Is fashion advertising hitting the mark?

The anticipation of diving into my Sunday edition of The New York Times is what motivates me to get out of bed on Sunday mornings. It’s the size of a fire log and nearly as heavy, landing on my doorstep in the dark early hours wrapped in a thin plastic bag. I can’t wait to pour a big mug of hot tea, toast my only-on-the-weekends white artisan bread topped with home-made strawberry jam or unpasteurized honey and sit down at the kitchen table for my weekly love-in. Laying out the thick sections, I usually extract the Style section for a first perusal before moving on. There’s so much delicious reading in the Sunday Times I can usually make it last until Thursday at which time I pass it on to a neighbour.

In what universe is this ad supposed to make me want to invest in a designer purse?
In what universe is this ad supposed to make me want to invest in a designer purse?

It was a designer fashion ad on page three one Sunday that immediately and intensely offended me. My reaction was the culmination of seeing so many ads of a similar nature. As a baby boomer who has retired from the corporate world, I consider myself a fairly average consumer. The ad that triggered such a strong reaction featured pouty, anorexic teenage girls casually tossing off designer handbags worth thousands of dollars, dressed in barely-there whisps of clothing unwearable by ninety-nine percent of women. I’m not suggesting magazines should feature wall-to-wall hags and crones but a few more Ashley Graham types would help us feel we also stand a chance at looking beautiful.

Why do designers and product advertisers insist on always featuring skeletal, spoiled teenage girls in print ads? Are the handbags and jewelry not beautiful and exquisite enough to stand on their own merit or perhaps be modeled more appropriately by women such as Lauren Hutton or Carmen Dell’Orifice? Has the fashion industry ever actually polled their market recently to find out what we the consumers like to see in advertising? When I was a skinny twenty-something, I could relate to Twiggy in her mini dresses with her androgynous haircut. We were baby boomers and we represented the bulk of the buying public. But time marches on.

Who doesn't love Iris Apfel, shown here in a Kate Spade ad?
Who doesn’t love ninety-something Iris Apfel, shown here in a Kate Spade ad from last year.

Baby boomers are still where the money is but the fashion and advertising industry refuses to acknowledge this. They continue to cater to the 18-45 demographic as evidenced by their choice of models and I’m becoming increasingly more irritated and fed up with the assumption that this is what sells. I’d be much more inclined to buy a handbag, a piece of jewelry or article of clothing if it were modeled by a better version of me, not a waif-like, sulky teenager. I loved seeing Iris Apfel in the Kate Spade ads. Diane Keaton has a wonderful, quirky sense of style and when infrequent pictures of her turn up in magazines I often tear the pages out and keep them in my inspiration file.

Women who are able to spend big bucks on high-end fashion items have generally earned the right to do so. We’ve worked, many of us for decades, to accrue the fashion sense and budget to be discriminating about our purchases. I’m insulted and discouraged that the fashion industry chooses to ignore us. Our fashion tastes range from budget-conscious to designer and every price point in between. Before I die I hope that our demographic will once again be respectfully recognized for our potential buying power by seeing inspirational, age-appropriate models that reflect our tastes, our body types and our budgets in the media. Is that possible? Is the fashion industry really hitting the mark or am I missing it altogether?

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