How ever do you like that? The editors of Vogue and Esquire were thinking deep and heavy when both came up with the great – and identical – idea for their
August issue this year. Vogue saw it as “Vogue At Any Age.” Esquire,
with a slightly tougher edge, came up with “How Women Age.”
This is probably a first in the fairly long histories of both publications
that they hit the newsstands with practically the same thought Esquire put
Sigourney Weaver in a ribbed white undershirt revealing discreet nipples and
well-toned arms with in small typeface: “Sigourney Weaver is fifty-freakin’-one.”
Vogue offers a white and silver cover: “The Age Issue” in big black
type and just below in smaller bright red typeface: “What to Wear From 17
to 70.” Cover model Amber Valletta is probably in her 20s, but enjoys
that kind of looks often called ageless. Fifty-freakin’-one year old Ms.
Weaver gets 10 pages, mostly in color, certainly making you think of 50 in
brand new terms.
Gee, have we ever come a long way from Balzac and his “Femme de Trente Ans” (A Woman of Thirty), when 30 meant you as a woman were really just
about out of it. Or as Dumas once put speaking of a woman past her prime, “She was no longer a beauty, but was still a woman.” Vogue despite its cover-line regarding how to dress 17 to 70, actually in laying out its style icons gives coverage to Brooke Astor, recording her over the decades from 1946 to 2000, the year that good and elegant woman turned 99.
Basically, Vogue which has been taking a certain amount of heat in recent
times for featuring so many gawkily thin young models in garments that were –
well – downright freaky. The average Vogue reader is 30 according to the magazine’s statistics, but even these 30-year-oldsters belonging to a class affluent enough to afford the clothes featured in the magazine, couldn’t see themselves going around in garments best described as high camp.
This issue is clearly an attempt to adjust to the real world. Olatz Schnabel, wife to Julian, artist and moviemaker, earns this comment on her style: “Being over 30 – she’s 38 – for Olatz, means not wanting to be mistaken for a kid again. Her clothes may have a youthful zip, but she is all woman.”
Forty? Vogue offers you Madonna, Rene Russo and iconic model Iman, describing them as tastemakers who marry chic to invention as their life begins at 40. Fifty gets you mid-century moderns who define style with streamlined
Editor In Chief Anna Wintour, in her monthly editor’s letter explains how this
particular issue was inspired by a “feisty” letter from longtime best-selling novelist Judith Krantz, in which the writer wanted to know why women of her generation (somewhere in the 70s) loved clothes, loved shopping for them, yet these days walk out of stores empty-handed and “feeling exempted from the hub of fashion.”
Editor Wintour argues that a “new egalitarianism has obscured an
unavoidable truth: That a 17-year-old should put herself together differently from a 70-year-old.” Who’d disagree with that? The only catch is tasteful, elegant garments that allow a woman to dress with a certain stylish originality generally require more maintenance with every succeeding decade. Great grooming and fine fabrics. It takes money, quite a lot of money. Simple as that. Oh, alright, so the woman has to have some taste too – but with money, you usually find those who can guide you in the direction of style and taste.
Looking at women from a man’s point of view in Esquire, the editors peer more to the physical, even the medical, and talk about what happens to their once lovely women as their estrogen loss begins kicking in: thinning hair, age
spots and other inevitable and yucky matters. Grimly, writer Ted Allen notes
the probability of “your 60-year-old partner making it to 70 and beyond is greater than it’s ever been. Greater than yours,” he adds with a touch sourly.
Say what you will, comparing the two views of women and age, Vogue strikes me as offering a more upbeat, positive view of facing courageously into the darkening plain. It seems to me there’s more optimism afoot. The male view
seems more dismal, basically, as if despite themselves they can only really
think of women in those under-30 days. When they think of a woman growing
older, they think of themselves aging. They think of their own mortality. Well, women do outlive the guys – by six years now, and every expectation of
more years than that as another generation heads for the dark path.