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Brief Published: 11 Jul 2018

40-Plus Sisterhoods: Women Remaking Midlife

More than 80% of American women over 40 feel younger, sexier or cooler than they'd expected to

A wave of supportive heroine hubs is emerging as Gen X and boomer women reinvent middle age with a positive, open and youthful spirit. More than 80% of American women aged over 40 feel younger, sexier or cooler than they'd expected to (Fancy, 2018). Brands need to catch up to this new reality.

Craving Community & Counsel

We've been talking about the rise of heroine hubs – supportive women-only platforms – for a while (see Power Girls). Now, middle-aged women are filling a void and creating platforms focused on this stage in life.

  • Support Crews: Started as a private Facebook group in 2015, New Yorker Nina Lorez Collins' What Would Virginia Woolf Do? is a "sisterhood of literary minded feminists over 40 who offer each other support, resources, inspiration and humour". Thanks to the recently published companion book, the group tripled in size this year to become a 20,000-plus-strong, highly engaged global cohort. Regional subgroups support local connections.
    Launched this year, CoveyClub is an online/offline lifestyle forum with an upbeat tone. The group is for "women who feel... they are living the best years of their lives" and has an emphasis on career support and midlife reinvention. Founder Lesley Jane Seymour, long-time editor of now-defunct US women's magazine More, is seeking brand partnerships. Paying members gain access to CoveyClub's private Facebook page and discounts on recommended products.
    In the Groove, a lifestyle-focused online venture for "age-defying women", is in the works from Susan Feldman – co-founder of US e-commerce brand One Kings Lane.
  • Menopause Spotlight: A new openness around the menopause, especially in the UK, is fuelling new supportive forums. Meg Mathews, a former face of Britpop, launched MegsMenopause in 2017 to break stigmas and empower women with more information. Its Instagram account has accumulated more than 14,000 followers, and the forum held its first conference in London last month. Meanwhile, Scottish non-profit Menopause Café promotes real-life conversation and community. Since it launched in June 2017, 38 café events have attracted about 500 attendees.
Nina Lorez Collins
What Would Virginia Woolf Do?
Susan Feldman
Covey Club

Smarter Media & Marketing

While boomer women (aged 54 to 72) are 'reinventing life past 50' (J. Walter Thompson, 2018), only occasionally do brands reflect this new reality.

  • Brands Lagging: More than three-quarters of American females say brands play a negative role in perceptions of women over the age of 40 – and 80% say they underestimate their intelligence (Fancy, 2018). Brands need to be more inclusive, stop assuming older women want to be 25 again, and recognise their growing diversity in terms of career status and family (no kids, young kids or an empty nest).
  • How to Get it Right: A savvy take on middle age comes from Chico's, the American apparel chain targeting boomer women. Launched in February, its How Bold Are You? campaign promotes a pivot to more youthful styles and takes a new feisty tone for the brand. A commercial embodies this through music (Bold, by Californian group The Highfields) and on-screen copy such as: 'When they tell me to lower my hemline, I tell them where to go. I'm not growing older. I'm growing bolder.'
    Biannual fashion magazine Renaissance exclusively features models over 40 in unretouched images. The mission is to 'celebrate the revival of midlife' and 'show the beauty of age'. The London agency behind it, Renaissance Creative, aims to help brands engage more meaningfully with 40-plus women. See also Vogue Italia Champions Women Over 60.

In forums such as What Would Virginia Woolf Do? and MegsMenopause, the tone is optimistic and positive, but frank about the challenges unique to this life stage. Women are seeking the same from brands: vibrant, multidimensional portrayals and a meaningful grasp of their difficulties, along with new solutions.

For more strategies to help achieve this, see Mature Beauty: Entering a New Age, The New Fashion Landscape 2017 Update: Diversity Rules and A Fashion A'woke'ning.

Also, look out for upcoming reports The Middle-Aged Gap (publishing July 12) and Gen X: Beauty's Untapped Demographic (publishing July 16) for further insights on attracting this cohort.

In the US, 80% of 40-plus women say brands underestimate their intelligence
Renaissance Magazine
Renaissance Magazine