Monday, 27 August 2012

Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Leopard D&G Bikini

Watch out Fashion Police, there's a forty year old woman in a string bikini on the loose! Recently the British newspaper the Telegraph ran a couple of articles declaring seven out of ten British people think that women over the age of thirty nine should stop wearing bikinis.  To add insult to injury there was a follow up article by journalist Judith Woods shrilly declaring that there should be a dress code and systematic fashion policing for the beach and asking women to "cover up that yard of lard".  Charming!  I can just hear those Fashion Police sirens coming for me right now.

Luckily, I've been holidaying in Spain and France where I've had the more pleasant and liberal company of European women of all ages, shapes and sizes, happily wearing bikinis of every description.  Never mind past thirty nine, there were bikini clad women well into their fifties and sixties, some of whom were clearly grandmothers, wrinkly knees and all, enjoying a relaxing day out at the beach with the entire family.

Recently there was a heated debate about bloggers and body image and the lack of diversity in top tier blogs over at IFB.  While the focus was mainly on the lack of visibility of different races and curvy bloggers in the top tier fashion blogs, it has always been clear (at least to me) that there were no older bloggers either.  And I am not talking about bloggers who are in their early thirties as "older".

In light of the IFB post, I wanted how to highlight how mainstream media works to exacerbate the invisibility of older women in society.  So much so that the IFB post didn't even mention the lack of representation of plus forty bloggers as an issue (I guess we're all presumed dead by then!).  If widely read newspapers are printing statistics and articles such as those in the Telegraph you can quickly see why thirty nine becomes a dirty word for any woman, an arbritrary cut off by which your body is deemed unacceptable to be shown in public, a use by date past which you should be obliged to make yourself invisible for the good of society.  It's hardly surprising that the public image of older women is not often supported in the media, let alone in the supposedly more diverse blogosphere.

With regards to the Telegraph article, I'm not sure why unsightly scars and "yards of lard" are specifically singled out by the journalist as characteristics of the over thirty-nine that require coverage, or as only applying to bits of our bodies that would be covered by a one piece bathing suit.  I'm sure such exclusion from bikini wearing on these physical attributes alone would be equally demeaning to plenty of women under thirty nine who are not slim, or who have cellulite or scars.  Woods tries to qualify that bikini's can look great on curvy bodies, but where does the definition of curvy end and "yards of lard" begin?  This is also quite an arbritrary line between acceptable and downright insulting.

Woods also purports that the guilty must have sarongs (and thus dignity) thrust upon them  - implying that even a one piece bathing suit just doesn't go far enough to hide us from public view in her books.  She might as well just say to us "get thee to a bhurkini".

What if I wish to swim?  Am I to wear the sarong into the sea to spare the public the view of my aged legs on route to the shore?  And why shouldn't I sunbathe on my terms if I feel like it?  I don't like wearing one pieces.  Ever seen your man with a tee shirt tan and had a giggle?  Well a one-sie tan is the female equivalent of the male tee shirt tan for me.  I prefer my tan all over and all I need between me and the sun is generous lashings of sun protection factor and a bikini.  And speaking of men - when does anyone impose dress codes on their beer bellies at the beach, or demand those past a certain age to wear this or that type of swimming trunks?

Quite frankly each to their own.  Fashion policing and an imposed dress code on the beach removes all the beauty of being on the beach in the first place.  What a horrific idea!  This is the one place where everyone should be free to leave all their body issues behind.  If anything it's the body fascists that we should keep off the beaches with their judgemental sneering and let everybody else get on with enjoying their holiday.

On a previous post on this blog about beachwear I said the following:
"at the beach at least one can shrug off any preconceptions of what age appropriate clothing is. All are welcome here and there is only so much variation on the theme of what we can wear swimming and sunbathing, whatever our age.  That's why I love the coast so much.  The beach is a great levelling plain on fashion, age and body image related matters."
I still stand by that belief.  No rules at the beach please, leave that kind of rubbish for Ascot.

