Model Pam Lucas Got Her Big Break At 51 & Has Been Killing It In The 20 Years Since
The first time Pam Lucas called a modeling agency, she was 51. And, of course, as all good "how I got discovered" stories go, she wasn't calling for herself, she was calling for her son. However, the agency was interested in, as she describes herself, a "middle age woman who looks sort of like Morticia Addams."
Lucas is based in London and before her big break had held a variety of admin jobs, supporting her son on her single-parent income. But that fateful call to UGLY Models in 1999 changed everything, and it wasn't long before Lucas was featured in magazines, ad campaigns, music videos, and big-budget films. And now, after nearly 20 years of a successful modeling career, 70-year-old Lucas is not only ready to give us a peek into her killer wardrobe, but also share her amazing skincare tips. (You're welcome!)
What piece instantly makes you feel more confident, and why?
I've got just a really nice boxy, bright burnt orange boiled wool jacket, which just lifts my spirits and makes me feel kind of zingy. It is the color I think. Color's so important, isn't it? I used to live in black, you know? When you're a mom bringing up a kid up on your own, you don't have time to think about, "Oh, what am I going to wear today?" It was usually black. But as I've got older and my hair's gone grayer, I tend to be more colorful for some reason.
I'm really enjoying getting more colorful in my old age. I don't know if you've ever read that poem by Jenny Joseph, "When I Grow Old I Shall Wear Purple." It's just like, "I'm going to flout all convention and I'm just gonna do what the hell I like."
I've got clothes from the '40s that still look good. Whereas modern stuff, after like six months, it's like a wrinkled rag.
What would you like to see more of, or even less of, in fashion?
I've been quite involved with environmental campaigns here opposing fracking. We should be going the renewable route. Since I retired from my working life in an office, I've been much more involved with trying to make sure that we leave this world a better place somehow.
I'd like to see less synthetic fibers. I'd like to see a kind of retrograde setback to natural fabrics because they're so much better for you, they breathe. Synthetic fibers are mostly all made out of oil byproducts and stuff. And we don't need it anymore.
I would like to see clothes that last. You know, I'd be prepared to pay a bit more money. And mind you, having said that I've lived out of thrift shops for most of my life because I get more interesting clothes. I can get silk and wool and linen and cotton at great prices. I've got clothes from the '40s that still look good. Whereas modern stuff, after like six months, it's like a wrinkled rag.
How would you define your personal style?
I'm not your average sort of female. I'm quite androgynous. I've got broad shoulders. I've got narrow hips. I'm not pretty in the conventional sense of the word. I'm mixed race. I'm tall. My personal style, I suppose, is what I feel looks good on me, really.
I've often favored trousers over skirts. I'm not very good with stiff clothes. I like clothes that hang and swish and flow. One garment, which really made me feel sort of ultra-feminine, was a wool jersey skirt that I think Monsoon made, and it sort of trumpeted at the bottom. It just had a fabulous hang to it. And I find a lot of clothes just don't have that hang. I like clothes that move with my body.
Has your personal style evolved since you started modeling?
I do dress up more when I go out. I like young style. I like leggings with dresses over the top. Because I'm half Indian, I love Salwar Kameez. You know, the tunic dresses? They're fabulous. They're so comfortable. And very practical.
I don't wear makeup when I'm not working, or just if I go out I'll wear kohl stick and lipstick and possibly a bit of eyeshadow. But I don't put anything on my skin much. It scares me. Makeup scares me. I try to use natural makeups. I don't like to cover my skin up with anything.
It's definitely all about the fabric with me. Wool and leather in the winter and cotton, linen, and silk in the summer.
What do you wear every day? How does it make you feel?
I wear warm. I've got a cashmere polo neck on at the moment and black leather trousers. A black cashmere polo. Yeah, I'm in black today. And that is pretty much my uniform. Or in the summer I'll wear Salwar Kameez and linen pants, sort of those fine linen or cotton, fine cotton trousers underneath because it's comfortable, and I feel good wearing that kind of outfit. You know?
I'll wear jeans. I'll wear drainpipes and usually like purple-y, burgundy, black, or you know that kind of thing with a matching sweater. Yeah, I'm very, very low maintenance. I'm a comfort freak.
I've been wearing a lot black wool trousers, which are really comfortable, kind of long, like straight-legged, and really warm. And, yeah, but I suppose it's a bit Juliette Gréco, isn't it, to like black all the time. But I do like black. It just goes anywhere. In the summer, I'm definitely much more colorful. But it's definitely all about the fabric with me. Wool and leather in the winter and cotton, linen, and silk in the summer.
So what style item do you covet the most? Is there a designer, a category, a specific item?
I have got a fabulous long, black, boiled wool coat that was made by Nicole Farhi. I always like her clothes and whenever I see them in a charity shop I will buy them because they are always made out of natural fabrics, but this coat in particular is just really beautiful. It comes right down to my ankles and it's like wearing a stylish blanket. And it's well cut. I mean, she knows how to tailor clothes.
I was actually in Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and I had to wear a jacket, which fitted me perfectly and was just beautiful. It was velvet and satin and fitted and just had the cut outs. But I could never afford anything like that.
And they didn't let you keep it, which is the worst.
Oh, no! No! They wouldn't let it out of their sights. Yeah, wardrobe, costume on film sets are very very possessive about everything.
I was in Fantastic Beasts 2 and I had to wear a satin '20s ball gown, and with no VPL, nothing. Like I had to [be] seamless and totally untroubled underneath, and everywhere I went they were kind of rushing about steam-ironing the dress on me, putting plastic overalls, like a big apron, over my head so that it wouldn't get dirty. They treated it better than a baby. I love clothes like that, but they're just so high maintenance!
If money were no object, what is one outrageous luxury fashion item you would invest in and why?
I think silk underwear, actually. Is that allowed? It's just so nice to wear next to your skin. And probably silk thermals. I'm an old lady, or getting to be an elderly lady!
That's what I mean about clothes that are made out of natural fabrics and well-tailored. They just seem to last for a long time, you know?
Can you recall an outfit that you wore that was iconic? That one outfit that made you feel amazing?
Oh, I had a beautiful Biba outfit in my early 20s that was ... it was wool Jersey and had a beautiful skirt on it. It was fitted to the waist and had a peplum and a long skirt that, again, trumpeted out at the bottom, and it made me feel incredibly feminine. I wore it to a friend's wedding and it made me feel quite modern, really, because A) it was Biba and B) it was a time when girls would dress to look like their mothers. That changed a lot of my idea about what was available and what was still to come, if you like, and how much freer I felt in that outfit.
Nowadays, I mean, that's just accepted. But it was people like Biba and Mary Quant in the '60s who really revolutionized fashion in England anyway. And brought color in, as well. And then there was the hippie movement and those beautiful Afghani dresses, which I loved. And Eastern fabrics with paisley and cotton and just so different to the formal kind of clothes I'd had to wear up until then, and school uniforms, which I hated.
Which item in your closet have you owned the longest, and why?
Oh, it's a beautiful '40s wool suit jacket, which is, I suppose, hip-level. It's fitted and then flares out. You can tell I love '40s clothes. They're beautifully tailored. And I've had it for years and it just wears really well. And, I mean, that's what I mean about clothes that are made out of natural fabrics and well-tailored. They just seem to last for a long time, you know?
It probably is getting a bit shabby now, but I don't really mind because it's such a lovely style. And it's got nice detail on the pockets and around the cuffs and it's just fits on me really well, I suppose.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.