What 50 looks like now: mutton is the new lamb

Sarah Long 30 November -0001

Author Sarah Long offers a handy guide to nailing that trendy (we are demographically superior, after all!) Fifty Look—no copying Helen Mirren involved.

We used to know what fifty looked like. She was the matriarch in the wedding photo, bolstered up in a tweed suit, possibly enlivened by a brooch on her ample bosom.

You could tell she couldn’t wait to get home, slip out of her girdle, and put on her pinny so she could get on with the dinner. It didn’t matter what she looked like now because she’d had her moment in the sun.

She would carry her grey perm unchanged for the rest of her life, because fifty was the portal into middle age which led seamlessly to old age and what you hoped would be a good death.

Image via amaribakery

What a contrast to our modern fifty-year-old woman. I saw her in Zara the other day, wearing cigarette pants and a louche shaggy crop. She was trying on the same clothes as her daughter and hoping they wouldn’t make her look too much like mutton dressed as lamb.

She really shouldn’t worry. Mutton is the new lamb. In a couple of years, half the UK population will be over the age of 50. It’s one of those unsexy statistics we don’t like to think about. Like the one that tells us half the women in the UK are sized 16 or over. We prefer to think the average British woman looks like Cara Delevingne, not Dame Betty Boothroyd.

Cara Delevingne. Image via hairstylesweekly 

This is marvellous news for those of us who are now in the majority. No need to apologise or hide away, we can finally claim demographic superiority and lord it over the young.

First up, we need to disregard those joyless, woman-hating articles that tell you what an over-fifty cannot wear. "Appropriate" is a word that should strike gloom into any free heart. Wear what you want. Never mind the tutting chorus of naysayers telling you that black is "too harsh for the ageing skin", that you should favour cream over white and avoid the "cougar uniform" (you can hear them spitting the words) of bodycon dresses and spiky heels.

This negativity seeks to slap down a person in her prime and endorse the myth that a middle-aged woman who is not attempting to blend into the background is a dangerous witch.



"Never be parted from your tweezers, they are your best friend, replacing the tampons in your handbag as must-have toilet accessories" 



Since we fifty-pluses are in the ascendant, I’d like to offer some advice to those still languishing in their salad days. Here are my tips for those who are still on the wrong side of the half century. They, too, can get the Fifty Look.

To be authentic, you should grow a few beard hairs. You don’t need many, just one or two sprouting on your chin to match those that are appearing more insistently on your moustache. Never be parted from your tweezers, they are your best friend, replacing the tampons in your handbag as must-have toilet accessories. Having and dealing with a beard is a proper mark of maturity. Ask any hipster.

Wear a statement necklace. Middle-aged women know you need to draw the eye away from the fault lines of the figure. Ditto earrings. The cheekbones suffer less wear-and-tear than what’s going on below, so highlight them, preferably with bold craft jewellery sourced from the shop at the Victoria and Albert Museum, a firm favourite with ladies of a certain age.

Image via intotemptation

Carry a fan. Not only is this a fantastic aid to flirting, it will create the breeze you need when your inner fire is raging. "She’s hot" is a compliment, so let’s extend that to those in thrall to the menopause, rather than muttering about it in dark corners.

Become less anxious about your appearance. Middle-aged women are the cool ones, because they really don’t care. The sky is not going to fall in if you fail to lose half a stone before the bikini season. We are not the ones editing selfies with filters in order to present our best profile. We know the camera lies.



"The best people over 50 know there are many reasons to be cheerful, not least the knowledge that their life expectancy is increasing by five hours every day"



Double your wine intake and be first on the dance floor at a wedding. If you were in any doubt about how older women are taking over the world, just see how they behave in front of a live band.

Spanxed up, and kicking off their shoes, they can’t wait to get on down to those timeless rock classics. Often to the horror of their children, it’s true, but that’s because young people are envious of their mothers’ moves.

Be as gleeful as possible. The best people over 50 know there are many reasons to be cheerful, not least the knowledge that their life expectancy is increasing by five hours every day. We’ll all have to work until we’re ancient, so you need to keep your pecker up. Do things that are fun. Nobody likes a moaning Minnie.

Anybody who is gloomy about getting older should remember that the alternative is worse. You’ll never look like you did when you were 30. And unless you are completely vacuous, looks are not the only thing about you.

Helen Mirren. Image via thehairstyler

And one final word of advice for those of you who have already crossed the threshold. Don’t compare yourself to Dame Helen Mirren, just because you both happen to be over 50. Pundits looking for glamorous older role models always cite her as the standard to which we must aspire. Rubbish. You didn’t look like her before, so why start trying now?

You’re already ten times more youthful than your grandmother in that sepia wedding photo, so let that be enough. Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think.



Sarah Long worked in publishing before giving it all up to move to Paris with her husband and three children. She is the author of And What Do You Do? and The Next Best Thing. Following several years of the Parisian experience, she now lives in London. Invisible Women by Sarah Long is published by Bonnier Zaffre.


Feature image via advanced.style 

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