The Dancer and the Dame: Style across generations

Two women performing artists, as different as you can imagine, were both admired for their style in recent New York Times articles.

Jon Caramanica cited Miley Cyrus as an examble of "the provocateur", the latest carrier of youthful disdain for restraint and conformity; on another day, Cathy Horyn lauded Cyrus' confidence in mashing up clashy, trashy and costly as "the look of our times". 

The Cyrus stage image is a sexy pastiche that amps up visual entertainment. Cyrus is not alone: practically every dance-oriented pop singer takes this road.
Offstage and off-camera, away from her team of stylists, candid shots tell another story.

A black leather tee, actually rather roomy, over skinny jeans:

Leaving the gym with a friend, she looks like a typical 21-year-old woman:

And like so many, younger and older, she wears all-black topped by her moto:

A few weeks earlier, a piece on Judy Dench praised another black-clad beauty, in a similar biker jacket, slim black pants and what the Times called "an ethnic velvet scarf", worn to Stella MacCartney's Christmas party:

At the Venice Film festival in Eileen Fisher:

For the red carpet, she often wears a tunic or caftan in exquisite fabric, like this ensemble (by Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla) for the première of "Philomena".

Averil Graham, an editor at Harper's Bazaar, said, "...she’s never schizophrenic with her style. It’s never froufrou. She possesses an innate elegance, but is comfortable and is a touch bohemian.”

Cyrus said, rather knowingly for her years (if not gramatically), "...someone, two years from now, is going to be the next kind of provocateur — like, I can’t wait to collab with whoever the hell that is, you know?"

Dench's 78-year-old elegance is in its own way provocative to an industry accustomed to writing off the beauty of women over 40.

Fifty-seven years separate them, but both have found a fit that's good for their bodies, make the most of their striking blonde beauty and, it looks like, enjoy a killer leather jacket.


une femme said…
That caftan on Dench is stunning. (I'm wondering if the jacket she wore to the Stella McCartney event was faux leather, given McC's strictly vegan stance.) I'm glad you pointed out the article and appreciation of Dench's style. It's always interesting to see performers like Cyrus and Lady Gaga when they're not in "performance drag."

une femme said…
According to the NYT article, the JD's black jacket is Eileen Fisher, which I think makes it the same one that I have.
frugalscholar said…
Oh, Pseu beat me to it (on the EF waxed cotton jacket on JD). JD looks chic AND comfortable. It can be done!

And how nice to see a movie star wearing clothing brands to which we (middle-class, at any rate) can aspire.
materfamilias said…
Such generosity of interpretation -- the provocation is rather too predictable and manipulated (how much agency did Cyrus have in it? how much was her management's program for her?) to convince, for me, but I'm very impressed by Cyrus' off-stage style as captured in that first photo. It's an interesting trajectory you plot out here and I wonder, while Cyrus looks over her shoulder in anticipation of the next provocateur just two years behind her, if she can see the other possibilities Dench inspires. I do appreciate getting a glimpse of her that gets beyond "that" performance. Dench, of course, is always magnificent.
Juniper said…
I love JD - such style! I'm a big fan of a caftan over trousers. Thank you for sharing this.
Anonymous said…
What an interesting and unexpected mash-up! And they have more in common, I think, than looking great in black jeans and motos: both are disciplined performers who have rebelled against, and worked hard to get beyond, being cast early on as snub-nosed cute girls. Cyrus does it in her youthful way, by going as far as she can in performance (though even at her most provocative she has a wholesome cheerfulness that makes it clear she is sending the audience up.) Dench has achieved it by inhabiting role after difficult role, insisting that we recognize her as the formidable woman she is. Hats off to both of them.


P.S. And what ethnicity is a tiger, I wonder--Bengali?
Both the dancer and the dame are rocking their jackets. While Cyrus can still bare her middle I think Judy looks amazing in her bohemian caftan. Both look like they are having fun with fashion although I think mater might be right in thinking that Cyrus has an advisor when it comes to her attire.
I agree with frugal scholar about JD wearing Eileen Fisher too.
see you there! said…
Not a Cyrus fan but Dench wows me every time. She looks terrific in everything you featured.

Madame Là-bas said…
Judy Dench looks lovely in everything she wears. As an older, petite woman, she chooses clothing that is interesting yet comfortable. Miley is young and will be replaced by the next provocateur.
Anonymous said…
Miley is actually considered unattractive by young people. You don't see many young woman wanting to look that way. Judy is not "beautiful", she never was, not ever. She now looks exactly like the other legions of senior women with a men's haircut and wearing flowy clothes - caftan vs muu-muu, it's all the same thing.

