I love to start my mornings with a good swim and while I was in the changing room today, I noticed a few older women (mid 60s) wearing awful lingerie. When I say “awful lingerie” I mean those white cotton shabby sets. One could argue that that bra and brief combo could have been one of the most comfortable in the world – and that I should mind my business in the changing room, but it made me reflect on how women are often let down by fashion generally, and lingerie specifically.
De gustibus non est disputandum – “There is no disputing of taste” and everyone is entitled to wear what they want. What concerns me is after a certain age there seem to be fewer choices to be seen in a vibrant and sexy way. Women want to feel beautiful, authentic, sexy and desired when they are blossoming, and it’s no different 30-40 years later. Why do we take for granted that older women are not sexual beings? They have sex, they date, and have the Joie the Vivre burning inside. Lingerie that is unflattering and lacking in sex appeal sends a message about older women. There is an implication that older women think “I’m over pretty dirty things and having a fantasy life because I have been married for 40 years and I have grandchildren”. This is the underlying societal message and it has to change. I for one don’t believe that in 40 years time, I won’t have the choice to feel attractive and I’ll be any less desirous of sex and sensuality.
Of course, it is important that everyone wears appropriate clothes, so I am not suggesting that it would be cool to wear skimpy outfits that are not age appropriate. But I think it should be possible to choose lingerie that is comfortable, sensual and pretty. We have to be careful not to generalize. There is some effort in the industry, both design and media, to be inclusive to older women. Rick Owens latest AW14 collection, which cast “normal” and older women and the American Apparel lingerie campaign starring the 62 year-old model Jacky O’Shaughnessy, immediately come to mind. The Lingerie Lesbian also suggest some lingerie brands that can be worn by middle aged women. Unfortunately these are sporadic examples and there is much more to be done in terms of offering variety and changing the perception of older women.
Perhaps the biggest problem resides in the larger society/pop culture as a whole. Who is allowed to be old and sexy in mainstream Hollywood, with the exception of Jessica Lange? If you are an actress in your 60s the best role you’re usually offered is a Mother/Grandmother and forget about mentioning any sort of middle age sexuality. An older leading male actor is often paired with a woman 25-30 years his junior so you’re not included as a viable romantic partner either. Music is no different. Beyoncé is a senior stateswoman, after her it’s all about Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift. Bottom line, sex sells and we don’t want to associate older women with sexuality. In real life, however, older women not only like nice lingerie but they love sex. We should embrace and celebrate it.