Judi Dench, 85, Becomes British Vogue Oldest Cover Star

Mackenzie Ellwood

16th June 2020


Beauty has the elasticity of a hair tie. It is stretched and tightened over the decades depending on the trend of the time. Our perception of “what’s hot” is bent and broken daily. Once-fashionable styles are discarded only to return ironically as a bold statement 20 years later, despite the current generations access to old photos documenting why the aforementioned styles were thrown out in the first place. However, the flux of fashion has yielded a sure conclusion: very little is unwaveringly unfashionable. Even lead makeup had a moment @QueenElizabeththeFirst. If matching athleisure tracksuits and low-rise jeans can bounce back, then the elasticity of the fashion band will never slacken.


Vogue, meaning ‘style’ in French, has been named the world’s most influential fashion magazine by the New York Times. It rises to meet the times or perhaps forces the times to rise with it, with recent examples standing out. In light of the spread of Covid-19, an edition released in July 2020 was fronted by 3 key workers in British Vogue: a train driver, a midwife, and a supermarket assistant. As of summer 2020, heroic work is the new black.


When Judy Dench hit Vogue’s glossy magazine cover in 2019, it made fashion headlines. But why? Was there mention of her Oscar-worthy performance in ‘Shakespeare in Love’? Or the several appearances she made as the first female to play ‘M’ in the James Bond films since 1995? Or even the recently acquired tattoo on her wrist, reading ‘Carpe Diem’ or ‘Seize the Day’? The headlines reeled in admiration at none of these, however. The most dramatic aspect of the actor’s appearance on the cover of this magazine was her age: 85 years old.


Youth might be beauty, but age is wisdom and success; and, more to the point in this article, age is money”

The “over-50s” category accounted for 47% of all cosmetic expenditure in the UK in 2019. The so-called ‘grey penny’, is the label given to the sizeable contribution by this category; a name that demonstrates the disregard by fashion firms to the needs of these consumers to see themselves in the products that they are buying. The excuse that ‘youth is beauty’ fails to cut the mustard anymore because evidently, beauty has no borders. Such is the attitude of companies and designers churning out clothing and cosmetics at the speed of cutting-edge fashion trends. As firms scramble to cater for as many categories as possible, the models gracing cover pages of magazines are becoming refreshingly varied in appearance. Society allegedly no longer confines itself to a single idea of beauty and has allowed itself to expand and explore the concept in all colours, shapes, and sizes.


Youth might be beauty, but age is wisdom and success; and, more to the point in this article, age is money. Consumers are disillusioned by anti-ageing products sold to them on the faces of 25-year-old models such as Cara Delevingne; it is unrealistic and disheartening to a person to be encouraged to want the impossible. Vogue claims to have been pushing body positivity since 2013, and this would ring true in their photographing of Judi Dench. Looking your age and looking well should not be held up as mutually exclusive.


Rather than crowing about the freshness of Vogue’s all-inclusive approach, the fashion industry should look to carpe diem themselves. Instead of refusing to water the age-bracket yielding the most financial fruit, perhaps a new approach of embracing nature in its truest form should take hold. If beauty holds no real bounds, why pretend that this excludes a consumer’s age?


Growing old is a beautiful thing in many respects. It should be celebrated as such. It cannot be argued that all aspects of the process are wonderful; a human grows frailer and eyesight fades. But then again, nothing is perfect. Even teenagers get spots.


Age is a side-effect of life and to live is one of the few things that will never go out of fashion.




Featured photo by Vogue



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