By 70+ it's not possible to be beautiful, you can be presentable c'est tout, we need to deal with it and not call it something that it is not.
Audrey said…
Ahh, but Anon 10:34, beauty is in the eye of the beholder eh?

Murphy said…
First of all, I love Judi Dench and her elegant style.
Secondly, Anonymous at 10:34 am, I totally disagree with you! I think Dame Judi IS beautiful, and my husband does too. If your definition of beauty is "looking like you are 30" then I suppose one can't be beautiful at 70+. but my definition is pleasing features, inner glow, sincere smile, flattering grooming and a certain je ne sais quoi.

And Judi is a lot older than me, so this isn't personal.
LPC said…
Only you could link Cyrus and Dench. And that's a compliment! BTW, I like Miss M. I always appreciate the audacious. Madame Dench, ah, she's been a class act for decades. One of those women who become an icon in older age, when they were far less visible in the middle.
Anonymous said…
Anon 10:34, what a sad existence you must lead being unable to experience the beauty of any age. I feel so sorry for your narrowness of mind. How tragically limiting for you.
Much prefer Cyrus's outfits offstage than on stage. Judi Dench has such presence.
Jean S said…
Judi Dench walks on water, as far as I'm concerned.

She and Helen Mirren are wonderful beacons of style--different bodies, different looks, but always terrific.
Duchesse said…
une femme: It's a really great jacket!

frugal: Yes, Dench wears a range of clothing, always cut right for her petite frame.

materfamilias: Cyrus is young enough to have several careers; many pop singers try acting but not always with stellar results- I'm thinking of JLo and Madonna.

Juniper: Thank you.

C.; I saw Dench recently in a small part in a film made 40-some years ago, and was suprised to see her presented as a starlet-ish "babe". She looks more singular now.

hostess: Cyrus has a costumer for stage wear a stylist for public appearances; you can tell from candids when she is 'packaged' and when she's more likely on her own.

Mme: Sure, that's the industry. Only a few women pop singers last more than a handful of years, and Cyrus clearly knows it.

Anon@ 10:34: If beauty is defined as strictly physical attractiveness, and one believes that physical attractiveness is "over" once one is past the smooth perfection of youth, you'd be right. I know many women of Dench's age and beyond who are beautiful-even in the narrow, physical sense of the word- so, I disagree.

Gretchen said…
Anon @ 10:34 - once, in a blog post I cannot remember who wrote, the difference between "pretty" and "beautiful" were postulated. Pretty tends to be the realm of the young, but beauty knows no age limitation, and relates to so much more than taut, clear skin and socially accepted norms. I think Judi is a beautiful woman, just as I *personally* see no beauty in Kate Moss, as I find her harsh and her life choices will quickly catch up with her.
Anonymous said…
LPC said about Dench,"One of those women who become an icon in older age, when they were far less visible in the middle."

Maybe there still is hope for some of us! :)

frugalscholar said…
For a blast from the past--Midsummer Night's Dream circa 1968 with Judi Dench (Titania) and the other icons Helen Mirren (Hermia) and Diana Rigg (Helena). Little bits on Youtube:


Duchesse said…
Gretchen: I always though of Moss as a "belle laide"- eccentric and striking rather than cookie-cutter beautiful. I think she looks better in maturity, carrying a bit more weight, than in the "heroin chic" era.

skye: See frugal scholar's contribution. below. Dench was what my boyfriends in those years would have called "a cutie".

frugal: What fun! Thanks!
Anonymous said…
Judy Dench is insanely beautiful. I always like watching her in the Bond's movies. She has such a strong personality and charisma. Love, love Judy!
With Miley, I don't really watch her or look at her. Just hear the talk about her.
It seems that so many older women get disenfranchised and ignored by society. It's wonderful to see a mature woman with Presence! I think that's where her beauty comes from, her demand that we sit up and notice her.
Duchesse said…
the happy forgiver: There's a long Guardian interview with her here, if you have not seen- full of touching anecdotes:
Anonymous said…
Oh how I adore Judi Dench - just look at her. Occasionally, I'll go to the library and check out the old BBC tv series she was in years: As Time Goes By. Just love her, always have.

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