Contrary to what the Telegraph article claims I don't think that more collagen necessarily equals more confidence to pull off a bikini.  Up until my late teens and early twenties I was too scared to wear a bikini precisely because I had zero body confidence.  As someone who spent their early to late teens being told by the media that Kate Moss and heroin chic were the body types to aspire it's hardly surprising.  The only time in my life when it would have been "acceptable" to wear a bikini in public was spent hiding myself away under baggy tees and dowdy one piece bathing suits at the beach lest anyone saw the imperfections beneath.  I'm sure there remain many young women today who have been fed a diet of size zero models and celebrities suffering similar reservations about wearing a bikini.

It was actually only after reading a particular self help book about body insecurities that I let all that angst go.  The author implored anyone who thought they were somehow abnormal for having a less than perfect body to go to a beach or pool and take a look at everybody else around them.  Not as an exercise to laugh, or judge, or point score against others, but as an exercise to aid self acceptance.  To help realise that the human body comes in all shapes, sizes and ages, that scars are just scars, that ageing is a natural and inevitable process, that we all live in a reality that is a million miles away from the airbrushed world of media and advertising that we are routinely brainwashed as being perfection, and that it is okay, that your own body is just fine the way it is.

Since then the beach for me has always been a place of liberation, somewhere to let go of all those concerns about your body's flaws.  As many an older woman knows, with age comes more confidence in your own skin because you've gained the wisdom that you shouldn't live your life worrying about what other people think.  Older women don't need saving from themselves by having style rules imposed on them or any such rot, just less of this sort of tiresome body image bashing articles and a bit of respect for what we know now about ourselves that we didn't know when we were younger.  If I knew what I know now at the age of nineteen I'd have burnt my one piece bathing suit and gone skinny dipping instead.

I'm not a size zero, I don't have a six pack stomach or twiglet thighs and I have the collagen depletion, broken veins, stretch marks and cellulite that comes with getting older.  But I'm sure as hell not going to feel bad about going to the beach in a bikini because of that.  No amount of lard or scars I accumulate through the coming years is going to make me don a bathing suit or conform to someone else's idea of what I should wear on a beach.

Do I want feel sweat building up under the lycra around my middle rather than direct sunshine on my skin?  No thanks.  Do I want to deny myself the sensual pleasure of cold seawater hitting my belly when I plunge beneath the waves.  To what purpose?  To make some body and age fascist's life a little less unpleasant by hiding my offending bits from him or her?  No thanks.  The Brits could do themselves a favour, stop tutting at each other and take a few pages out of the more relaxed and inclusive attitude to the seaside and ageing in Spain and France.  These remain countries where grandchildren and youngsters can go to the beach seeing what old age really looks like, thereby learning to accept it instead of turning it into a taboo.

Now if you'll excuse me I'm off for another bikini-clad dip and to the likes of Judith Woods who take issue with that - you can kiss my yard of lardy ass for all I care.

This post is part of Visible Monday over at Not Yet Dead Style.

Bikini: D&G


  1. * STANDING OVATION * Absolutely beautifully said - thank you! Sarah xxx

  2. You make a lot of very good points there.

    I am twenty-three and a size twelve and never wear a full bikini at the beach. My standard attire is a bikini bra-top and then board shorts. I love my boobs but I have my belly bump and, to be srangely honest on the internet I have this utter fear of having a stray pube show. I don't bikini-wax and see no need to. I keep down there tidy and am not normally ashamed of my non-shaved state. But at the beach I become utterly paranoid of people judging and being grossed out by me. However, in my chosen look I feel pretty good and confident so it works for me. I love seeing other non tiny skinny women at the beach in bikinis. Their confidence gives me confidence.

    However I don't believe the Telegraph's poll at all. They always ask biased questions to force the answers they want.

