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"Wearing beige may kill you": Life and style according to the Fashionable Fashionistas

Posted by Ashleigh Toll Oxfam Fashion blogger

4th Apr 2014

Fabulous Fashionistas. Image courtesy of

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The fourth annual Women of the World festival at the Southbank Centre earlier this month acknowledged and honoured  the brave, inspiring and pioneering achievements of women and girls across the world.

The three-day festival featured an exceptional programme including a lively discussion on whether Page 3 makes the world a better place and a debate about Beyonce's feminism (which culminated in learning the Run the World (Girls) dance against the backdrop of the Houses of Parliament.)

Fashion was also a well-represented subject over the weekend, including the How to be a sustainable fashionista discussion about how becoming more ethical and considerate consumers will encourage us to cherish our clothes and what they say about our lives.

On Saturday afternoon, a huge crowd gathered in the Southbank Centre's Clore Ballroom to hear three stars of the Channel 4 film, Fabulous Fashionistas, reflect with poignant and frequently hilarious anecdotes on their experiences of living, ageing and the fun of dressing up.

Fabulous Fashionistas was first broadcast in September 2013 and its heartening and honest portrait of six women with an average age of 80 who have seemingly "extraordinary and apparently ordinary lives" immediately captured the public's imagination and admiration.

Award-winning director Sue Bourne joined the Fabulous Fashionistas at the festival and described how she wanted to make a film that explored 'the art of ageing' by focusing on women who "go out and squeeze the pips out of life."

Bridget, Sue and Daphne. Image courtesy of Channel 4.

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Each of the women in the film has a bold, expressive and unapologetic approach to dressing and enjoying clothes, and all have a unique story to tell. Daphne Self is 85 and Britain's oldest model, Bridget Sojourner, 75, is an activist and charity shop devotee, and Sue Kreitzman is 73 and a visual artist who lives in East London and considers herself a hipster.

Whilst the women are all strikingly unique characters, they all share a steely determination to be expressive, to live their lives, to relish in the joy, and accept the heartaches, along the way. "They redefine old age and defy expectations of the ageing process, [they are] determined to have fun and keep going" said Bourne.

Bridget Sojourner. Image courtesy of

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The film captures Bridget rummaging through the rails of her local Oxfam shop and she eagerly explains that £3 is her absolute maximum when buying an item and that "you can look and feel good on very little money." I spotted Bridget wandering around the Festival across the weekend and her outfits, striking sense of colour and poise is wonderful. It really is no wonder that she is a firm favourite of Street Style bloggers across the world.

Daphne, who posed in a replica of Madonna's iconic conical bra and was photographed by Perou to support Oxfam's Big Bra Hunt campaign in 2012 told the audience that she has made clothes her whole life and loves them. She said that she has become more adventurous with her style as she has grown older as she cares less and is simply doing it for herself. 

Daphne Self supporting Oxfam's Big Bra Hunt.

Image courtesy of

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Visual artist, Sue, whose vibrant and outlandish style is inspired by the creations of people she knows and loves, declared both in the film and during the talk that "wearing beige may kill you" and that "life is about colour, form and excitement… dress for art and not for fashion."

Her sense of fun, creativity and zest for life is completely infectious, and she told the crowd that "there is no need to become invisible" as you age and that the "joy of life is doing something for yourself, others and the world."

The previous afternoon, Carry Somers, founder of Fashion Revolution Day remarked that "fashion needs to be rebuilt as something it's ok to like" and this idea really struck me as I listened to the Fabulous Fashionistas reflect on how style and clothes has brought them happiness.

It was enthralling to hear these women talk about decades of dressing up, and the thrill of living a life that's not dictated by trends, seasons or defined by age. They wear their hearts on their sleeves and celebrate the important part that fashion has played in their lives and shaping who they are. As sue describes in the film, they are released "from the tyranny of fashion."

I compel you to watch this remarkable film if you haven't already, you will never look at your wardrobe in the same way again.

Watch Fabulous Fashionistas online. 

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Blog post written by Ashleigh Toll

Oxfam Fashion blogger

More by Ashleigh Toll