Monday, October 20, 2014

Old Lady Runway Rant

If I hear Heidi Freaking Klum or Nina Freaking Garcia say one more time, "That looks old lady" when they mean dowdy, old fashioned, unfashionable, outmoded, out-of-date, passé, unstylish, or frumpy, I will be forced to reconsider my weekly indulgence in one of my favorite guilty pleasures: watching Project Runway. (I participate in lots of other light-minded pleasures and activities. I just don't feel guilty when I indulge in them.)

I'll miss you, Tim Gunn. But I have to say, Tim, you should be all over this one and on my side.

It is just plain ageist, incorrect and mean-spirited to employ two words that describe an at least passably well-behaved and civilized woman who has attained a considerable number of years past her youth when Ms Klum attempts to describe an especially unhip outfit made by one of the anxious competitors. The fact of a woman's age doesn't and never should automatically define her stylishness or un. When Klum says this, she implies that we old women look dowdy in whatever we're wearing simply because we are not young, no matter how great our clothing might be without us in them. Oldness makes everything about us uncool.

She uses this phrase fairly frequently, and I cringe for her when she does it. I try to remember that as a non-native speaker she does worlds better in English than I do in her native German, and I can understand her searching for a word while on camera. But it isn't live-broadcast, so somebody needs to look at editing out this gaffe the next time it occurs. Really, it's important to at least be clear and respectful when she's paid as much as she is to opine about something as subjective as the hipness of clothing design.

Garcia often climbs on the band-wagon with Klum, but sometimes has the grace to use other, only slightly less offensive terms such as madame, or mother-of-the-bride in the same insensitive way. As the 49-year-old mother of young sons, it is likely that she will one day wear her carefully chosen and couture outfits at the nuptials of her grown boys, and she won't be a spring chicken by that time, either. I guarantee that she won't like to hear her ensemble unkindly described as "soooo mother-of-the-groom." I'd offer her the excuse that she may well not have been a childhood speaker of idiomatic English as she was born in Columbia, but I won't because she holds a bachelor's degree from Boston University as well as a second one from FIT.

Yooo-hooo, Ms. Klum and Ms. Garcia. Hellooooo. We're sitting right here in front of the TV. We're old but we can still hear you.

I know. It's American Reality TV. Therefore, I should not be surprised. I also know this isn't so-much-of-a-much all in itself, and the next, most obvious step should be to let it go now that I've vented. But it's been a week where I've been noticing more disdain exhibited towards older women than usual in our language and popular culture and media, and it's been frustrating. I beg that my darling vintage-enthusiast friends will cut me a bit of slack and not pummel me for equating only current, knife-edge newness with great style. I do not mean that at all. It's the equation of advanced age and non-style that I object to. I've been chastised black and blue because I neglected to clarify my smarty-pants glibness. Completely black and blue, I tell you.

In fact, since I'm bound to offend someone, I'll apologize ahead of time and show my contrition by wearing my black and blue shame right out in the open; in a very soft and comforting blue Max Studio extra-fine merino wool sweater over my Old Navy black and blue hounds-tooth Pixie Pants. And my navy, cobalt and black suede d'Orsay ankle-strap pumps ... more black and blue, from me to you.
Oh, yeah. And my sleek and snazzy Old Lady bag, too. 
Snap to you, Heidi.

Taking this silliness to the Lovely Lacy Patti at her Visible Monday link-up.

Hope to see you there.


  1. Nope...ah wait?...nope still can't see the old lady in you!
    Loved the rant. I'll be listening out from now on! As a 51 yr old I don't lay claim to old just yet, but it's creeping up!
    Black and blue are suuuuperb on you. Love the "old lady" handbag..or the old bag? :-D xo JJ

  2. That annoys me too!! Some of the most stylish people I know are over 60. There are equally some younger people who could be descrribed as dowdy in style but we don't use their age against them.
    Your ensemble is very stylish!

