As we celebrate International Day for Older Persons, we celebrate some of the fabulous style of our older LGBT+ family.
In recent days, a UK fashion blogger shared how difficult it was to find stylish clothes for the over 50s, while an article in a major newspaper gave a list of ‘What Not To Wear’ once you reach your sixth decade, seemingly suggesting that ageing and style were distant neighbours.
In a bucking of those beliefs, we celebrate here the vibrant energies and individual style of some glorious members of our older LGBT+ family.
Prior to their shoots, the group were asked to pick an outfit that meant the most to them, while describing their own personal styles and thoughts on fashion. Each one was also given the provocation – ‘what is your reaction to people who believe you can’t be fashionable past a certain age?’
Ciarán McKinney is the manager of the Engage programme at Age And Opportunity, which promotes lifelong learning and active citizenship. Originally from Dublin, he worked for many years in sexual health services in London before returning to Ireland where he was a member of the National AIDS Steering Committee for four years.
“I’m not sure if I have a fashion style, except to say it’s relaxed. I don’t like suits or wearing ties or feeling hot and stuffy. Hence this outfit!
“I’m completely allergic to wool and this is a linen/cotton mix. I don’t like wearing jackets as I get too hot, so waistcoat and trousers is my preferred suit.
“I turn 60 this year and of course I think we can be stylish in older age. I like not feeling under pressure to be fashionable and at the same time like what I wear most days. Life is for living, enjoy!”
Claire Farrell is a proud transgender woman and has been an activist for over 40 years. She co-founded Friends Of Eon – Ireland’s first official trans group and was an elected director of TENI until retiring from the board in 2018.
“I regret that because of the social climate my entire working life was spent masquerading as a ‘male’ and therefore was delighted to have had the opportunity to be involved in lobbying for the Gender Recognition Act which was obtained in 2015 and I now possess a birth certificate which says ‘female’.
“My personal style is fairly conservative as I always attempted to blend into the crowd and hoped I wouldn’t be noticed as trans. The only one I was kidding was myself! But I only wanted ever to be seen as a woman. I chose this dress today, which reflects the person I am and I feel very feminine and comfortable in it and I just love the colour.
“I don’t accept you can’t be fashionable after a certain age, that’s bullshit! Of course, you can and on occasions, I have no problem wearing a short skirt, it depends on my mood!”
Liam Burke is an actor/director originally from Galway. Liam appeared in Brokentalker’s important stage production of ‘Silver Stars’, a song-cycle telling the real-life stories of older gay Irishmen living in a country that was challenged by their very existence. Liam also recently took part in Prime, an initiative for older actors run by the Irish Theatre Institute.
“I think my style is casual smart. Trying not to look like there was much thought! Sometimes there is no thought, sometimes lots. I try to buy stuff that blends or contrasts.
“I picked this outfit because it is either all from Penneys or second-hand. The cap is the most expensive item.
“I feel older people have more time and usually more cash now, so they can easily be stylish.”
Writer and activist Ger Moane, along with her partner Sonya Mulligan, created the documentary ‘Outitude’, about the Irish lesbian community. It won the Audience Award at last year’s GAZE Film Festival and will screen as part of the Five Lamps festival on April 4.
“Urban dyke is a phrase I like; I would have said soft butch in the past. I want to be spotted as lesbian; I love that look of mutual recognition between lesbians out and about. I choose clothes for how they feel as well as look.
“Purple is a great colour, it reminds me of the lavender menace, as lesbians were called back in the ‘70s! Bow-ties and neck-ties add a bit of style and feel great to wear. These boots are made for walking. And dancing.
“So there’s a cut-off age for fashion? I’m glad to say that it has never occurred to me. It’s a reflection of society’s prejudices about age – and the norms of the fashion industry. LGBT+ people have always been creating gender non-normative styles – we’re not going to stop just because we’re older.”
Currently working as a teacher and guide with ATC Language School, Damian McGrath was one of the founder members of the INTO LGBT Group in 2006 and co-led the Marriage Equality Campaign in Tuam. Damian sings with two amazing choirs – Dublin Gay Men’s Chorus and Dublin City Choral Union.
“In terms of style, I dress in casual, contemporary and classic styles. Lighter colours make me feel young. Darker colours make me feel a little more serious but smart.
“I have recently taken to wearing fedora and Panama hats. I get a kick from this look and the attention which they inadvertently attract.
“I suppose many people, men, in particular, tend to be less interested in clothes. I enjoy looking well in looks from classic to contemporary. In general, I think Irish men of all ages are now more interested in looking fashionable.”
This article celebrating our LGBT+ family originally appeared in GCN’s Older Issue read in full here.
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