethings, and even centenarians (!!) now have role models and influential representatives, who could (finally) allow an entire generation -- and even more people -- to see themselves as active, stylish women, who are above all, free to assert themselves.

The triumph of silver models

While young faces remain the majority on the catwalks of Fashion Weeks, as well as fashion giants' advertising campaigns, for several months now, brands have been increasingly calling on models aged 40, 50, 60, or even over 70+. And the supermodels of the 1990s, who are around or nearing the age of 50, can hold their own in the face of their younger colleagues. If they may have once thought that their modeling career would end with the arrival of their first gray hair, these days Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss, Cindy Crawford, Carla Bruni, and Christy Turlington are still front and center. For the spring-summer 2022 season alone, Naomi Campbell walked the catwalks of Alexander McQueen, Lanvin, Balmain, and Versace, while at the beginning of this year Kate Moss was named as the face of the skincare and makeup brand Charlotte Tilbury.

Even better, model Kristen McMenamy was elected model of the year by the industry, as revealed at the end of 2021 by the reference site Models.com. At 57, McMenamy succeeds Paloma Elsesser, Adut Akech, Adwoa Aboah, and Bella Hadid, winners in previous years. A rare occurrence, but this year it's a 50-something star who has been lauded by fashion professionals this year. The American, who has never conformed to the industry's conventional standards with her ultra-short hair, shaved eyebrows, androgynous physique, has distinguished herself on the runway, in campaigns, and on the covers of the most influnetial fashion magazines throughout the year, testifying to a definite interest in the media for an age group that has long been neglected.

And that's just for starters. This past week, it was lifestyle brand UGG that made headlines by naming the legendary artist Cher, 75, the face of its latest campaign. Shot at the "Believe" singer's home in California, the video follows her in her daily life, showing different facets of the artists, and in particular challenging all stereotypes related to ageism. More stylish than ever, Cher appears vivacious and energetic, between meditation sessions and relaxing moments in her home cinema. And we can't not talk about individual style and self-expression when we look at the collaboration between H&M and Iris Apfel, 100 years old, who posed in colorful and eccentric clothes to celebrate her first collection for the Swedish giant -- coming to stores in a few weeks' time. Long shunned by brands, the 50+ age group seems to have regained power -- across several sectors.

50-somethings are fashion's new heroines on the screen

50-somethings are making their mark on the catwalks, but that's not the only place... In recent months they have also become the latest heroines of some of the most popular TV series. Starting with "And Just Like That...", the sequel to the adventures of "Sex and the City," which no longer focuses on the daily lives of 30-year-olds, but of 50-somethings experiencing new issues in their romantic, professional, and family lives.

And in this show, the portrayal of these three active women is light years away from how women of this age were portrayed even just a few years ago, between learning to knit and watching an episode of "Murder She Wrote," to give an idea of the clichés. No, these 50-something women can hold their own in the face of the heroines of "Gossip Girl," "Elite," or "Emily in Paris." In fact, the decade is even presented as a kind of golden age, during which women finally free themselves from many shackles. It's a portrayal that is generating a great deal of discussion, and which could inspire more series on the subject. "On The Verge" by Julie Delpy is also a perfect example. First dropping mid-2021, the comedy-drama also follows the adventures of several friends, aged between 40 and 50.

If this sudden interest in this age group is good news for a whole generation, it's not a random occurrence. Many big name stars hitting this milestone has helped a lot, but the brands are also aware that 50- and 60-somethings today represent a significant portion of the market. And it's just the beginning, as the world's population continues to age year after year. According to the US Census, 16.5% of the US population (54 million people of a total 328 million) were over 65 but that number will rise to 74 million by 2030, demonstrating the importance of not sidelining this population. Something that is already starting to be reflected in fashion collections, and skincare and makeup lines, which are no longer (only) the prerogative of some eternal youth.

Christelle Pellissier

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