Katie Byrne: 'Carol Vorderman's agelessness is by no means effortless'
There was a time, not so long ago, when the female life cycle was grouped into segments.
Magazines divided women into age brackets and told them how to dress appropriately in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and so on.
Hollywood portrayed women as ingenues or grande dames and brands marketed to two distinct female demographics: those with wrinkles and those without them.
We're still living in an age-conscious world but something is shifting.
Look around and you'll notice that the once rigid lines that demarcated the female life cycle are blurring and the quiet tyranny of the age bracket is fading away.
Look at Yasmin Le Bon (54) who recently said that she wears more mini skirts now than she did in her 20s and 30s.
Look at Brooke Shields who reckons she's sexier than ever at 53.
Otherwise, just look at the recent photograph of Carol Vorderman (58) in her knickers.
The former Countdown presenter is two years away from her 60th birthday, yet she looks at least two decades younger in photographs that she shared on social media earlier this week.
"Keep on moving no matter what your age," she told her followers, before posting a snap of herself wearing nothing but black lace knickers and a Nike vest while posing in the mirror of her home gym.
We've long been told that 60 is the new 50 just as 50 is the new 40 and so forth. However, it's only when we look at photographs of Vorderman and her ilk that we realise that something else is happening. The decades that once defined women are amalgamating and agelessness is beginning to emerge as the new normal.
We could attribute this shift to the forward march of feminism, but let's not get too ahead of ourselves here. Older women are becoming more visible - that much is unarguable - but we'd be foolish to think that this is to do with representation and empowerment any more than it is to do with reformer Pilates, bio-identical hormones and lunchtime cosmetic treatments.
Let's be honest: the women that we describe as ageless are invariably the women who have made the best use of the cosmecoepia of treatments and therapies that are available to them. And in a world where women in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s are getting the exact same work done, we're all beginning to look the exact same age (42, give or take a few months).
The fashion industry has also played a part in what sociologists call "generational blurring".
Fast fashion democratised what was once a prohibitively expensive industry, but we don't always acknowledge the other boundaries that it helped to break down.
Before fast fashion, womenswear retailers drew a very clear line between the under-50s and the over-50s markets.
The younger market got stylish interpretations of the latest trends; the older market got elasticated waistbands, comfy court shoes and Identikit Mother of the Bride outfits (pastel-coloured bolero jacket anyone?).
The ready availability of cheap, disposable clothing levelled the playing field. Mothers and daughters now raid one another's wardrobes, and it's not unusual to hear of three generations of women from the same family shopping in Zara.
It's much the same with media consumption. There was a time when 50-something women didn't deviate from their go-to TV shows and that one cassette tape that they listened to on loop in the car.
Nowadays, mothers and daughters share Netflix and Spotify accounts, and media companies are beginning to realise that age isn't necessarily the best demographic metric.
And let's not overlook the impact of the online dating industry. Fifty-something women used to follow the rule of thumb about never dating someone under half their age plus seven. Now they're just one curious click away from an age range that social conventions once guarded them from. Sure look at Naomi Campbell!
Yes, there is a lot to celebrate about the new 50-something - or the 'perennials' as they are sometimes called. However, we should think twice about the poster women that we put forward.
After all, the agelessness that we tend to celebrate is by no means effortless. Truth be told, it takes decades of hard work.