  3. I don't think we can excuse Heidi or Nina for using this particular offensive term on the grounds of them being non-native English speakers... As people have a tendency to translate word-for-word from their native language (and this is based on my extensive professional experience), we can assume that this is how they would see the idea in any language. But, we can rest assured that within the next 10 years or so both of them will no doubt start using, and actively promoting, more appealing terms, if only to avoid being classified as 'old ladies' themselves... ThAt doesn't mean that we shouldn't question and challenge terminology while waiting for the fashion industry to catch up.

  4. Aya in CouturgatoryOctober 21, 2014 at 3:37 AM

    This is so very true! I realize I don't have a age-linked term to describe the gawdawful style choices I see young people (often college students) sporting left and right.

  5. Patti_NotDeadYetStyleOctober 21, 2014 at 6:11 AM

    I cheer your rant and lift a toast to you (if I am not too old for a shot of tequila). Style is ageless and if we are lucky we'll all get old. Love your checked pants! xox

  6. Good one Jan! This rant needs to be forwarded to the show. You are right on here! Everyone ages, wouldn't it be great to see a Project Runway featuring all over 40 Fashion? This could be a game changer.

  7. Oh man, I agree with Ann. It makes me so mad. But I do love the show! I'm sure you're not the only one steaming at home. I bet they'll get it one of these days. Perhaps they have a facebook page you could start a complaint thread.

  8. If you think it's rough on "old women" try being old, fat and crippled. That's the trifecta of labels and name-calling, and please note that I'm the one using them to describe myself. If I beat everybody else to the punch they lose interest in throwing pejoratives at me.
    You have absolutely nothing to apologize for, and anyone who is offended by your candid feelings can go jump off a cliff. Having said that, dearest friend, I don't share your ire about Heidi's criticisms. Looking old lady has nothing to do with age. It has to do with a particular style. A style that harkens back to a time when being older meant giving up sartorially and being consigned to shapeless, lifeless, colorless garments. I know 25-year-olds that look like they're 80, precisely because they dress in this manner. You don't dress "old lady", and you don't dress "hootchie" (another of PR's favorite labels, along with "junior") either. It's not about ageism. It's about style and taste, both of which you have in abundance. See photo above for evidence ;-)
    Please stop by and enter to win a SUNNYband!

  9. You look amazing, Jan. Wonderful black/blue outfit with perfect fit. Love your hair so much..

  10. You are so right, Jan. I thought Tim Gunn had our back. Dowdy is one thing. Old lady is another. I love old lady style. Ladies that have been around long enough to know what they like, to have developed their own personal style, to own classic things that have been in style - gone out of style - and come back in again. I would love to see an over 40 Project Runway! Great idea! Hey how about an over 50 Project Runway? Over 60!!!! That would be beyond awesome!!

  11. LOL...Heidi Freaking Klum....
    uuuuiiii.... here in Germany, people love or hate her. In my oppinion she is a little bit too... too much... too tough... too funny.... too bussy.
    Have a good time.... in your sexy shoes.

  12. Brilliantly put.

    I can't add a thing.


  13. Now, I DO think this has to do with ageism, unlike Alicia and Suzanne. If the phrase "old lady" had nothing to do with age and everything to do with poor style, then why use the word old at all? Why not say unflattering, shapeless, lacking in creativity or flair, dull, or whatever else it is that they mean to imply? It's lazy, and it's inaccurate, since we have all seen plenty of evidence of chic, risk-taking, trail-blazing older women, and younger women with very little to say, sartorially speaking. So - yes, rant away, Jan!
    You, of course, look pretty damn fabulous in blue. What's in the Old Lady bag? Smelling salts, a lace hankie, and a half bottle of gin?
    PS. What are Pixie Pants? xxxx

  14. Well said, and I just adore your outfit! I saw those jeans on Old Navy's website, so cute! and I love the color combo too! :)

  15. Snap! I love that fuddyduddy handbag and you sure look darn good in those jeans.

  16. Sounds like ageism is alive and well on this show to me. That said as someone who has never see anything of the show, I just have a mental picture.I`m with you old lady is not appropriate, maybe one day they will get it. You on the other hand show are nothing but stylish in your blue and black with that great bag.

