Sunday, November 24, 2013


a documentary by Sue Bourne

Like us, independent film producer and director Sue Bourne (a woman of a certain age) does not believe in growing old gracefully, and in her newly released documentary, FABULOUS FASHIONISTAS, she proves that we can face age head on with style, vigor, wit and enthusiasm. Sue got together six active, accomplished women in the United Kingdom, all from very different backgrounds, and ranging in age from 71 to 91, to shatter the common myths about aging that so many of us (including those of us over 50) have been hoodwinked into believing. Do we have your attention? Good. Here's a preview to whet your appetite:

We first met Sue Bourne back in 2012, when Fabulous Fashionistas was little more than an untitled gleam in her eye.  Following its television debut in the United Kingdom, we contacted Sue again to talk to her about the finished product. It's about soooo much more than fashion. We're delighted to be able to share the full documentary with you, too.

To see the entire 50 minute video while it's still available on line, click on this link, then hit the four angles in the bottom right corner of the video and it will expand to fit your screen.)

Watching it left us with a few questions, so below is our interview with Sue about the making of Fabulous Fashionistas.

Sue Bourne, director and producer
of Fabulous Fashionistas

IFs: What is your most important personal takeaway from your interactions with these six women? Has your experience making this documentary affected your approach to your own future, or opened your eyes to anything that was hidden before?

SB: I set out to make this film because as I get older I am looking for role models to show me how to make the most out of life. I was looking for people to show me how to live the next thirty or even forty years of my life. Women who were refusing to be invisible, who were squeezing the pips out of life and doing it with style, attitude, spirit. And joy. Women who were having fun and loving life. That was what I what I set out to do … and those were the type of women I went in search of.

So in terms of what my personal takeaway was from the six women – each and every one of them gave me something different. I think the film I ended up making is the sum of its parts. I don’t think I want to be any of the women per se. But I definitely took something from each of them. And what they had to say about life. The prism I went in through, however, was fashion and style – I think without that door to go through I probably would not have managed to get a commission from anyone to make the film. There are so many wonderful inspirational, feisty intelligent older women. But not so many of them are also stylish and fabulous visually. By making that one of my criteria I think that was how I managed to get the commission to make the film – it meant the film was also going to be visually fun. And it meant I had to find women who were refusing to be invisible not just in their attitude and the way they lived but also in the way they looked and dressed. I think it was this element that made the film exceptional. These six women had an average age of 80 but they did not dress or look like little old ladies.  I think that is what grabbed people’s imagination. That is why they all seemed to think the women and the film were “inspirational” – because they defied expectations.

I am not sure the film so much changed my approach as it reinforced the way I was already thinking. I set out to find role models for my future, and the future of my peers and the next generation. And I think these six women are the pioneers for us to admire and follow their example.
Sue Kreitzman in a dress of her own design,
featuring four panels of appliqu├ęd molas,
 and matched with sneakers

IFs: You say that your six interviewees have also benefited, for example, in terms of invitations to go places and appear in public. Have you seen any other effects on them?

SB: I have just come back from a trip to Ireland where we took part in a Q&A session about the film. I went with Sue Kreitzman who is one of the Fashionistas from the film. This was the first time I had really been out and about and it was amazing to see how people reacted to Sue. Everywhere we went people nudged each other and recognized her as “the woman from the film”. People came up to her and congratulated her, thanked her for being inspirational, for giving them courage to change their style and their attitude to aging. Again and again they used the term “inspirational”. It was like being with the queen in terms of public recognition.

All six women tell the same story of public recognition and almost adoration. Jean and Bridget have been asked to do all sorts of different photo shoots, to take part in catwalks, to come along to all sorts of different events. Jean says that in Bath where she lives there are queues of people outside the shop she works, thanking her, bringing her presents. Same with Bridget. Lady Trumpington now has a fan club, and a blog called “Ten Things I Love About Lady Trumpington.” Sue Kreitzman has been invited to blog for the Huffington Post. In all my years of making films – and I have made a lot of them – I have never really had a public response like this. Every day there are emails, letters, phone calls about the film. It really is astonishing.  Have they been affected – of course. Jean says she cannot believe at the age of 75 that her life has suddenly been totally turned round. She cannot believe the adventures and the fun she is having.
Jean Woods, in a Top Shop dress.

IFs: Why did you choose to work with older women, as opposed to older men, or both genders equally? Would you be interested in doing a similar documentary about older men? Why or why not?

