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Trendy to the end: TV film shows how older women stay stylish

An award-winning Scottish documentary and film director has turned back the clock on our perception of ageing and appearance.

STYLE ICONS: The trend-setting old women who star in Sue Bourne??s new film, Fabulous Fashionistas, and some of their quirky and remarkable outfits. Picture: Christopher Kennedy
STYLE ICONS: The trend-setting old women who star in Sue Bourne??s new film, Fabulous Fashionistas, and some of their quirky and remarkable outfits. Picture: Christopher Kennedy

 

In her latest documentary, Fabulous Fashionistas, which airs tomorrow night as part of Channel Four's Cutting Edge series, Sue Bourne refutes the commonly-held stereotype that the world of fashion belongs to the young, and aims to redefine old age by profiling the sartorial style of six "remarkable" women with an average age of 80.

Each unique in their own way, they prove that style need not have an age-limit, and ageing is something to be embraced, not dreaded.

"It's not really about fashion," explained Bourne, who hails from Ayrshire and whose previous documentaries include Jig, about the 40th Irish Dancing Championships at Glasgow's Royal Concert Hall, and Mum And Me, about her mother's Alzheimer's disease.

"Fashion was just a different prism in which to look at the phenomenon of old age and ageing."

There was no point, said Bourne, making a film that reinforces what everybody thinks about ageing. "But to make a film that says something a different about a familiar subject, then that's the challenge. I like to find the extraordinary in the apparently ordinary."

The idea for the film came to Bourne because, in her words, she "loves old people". "I think they are an underused resource." Bourne previously made a film called Bus-Pass Bandits about old age pensioners who took to crime in their sunset years.

By going in through the window of fashion in Fabulous Fashionistas - and hence making it visually appealing - Bourne was also able to persuade TV executives to commission it: the same executives who, mirroring society's obsession with youth, are generally reticent to fund films about the older generation. After all, said Bourne: "When is the last time you saw a film about old age that made you want to be old? The reason you don't is because they're all grim."

Most inspiring of the six women featured in Fabulous Fashionistas - "who haven't had Botox or plastic surgery" - is 87-year-old Gillian Lynne, married to a man 27 years her junior for 34 years and still working and exercising daily despite two metal hips and a metal foot.

Others include street-style dresser Jean Woods, now 75, who got a job at Gap at 71; and the formidable Lady Trumpington who, at 91, is the oldest woman in the House of Lords (and has a catalogue-shopping addiction).

The film's chosen women couldn't simply be over 70 and active - there are plenty them, says Bourne - they had to have a look that "turned heads," the film-maker says. Daphne Selfe, 85, for example, is Britain's oldest model.

Fabulous Fashionistas is on Channel Four on Tuesday at 10pm.

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