The Aging Of Icons

I saw a complaint awhile back on a website for only featuring past actresses in their youth; that to only look at these style icons when they were in their 20s is to gloss over the rest of their life and history and to buy into Hollywood's obsession with youth. For example, you can look at my Audreybot post--most images we find of Audrey Hepburn online are from her youth. Although she worked well in the 1980s, you don't find many images of her from this period. Additionally, why are the only photographs I find in magazines of Grace Kelly feature her when she was very young? But I think there is an important argument to made on blogs and websites, that being: context and the author's age.

When a teenage pins her first poster from Breakfast at Tiffanys on the wall she's hanging up the image of a glamorous young woman she's aspiring to be (the fact that Audrey Hepburn's character is a call girl is probably not quite grasped). It's aspirational for a young girl to idealize how she will be able to dress and act when she's finally an "adult" (for example, I wasn't allowed to wear make-up until I was a senior in high school and always was dying to try out bright red lipstick). Likewise, when I admire the charm of Anna Karina in a Godard film I aspire to gain some portion of her impish smile and style. I know that she's still alive, it's no longer the 1960s, and she doesn't look like Angela of A Woman Is A Woman anymore. However, I am a baby-faced twenty-something and when I look for inspiration on how to dress (on how to be), I look for women in my age range. I would find it odd to admire Kiernan Shipka as a style icon, despite how well-versed in fashion she is since she is much younger than me. Likewise Helen Mirren, with her new sweetly pink hair is out of the age sweet spot for me. I can take style cues from my grandmother on how she ties her scarf or admire the enthusiasm of a child who wears a tutu to kindergarten, but ultimately I have to re-interpret these looks, translate them to something suitable for my age. So when I look for style icons and inspiration it makes much more sense to seek icons in my age bracket.

I hope that the teenager who hangs movie posters on her walls with thumb tacks and tape will mature to framed pictures and art prints. Likewise, the twenty-something blogger who writes an inspiration post on Briggitte Bardot referencing her gingham wedding dress in 1959 as a summer inspiration, will continue writing and posting and allow her icons to mature with her. As I get older I hope to look for pictures of stars I admire now in later stages of their lives, but it isn't an obsession with youth to share an inspiring photograph of France Gall in her twenties (hair goals)--contextually as a woman in my twenties it makes perfect sense. The problem only arises when we age and don't mature our icons as well.


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