In praise of [slightly] older women

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Diana Rigg in the early Seventies (in her mid-thirties)

They were all beautiful in their twenties, and they remain beautiful to this day, but I have come to the conclusion that many of my favourite women looked their very, very best in their thirties and early forties. Which may or may not be somewhat biased by my own entering of my thirties. Ok, so I entered them three years ago but still… I think it is an important thing to notice, when all around are becoming consumed by vanity and their faces destroyed by undesirable injectables.

The puppy fat has fallen away, the features now more defined and enhanced by laughter lines and emerging cheekbones. They look relaxed; as if the pressure of ‘looking good’, which so restrains a teen or twenty-something, has lifted with the knowledge that none of it really matters a great deal. Maybe they’ve had a baby, maybe they don’t want to, maybe they’re still waiting for the right moment (Diana Rigg was 39 when she had Rachael). They know any man worth his salt won’t mind seeing them without make-up, and that he doesn’t really care about the size of their breasts or backsides. They know how swiftly life is passing, how much has been missed already, and how relatively little retains its importance ten or twenty years later. They don’t try to make up for their age by ignoring it or trying to behave like teenagers, they simply embrace the things which are worth embracing. They still make mistakes, but can handle them with good grace.

I realise I am making the cardinal mistake of putting words into people’s mouths and making sweeping generalisations, but I wanted to express how looking at these women makes me feel. And how it reminds me of why it is ok for me to have changed, to have matured and to have grown into my appearance. We all have moments when we wish we still had all that youth on our side, but a few quick glances at things I wrote, men I dated or photographs of myself ten years ago – soon remind me that I didn’t know anything, had very poor taste in men and was quite chubby in the face. All things I am glad to have [hopefully] grown out of.

So whether you are here (there) already, or have it yet to come, I hope you can remember these incredible women and weep for the stupidity of the likes of Lindsey Lohan, Lara Flynn Boyle or Carla Bruni. Plus, don’t forget to check back in with me in ten years time and see if I’ve started saying that ‘actually they looked better in their fifties…’.

Apologies for vague dating of some pictures, the tumblr effect means that very few are dated for me and I’ve had to do a certain amount of guesswork… Also, certain people I think looked lovely in their thirties have gone on to have pretty lousy work done to their faces and have, consequently, not been featured here. That’ll teach ’em!

Jane Birkin, 1982 (aged 36)

Brigitte Bardot in 1972, aged 38

Jean Shrimpton in the mid Seventies, in her early thirties

Charlotte Rampling in 1984 (aged 38)

Jacqueline Bisset in 1977 (aged 33)

Veruschka in 1972 (aged 33)

Françoise Hardy in the early Eighties (in her late thirties)

Grace Coddington in 1974 (aged 33)

Brigitte Bardot in the late Sixties (in her mid thirties)

Jacqueline Bisset in 1984 (aged 40)

Diana Rigg c.1974 (aged 36)

Charlotte Rampling in 1977 (aged 31)

Twiggy in 1983 (aged 34)

Françoise Hardy in the late Seventies (in her mid thirties)

Jean Shrimpton in 1979 (aged 37)

And in case you needed any more evidence, please see Duran Duran’s now infamous supermodel-stuffed video for Girl Panic!. Personally I believe they all look far, far better than they did in their modelling heyday.

Diana Rigg and Natalie Wood…

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…were born on exactly the same day, in exactly the same year. When I first discovered this factoid, I was genuinely taken aback. Natalie Wood seems like she comes from an entirely different era to Diana Rigg. But I now realise this is more of a perception problem on my part, mainly because Wood died so young and became famous much earlier; some of the similarities in these photos are seriously spooky.

Happy birthday ladies, you deserve a picture spam!

Icon: Simone Simon

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Earlier this year, I saw the fantastic Cat People for the first time. This weekend, I initiated M into the slightly overly-sentimental and weepy world of Seventh Heaven (a film which largely works thanks to the performances of Simon and James Stewart). I find Simone Simon to be completely and utterly adorable and incredibly beautiful. I also like the fact that, despite a few attempts, she was unable to fit in with the Hollywood world and returned to France in the Forties; never marrying and living to the grand old age of 94.

RIP Flick Colby

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Flick Colby, genius choreographer and creator of my beloved Pan’s People, Ruby Flipper and Legs & Co. dance troupes, has very sadly lost her battle with cancer at the age of 65. As with so many creative legends, the real tribute is in their body of work – and what a body of work Flick had! Here are some favourite photos and performances (Flick’s own performances, prior to bowing out from the dancing, are limited because of the BBC’s wanton destruction of their archives in the Seventies). Rest in peace, beautiful lady.

