A touch of silver: UK-based designer Ayush Kejriwal on how to age gracefully
My mother recently turned 61, so age has been on my mind more than usual. I find myself rolling my eyes every time she moans about her endless grey hair, and the unmissable eye bags. Considering ageing in a very basic way whilst taking out any social implications, what is it about the accumulation of years and experiences that distresses so many? Sayings like you live, you learn and time heals all, haven’t rooted themselves in our vernacular for anything. I still think she looks wonderful, though she refuses to believe me. To prove my point, I convinced her to be a model in one of my photoshoots, and the results are in front of you! She was horrified when she was told we were not going to be hiding her grey hair for the pictures... ha ha! Such fun.
To be honest, it is not entirely her fault — she has been conditioned to believe that older people can’t be stylish or look beautiful. If what I am saying resonates with you, I would suggest you carry on reading... Women today enjoy unparalleled freedom — higher education, the right to vote, powerful jobs, sexual independence — and yet, beauty and its inevitable fading is a silent inhibitor, lurking around the edges of women’s progress. Acknowledge it or not, the pressure and desire to be considered beautiful is always there. The ruthless marketing techniques used by the beauty industry to boost anti-ageing product sales could possibly be considered a capitalist backlash against feminism.
The impossible promise of eternal youth and physical perfection is the very basis of everything we buy. These advertisements can be a weapon against women’s advancement. The shocking absence of older women’s faces in mainstream advertising is a part of a vicious cycle: the less we see the appreciation for older women, the fewer will be the number of women who will feel empowered to fill the role. You can’t be what you can’t see. So, if older women are not portrayed in the same way as younger women, how is anything going to change? It becomes a cultural narrative — if you are not seen, you don’t matter, and that is not fair. Young well-toned women in their 20s, laughing at things, plants, hammocks, beaches or anything silly — that’s the kind of image we are subjected to every day. It’s all based around pillars of youth — smooth skin, unnatural lashes, toned chiselled bodies, among other things.
If a woman’s life experience is visible on her face, is it something she needs to be ashamed of? Men are often portrayed as ageing like fine wine whereas women are shown to be like one of the expired cheese packs banished to the back of the proverbial fridge. How rude! How ‘old’ and ‘attractive’ an individual appear s has increasingly become an individual concern, leading to the utilisation of various cosmetic surgical procedures aimed at enhancing one’s appearance. It puts women under immense pressure, makes them anxious and they feel uncomfortable about their appearance. Somehow, older women are made to feel like they are not attractive, and can’t possibly look stylish. This needs to stop.
On the contrary, we should be encouraged to not feel scared about looking our age. It’s about embracing however old we are, and powering forward with life. It is not ‘adjusting to growing old’, instead, it is only about appreciating ‘the beauty of ageing’. If Asha ji (my mother) can be 61-years-old and still look beautiful, so can anyone else. Her wrinkles narrate the enriching life she has experienced, and the good times she has enjoyed in the 61 years on this planet; her streaks of grey hair show her wisdom and those mesmerising twinkling eyes give one an insight into her beautiful soul. The sagging neckline adds an allure of its own and if you look carefully, the glowing skin and those moles on her cheeks tell a thousand tales.
It is all right to want to look your best, but it is not okay to feel like one needs to alter their appearance to look youthful, just to be accepted by society. The key is to find a way to challenge normative beauty standards that devalue women as human beings and pay more emphasis on physical looks. Grey hair, wrinkles, sagging skin and wisdom are beautiful aspects of our being, Let us accept ourselves, embrace ourselves, love ourselves, cherish our being, and start ageing gracefully. We must try and develop a sense of being that is not reliant on how old or youthful we look, but instead focuses on how beautifully we have grown and lived. Let us all grow old, beautifully!
UK-based designer Ayush Kejriwal is a columnist with Indulge, writing on various topics of fashion, challenging preconceived notions about beauty and looks
All costumes and jewellery in the pictures by Ayush Kejriwal / Models: Asha and Ayushi Kejriwal