    I also wanted to respond to your bit about diversity in blogs. It is something I have noted myself -although I am exactly in the main demographic the lack of racial diversity in fashion blogs amazes me.
    In terms of older women I do read a few -several of which are interior design type ones cause I love that kind of thing- but the age range I read does tend to be my own. As I have got older logically so has the age of those whose blogs I read. However the age range has increased. As a teenager I only really read teenager's blogs, but as a twenty-something I read a much wider range, from teengagers to grandmothers.

    I think in general it is easier to identify with people having similar experiences to you, even when they are mostly talking about clothes. It is also a case of the more of X type there are the more of X type are encouraged to join in. It just takes time. And I defintely enjoy reading your blog. You have excellent style and an interesting life. :)

    How do you feel about Advanced Style as a blog? It celebrates women who are 100 and have great style, but it is written by a younger voice?

    1. Thank you for such a fantastic comment!
      So much I want to say to you here.

      My sister who is a year younger than me, until very recently wore the same as you to the beach - long board shorts and a bikini top. She was convinced she had "thunder thighs" despite being a UK size 6! No amount of pep talking on anyones part would convince her otherwise. It was only when she went on holiday to Bali and shared the hotel pool on a regular basis with a group of larger than life middle aged Russian women happily baring all in bikinis that she gave up on bashing her own body and started wearing a bikini.

      But I'm guessing your decision to wear shorts is more to do with the stray hair issue? By the way I applaud your decision about shaving - I don't bikini wax either by the way - I thought you might be interested in this link about why hair removal down there is not such a great idea for women:
      I figure if anyone is scrutinising me close enough to notice a stray hair then they deserve to be grossed out!

      You raise a really good point about the diversity issue on blogs - I agree with you that blog demographics and people reading blogs they relate to is bound to be a large factor in which blogs end up being popular. I expect that the majority of the fashion blogosphere bloggers and readers of blogs are younger, many of the 30+ to 40+ are probably too busy with families or careers to blog or maybe more represented in different blog arenas such as the parenting blogs or otherwise as priorities do change in that age group.

      I absolutely love Advanced Style and it is quite remarkable that it is written by a younger man. I'm really excited that there is going to be a film! However the focus of Advanced Style is on more elderly women and I think that the age group late thirties to mid fifties is still under represented. You don't see big fashion brands lining up to collaborate with blogs written by people in this age group in the way you do younger bloggers - even though this age group arguably has the disposable income to buy the goods.

      Anyway I hope you'll try the full bikini experience some time!

  3. Pffttt ... all the nay-sayers are just echoing their shit-scared internal dialogues - honestly - look at the beer-bellied blokes on the beach - are they waiting for the fashion police? Are they giving other blokes the side-eye and worrying about what they might be thinking? (And I know that this sort of body-hatred IS on the rise in men - but thankfully not as endemic as it is in women yet).

    The media is screeching in horror mostly because it takes money from an advertising world that has a HUGE vested interest in keeping women insecure enough to buy into wrinkle/cellulite cream.

    What do you think this world would be like if people didn't buy into crap to make them feel better about themselves measuring up to the latest bloody yardstick of perfection? I'd like to think we'd give more to Oxfam and less to Olay and their feckwit seven signs of ageing.

    Falls off soapbox all exhausted-like :))

    p.s. you look FANTASTIC - and what a great post - thank you - let's have more RAGE and less bloody AGE!!!!

    1. "The media is screeching in horror mostly because it takes money from an advertising world that has a HUGE vested interest in keeping women insecure enough to buy into wrinkle/cellulite cream. What do you think this world would be like if people didn't buy into crap to make them feel better about themselves measuring up to the latest bloody yardstick of perfection?"

      Too bloody right! Couldn't have said it better myself!

  4. Well said and you look fabulous in your bikini, brimming with style and confidence! I remember reading that article, being appalled and then realising that the day I share a beach with a load of Brits will never happen, we are a dreadfully badly dressed , ill-behaved lot and I travel long haul specifically to avoid encountering us in large numbers! xxx

  5. Second the standing ovation here! I think you know how I feel about older women getting shunted aside because we're not "acceptable" in our appearance! (BTW, I think that 40 is quite young, but that's from my much-older perspective : > )

    Be free to wear what you wish, at the beach and on the street, and revel in your unique beauty, V. Love this post!!

