Dame Helen Mirren caused a stir at the BAFTAs recently by stepping onto the red carpet with her classic blonde locks dyed a wild baby pink. When asked why she opted for such an eye-catching and youthful hair colour, 67-year-old Mirren simply replied “I just thought it’d be fun!”
It’s certainly a fun look for the red carpet, but can women over fifty really pull off such cutting-edge style without looking like ‘mutton dressed as lamb’? Well, the evidence seems stacked against the out-dated phrase. Style icon Joanna Lumley certainly thinks the idea is old-fashioned nonsense: “I think it’s important for women to be daring and not worry what people say … I love what people might call mutton-dressed-as-lamb shops.”
Inspired by Mirren’s bubble gum barnet, many women of a certain age are embracing vibrant tresses without hesitation. Hair stylist Jessie Knight, the senior colourist at John Frieda and the woman responsible for Mirren’s pink ’do, has a theory behind the number of copycat ladies opting for brighter locks: “I think people are doing it more now because they’re sick of the miserable weather.”
Mirren herself admits that the idea to go pink was inspired by Sophie Sumner, the winner of last year’s series of America’s Next Top Model. She explained: “Well, the British girl who won, she had pink hair, and I thought: ‘That looks really pretty.’ So I’m copying her, basically.”
Whilst some cynics have arched their eyebrows at the thought of a woman approaching 70 taking style inspiration from a 21-year-old, the general consensus has been positive. “When Mirren gets her look really right, I’d describe her style as cheeky chic,” explains professional image advisor Mandy Lehto. “It’s her way of dressing for her age, shape and colouring, while letting her joie de vivre animate her ensemble.”
Perhaps the very idea of ‘mutton dressed as lamb’ is patronising and outdated, but ageing gracefully whilst retaining a playful sense of fashion can be tricky. Ceri Wheedon, who writes for online community Fab After Fifty says: “I’m often approached by women who say they don’t want to dress like their mothers, but are equally uncomfortable buying the same clothes as their daughters.”
Striking a balance somewhere between the elegant evening dresses of Susan Sarandon and the out-there wackiness of Vivienne Westwood may seem like the fashion equivalent of finding middle ground between Downton Abbey and Saw 5, but help is at hand. Online blog Fab Over Forty has compiled a checklist of helpful fashion don’ts for women over forty, from orange spray tans to platform flip-flops. And until Helen Mirren leads the way by waltzing onto the red carpet in wet-look leggings or a sequin jumpsuit, we’re prepared to believe that perhaps some looks are best left to Lady Gaga.
This post was written in collaboration with a third party.