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UAL Research Online

All made up: The role of make-up for women in later life

Searing, Caroline and Zeilig, Hannah (2021) All made up: The role of make-up for women in later life. In: 50th Annual Conference of the British Society of Gerontologists, 7-9 July 2021, Online, Hosted by the University of Lancaster, UK.

Type of Research: Conference, Symposium or Workshop Item
Creators: Searing, Caroline and Zeilig, Hannah

This small-scale study uses a life-span perspective to examine the role played by facial cosmetics or make-up in the (re)creation and expression of self-image and identity for older women. The wider context for this study includes the ageing of Western populations, the longevity of women and an increasing scrutiny in both academia and across popular culture of the ageing appearance. Whilst the role of clothing and fashion for older women have been considered, there have been a paucity of studies that specifically investigate the role and function of make-up for this cohort. This study therefore addresses this lacuna in our knowledge. The literature review focuses on the relationship of make-up to identity, including the ritualised use of cosmetics in identity construction and notions of the gendered ‘performance’ of identity. In addition, the extent to which make-up use is related to appearance management for older women is discussed. This provides important historical and contemporary contextualisation for the in-depth interviews that were conducted with three older women (all aged over 60 years). Semi-structured interviews were used which all lasted over an hour in conjunction with a discussion of the individual’s make-up collection (a wardrobe style interview). These were analysed thematically, facilitated by Atlas.ti qualitative data analysis software. Our results demonstrated that a woman’s relationship with make-up is likely to have developed earlier in their lives – in connection with peer and maternal influences and with the development of a work identity. Make-up for our interviewees was used for personal enjoyment and to look good rather than to attract the male gaze or to look younger. The older women at the centre of this study use make-up routinely and in ways that may be considered ritualised (in particular places and at certain times) and it was closely associated with the expression and performance of their identity. Make-up was thus found to be central to the creation the women’s self-image, all three interviewees felt more confident about facing the world when made-up. Rather than being a mask behind which the women hide, for these women make-up is an essential part of who they are and a means of expressing their identities.

Official Website: https://www.britishgerontology.org/events-and-courses/past-conferences/2021-lancaster
Keywords/subjects not otherwise listed: cosmetics, appearance management, identity, ritual, self-presentation, change, performance
Your affiliations with UAL: Colleges > London College of Fashion
Date: 9 July 2021
Funders: UAL Research project funding
Related Websites:
Event Location: Online, Hosted by the University of Lancaster, UK
Date Deposited: 08 Oct 2021 14:09
Last Modified: 09 Nov 2023 04:47
Item ID: 17401
URI: https://ualresearchonline.arts.ac.uk/id/eprint/17401

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