Style Icons For Boomer Women? They're Getting Younger
I’ve written in this space before about the average age of Baby Boomers (which is closer to 50 than 70), and even whether we should call midlife consumers “Boomers” at all.
In a survey we recently conducted, independent women aged 45-65 reminded us once again to keep rethinking our conception of what it means to be 45+. From our view, they’re looking younger every year.
I don’t mean that they are actually getting younger. What I do mean is that the midlife consumer keeps changing, and she now looks younger than ever before. While Boomers still make up most of this important demographic – the business leaders, midlife entrepreneurs, active empty nesters, and multi-generational caregivers whom we call vibrant women – we will begin making big mistakes if we keep equating the two. While targeting the woman who we think is 45+, we may find ourselves talking only to her mother.
Who does she want to be?
In our recent fashion/retail survey, we asked women to rank their current style icons. Their most popular choice was Diane Keaton, who is 67 – but is almost beyond age. She is beautiful, of course, but what she radiates with her beauty is independence and humor and talent; Boomer women came of age with her, and they continue to react to her with with overwhelming positives, even when she apparently gets drunk on the “Ellen DeGeneres” show and talks about sex. Congratulations to L’Oreal for recognizing that she could model not just beauty but the right attitude about beauty to women of all ages.
After Keaton, smaller groups told us that their style icons are Helen Mirren (age 68) and Lauren Hutton (age 69), two women who have also embodied beauty and independence into midlife (and beyond).
It was the votes after this first group that caught my interest. A small but increasing number of women named Michelle Obama and Jennifer Aniston as their style icons.
The presence of the first lady, who is 49, on this list may not be a surprise, but it reminds us how many boundaries this strong and beautiful woman has helped us break down. While dressing and looking beautiful, she has also allowed herself to go through some age-related transitions while in the White House, including the all-important decision what to do with your hair after 50.
The presence of Jennifer Aniston surprised me most of all. She received more votes than Ellen Degeneres, etc. And she’s only 44.
People in advertising often say that they use younger models to appeal to older women because youth is “aspirational.” I’ve often made the point that, while women may wish they looked younger, they actually respect the lessons of real life more than the inexperience of youth. They don’t believe that a model who is 35 has much to tell them about what to put on their bodies or skin. “Aspirational,” for these women, means looking as good as possible even if you’re no longer young.
For women who are now 45, it now means looking like Aniston. Or Obama. Even if few of them actually look this good. What women recognize is that both of these women have actually lived real lives, and both of them know what it’s like to work hard to look as great as they feel as they age.
I realize that Aniston may not like hearing that she has become a style icon for women 5 to 20 years older than she is. But it’s better than losing out on the jobs that will now go to younger women. And it means she may have a modeling/endorsement career as long as Keaton’s.