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Don’t call me nanna: the ‘Advanced Style’ phenomenon

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source (Australia), January-December 2011 (n=2,900) and January-December 2015 (n=2,973). Thumbnail image by Daniela Federici for Blue Illusion

With flamboyant nonagenarian Iris Apfel as its poster girl, and high-profile proponents such as Anna Wintour, Carmen dell’Orefice and our own Jenny Kee, the ‘advanced style’ movement — as documented in Ari Seth Cohen's blog of the same name, devoted to senior citizens with their own unique, age-defying personal style — has inspired women around the world, including Australia. The latest findings from Roy Morgan reveal that a growing proportion of Aussie women aged 65+ possess qualities fundamental for any aspiring advanced style icon.

But first things first: Australia’s population is ageing. And with a greater life expectancy than men, it is no surprise to learn that women aged 65+ outnumber their male peers by 1.9 million to 1.7 million.

Among these 65-plus women, there have been some gradual attitudinal shifts that Iris et al would approve of. Back in 2011, 60.0% agreed that ‘I try to look stylish’, but this has since grown to 65.3%. (Tellingly, the proportion who believe ‘It’s important to look fashionable’ is much lower, at 24.8%. After all, advanced style is not about following fashion. ‘Fashion you can buy, but style you possess’, Iris explains.)

Attitudes and shopping habits of Aussie women 65+: 2011 vs 2015


Source: Roy Morgan Single Source (Australia), January-December 2011 (n=2,900) and January-December 2015 (n=2,973).

More importantly, advanced style is about enjoying life and being open to its experiences. To quote Iris again, ‘You only have one trip. You might as well enjoy it.’ And it seems more older Australian women are doing precisely that, with growing proportions saying they ‘live a full and busy life’ (67.7%, up from 65.5% in 2011) and ‘look for new experiences every day’ (21.8%, up from 17.9%). This lust for life is also reflected in the high proportion (67.7%) who agree they’re ‘optimistic about the future.’

Obviously, a key resource for any advanced-style woman is her wardrobe. Between January 2011 and December 2015, the proportion of Aussie women aged 65+ buying clothes in an average four weeks rose from 54.5% to 57.9%. (Curiously those who agree with the statement ‘I enjoy clothes shopping’ has slipped from 47.0% to 44.6%).

And while style is not dependent on wads of cash, a little financial wriggle-room doesn’t hurt. When it comes to discretionary expenditure, older women are better off than they were in 2011: 15.2% qualifying as ‘Big spenders’ (up from 11.2%) and 26.7% as ‘Medium spenders’ (up from 24.5%).

Truly advanced

Of course, none of these qualities in isolation guarantees senior style superstardom — although they’re a good start. But do any Aussie women aged 65+ possess all of the traits above? Does the concept of Advanced Style have any relevance in Australia beyond the media hype? Roy Morgan research data indicates that yes, it’s relevant and it’s gaining traction.

Last year, this niche group numbered some 54,000 women: all of whom try to look stylish, lead a full and busy life, look for new experiences every day and feel optimistic about the future; as well as being Big or Medium Spenders who enjoy shopping for clothes and do so in any given four-week period. This represents an almost 40% increase on the 39,000 who ticked all those boxes in 2011.

Norman Morris, Industry Communications Director, Roy Morgan Research, says:

“With the release of Ari Seth Cohen's Advanced Style documentary in 2014, the world learned that old age is no barrier to fabulousness. Spearheaded by the inimitable 94-year-old Iris Apfel (currently the face of Australian clothing brand Blue Illusion’s aptly named ‘Ageless’ campaign), advanced style is all about defying society’s expectations of ‘age-appropriate’ dressing and behaving, and having fun with one’s personal style.

“As the data discussed here indicates, a growing proportion of Aussie women aged 65 or older hold one or more attitudes consistent with an ‘advanced style’ mentality, and possess the spending capacity to act on it. What’s more, the number of women with the exact combination of qualities constituting truly Advanced Style is on the rise.

“Savvy brands like Blue Illusion and French label Celine (who recently featured 80-year-old writer Joan Didion as their model) have already recognised the value of older style-conscious women, but many retailers have yet to cotton on to this potentially lucrative consumer niche market. Only Roy Morgan Single Source contains data about which stores they’re most and least likely to identify with: for example, women who possess all of the advanced style qualities examined here are more than twice as likely as the average Australian woman to feel that David Jones is a store for ‘people like me’. They are also dramatically more likely than average to feel the same way about Myer and Target, but decidedly less likely to identify with certain other retailers…”

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About Roy Morgan

Roy Morgan is the largest independent Australian research company, with offices throughout Australia, as well as in Indonesia, the United States and the United Kingdom. A full service research organisation specialising in omnibus and syndicated data, Roy Morgan has over 70 years’ experience in collecting objective, independent information on consumers.

Margin of Error

The margin of error to be allowed for in any estimate depends mainly on the number of interviews on which it is based. Margin of error gives indications of the likely range within which estimates would be 95% likely to fall, expressed as the number of percentage points above or below the actual estimate. Allowance for design effects (such as stratification and weighting) should be made as appropriate.

Sample Size

Percentage Estimate


25% or 75%

10% or 90%

5% or 95%