  17. I don't watch project runway but I love your post. I agree that we should not associate dowdy with age. There are so many stylish older ladies out there and we should celebrate that. I love your outfit and that old lady bag - I need that too :)


  18. Hi Jan! I'm Alex and I was hoping you could answer a quick question I have about your blog, Fort Smith Stylista! If you could email me back at Alex.d(at)weddingtonway(dot)com that would be great!

  19. I don't watch Project Runway that much because I don't like the format of the show .. plus, the 'judges' see something as cutting edge and I'm like.. "how am I going to get into my car in that?".

    I also agree, the term "old lady" is derogatory for the mature female population. If something isn't stylish, they should just say it's dowdy, out of style, not current, unfashionable etc.


  20. I do look forwad to each and every comment of yours my dear Jan.
    Don´t you ever leave me.
    I am spending some time with a a blogger from Chicago. She is exactly as I felt she would.
    Like you, she feels like family

  21. cherie james ( 23, 2014 at 2:36 PM

    You are far from Dowdy Jan! Love the blue on you, definitely a great complement to your hair color. And love, love those shoes! cherie

  22. You're so right! And as a big Project Runway fan, I hear it the time and haven't really thought about how unfair that description is! Love your wit and insight! Never any need to apologize to me!


    Dawn Lucy

  23. YOU are not an old lady. I do hear your very valid complain though and words are important. They have meaning and one of the joys of English is our wealth of synonyms which allows us to further refine our meaning. Frumpy is probably the word Ms Klum wants and frumpy is not at all the same as old lady. In fact, I resent the fact that the concept of youth is associated with hip, fun, attractive or stylish since although I am not an old lady either, I am not young by our culture's standards. I resent the cultural ideal that in order to look attractive I must strive to look young.

    All that crap aside, you look great and not frumpy or old or anything but great.

  24. You make a good point. There was a great video going around social media a few months ago how the phrase "like a girl" is used to demean people's actions, and questioning what effect the phrase has on girls. The same applies here. We should reclaim "like a girl" and "old lady" so they become compliments not insults.

  25. This has been driving me crazy too - but you said it so much better than I could! I do believe I may have cursed out loud at Heidi (which offended my husband - not the cursing part - just that it was directed at Heidi). Anyhoo...she may not have been born here but she should know better. On a more positive note, I'm LOVING this color on you, and the pixie pants look great. I have a pair too, and I think they're the best thing Old Navy has ever done.

  26. Loved your rant, Jan. Looks like it stimulated a lively conversation. But then that's the norm for you! Your post always interesting and perceptive. Black and blue looks great on you!

  27. Yes Heidi
    says a lot, old and frumpy, maybe she mean classic and elegant. Love your post
    and outfit. It is classic, elegant and the handbag finish your look.

    Joly Look

  28. Hahaha... it is what it is dearest Jan. I think these opinions have always been there and it will take some more time and good examples to eliminate these expressions. And don't you worry, time will get them in the end (if they are lucky).
    As for your outfit: love it. You look sassy, smart, modern, styled, put together. Eat that Heidi.
    The bag is to die for. Totally my style too. Send it over. I can always do with another bag. LOL

  29. Great writing Jan! Sadly it is common in my country too to say "like an old woman" while describing someone dressed old-fashionably. Love your outfit in blue, the shade is really pretty.

  30. Hear hear Jan! You should send this in to Project Runway as a letter addressed to Klum & co. Klum is fluent enough in English to know the meaning of her choice of terms so don't cut her any slack for being German! It is demeaning and offensive to use language that reinforces the association of all things uncool with older people and it acts to alienate older people in a youth obsessed world. This goes further than just fashion, is societal and it's sad that the fashion industry and its mouthpieces play a big part in fueling the fire we all get tossed into by society after a certain age.
    Anyway - I think you look fabulous! As always!

