“Old age ain’t no place for sissies” Bette Davis

Last updated on May 27th, 2024 at 09:12 am

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 “Old Age Ain’t no Place for Sissies.” Frankly Forty!

Bette Davis

I detest cheap sentiment

Bette Davis in All about Eve

Old Age Ain’t no Place for Sissies.”

I heard someone say once that the ‘beast’ known as Hollywood forgives everything from a small indiscretion to a huge scandal and even a month at a Betty Ford clinic but not birthdays.

This resonates so well with a quote attributed to the great Miss Bette Davis, one of my favourite actresses of all time, who said that

“Old age ain’t no place for sissies”.

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The best retro sunglasses
Bette Davis in fabulous sunglasses.

Assuming that those were indeed her words, it’s likely that she spoke while thinking of all the female Hollywood movie stars, including herself, who beyond the age of being able to pass for a smouldering temptress, a Femme Fatale, a daughter or a woman that men would leave their wives for, were simply left to play the part of being a reminder of times past, of Hollywood’s golden age.

Of course, not all of us are Hollywood movie stars but the one thing we do have in common is that we all have birthdays. In fact, mine was in June and every year on this day, up until a few years ago, I would say in a very dramatic Greta Garbo-like fashion “I just want to be left alone” and I really meant it.

Midlife Crisis at the Age of Twenty

I went through a midlife crisis at the age of 24, convinced that my best years were behind me. It certainly didn’t help that that year, my modelling agency in NYC dumped me. When people ask me why I quit, I reply honestly that I didn’t quit modelling, modelling quit me.

Also, it didn’t help that I was always dissatisfied with everything. I didn’t like myself very much back then. It all changed for me when I turned 30, I finally refined my look, became more comfortable in my own body and started appreciating life and what I had rather than yearning for what I didn’t!

Vintage fashion blog

Now that I’m over 40 and perhaps a little bit wiser, I know that happiness is the key to ageing, a real miracle worker better than the most expensive anti-wrinkle cream.

For full disclosure, I do take good care of my skin and there is more than one cream on my vanity desk. Shiseido Vital Perfection Uplifting and Firming Cream is one of my favourites and I’m also devoted to the Polish beauty brand, Dr Irena Eris.

makeup ideas for hooded yes

My Favourite Shiseido Products

The trick, of course, is finding what makes you truly happy, in my case, it’s writing, taking ballet lessons, going on a date with my husband, and buying a garment that made an appearance in one of my favourite movies with Bette Davis, Old Acquaintance from 1943.

1930s sequins blouse
In the picture, I’m wearing a 1930s sequins blouse paired with a 1940s dress.

1930s sequins blouse Bette Davis

New to me, a 1930s sequin blouse in a beautiful shade of pink appeared in one of my favourite films with Bette Davis, Old Acquaintance (1943).

Bette Davis & Her Attitude Towards Age

All About Eve
Bette Davis in All About Eve

The great Miss Davis said in an interview from 1983 that

This, life begins at 40 is perfect nonsense. It does not. 60 was pretty rough. I was given a very huge birthday party. On my 70th birthday, I put on blackface, an Afro black wig, all black clothes and had a black funeral wreath on the door for my guests. 70 is awesome. I love to work this is really what my survival is.

Bette Davis

Frankly Forty!

A post on a vintage fashion blog without a reference to vintage fashion sounds absurd. Since this piece is all about ageing though and I found the most fitting article in Ladies Home Journal, I will leave you with a quote from an amusing article published in April 1940 on women over 40.

Forty is more than a birthday. It is the age when the effort to look young turns from a hobby into a career; when the illusion of being young releases the allged siren and reprents the last stand of sex appeal. It is the flirtatious age, the ag of the axaggerated flutter of the eyes, the gooey note in the voice. Am I advocating, you ask, the cloister at forty, or the drastic measure of euthanasia? Have I the effrontery to suggest that no woman of forty or above is lovely to look at and delightful to love? Not at all. I am simply asking, “why are women blind?” Forty is the age when the triumph of mind over matter begins. (…) The women who live full lives after they cross the four-decade line are the ones who cultivate their minds and stand for something besides the eternal feminine.

Rae Norden Sauder

42 in my favourite Handmacher suit from 1952.

1950s Handmacher suit
1950s Handmacher suit. Photography, Gregory Michael King.

Dressed in Love

Thank you to my amazing husband Gregory Michael King for the incredible pictures. And for ALWAYS being so unbelievably supportive of everything I do!

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  • judy h.
    September 28, 2021

    Thank you for a refreshing and inspiring article!

    • Dominique de Merteuil
      September 29, 2021

      Thank you so much for your comment! I’m thrilled to hear that you liked my article.

  • Agnes Czeiger
    August 1, 2020

    loved your article. I was looking for Bette Davis’ quote on OLD AGE (can never get it word perfect) about which I was writing as i am getting a lot of humorous material together with Covid. I heard her say something along those lines in an interview, in which she definitely said it is not for ‘sissies’. Then she was well into her later years and just recovering from the last bout of illness which made her look thin, little and very sadly far from the Margo Channing character in which she was simply brilliant. As for fashion, sorry, no help. Have been manufacturing ladies fashion for some 40 years, But out of it for 20 years and never followed it for my self. Always wore what i liked and/or what i thought suited me. And still do, although i have added a lot of comfort and hiding width elements into my taste. /although i must admit i love costume films and have been enjoying Downton Abbey for just that. And the setting. And the actors of course. enjoyed the chat. stay safe. ac

    • Dominique de Merteuil
      August 5, 2020

      Thank you!

      Bette Davis was fabulous till the very end. I LOVE watching old interviews with her as she had such a sense of humour!


  • Nina
    August 25, 2018

    Love it!
    I also went through a midlife crisis in my mid-20s! I’m in my early 40s and much happier with who I am and how I look!