SB:  One or two people have said I should make a similar film about men but I just don’t think it would work. I think I could make a film about interesting men who are doing amazing things for their age.  But if it was also about men who were wonderfully stylish as well, I am not sure a) if that would be all that interesting and b) what message that would then be giving. I do have an idea for a film or series of films that I wanted to call THE NOT OLDS – about men and women over the age of 70 who are redefining old age in the choices they have made and the lives they are living. But to be honest, I don’t think anyone would commission me to make that film. It was hard enough getting the commission for Fashionistas, and I think I only got commissioned because I sold it on the style and fashion element rather than it being about inspirational older women – which it was really about.

I do also think that because I am a woman I was just much more interested in making a film about women. Women who were refusing to be invisible. Men are different as they get older – I think they are often very defined by the work they do and when they stop doing that job a lot of them shrink into themselves or some hobby or other – like golf or sailing. Whereas what I am seeing in women is a wonderful sense of freedom and adventure when they hit their fifties and sixties.  They want to go out and embrace the world and all it has to offer and that, I think, is what I was most interested in capturing and exploring.

IFs: Fabulous Fashionistas is getting rave reviews from everyone who sees it. Have you had great feedback from any completely unexpected sources?

The response has indeed been fantastic, universally praising and loving the film. I think it’s been great and encouraging but don’t think I have had any amazingly surprising response. I mean, what’s not to like? They are just great life enhancing women so I suppose I just assumed everyone would love them and want to be like them. What has been particularly good, though, is the way younger people have also loved the film. A lot of the social networking explosion has been led by the younger generation. They say they want to look like that when they get older. That suddenly they can see that old age is not something to be scared of. That in fact, it might even be something to relish and look forward to. But is that response surprising? Not really. I am just delighted that young people too have seen, embraced and loved the film and the women in it.
Lady Trumpington, Peer of the Realm,
and former mayor of Cambridge

IFs:  In five years of blogging on this topic, we have yet to come up with a term for older women that we really like. Did any of your six subjects refer to herself, or to older women in general, by a term that you thought hit the nail on the head?

SB: Not really. And I do think that is a real problem. I don’t particularly like the title we ended up with – Fabulous Fashionistas – but it was the best I could come up with. Channel Four wanted to call the film Growing Old Gracefully, so I had a bit of a disagreement with them about that. I argued – vociferously – that if they called it that no one would watch it. People just don’t watch films that have “old” in the title. I said I did not think Fabulous Fashionistas was a great title, but it was certainly a million miles better than Growing Old Gracefully!

But was it a good title or a good way to describe the women? No, probably not. So I don’t think we have a perfect title or description yet. Which in a way is a sign of what it’s all about. These women are just “not old” in the way they dress, think or behave. They are just themselves. And just fabulous because of that.

Maybe I should just have called it Fabulous. Who knows? But what has happened is that the term has now slipped into the language and people talk about “The Fashionistas”, and everyone now knows what you mean by that. So I suppose that means that the title sort of worked.
Bridget Soujourner, who seldom spends more
than £3 for any of her thrift shop purchases.

IFs: All of the women had very different tastes in clothes, and you showed their wardrobes very clearly, but without making them the focus of the film. Was there any aspect of their style choices that particularly captured your attention?

SB: Some of the women were more stylish and more interested in fashion and style than others. And I liked the fact that that was the case and therefore fashion and style were more or less important in all their lives. That is the case with all women: some are more or less interested in how they look and how they present themselves to the world. What is fun, though, is seeing how you can look great and do it on a budget. I loved the fact that Bridget got all her clothes from charity shops and looked a million dollars.

I deliberately did not choose women who were very wealthy and looked chic because we can’t all afford to do that. We can admire expensive chic but we can’t really relate to it. I love Jean for her quirkiness and her very individual sense of style. Lady Trumpington is never going to be a style icon but I just adored the fact she was so addicted to buying things out of catalogues now, and that she still took enormous pride in herself and how she looked. Again, there is room for all sorts and the broader the spectrum the better.
Daphne Selfe, oldest working model
in England (and what great gray hair!)

IFs: How did you find your six subjects?

