Marion Adkins from the Anchor Trust in the UK sends along notice of this item in the Guardian newspaper.
Fashion for older women is tricky territory. So can twentysomething designer Fanny Karst break the mould with her label Old Ladies’ Rebellion?
Friday May 1 2009
When I was told about Fanny Karst designing for older people I assumed she would be someone in her late 50s, fed up with the difficulty of getting grown-up clothes at reasonable prices that don’t look as if you’ve inherited them along with the family silver.
Wrong on every count: Karst is 25. Anxious to convert her beloved grandmother, who doesn’t like clothes, to fashion she launched her label Old Ladies’ Rebellion with a show in a small Parisian gallery last year. She wanted the clothes to be “straight and bold – no fuss, no frills”.
To show her collections, which are hand-finished and not cheap at £500-£600 a time, she uses real older women with snow-white hair, most of whom have been models. So maybe they aren’t too typical of most of us groaning oldies but the clothes, nonetheless, do embody quite a few things that we like.
Karst is French-born, though she lived in London for a while as a child (her father apparently helped build the Channel tunnel), and trained at Central Saint Martins. “I felt completely safe once I was there, just having fun.” Fun – not a word generally associated with dressing the elderly. As the niece of designer Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, she now operates in the posh basement of his shop in Savile Row. His clothes are a bizarre riot of colour; hers seem extra sophisticated by comparison.
Her dresses have animals or slogans on them as well as patterns. “The more daring it is, the better it works,” she says. They are straight but roomier than they look, with hidden panels at the side, and pockets – pockets! The current collection is not sleeveless (those flapping under-arms), nor absurdly brief. She thinks just below the knee is a good length, echoing Emma Soames, who, when she was editor of Saga magazine for the over 50s, wrote in Vogue that legs often stay perfect even when not much else is. There’s no nonsense, either, about teeteringly high heels as worn on the regular catwalk. Some younger and better-balanced pensioners can maybe cope with heels, but for most of us they’re far too risky, and for once there are lots of wonderful flats around – hers are like dancing shoes or sports shoes with ideas above their station.
Clothes for older women is tricky territory. Time was that, at least in theory, senior dressing was simple: past a certain age you were expected to dress sombrely and soberly, and in the days when people were in mourning for months, I suppose they wore black half the time anyway.
We have to abandon fixed ideas of what we used to look like and most of us would improve our wardrobe by simply throwing half of it out.
Now we can wear anything we like, which is, of course, far more interesting, but harder to master. Only the lucky few stay the same shape they have always been; some get skinnier, which is better at least while they’ve actually got their clothes on, though it tends to drain the face. A lot get stouter or at any rate bulge in different places and we’re all reluctant to face up to the changes. How often do you see a woman looking far bigger than she needs to because she has obviously thought, “While I can still squeeze into these size 14 jeans I can’t be that fat,” though she’d look a lot more svelte in a well-cut size 16? I’m amazed, too, at the big-bottomed women who wear a tightly shaped jacket, where a blazer, in fashion this year, would be far more helpful.
Once again, the penalty of ageism falls more lightly on the male gender…