In tangerine-colored heels and a 1960s-style Technicolor robe that would put Joseph’s coat to shame, Judith Boyd walked across stepping stones in her backyard in Denver.
She was looking for just the right spot to set up the tripod for her iPhone. She found one next to a bubbling ceramic fountain and between two flourishing plants.
A rusting metal mannequin sat nearby, across from an arched trellis. Placing her hands across her hips, she posed for a series of selfies.
“In certain cultures, [crone] was seen as a very positive term,” she said. “A woman that was older, that contributed to the community and was revered and respected. But now the definition is ‘ugly, old woman’ in the dictionary.”
Using the word “crone” is Boyd’s way of fighting ageism — when thinking about names for her blog over a decade ago, she considered “Style Hag,” but rejected it.
At first, the blog was about cancer caregiving and couture. Boyd always loved fashion, and especially hats (she once ran a hat shop and now has a whole room dedicated to the accessory). But fashion took on deeper meaning when her late husband, Nelson, was diagnosed with cancer of unknown primary origin, a rare and relentless type of cancer.
The couple went to chemotherapy appointments together; She would dress up to the nines and he would photograph her in the exam room before receiving chemo. In the treatment room, she would upload the photos to her blog, alongside text.
“I blogged about cancer caregiving with outfits. I blogged about death in outfits. I blogged about grieving and whatever I was wearing at the time.”
The last time Nelson photographed her, she sported a gray-blue skirt with a white blouse, cropped jacket and boots.
“The hat was pink,” she said.
They had gone out for lunch instead of their usual dinners. He simply did not have enough energy by nightfall. Five days later Nelson was dead, and Boyd was left to reinvent herself, as she put it.
That meant leaning further into the blog. What began as a platform for her grief has become a megaphone to fight ageism.
“I've said frequently that we'll know we have conquered ageism when the skin of a 20-year-old woman is seen as beautiful as the skin of an 80-year-old woman,” she said.
To her, ageism is a fear of our future selves. Her followers get the message and comments pour in with each post. “It is a wonderful feeling to be comfortable in your skin,” one woman wrote. “You are truly an inspiration to me,” another replied.
In the last few years, Boyd has modeled on runways and in national spreads, including a recent campaign for Häagen-Dazs and an upcoming campaign for the Neiman Marcus holiday catalog. In the Häagen-Dazs ad, her get-up matched the pint of dulce de leche ice cream she held.
Over the course of the pandemic, she has most often been her own photographer; She discreetly holds a remote control that triggers her beloved iPhone camera.
Older people risk becoming isolated — something that has only been exacerbated by COVID-19.
“I don't want to be invisible,” she said. “Because we're supposed to be invisible when we're old.”
For Boyd, being a septuagenarian sartorialist is one way to fight that expectation.
“I think that ageism takes years off of people's lives,” she said. “If you become very isolated and don't socialize, that's not good for your health and people die from being lonely, they get sick easier.”
“We’re not dead yet,” she added.
There is still a lot to say about ageism and aging. And she will keep doing it — most likely while wearing a hat.
You want to know what is really going on these days, especially in Colorado. We can help you keep up. The Lookout is a free, daily email newsletter with news and happenings from all over Colorado. Sign up here and we will see you in the morning!