A new magazine that likes women as we are

September 15, 1998|By SUSAN REIMER

I AM A WOMAN of a certain age - past the halfway point in life-expectancy for my gender - and I must confess I have not considered this anything to celebrate, but rather something to be endured.

I have marked each physical deterioration, each new imperfection, with grudging resignation while still gazing at the display windows at the Gap and the Limited, Banana Republic and even Ann Taylor, and imagining that those rib-sucking fashions might look good on me.

Who am I kidding? I am not Ally McBeal. Loose-fitting is my fashion watchword.

Even the magazines I am drawn to while waiting in the checkout line or the dentist's office do not reflect who I am, but who I daydream myself to be: I will never make People magazine's Style Watch. No one will ever ask me to pose for the cover of Glamour with a dress taped to my body. Sometimes I feel like my self-image is stuck somewhere between the pages of Seventeen, another magazine about who I was not.

But on newsstands this month is a new magazine, one for and about my kind.

It is called More - "because women over 40 used to expect less. Now they want more," explains editor Myrna Blyth, who is also the editor of Ladies Home Journal.

"Women today are living 20 years longer, but it is not 20 years at the end of life. It is 20 years in the middle," says Blyth.

"Women in their 80s today aren't very different from women in their 80s in the past. But women today in their 40s and 50s are very very different. We are healthier, wealthier and with far more opportunities."

The key here might be "wealthier." Because many of us are working, we have more money to spend than our mothers and grandmothers, so there is an advertising base for a magazine like this.

Every 16 seconds, another woman turns 50, and 10 years into the next century there will be more people between the ages of 45 and 65 than in any other age group. There is nothing the magazine industry does better than zero in on demographic slices, and women my age are a big piece of the pie.

Blyth says research on potential readers shows their average household income is more than $65,000 and 86 percent are college-educated. More's reader base spends more than $21 billion a year on clothes and another $5 billion on beauty products.

It is a sad fact that women who are courted and celebrated by magazines from 18 to 35 find themselves abandoned by advertisers once they hit 40 - just when they know what they want and have some money to buy it.

"There are lots of wonderful women's magazines," says Blyth. "However, no magazines in America really focus on the concerns and interests of women over 40. And they never show women over 40 on their pages."

The first issue of More has Cybill Shepherd on the cover and ads for Revlon's age-defying makeup, featuring convention-defying Melanie Griffith, and Lancome's anti-wrinkle and firming treatment.

It features stories on hormone-replacement therapy and the spurned wife of Robert James Waller, the author of "Bridges of JTC Madison County." He ditched her after he became rich and famous. How predictable.

More is pretty predictable, too. There are articles on Carol Burnett, Ann Margret and Dixie Carter (the Spice Girls of our generation), and on a woman's last month with her dying mother, Viagra and strategies for handling the migration of your hair from your head to your chin and upper lip.

Cheryl Tiegs models this fall's new color, gray, and we're supposed to feel vindicated by the fact that she is 50. I remember when she was a Sports Illustrated swimsuit baby doll. If she is 50, how old am I? I don't feel vindicated, I feel wretched.

The best part of this new magazine is a regular feature called "She's Got Style." Six not-necessarily famous women of a certain age model their personal fashion philosophies. Their styles are funky and elegant and sexy and sophisticated and wild and hip and hippyish. They are all over the fashion map.

"Women want to look great, but they don't want to look like their kids," says Blyth.

In the personal style of these 40-plus women, women such as myself can find the courage to relax our tummy muscles and stop trying to pour our 40-plus bodies into the kid clothes we see in the store windows.

And that's More than we have ever found before on the newsstand.

Pub Date: 9/15/98

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