Silver hair is in, stereotypes are out on the Dallas catwalks

After a long and illustrious career, Jan Strimple, 67, retired from modeling and focused on producing fashion shows. Then, while undergoing chemotherapy a few years ago, she shaved her head. When her hair grew back in a shiny silver, Strimple decided to ditch her signature long red tresses.

To her surprise, the modeling gigs started to arrive again.

“I had a resurgence because of my gray hair,” says Strimple.

In recent years, she has posed in glossy advertisements, dressed in glamorous dresses, for companies like Toni & Guy hair salons and Starla, a non-alcoholic wine brand. Fashion design house Palmer Harding took her to London for a show, and the London press noted her as having “the best jawline this Fashion Week”.

The London press noted newly requested model Jan Strimple as having “the best jawline this Fashion Week”.(Jason Janik / Special Contributor)

As Strimple’s experience shows, advertisers and fashion designers are beginning to feature older designs in high fashion window displays. A 57-year-old supermodel, Kristen McMenamy, opened the Paris catwalk last fall in Valentino’s latest haute couture collection. Helen Mirren, 76, also showed up to Fashion Week in a daring outfit as a spokesperson for L’Oréal. Harper’s Bazaar said their presence “a small, but promising, sign that fashion is progressing to become more inclusive and diverse than it has been in the past”.

Jan Strimple, reunited in 2013 with a model created in her image in 1986, photographed by her longtime fashion collaborator Thom Jackson.

Older models have always appeared in ads targeting older people, like grandmothers baking cookies or grandfathers with back pain. What’s new now, Strimple says, is the adoption of former models into high-fashion settings, a territory typically dominated by models in their twenties.

“In my case, silver hair is used in a very trendy way,” says Strimple. “My style has always been elegant yet fierce. This elegance was gone for a while, but now it’s back.

Age diversity

In Dallas, many clients are now specifically requesting older models for the runways, says Kate Wagner, co-owner and director of the runway division of Campbell Wagner Runway, part of the Campbell agency.

“There’s a tendency for customers to be looking to see a variety of sizes and ages,” she says. “And that’s the reality. You can certainly be fashionable at any age these days.

One such client is Beth Robinson, director of development at Hope’s Door New Beginning Center, a shelter for victims of domestic violence in Plano. The non-profit organization’s annual fundraiser is Tapestry of Hope, a fashion show and luncheon. Robinson specifically asks for models of varying ages, to help engage donors and encourage them to buy the clothes.

“We want every audience member to visualize themselves in the outfits,” she says. “Our audience doesn’t relate to size 0 17-year-olds. They like to see patches of gray hair on the catwalk.

One of the models in the show last fall was 60-year-old Tesa González, one of Wagner’s most in-demand models. She sports a sleek silver bob “because I was tired of constantly touching up my roots,” she says. González, who lives in San Antonio, started working in Dallas a few years ago at the invitation of Strimple. The first time she walked a runway in Dallas, the audience erupted in applause and cheers.

“The reception is always very enthusiastic,” says González. “I think people are excited to see themselves on the track.”

Cynthia Nixon reprises her role as Miranda Hobbes in the sequel
Cynthia Nixon reprises her role as Miranda Hobbes in the “Sex and the City” sequel “And Just Like That….”(Craig Blankenhorn/HBO Max)

Changing old attitudes

Contributing to the trend of older models: changing attitudes towards older women. Fifty years is no longer old. Fans were surprised to find that the stars of And just like that (the current incarnation of sex and the city) are in their fifties – exactly the same age as the four actresses who starred in The golden girls in the late 1980s. Female celebrities enjoy longer careers as spokespersons. Cher, 75, will star in advertisements for Ugg boots this spring.

April L. Cotton-Cantrell, 65, a model with the Campbell Agency, says age diversity in fashion and advertising can help break down negative stereotypes.

“Older women are often viewed negatively – as weak, needy or judgmental,” she says. “How they are presented will shape how people see them. It shows that there is nothing diminished because we are in our 50s, 60s, 70s or even 80s. We are not dead just because we are older. We are very much alive. »

Advertisers also recognize that women 50 and older represent a huge block of buying power, says Stephanie O’Dell, owner of Celebrate the Grey, a national modeling agency based in the San Francisco area. The O’Dell Agency represents women 50 or older who have given up plastic surgery. Most sport gray hair. O’Dell has no problem with women coloring their hair or opting for plastic surgery; it tries to represent an underserved niche.

Older women who feel invisible or ignored by the fashion industry are less likely to shop for clothes, O’Dell adds.

“When they see clothes where the majority of the models are in their 20s and 30s, they can think, ‘Oh, I’m too old for that,'” she says. “When an older woman sees another older woman in a fashion ad, she says, ‘Oh, I can wear that, because that woman looks like me.’ “

González says, “Why shouldn’t all ages be represented? Everyone ages. This is something that will happen to all of us.

The secret: take care of yourself

So what does it take to work as a 60+ model in Dallas?

“Amazing genetics,” says Wagner. “But these women also take good care of themselves physically, mentally and spiritually.”

Business owner and model Harriet Kelly Gibbe (left) shows an idea board to client Mary Henderson of Double R Brand in Dallas.
Business owner and model Harriet Kelly Gibbe (left) shows an idea board to client Mary Henderson of Double R Brand in Dallas.(Shafkat Anowar / personal photographer)

Runway models should be large and fit clothing in sample sizes (0-10) used in fashion shows. Modeling requires a strong commitment to exercise and healthy eating. To stay in model shape, Harriet Kelly Gibbe, 66, practices dance cardio three days a week, yoga three days a week, meditates once or twice a day and weight training two days a week. She also limits her eating to an 8-hour window, between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., and sticks to healthy foods, filling 20% ​​of her plate with protein and the remaining 80% with greens and legumes.

Having a range of skills also helps. Although Dallas is a strong market for modeling work, none of these models use it just to make a living. Strimple produces fashion shows; González teaches yoga; Gibbe works as a stylist and coach for women who want to refresh their look.

Older models say their maturity also gives them a practical edge. Campbell’s Cotton-Cantrell attributes its longevity to professionalism; photographers and producers appreciate his ability to easily understand and work with others. And González believes her confidence, gained with age and experience, makes her more relatable to the public.

“I think I’m good about myself,” González says. “I’m 60, grateful to be here and trying to show it.”


With over 30 years of modeling experience, Harriet Kelly Gibbe, 66, shares her expertise as a coach and stylist for clients, many of them older, who want to up their fashion game and update their looks. His advices :

Check your posture. If you have a desk job, you’re probably hunched over most of the day. Shaping your posture is like an instant makeover at no cost.

Notice how your clothes fit. Even the best clothes won’t look good if they don’t fit properly. If you have a few extra pounds, don’t limit yourself to baggy clothes. Fitted clothes that show your shape are often more flattering.

Prioritize hair and cosmetics. You wear them every day. Invest in a good haircut. For makeup, less is usually better on older skin. Fill in the brows, use a little concealer, but keep it to a minimum.

Forget the rules. There are very few rules in fashion. Wear what looks good on you and makes you happy.

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