I had made contact with Sue Kreitzman and Bridget Sojourner through Ari [Seth Cohen] and Advanced Style. But my executive producer also had an independent contact with Sue so I would probably have ended up knocking on her door come what may. Daphne is a model who is very much in the public eye so she was always of interest to me. But I would not have wanted an older model in the film if she had been a model all her life. The reason I loved Daphne is that she really was only "discovered" at the age of 70 and it was that element of her story that guaranteed her a place in the film - being discovered at 70 and starting a brand new career really at that age was exactly the sort of inspirational "anything can happen" story that I wanted in the film. So I then set off in search of other very different women of all ages. I don't usually include celebrities if I can avoid it.  I tend to prefer to find the extraordinary in the apparently ordinary. But where do you look for women of 70+ like that ?

I emailed everyone I knew and everyone I could think of, asking them if they knew any extraordinary, stylish, interesting, unusual women in their 70's 80's and 90's. It was a long long hard grind finding them. I talked to countless amazing energetic wonderful women of all ages doing all sorts of interesting things with their lives. Then I would ask them to send me photos so I could see if they passed the "style" test. I needed women who stood out from the crowd. So that really narrowed the field down. British women over 70 are not quite as flamboyant and stylish as some other nationalities. We did all sorts of research to find people - going to local boutiques, to vintage sales, hanging out at the back of Harrods, talking to designers, and anyone else we could think of.  Having asked everyone I knew, I got some help here and there, and then followed up the leads.

One actress was great but not quite old enough. She was about to start rehearsal with a director called Gillian Lynne who was remarkable. So that was how I got to Gillie. Another researcher I brought in was a stand up comedian in her spare time and she did some really useful lateral thinking and research, and that was how we came up with Baroness Trumpington. Loads of women were asked if they would consider taking part and turned us down for all manner of different reasons.  And one of the cameramen I was thinking of working with said he knew a perfect person, and that was Jean. I did not end up being able to work with him but I am eternally indebted to him for putting me in touch with Jean. So it was a long hard slog but I think we made it in the end.
Gillian Lynne, choreographer of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats

IFs: Did any of your six final subjects have to be persuaded, or did they immediately see the value of putting themselves out there as role models?

SB: I spend a long time getting to know people before I ask them to take part in a film. My films are really a sum of their parts, so what is critical is getting the mix right. What I think makes the film work so well is the mix of those six very different women. It took months of research before I felt I had the right mix of stories, and types and variety of people. And while some of them were wary, in the end they all agreed. They had seen my previous films so they also knew they could trust me to look after them well.

IFs: Are there any other aspects of the film that you'd like to tell our readers about?

I think in its quiet way it is revolutionary. I think if you have your own copy you can watch it and listen to what the women have to say. They all say something different and each time I watch I think I take one other thing away from it. I reckon if you watch it once a week it will help you live your life to the full. And enjoy yourself. I don’t normally bother doing DVDs of my films – a handful of people get in touch and ask me for copies. But in this case EVERYONE was asking where they could get a copy of the film. They wanted their friends, their mums, their aunts, their kids to see it. So that is why I have gone to the trouble of making copies available, including US versions. The DVDs are better quality to watch than the pirated versions on You Tube. I think they make great Christmas presents or stocking fillers.

Want to purchase your own copy? Want copies to give to friends? Get the DVD on Sue's website:-

Find Sue Bourne on Twitter
Sue Bourne on location


  1. Oops!!! I like the above picture. How brave she is, sitting in the coldest place ever.

    Komatsu Parts

  2. Since I first saw this film, I've had about half a dozen people send me the link saying "This is a film for you"! It's such an enjoyable film for many reasons - the visual inspiration of each woman's personal style, their attitude and determination to get the most out of their lives and not fade away, their strong sense of self, etc. If I had to choose one that I think I would identify with the most it would be Jean.

  3. It's spectacular . . . a beautiful film and the message is wonderful! xxoo

  4. Jean and Valerie,
    Thanks so much for covering this great project. Your indepth interview with Sue was most interesting. Can't wait to see the film, which I will do now.

  5. Excellent movie, Sue! If you do ever consider making one about men, may I suggest you look at Ian Hunter (singer of 70's band Mott the Hoople) who at 74 is slim, wild, creative, and rocking better than men 1/3rd his age. He just did a gig at the O2 in London and there are many videos on youtube. Here's one:

  6. PLEASE bring back the film onto Youtube....please!

    1. Soooo sorry! We have no control over that. The DVD is available for purchase, though (see the link above, at the end of the post).

  7. Yes, it has made a difference for me; I am 78 years
    old and have been stuck in the agism brain washing.
    I wanted to wear colourful clothing but had now where
    to wear them now that my husband has been gone. Now I know I can wear them where ever and when ever I want to. Thank you so very much