  6. Couldn't have said it better. And Tralala is right on the money, so to speak, because it is about creating insecurities to buy more more more stuff. Totally insane and so very sad. I found a picture of myself in a bikini, taken 30 years ago. I was struck by the fact that, although now I think I looked great, I remember feeling totally lumpy and self-conscious.

    I think I need to wear one now so that 30 years from now I can say, "Damn, I looked good at 60!" but most importantly, remember feeling free and happy. Like you. :-)

    1. I hope you do! I think your experience is quite common - we spend our youth worrying about what we look like and then realise in hindsight what a waste of energy that was - just enjoy what you have in the present now! At whatever age!

  7. Love this! First of all, you look faaantastic in your leopard print bikini. I hate that we are such snoods when it comes to bathing suits and the public, in the Seattle area people make a huge deal about coffee shop employees wearing bikini tops while serving coffee in drive up espresso booths. I see no harm in it at all. We are so inappropriately shocked with our own bodies.
    I was in Spain back in 2005 in a few beach towns. I was so happy to see real women in two pieces walking along the beaches in abundance. Seems like in the US women think they can't go to the beach anymore once they hit 50.


  8. F*%ck those articles about covering up after 40. You look fabulous.

  9. Bah! I just went on holidays with a very mixed age group and the 40+s had the best bodies in group... Who writes crappy articles like this?! And anyway, you look hot in your itsy-bitsy bikini.

  10. Yea for us! Your article is right on. Just the other day I had the same thought as Jean: "I think I need to wear (x) now so that 30 years from now I can say, "Damn, I looked good at 60!"

    1. By the way Miss Cellany speaks to some of the same issues in her post:
      with pix of her in bikinis to bring it on home!

  11. First of all, you look fantastic. I completely agree with you.
    I lived in the West Indies for many years and because we regularly encountered people from all over the world, I've seen it all. Body image didn't seem a big issue with locals, expats or tourists. It was actually comforting and...just real, seeing people comfortable with their bodies, women wearing mostly bikinis at all ages (or in the French West Indies, nothing at all).
    Where I presently live, however, many women at the beach tend to swim in long leggings and t-shirts in our very hot climate. I've never seen that before. I'm guessing there are body image issues at play.
    I'm over 40 and I don't "cover up" any more than I did at 20.
    Yes, the beach is the great leveling plain, as you said so eloquently - and that is indeed liberating.

    1. Sounds like I should take a holiday in the West Indies! And interesting to hear about the contrast to the beaches near where you live now. I was wondering too if the long leggings and t-shirts you are seeing worn there could be that type of sun-protection factor clothing. This is very popular in Australia and makes sense if you are very fair and prone to burning or find reapplying sunscreen tedious. But I don't think it is any more effective than being careful with what time of day you go out and being careful about reapplying a high SPF sunscreen.

  12. what a clever conclusion! I'm quietly applauding here. This is so well said. I suspect the fashion fascists simply want to disguise human mortality from us. Don't remind us that we'll age or gasp, even die. And strictly speaking, only infants are likely to be blemish free.


  14. Hip hip hooray for women over 40 & 50!!!
    Way to go in your bikini! You look FABULOUS!

  15. Qué alegría de ver un cuerpo bien torneado, no sólo skin and bones.
    Freedom ALWAYS and EVERYWHERE; although sometimes we are our worst enemies.
    Mil besos

  16. I wanted to fist pump and yell "Hell yeah!" What a fantastic, well-written post.
    When did we come with a "Best if used by date"? Is there some magic on the day that one turns 40 that makes you look different than you did on the last day you were 39?
    I think you look slammin' in your leopard bikini, better than many younger women.
    I have been reading Guru Gossip lately and I am astounded at the horrid remarks made about what is appropriate for a woman over 40 on YouTube. Oh my goodness, would they ever be shocked if they saw one of our Visible Monday link ups.

