Lately, it seems, everyone on the internet wants to get in touch with their inner octogenarian. People on TikTok are in love with the coastal granny effect — think Nancy Meyers heroines — while others try the whimsical granny aesthetic — with guiding lights like Iris Apfel — for height. And while the popular trends of coastal granny and chic granny seem to be at opposite ends of the style spectrum, a defining element between the two is the idea of dressing for yourself, divorced from all external trends and influences. Stylish seniors are now an ideal, praised for their ease as much as their eccentricities. The signings they’ve accumulated over time are fully celebrated to an extent we haven’t seen at this level before.
From Joan Didion’s unforgettable 2015 Celine campaign to celebrity new favorites like Baddie Winkle, chic seniors have long been the fashion industry’s muse. In 2008, Ari Seth Cohen began documenting the senior style ensemble through his blog (and eventual documentaries and books), Advanced Styling. “Older men and women have always been my role models and the people I looked to for creative inspiration, starting with my own grandmother who encouraged me to play in her and her closets. my grandfather and to express myself fully,” he says. At the time, Cohen was inspired to start his project because of his grandmother, but also because he continued to see the influence of the chic older woman on young people, like the Olsen twins and Rachel Zoe. – with oversized sunglasses, oversized bags, and loose, comfortable silhouettes. “They were doing this kind of Upper East Side old lady, Upper West Side old lady,” says Cohen. “But nobody was really talking about the people who were already defining that.”
Fashion historian Charity Armstead traces the love of fashion for the elegant older woman to the Edwardian period and World War II, when silhouettes were particularly aimed at mature women. “Fashion became very youth-oriented in the 1920s, with an emphasis on a youthful, androgenic, lean body that carried over into the 1930s,” Armstead adds. Once the Youthquake movement happened in the 1960s, the miniskirt and all of its counterparts came roaring with an eye on all things young. Fashion has changed forever. “vogue ran a column, ‘Mrs. Exeter’ 1940s to 1960s on fashion for older women – note that the column was discontinued in the 1960s,” adds Armstead.
And although we still mostly live in a time when fashion is geared towards a youthful aesthetic, the Coastal Grandma and the Whimsical Grandma both echo an evolution of self-expressive dressing that has taken place. earlier during the pandemic. “The focus on comfort during lockdown has extended to current consumer preferences, but now people are looking for a way to retain the comfort they had in their pajama pants while looking put together, refined and authentic” , she says. Armstead says there’s also a clear connection to 1980s fashion and the ostentatious boom associated with that decade. The Y2K obsession seems to be fading, and now fashion is looking for something different. “There’s also an element of authenticity to the grandma trend – it’s an idea of dressing for yourself and how you want to feel, with less emphasis on what other people think,” adds she. “The Coastal Grandma also has a bit of a holiday vibe, perhaps tied to Gen Z’s idea that work isn’t your whole identity.”