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Models Wanted: Must Be Over 40

Originally published by Jessica Testa for the New York Times

Over the last few weeks, Batsheva Hay has stopped women outside a dance studio, on the subway and inside a grocery store. She has slid into strangers’ DMs.

You’re beautiful, she has told them in her warmest, most this-is-not-a-scam voice. Would you consider modeling?

Ms. Hay is a New York fashion designer, and this is how she has been casting her New York Fashion Week runway show. Street casting is nothing new — it is how fresh faces in fashion are often found, plucked from real life rather than from modeling agencies.

What is unusual is that Ms. Hay has only been approaching women who appear to be over 40.

Why 40?

“Because I’m 42,” Ms. Hay said. And she has complicated feelings about that. “I find that aging is a big preoccupation for me and my friends. It’s an area of discomfort in fashion.”

The discomfort took her by surprise when she turned 40. Everything in fashion suddenly looked “so young,” she said. Her relationship to clothing changed, which was rather alarming for someone whose occupation was clothing. She realized she was old enough to have mothered many of the models she saw in runway shows or advertising campaigns. In her social circle, Ms. Hay said, “everyone’s talking about whether they should start doing something with their face.”

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