    Thank you so much for such a wonderful commentary and for being such a strong, admirable woman.

  17. Brava! Beautifully written piece and I couldn't agree more. I'm so tired of the fashion police; I don't want to be controlled and prefer to adorn my body to the beat of my own drum. I have come to believe that anyone who doesn't like my hat won't speak to me anyway, so it's a great way to 'weed out' those who I don't want to spend time with.

    You couldn't be more beautiful in your leopard print bikini with the beach and ocean in the background. You inspire me in so many ways.

    1. Judith I love the way you use your hats as a filtering technique!

  18. Well done my dear, and what a fabulous bod you have! For my bday holiday we went with our friends for days of varied age groups including 40+ sat on the beach with no regrets, best bday so far as well. I think I just tend to enjoy life best when not worrying about what others think. This was such an enjoyable read!

    I am all for leopard too! -xo

  19. You see, this is why I love you!! First of all you look amazing!

    Let me tell you, down here in FL people have no shame when it comes to the beach and they just have a blast! You'll even seen women as pregnant as me rocking a bikini and I can't be mad! The idea that you have to give certain things up after you reach a certain age is crazy! If you look good and feel good in what you're wearing that go for it!

    1. Get me to Florida quick smart! That sounds like a beach culture I can relate to because the beach is for having a blast - for EVERYBODY and EVERY BODY! Pregnant ones included! In Spain I saw plenty of Spanish ladies who were pregnant in bikinis.

  20. "As many an older woman knows, with age comes more confidence in your own skin because you've gained the wisdom that you shouldn't live your life worrying about what other people think." Exactly!
    I'm still a little bit self conscious but I'm getting over it little by little with every year.
    Thank you for the post! And for reminding us (women) to love ourselves no matter what!

  21. Love this so much. I spent my 20s and even my 30s obsessing over my beach body. Somewhere north of 40 (I'm 42), I realized a) why do I care? and b) I'm never going to look any better in swimwear than I do right now. Bought my first bikini tops this year, though I usually pair them with swim minis or swim shorts.

    I haven't graduated to a full bikini yet. Maybe next summer ;)

  22. A holiday in the West Indies? You absolutely should! Of course, I am biased. ;)
    You have a point about the wearing of full leggings/t-shirts, it would certainly offer sun protection, albeit rather uncomfortable in the water.
    Thanks for being a voice and inspiring many with your post - great comments here!

  23. I wish my butt looked as good as yours in a bikini. :)

    This is a great post. I didn't read that article but I'm equally horrified. I have enough issues with my aging (42-year-old) body than to have it demonized in the popular media. But it's no surprise - in the UK and Canada and US, youth at all costs is valorized, and an aging woman and her body, for some reason, spew up all sorts of cultural anxieties.

    Thank God I now live in France - you are so right about women, no matter what age, wearing bikinis on the beach here - where there seems to be a reverence for older women. True, French women (at least where I live but I'm guessing it's the same throughout France) and French peeps in general are thinner and better fit than the average North American, I would guess - that comes from eating fresh, non-processed food and a healthy lifestyle where people take two-hour lunches and regularly walk/mountain climb/swim etc. I've internalized the French ethic (in my measly two months living here) so much so that I went out and bought a hot pink bikini for the beach just the other day!! That's a major feat for me, so I appreciate this post and laud you for doing it, and for showing us your amazing bikini bod!:)

  24. This post requires a deep and thorough response, which I am not capable of giving at the moment because I need some time to deliver a measured and articulate response... plus I love to absorb your words.

    I actually do have some issues with my body now... after a lifetime spent loving my body regardless of what it looked like, I now have issues, which sadden me deeply.

