Blog Post: Images of our Grandmothers: Fashion and the Senior Woman

Granny from Looney Tunes

When I was a little girl in the 80s, images of grandmothers in comics or story books featured Victorian pompadours and high necked dresses, with tiny Victorian booted feet and a set of knitting needles. Picture Miss Grundy from the Archie comics or Granny from Looney Tunes.  Meanwhile, the Golden Girls were on TV setting a new fashion standard that ranged from leisure wear (Rose) to flowing power suits (Dorothy) to tasteful unmentionables (Blanche). Meanwhile, tiny Sophia still looked pretty Victorian, although she did have a perm. Now, if you ask the children who grew up in the generations after me to picture a “Grandma”, they are likely to call up images of matched crushed velvet tracksuits, filmy windbreakers in pastel colours, and other Golden Girls inspired fashion.

When I think of my own grandmas, I think of elegant blouses and skirts, elastic-waisted slacks and flowery t-shirts, or comfortable track suits.  When I think of my great-grandma, I think of  60s A-line polyester print dresses with little collars – several of which I inherited after she passed on, and paired with Doc Martin’s boots and thread-wrapped hair, proving everything old was new again in the vintage-obsessed 90s.  I asked my mother what she remembered of the fashion of our ancestresses. She confirmed my memories of the A-line dresses, and called them “house-dresses – the 60s equivalent to jeans and a t-shirt”. She said that she never saw either grandmother without an apron over the dress, and that the variety in their fashion came from these most practical of clothing articles. She added that hats and curly perms were essential, especially for church, which also required “Sunday” clothes, usually in a dark colour, “because it was thinning, and in case they had to go to a funeral.”

Author, Dad, Grandma and GrannyThe author, her father, grandmother and great-grandmother (aka Granny). Granny's hair was all natural, raven black her entire life. The author wishes she had inherited THOSE genes!

These days, images of grandmothers typically don’t have them wearing Victorian clothes (like Archie, who no longer drives a Model T, but has upgraded to a convertible, everyone moves forward!). But grandmothers ARE still depicted wearing that 60s polyester look, sitting in a rocking chair with her knitting needles.  Or dressing like it’s still 1984. While most seniors who do still dress from their 80s wardrobe probably don’t realize that the most fashionable youth clothing lines are featuring those very same items, senior fashion today is really taking off. Look around Luther Village, and you’ll see an amazing range of interesting and elegant and funky ensembles. I’ve seen everything from smart pantsuits to funky art prints to classic couture. Some women are dressing up, others are dressing down, but almost every day I notice something someone is wearing and think, well, now, that’s lovely!

When it comes to hair styles, while many seniors are still choosing a traditional permed look (the classics never go out of style), others are choosing to leave their hair long and flowing, and some are choosing trendy haircuts. I’ve seen some absolutely gorgeous long gray or white hair in magazines and on the street. Wow!

All women are aware, some self-consciously so, of the adage “act and dress your age”. While most of us over 30 would not like be seen wearing some of the things our teenage relatives are wearing, the twenty10s (if I may coin a term for this decade) are a time when women of all ages are feeling free to express themselves creatively with fashion, without feeling the constraints of old an outdated rules. We’re having fun! And we look GOOD!

Stylish haute couture fashion seniorsSource:

Whenever you grew up, whatever the mental image you have of “grandmother” – whether yours baked cookies in a house-dress or ran a company in a power suit – be open to new images, both for yourself and for the women around you. Let’s celebrate our creativity and fashion sense, and encourage each other to be our fullest and most beautiful selves.

By Charlotte Clarke