Words: Meryl Cubley
Put your hand up if you’re over the age of 50 and dislike the term cougar… Hmm quite a few; but then do you really want to be labelled a SWOFTIE? That is to you and me single women over 50 who have thrown the twinset and pearls away with the bathwater (along with the baby…sitting) who know there is more to life than quietly disappearing into the wallflower corner.
Led by women such as Carol Vorderman and Nancy Dell’Olio, both 51, Kim Cattrall, 55, or perhaps Lulu, who at 64, never wants to retire, the list is endless when it comes to strong intelligent women who have a certain style; an independent spirit, and are very much their own success story. Yet whereas the Daily Mail would prefer to note that these women are divorced, we would rather say that it makes no difference whether you’re single, divorced, widowed – or whatever – the important thing is what you do with your experience and élan for life; and those that must label can call it what they like frankly.
When the term swofties first came about the Mail couldn’t help trip over its own lascivious tongue by posturing about those “mature divorced women who dress more provocatively than they did in their teens to attract the opposite sex!” Quelle Horreur! According to the report, these “‘flirtatious fiftysomethings’ were likely to be wearing designer clothes, drinking champagne cocktails and going to music festivals.” Golly.
Apparently isme.co.uk who funded the research, released a statement saying that around two thirds of women who took part in the project, said that being single meant they could wear what they wanted, rather than having to dress to please or appease a husband or partner. The poll of 1,000 women aged 50 to 65 found that more than half had enjoyed a date with the opposite sex over the past 12 months and one in ten had used internet dating sites to meet men.
A third said they were enjoying their freedom so much that they were unlikely to settle down again. Dan Rubel, from isme.com, said the idea that a woman had to accept her age and settle down for a ‘life of babysitting and bingo’ was ‘a thing of the past’. Well I’m sure that is a relief to those of you who consider themselves swofties huh! Not only has the rather vulgar word cougar been replaced with something altogether softer (see what I did there?) but indeed you are now ‘allowed’ to have a life! The Mail and Isme have said so!
But let’s get down to business ladies – what is sex like at 50 and beyond? According to Lulu it rocks if her little affair with Jason Orange in 1993 was anything to go by, though she was only in her mid-forties then, Lulu is no stranger to the younger man… Carol Vorderman remains tight lipped about her sex life, though she did tell the Mirror newspaper that: “I would love Eddie Izzard to come on (to Loose Women) because I really fancy him!…I’ve met him a few times and once saw him backstage at Wembley Arena. I had on black tights, black boots, a black polo-neck and a little mini-kilt.
“As soon as I walked into his dressing room he said, ‘Oh my God – I love your kilt! Can I try it on?’ Within five minutes of meeting he’d whipped my skirt off. When my boyfriend walked in he wasn’t sure what was going on!”
Kim Cattrall has always been involved in the sexual education of the mainstream in some way – which is one of the reasons she was so believable as Samantha in Sex and the City. Her book Sexual Intelligence went down a storm; and the way she looks certainly doesn’t harm her cred. As for Nancy, well we know what we know! But you have to give it to the gal; she’s certainly her own woman!
So what about the fashion world – does it recognize the buying power of the 50+ woman? Of course when it comes to couture the main buyers are indeed women who have made it past their half century mark – despite the clothes being modelled and sold by girls that have only just moved into the double figures of teendom.
Back in the real world and prescribed fashion, that of Isme who funded the swoftie research, and I find my teeth set on edge. Do women of 50+ only want to shop where others have decided in advance that these clothes are appropriate for them? What if you want to go and buy something from Topshop? It all smacks of little boxes somehow.
Do women of a certain age have only two choices when it comes to what they wear (to attract the opposite sex, thank you Daily Mail) that of the Roland Mouret dress – yes, you Carol V – or else settle for *yawn* ‘for who you are today’ tagline?
For this piece I talked to Jan Shure, co-founder of So Sensational; the fashion website for grown up women – and I have to say that I agree with her.
“We created SoSensational because we recognised that today’s generation of 50 and 60-year-old women are not prepared to subside into invisibility,” says Jan. “Thanks to healthy eating and exercise, they are fit, healthy and active and plan to stay that way. They are more likely to be trekking in a desert or running a high-powered business than sitting down with a cup of cocoa reading Saga Magazine. They certainly don’t want elastic-waist trousers or frumpy clothing that hides a gym-fit body.
“In fashion terms, they want to be totally on-trend, but they don’t want to look as if they have borrowed their daughter’s clothes. We edit everything on the site so they can find all the fabulous clothes they want in one place, without ever having to wade through 1,000s of very short skirts or plunge-neck Lycra dresses.”
Think Cocoon coats and dresses featuring sexy leather detailing and corseting – without the lady of the night tag – and you’re on the right page. Jan and her co-founder Cyndy constantly trawl the fashion collections to hand pick the most beautiful and on-trend clothing and accessories for grown up women to buy online. It’s more net-a-porter and less net that used to go on your bedtime hairdo.
So whether you call yourself a swoftie or not; I salute you from here at back – where I sit at the gates of the (very) late 30’s. I thank you for showing us the way that is the future.
With all this congratulation in the air and wanting to fit in I looked up what a late 30’s/early 40’s woman is labeled as and found the Urban Dictionary definition – the WISP – not the fabulous 1970’s children’s program Willow the Wisp you understand, but a ‘woman in her sexual prime.’ However given that these boxes are usually thought up by men (using Angelina, Cameron & Carmen et al as a bench mark) I think it’s time we thought one up of our own. Answers on a postcard please…