    I was never that young woman who wasted time worrying about her body. I looked at my body with love. Yes I was lucky to have a body that, by societal standards, was considered 'perfect'. Apologies if that sounds arrogant but I was a model in the 80s and 90s, the spokesmodel for a swimwear brand so it would be stupid of me to say otherwise.

    Anyway, I have never battled my body, I've 'travelled' with it, let it be thin when it is and voluptuous when it needs to be. I have eaten without guilt my entire life, believing that guilt makes the body 'freeze' the metabolic process but also, yes I have done a lot of physical activity too.

    Long story short, in my forties, something shifted... I got adrenal fatigue. Now I can no longer exercise and can't eat sugar including fruit, can't drink coffee... all these make me pass out... but I am also covered in scars because when this first started my body 'shed' what was toxic and this resulted in a painless, non itchy, non contagious rash that looked like I had leprosy!
    This covered my entire body and I had written about it on my blog.

    Anyway I am left with scars that I don't care about until I remember that I am a beachgoer! I live with the scars on my legs and back stomach and SERIOUSLY these could be worse and much worse as a result of terrible causes like burns, etc so I'm just a big pity party! although I accept my body for what it is, size and weight wise because I many no longer be trim and toned but wow! am I healthy!... I do actually find myself cringing at the thought of wearing a bikini!

    Oh well... that's not going to stop me going to the beach though. I have fabulous wetsuits! Plus wetsuits give one a fabulous silhouette...

    Oh gosh. so much for a short answer...

    I love your philosophy, attitude, outlook, well I pretty much love everything about you -which may be a tad weird and creepy, considering I don't actually know you!! :D - you are a superstar! With a BANGIN' bod!

    Strong legs, sexy shoulders, amazing stomach and back and I covet your butt!! much I want to respond to... really, you know, f**k 'em. who the hell are these people to say what women can or can't do after whatever age?? and who are these self proclaimed fashion police to dictate 'rules' and 'fashion policies'??

    I agree with you in regards to the beach being a neutral 'wore' zone :)

    what is sooo wrong with a naked body anyway? It is us, humans, at our most real.

    ...I am a burlesque photographer and I run the Australian Burlesque Calendar... I see a lot of might as well be naked bodies, all kinds, all shapes, sizes, types, heights, widths AND THEY ARE ALL GLORIOUS!!!

    1. Wow Dusk! I do remember you posting about this and I did think when I saw the marks on your arms in the photo that you must have suffered quite a bit. I think I too would be self conscious of extensive scarring. Who wouldn't be? No one should have to be ashamed of scars really but they are a bit of social taboo. I think we associate the sight of scars on ourselves and others with the memory of similiar pain we have suffered or pain we have not yet known and may one day. It triggers a deep rooted fear of pain I'm sure, which is why we perhaps don't want to be reminded of it by looking at scars. But I think scars also signify what a person has lived through as well, the resilience of the human body and it's ability to heal itself. In that way they should give us comfort too. In other cultures scars are used as a way of adorning the body. And really what else is a tattoo?

  25. Your notes about scars, and some of the other readers' comments, reminded me of an incident from a friend's wedding.

    L was a bridesmaid in this wedding, and the dress was low-backed. She had cancer, and lots of dark scars across her back from the treatment. She asked me for help covering them up (I'm the amateur makeup-artist of the group).

    Then my mom started prattling on about how L shouldn't cover them up, they were a symbol of her recovery, etc. Which would be fine, except that isn't how L felt about it. I didn't have a problem with Mom mentioning it... I did have a problem with her pushing L about it, so I had to shut her down!

    The day wasn't ABOUT L and her recovery, but about J & J's wedding. L didn't want to draw undue attention to herself, but wanted to keep it focused on the happy couple.

    BTW, I think you look amazing in a bikini... you look strong and healthy! I prefer a tankini top and board shorts for myself, but that's mostly because I hate worrying about popping out of smaller suit pieces. I'm also very fair, and nothing is worse than a sunburned backside!


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