Last week's column about Barbara Grufferman's new book, The Best of Everything After 50: The Expert's Guide to Style, Sex, Health, Money and More got lots of comments. Readers weighed in on a range of topics, but one simple question really stirred the pot, "Can I still wear jeans after 50?"
Well, the HuffPost community delivered someone to me who's made answering that question her life's work. A woman who knows that middle-aged derrieres can look hot.
Our saviour's name is Marla Ginsburg.
Marla was a television producer -- with hits like Highlander and La Femme Nikita -- living the good life in Paris and Los Angeles. After she turned 50, despite her considerable success, no-one would take her call. TV executives were much younger now, and simply weren't interested in what she was pitching. It was a terrible blow. How was she going to keep a roof over her family's head?
She started to imagine what she would do with the rest of her life. "I had two fantasies," she told me when we spoke by phone. "Talk show host or clothing designer. Both rational, well-thought out goals!" She laughed.
Marla said she decided to pick the thing she knew least about, so went out and bought a bunch of fabric and a sewing machine. She had this crazy idea that she should make clothes for baby boomer women like herself, a demographic not well served by the fashion industry (amen to that!). "I figured that I knew what women like me wanted to wear, just like I once knew what we wanted to watch."
A business plan came next, followed by successful financing, and a launch. Then, the recession hit. Marla's new business tanked. She lost everything. Now what?
Well, by then she was hooked. She could see that she wasn't just making clothes -- she was actually helping women feel better about themselves. "Women our age are always apologizing for their icky bits and feeling that they don't look good anymore. When they put on something that's actually designed for their bodies, something that's cool and flattering, they're transformed."
Financial necessity being the mother of midlife reinvention, Marla kept going. And one day her agent called to see if she'd like to meet with a jean manufacturer in Montreal, FDJ French Dressing. Two smart young guys (Noah Stern and Ayal Twik) who saw the same opportunity Marla had spotted, and wanted to find someone who understood this demographic. And the rest is history.
Marla is now the creative director (working closely with designer Suzanne Schiller) for FDJ, and also has her own line, M.Wynne, on the Home Shopping Network. And she feels like it's the perfect career. Not only is she putting her kids through school, but she's making a contribution. "Clothes are a way to help us feel better about the skin we're in. It may not be going to Africa to build homes for street kids, but it is a way to make a difference."
This is the third in a series about women in their fabulous 50s -- would you like to read more? (The other two were about Barbara Grufferman, as noted above, and Betty Londergan and her inspiring and witty WhatGives365 blog.) And how do you feel about the "skin you're in"? Or have you reinvented your work at midlife and found a way to make someone else's life a little better? Please comment below, or write to me: Julia (that familiar symbol) wearethenewradicals (punctuation) (suffix)
New Radical News
• The Skoll World Forum happens this coming week (April 14 - 16). If you can't be one of hundreds of delegates from around the world talking about world-saving ideas, check out the virtual forum.
• McKinsey's current newsletter features articles written by New Radicals - all about social entrepreneurs and social innovation.
• Impact Investing and the Rockefeller Foundation
Heard Antony Bugg-Levine talk about "impact investing" at MaRS this week. World-changing ideas. Watch for a post about Antony's work coming soon.
• For more about the New Radicals - people who've found ways to put skills acquired in their careers to work on the world's greatest challenges - please see archived articles.
Julia Moulden is on tour, talking about the New Radicals. Her new book will be published in 2011. She's thinking about a new song to the tune of Beyoncé's big hit, "All you midlife ladies, all you midlife ladies..."
Follow Julia Moulden on Twitter: www.twitter.com/juliamoulden