  31. I took that last bit down the next day! Edit, edit, edit. Thank you! Yes, I so meant the rant. The "gotcha" was supposed to be attached to the black and blue ... I'm a little gun shy of offending the vintage crowd, and the "black and blue" was a clumsy attempt at humor. Win some, screw some up!
    So glad you like my Pixie Pants ... I've got a little mini collection ... they work well for my curves and are super easy to alter. Nifty stretch, support and spring back, tailored to dress up, but casual as you want. So fun and so easy.
    Of the subject but TARDIS related ... I'm so put out with Clara. She's leaving, we know, and just goes on and on about it. It's like our poor, new Doctor is stuck with a crabby prom date. It's the scripts.
    What do you think?

  32. Nice of you, Jack! You are still one of those whippersnappers still. And yes, my old bag for my own old baggyness. It's a new favorite. Just the right size and a fun shape.
    Thanks for all, kid!

  33. Haven't quite gotten over your tiny TARDIS adventure ... so fun, Kezzie! That really tickled me.
    You're such a sweetie.
    Hardly a day goes by that I don't read something insulting directed toward older women in style articles. I fine myself reading right along, enjoying the ideas until I'm told that it's NOT for old women. I'm getting better about going after the offenders a bit.
    Thank you so much. Glad you liked it.

  34. Thank you, Tiina. Interesting about word-for-word translations ... I've always thought idioms should come earlier in the process of learning a language. I'm pretty sure it's where you learn the most about a culture. I appreciate your perceptive take on these comments and attitudes.

  35. Never too old for a shot of what appeals (probably ... I hedge my bets as I'm not a medical professional with an informed opinion. Thank you, and I'll drink to that!
    Glad you like my pants ... thanks to some recent sales, I'm building a small collection of Pixie Pants ... the name is a little gaggy after saying it a few times, but they are the most amazing fit for a lot of different shaped women. Just the ticket for my desire for a slightly dressier trouser with a close but not skinny fit.

  36. You know, they sometimes do include a challenge for the over 40 customer ... there's often a lot of eye-rolling by the designers, and more than a little condescending behavior from everyone on the show (with the exception of Tim Gunn who has some of the best manners on the planet ... certainly on reality television.) I'd like to see a group of all over 50 designers some time.
    Thanks so much, Ann!

  37. Hey, Joni ! I don't know if I love the show, exactly, but I do end up watching avidly. I'm always interested in the critique ... Dan and I sometimes record the show, then skip to the runway presentation and see what the judges say about our favorite pieces. My huz is an interesting guy that way.
    I get so involved in these issues when I actually start writing letters to the powers that be ... I will get carried away if I do charge in, and don't have the energy for a big debate just now. But I have had the urge lately to "start something" about how age is addressed. Stay tuned if you are interested ... ha!

  38. Yeah, well ... if we have to credit her for having no ill intent, then I'm less patient with her comparisons still. It means she's just not thinking. Since age is mentioned it is, by definition, age related. I'm as content to hear this as I am "retarded" ... an unfortunate term that is accurate when it refers to an interruption of development or progress. But no longer acceptable when it refers to a person, and for good reason. I'm accurately described as an old lady, but I don't appreciate it used as a pejorative. Those who are content to put up with it may do so, but the more I consider it, the more annoyed I become.
    Hootchie doesn't refer to any group of people specifically. It's like tawdry or cheap, but more colloquial. Junior refers to a specific style of clothing, and old ladies can be guilty of dressing with unattractive adoption of junior styling, but not all old ladies dress in any one way, making it even more stupid to use it derogatorily.
    I get what you're saying, and we must agree to disagree. Glad you stopped by to say it ... and your kind remarks were not lost on me. I appreciate them so much.
    I'm thrilled to stop by your place, but I'll pass on the contest. Much better won by someone who has a place to wear the SUNNYband ... they're completely adorable, but I can't imagine having an occasion here, and in this lifetime. Sad for me, huh?

