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Frumpy old women - Liz Hodgkinson

Blog | By Liz Hodgkinson | Jun 14, 2022


Older women in the media are often presented as frumpy and frail - but Liz Hodgkinson argues that this is far from the truth

Whenever you see an older woman of 60-plus in a TV drama, she is portrayed as looking drab and dreary, wearing clothes that came out of a Fifties dressing-up box.

And with hair to match; an iron-grey, rigid perm that has not been seen on a real woman for about 40 years.

In Alan Bennett’s recent Talking Heads, the actresses were made to look like ancient grannies; quite different from how most older women are in reality these days.

A ‘granny’ is still popularly perceived as being a white-haired, befuddled old lady with a hearing aid, false teeth, fluffy slippers and a mauve cardigan. Yet when I (now 76) went to a grandparents’ day at my grandson’s primary school, the headmaster said the grannies looked so young these days that he often mistook them for the mothers.

We do work at it. As soon as beauty salons, nail bars and hairdressers were open again, we flocked to them, none of us wanting to look like a mad old witch for a second longer.

These days, we older women are fit, vibrant and fashionable, wearing the same kind of clothes as our teenage granddaughters, and getting them from the same shops, too. We are at the gym all the time or doing daily workouts on Zoom. Far from being bent double over a walking frame, we have a spring in our step. Some of us even run marathons.

Instead of wearing shapeless cardigans, we are in skin-tight stretch jeans, white flatform trainers, new T-shirts and stylish jackets.

We threw out the pleated tweed skirts, thick American tan tights and wide-fitting orthopaedic shoes years ago – if we ever wore them in the first place.

It is time – more than time – to ditch that patronising, outdated stereotype, which is no longer even amusing, and depict women of a certain age as we now are: glamorous, fun and up to the minute.