Jennifer Lopez is reinventing what 51 looks like

Melissa Twigg
·4 min read
J-LO - Getty Images
J-LO - Getty Images

The dated concept of appropriate middle-aged dressing (or undressing, really) has been well and truly vanquished this autumn. First came Gwyneth Paltrow who posed in her birthday suit on the day she turned 48 in September, now Jennifer Lopez has shed her designer wardrobe and released a naked photograph and video on Instagram to announce the upcoming release of her new song.

Wearing nothing but a rock-like engagement ring from her fiance Alex Rodriquez, J-Lo – who is 51 – looks ultra toned and seriously sculpted. Showing that a picture really can speak a thousand words, this unapologetically sexy image taken by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott illustrates just how much our perceptions of middle-aged women have shifted this century.

Once-upon-a-time female stars over 45 were either trapped in a loop of playing mother and grandmother roles, or they were put out to pasture. Now they’re breaking the internet with their meticulously maintained bodies.

It also shows the extent to which our idealisation of the perfect female shape has moved away from the waif. Throughout the Nineties and Noughties, most women in the public eye had a catwalk-model-like physique, but we now prize strength, muscle tone and curves above all else – and fashion has changed to accommodate this.

Of course I hope that we are getting to a place where we accept women’s bodies in whatever form they come in, but J-Lo looks healthy and strong – and new collections across the fashion spectrum reflect the fact that women have bottoms and thighs and they no longer want to hide them away. And that as women age, their clothes should remain as fun and as memorable as they ever were.

Case in point: all of Lopez’s outfits over the last few months. J-Lo has been no stranger to the bare-all dress throughout her career, but if anything turning 50 last year has made her fashion choices even more daring. 

Shortly after her 50th birthday in July 2019, J-Lo strode down the catwalk at Milan Fashion Week in the same low-cut Versace dress that had made her famous 20 years earlier – the rich green jungle prints floating around her as the audience got on their feet to applaud.

“The second time I wore it and walked out there, it was such an empowering thing,” she told Vanity Fair about the experience. “Twenty years had gone by, and I think for women, knowing you can put on a dress 20 years later – it resonated. It was like, 'Yes, you know, life is not over at 20!'"

Proving that life is nowhere near over at 51 either, earlier this week, J-Lo performed at the 2020 American Music Awards and pretty much won the red carpet when she wore a glittery two-piece outfit from Balmain's spring/summer 21 collection that featured a skirt with a daring leg slit and a low-cut, midriff-baring crop top. 

versace - Getty Images
versace - Getty Images

On stage later that night, she wore a sheer black bodysuit designed by LaQuan Smith – a New York-based fashion designer the star has worked with more than once – with black heeled boots and not much else. 

And while more than one fan pointed out the similarities between her outfit and the one Beyonce had designed for the Grammys a few years ago, J-Lo responded saying her look had been inspired by the costume Catherina Zeta-Jones wore to play Velma Kelly in Chicago. Aptly, really, as the musical also tackles the way women are perceived as they grow older. 

It is exciting to feel that the views that are expressed in Chicago about 'women past their prime' don't have a place in the modern world. Through celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Lopez, we are finally realising that there is no longer an invisible line we cross from one birthday to the next that means showing your body in public is suddenly unacceptable. No matter how old you are, that is something to applaud.

JLO - Getty Images
JLO - Getty Images

I spent my morning happily flicking through Lopez’s Instagram and was pleased to to see a woman who refuses to pay any attention to the old-fashioned rules of how a woman in her fifties should dress. Here, she is in a vest top and baggy jeans holding hands with her fiance, there in a pair of denim cut-offs with her kids, or a casual, loose dress with flats and an oversized cardigan as she walks through Los Angeles. Sometimes she wants to look sexy and sometimes she doesn't – just like all of us.

"Being an artist doesn’t start because you’re 21, and it doesn’t end because you’re 51,” she said 10 years ago during an interview with Elle. “You are who you are until the day you die." 

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