  39. Thank you, Lisa! I'm happy you stopped by to say so!

  40. You have it in a nutshell. It's about consideration and politeness, and in caring about how what you say affects the listener.
    New hat? New outfit? I trust you'll show us soon ... sounds glamourous. Haven't yet forgotten how glam you looked in the dress you wore in last week's post!
    Thanks so much ... I LOVE being thought snazzy!

  41. From your mouth to the production company's ear, Connie. I'd love to see over 50 or over 60 designers. They have a fair number of 40 somethings among their usual designers, it seems... but 40 somethings seem like such babies to me nowadays!
    Thanks for adding your very useful two cents!

  42. So glad you stopped by, Sunny. I actually admire Heidi Klum quite a bit ... she's a bright, beautiful woman with quite a lot of drive. Pity she's not always as thoughtful. I think some of her unkindness is part of the drama that's popular on the show. Must have conflict, I guess.
    Glad you like my shoes. I always do have fun in them!

  43. Thanks Curtise! This has been my week to be affronted by style commentators and writers. I was told (again!) that if I'd worn 60's style in the 60s that I wasn't allowed to do it again. Mod styling affected most of the women in the world ... my mother and grandmothers all had noticeable changes in what they wore during that time. And I can think of at least a half-dozen women, style icons world-wide, who weren't spring chickens at the time who were the darlings of the major designers. Chauvinistically, I immediately think of Jackie Kennedy and her ilk.
    Bullshit, I cry! Gotta stop before I give my elderly, useless self a heart attack. Harrumph.

    No smelling salts ... MUCH better stuff to take with a similar result, these days. No lace hankies, sadly. But I am keeping the gin bottle topped up these days.
    Pixie Pants ... the name is kind of gag-response-initiating, isn't it? But they are the most amazing trousers with just the right fit. It's the discrete stretchiness and woven substance that work together, I think, to produce just the right close fit without being skinny-tight. I've got a little collection going, because their manufacturer Old Navy is keeping them very well priced. Dressier than jeans, but still as casual as you want to wear them. I especially like them because the rise is high enough to skim over my blobby parts in a very flattering way. They seem to have curves in mind with the cut. What's surprising is the variety of women in size, shape and age who love them.

    Wanted to tell you that our Janey (calico kitty we love so much) disappeared for a couple of days, and we were going through similar sads that you had recently. But all was well ... she was enthralled by the charms of Yellow Cat, our garage tom. He makes great babies, but looks like we need to head off to the clinic with her in a week or two. No kittens needed here. We have plenty. SO glad she's safe, though,
    Thanks, kid, for all!

  44. Thank you, Laurie! That sweater is so soft and light, and I'm into a little of a collection of Pixie Pants ... excellent for curvy girls in just the right proportions to my eye. So glad you stopped by to say such nice things!

  45. Awwh, thanks Neti ! So kind of you to say so. Old Navy suddenly has a handle on what works for curvy girls of all sizes and degrees of curve!

  46. Thank you, Jilly! If they are lucky enough to live so long, they will, I promise! I'm so happy you like my black and blue ... and my new bag. It's going to be worn out by spring, I'm sure.

  47. I found the bag at Charming Charlie, of all places. Not bad quality for such an inexpensive bag, either. I'm enjoying it a lot. Thanks for all your kind remarks, Alice, as always.

  48. I was telling someone else that Dan and I record the show, and fast forward past all the drama, etc. to the runway presentation to pick our favs, and then see what the judges have to say about them afterward. I can't imagine myself in much of what is there, so I know what you mean. Lovely to see, though. Sort of like the Crown Jewels!
    So glad you stopped by to chime in, Monica ... always a pleasure.

  49. You have visitors!!!!! Excellent ... I'll bet you are an amazing hostess! I hope you had a lovely time. Thank you, adorable Sacramento! So happy to hear from you.

  50. Thank you, Cherie ... always a big compliment when a fellow shoe-lover likes my choices. So nice of you to drop by to say such nice things. Always a treat!