Mensday: Rockangel Michael

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I feel my spirit fly, only after dark
I kiss the world goodbye, only after dark
Nights with the city lights, only after dark

Run like the wonder way, only after dark

Won’t you disappear into midnight again
Why don’t you come, why won’t you come

Why won’t you fly, fly, fly with me
Sweet elusive fate will be our company

Ring out the vamp in me, only after dark
Moon sinful as can be, only after dark
It’s wrong to feel so free, only after dark
Only you do it to me, only after dark

Won’t you disappear into midnight again
Why don’t you come, why won’t you come
Why won’t you fly, fly, fly with me
Sweet elusive fate will be our company

Only After Dark by Mick Ronson

The Vamp

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I’m always fascinated, and maybe a little bit sexually confused, by how much Theda Bara looks like Marc Bolan (or perhaps the other way around, if you insist). It’s easy to see why she was the poster girl, alongside Dietrich and Garbo, for the early-Seventies retro look. Wildly over-the-top, she seems a ridiculous sex symbol to modern eyes, and doubtless has done ever since her heyday. But you can’t deny her impact, embodying the concept of The Vamp[ire] in A Fool There Was and setting a template for Femmes Fatale down the decades.

In my opinion, she’s a more authentic example of exotic sexuality and vampishness because she was a creation from scratch, in a period where women struggled to be viewed as sexually powerful. The look has been refined, cleaned-up, “feminised” and inflated to almost grotesque proportions over the past century. The look has been defined and moulded by men, to be acceptable to men. Theda Bara was otherworldly and confusing to her audiences, and remains so to this day. More a true vamp than any modern equivalent could ever hope to be.

A fool there was and he made his prayer

(Even as you and I!)

To a rag and a bone and a hank of hair

(We called her the woman who did not care),

But the fool he called her his lady fair

(Even as you and I!)

Oh the years we waste and the tears we waste

And the work of our head and hand,

Belong to the woman who did not know

(And now we know that she never could know)

And did not understand.

A fool there was and his goods he spent

(Even as you and I!)

Honor and faith and a sure intent

But a fool must follow his natural bent

(And it wasn’t the least what the lady meant),

(Even as you and I!)

Oh the toil we lost and the spoil we lost

And the excellent things we planned,

Belong to the woman who didn’t know why

(And now we know she never knew why)

And did not understand.

The fool we stripped to his foolish hide

(Even as you and I!)

Which she might have seen when she threw him aside —

(But it isn’t on record the lady tried)

So some of him lived but the most of him died —

(Even as you and I!)

And it isn’t the shame and it isn’t the blame

That stings like a white hot brand.

It’s coming to know that she never knew why

(Seeing at last she could never know why)

And never could understand.

The Vampire, Rudyard Kipling

From one to another

Elizabeth Taylor, fashion icons, picture spam

If anyone deserves a picture spam from me upon their very sad passing, it’s someone called Elizabeth. One of the few people who could convince me that my name wasn’t as dull and dowdy as my childhood-self thought it was. She’s also been in some of my favourite films (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Suddenly Last Summer and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf). I can hardly believe she was only 79; some people manage to live ten lives in the same space of time as most of us can barely manage the one…

So much to do, so little done, such things to be.
Elizabeth Taylor

Ingrid Pitt, RIP

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I was so sad to hear about Ingrid Pitt passing away the other day (do go and read about her fascinating life story). I know for most people she was mainly a Hammer Horror legend, but she was also in a couple of Doctor Who stories and I had heard so many brilliantly bonkers things about her over the years that it seems odd she should have died like any normal human being. Surely she should have been taken away in a swirl of smoke and chiffon?

Also, normally I would seek to avoid the topic of someone’s breasts, particularly if they’ve become notorious for them, but she seems to have revelled in their magnificence so it would be a shame not to… I know that when I die, I should like everyone to talk excessively about my ‘incredible arse’, regardless of anything else I might achieve 😉

Happy Birthday Queen Kate

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Bush, that is. I need little or no excuse for un petit spam d’image of the lovely lady…

Style Icons: The Bangles

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I had already started musing independently about The Bangles as forgotten style icons, only for them to pop up in conversation the other day. That settled it for me. And so I started hunting for my picture spam….

There can’t be many girls around my age who didn’t want to be a Bangle. The obvious choice was, of course, the almost unnaturally beautiful Susanna Hoffs. But, in retrospect, they were all pretty worthy of a bit of worship; particularly bassist Michael Steele, former member of The Runaways and all-round excellent bassist and singer. I feel like I spent a good chunk of a few years singing their songs into my hairbrush, imagining that I would one day have clothes and hair (and, of course, a voice) exactly like theirs. I avidly listened to, and studied the pictures on, A Different Light and Everything. If I’m totally honest, Madonna didn’t do it for me so much. Not in comparison to that.

I love the early shots of them in their pseudo-Sixties girl group get-ups, through their skintight lycra, puffball skirts and lace tights of the mid-Eighties, through to the more psychedelic, hippy look towards the end of the decade. And let’s not forget the perpetually enormous hair and Sixties-influenced make-up. I’m sure they must be due a lot more respect than they are afforded these days, particularly compared to most of the dreary girl-with-a-guitar whining that goes on in the charts right now. The Go-Gos and The Runaways are always being cited, but don’t let’s forget The Bangles.

And if Susanna Hoffs wasn’t already annoyingly beautiful enough….