When Stephanie O’Dell sees a stylish woman with gray hair on the street, she never fails to introduce herself. O’Dell, the 57-year-old founder of the company Celebrate the Gray (www.celebratethegray.com) loves to see women out in the world who embrace aging and look fantastic doing it.
A former stylist at Athleta and Stitch Fix, O’Dell now provides fashion guidance to women over 50, and is building a stable of models to help brands advertise authentically to older women. “The fashion industry is not paying attention to women over 50,” O’Dell says. “Most visuals associated with aging are used in a negative way. Older women feel like they’ve been forgotten.”
But, she adds, these are vibrant, fascinating women with real buying potential, and brands ignore them at their peril. “Baby Boomers are willing to spend, and they are loyal customers. I say, ‘Let’s normalize aging.’”
One of O’Dell’s models is 77 years old and plays two hours of tennis per day. Others are hiking the Pacific Coast Trail, starting new businesses, and going out dancing. Her own 88-year-old mother serves as an inspiration for O’Dell and continues to ride a tractor and chase deer on her six-acre farm.
Brands are beginning to take notice. Athleta’s ads feature women with gray hair and toned bodies on paddleboards and in yoga studios.71-year-old Maye Musk (mother of Elon Musk) is a model for CoverGirl. And 65-year-old Lyn Slater, a Fordham professor, is a style icon who has a contract with Elite Models London and 689,000 followers on Instagram.
Sharing style sensibilities with Revel
O’Dell says she was drawn to Revel because it provides the “girlfriend environment” that so many women crave. “For women, friends are often associated with their children. When children go off to college, that thread is gone,” she says. “I love that with Revel people are coming together because of a common interest. It reinvigorates you as a person – who do I want to be now? It’s an opportunity to rediscover ourselves.”
She led a sold-out event for Revel members focused on discovering your style, in which she helped women figure out their shapes and style needs and learn how to incorporate color. As women’s bodies change post-menopause,O’Dell says, “they tend to hide what they don’t like rather than learning how to dress their body to feel good.”
Part of this means moving beyond black, tan, and gray into more adventurous colors. At the Revel event, a number of women tried on an orange jacket and wanted to take it home. Trying on colorful clothes in a safe,supportive environment allowed them to see themselves in a new light.
“Sometimes you really need to figure out what your style is,” O’Dell says. Post-50 is a transitional time when many women are starting new jobs, leaving the workforce, and pursuing new interests. “Women have to ask themselves, ‘Does my style still match my lifestyle?’” O’Dell is currently planning additional personal style events for Revel. “It’s all about finding your balance,” she says.
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