  51. That's 'cause you're not an Old Lady yet! As you hear whiners like me pissing and moaning about it, you'll notice it used derogatorily more often. Seriously, though, thanks so much for the encouraging notes ... always so appreciated. And I can't tell you how much I love that you laugh at what I write. Hope I get that across as often as possible.

  52. I'm pretty clear that deep down, all the emphasis on youth is to keep our awareness of our own mortality at bay, and the reality is that "old" is changing rapidly as we extend our life chances way beyond what they were when we oldies were born. You are not old, certainly, but if I'm not, I'm seriously close to it. I'm happy to have gotten this far with a future still possible, and with goals still to achieve. May we all love that gift if we are lucky enough to enjoy it.
    Thanks, Shawna, for your kind comments. Much appreciated.

  53. Hey, Isabella! I'm all for reclaiming "old lady." Not sure it will ever make a compliment, at least not in my lifetime, but I'd settle for a lot fewer disparaging connotations attached to it. It's at least fair to insist on a neutral meaning. It's should be as indefinite as "young woman" or "young lady."

    So happy to see you stop by ... thanks for your interest!

  54. I'm not the only one made crazy, then .... and not the only one whose husband watches it too! Glad I'm not alone on either one. If its at least us and more here who agree, there are surely more, and maybe things will change!
    Glad you are with me on the Pixie Pants, too. Aren't they a surprise. Who knew they could be so good on so many women! I agree. Old Navy has it right, and one of the store managers told me that we'd soon see a bunch of new prints and colors for winter. Yeaaay.
    Thanks, Lana. So happy you stopped by!

  55. I'm so glad to hear from you, Judith ... O World Traveling Goddess of Style! Yes, it's me again, picking a fight. Glad you found some entertainment, anyway. And extra glad you like me in black and blue ... my natural state of existence the last few weeks (a bit stiff and sore from repairing my own not-working clothes dryer, with an assist from Dan, of course.) I persevere.
    Thank you for saying such nice things, as always!

  56. Thank you, Catherine for the good review of my choices ... I get the feeling Heidi wouldn't have liked it at all! So happy to hear from you, as always.

  57. So true. I wish them both a very long life with lots of time to regret their smug attitudes. In their little summer mansions on Ibiza, or in Monte Carlo, or somewhere. So sad, I know. Ha!
    Thank you for liking my outfit. Heidi would have said I was trying too hard ... and so I was. I always try. And I love my bag. Thank you for that, too, Darling G.
    Hope you're having a lovely week. So glad to catch up with you even a little!

  58. Awwh, thank you Olga! I'm extra pleased you enjoyed it. Sadly, what you say is probably true for a lot of places. But we keep trying, yes?
    So happy you dropped by to read and say such nice things, as always.

  59. You're back! Did you have a wonderful time? I may do, and show them what everyone had to say about it in comments. No doubt it will be ignored, but maybe we should launch a movement ! Probably not, but change will happen sooner or later. If we're talking about it, good chance others are annoyed by it and it will be noted. I'm such an innocent optimist, sometimes, especially for such an old lady!
    Thank you for the kind comments and support, as always,V.
    So pleased to hear from you.

  60. I'm guessing that what I don't like about her is her persona as the tough judge and host. Gotta have drama, I suppose. She's probably lovely, but I wish she were a little more thoughtful about some of her attitudes! We need to stick together. She's ageing too, but all that fame, fortune and beauty probably makes it easier. don't you think?
    Thanks, Alex, for your nice comments. I love that bag, myself!

  61. Oh my, so it's not only happening here in Germany that Heidi is talking nonsense on camera. Well, well. She is not the nicest and for the ones with a thin skin. I therefore agree with you, old lady is NOT a nice comment and definitely should be taken out of her vocabulary especially in this context of project runway. It's insulting! You by no means look like an old lady, ever! And also a lot other women look so well put together and definitely dressed appropriately!

  62. ha, well written:) I do agree with you...


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