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Is it our duty to cover up wrinkly upper arms and crepey cleavage? One reader’s thoughts….

Should we cover our bingo wings imageArticle by Moy McGowan

When an article on this site about ways to dress to cover crepey cleavage was picked up on twitter, one reader, Moy, was quick to respond- and I asked her to share her thoughts on the topic to promote discussion –and healthy debate!

Women over 50: your wrinkly upper arms and crepe-y cleavages are disgusting. You should be ashamed to let anyone see them. It’s your duty to cover them up.

Offensive? Absolutely. This is the unspoken notion behind the apparent consensus that women over a certain age should conceal the features that society has decreed are no longer beautiful.

I get annoyed with articles which attempt to help us feel better about ourselves by advising us how to dress to hide our supposed flappy, wrinkly bits. While I will defend every woman’s right to dress in any way that makes her feel fantastic, I increasingly find myself questioning the thinking behind this ‘advice’.

I’ve struggled with my weight for most of my 50 years, so when it comes to flappy and wrinkly I know what I’m talking about. I spent most of those years hating my flab and…yes…covering it up. Now, at a healthy weight, I’m expected to spend the rest of my life hating and covering up the crepe? No thank you.

Challenging society’s preconceptions of beauty

I’d rather challenge society’s preconceptions about what is or isn’t beautiful or acceptable. How can we agree to call bits of ourselves vile, self-hating names such as ‘bingo wings’? Why should we let ourselves be brainwashed into believing that only pert is pretty? How dare anyone make us feel shame about the natural process of aging?!

When the media holds up women like the gorgeous Helen Mirren as role models, the implication is that the reason she’s gorgeous is that she looks younger than her years… Again, that unspoken, unchallenged assumption that youth = beauty. The kind of knee-jerk non-thinking that declares that Madonna should retire her leotard.

My mother died aged 41 and so was denied the privilege of wrinkles and flappy bits. I have that privilege, so when I turned 50 last summer I decided that I’d had enough of being ashamed of my body. I’ll decide for myself how to dress to feel fab.

I’m celebrating my crepe!


Photo credit: Ambro

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  1. Wendy

    April 15, 2012

    I’m 61 and read those columns on how to dress with much disgust. I am what I am, I’m happy, healthy and a little over weight, my arms aren’t what they used to be, my cleavage is still there, but has developed a sort of road map look. I am what I am, my Grandchildren love me and are not embarrassed by my appearance. My eyes still twinkle, and my smile is genuine and from the heart. When I hold my youngest grandson he has plenty to snuggle into. My collar bone doesn’t hurt his little face, my body supplies a soft cuddly place for him to feel safe. And to me that is beautiful. If you don’t like my upper arms don’t look at them look at my smile, and my heart…..So for me when it’s hot I wear sleeveless tops, and shorts. If you don’t like it don’t look at me, I just don’t care what you think!! Happy to be me

  2. Stretch for Health

    April 15, 2012

    This is so my story. I remember my mother covering up her “flabby bits” and suffering in the heat. I told myself I would never do that (I was 9 or 10) and now I do the same thing! No more, this year I’ll dress my body with pride and my own good sense. Thanks.

  3. Ellie Wilkie

    April 16, 2012

    When I was fifty I covered up. If I’m honest it was in the hope that people would still think I was 40. Now in my sixties I’m beyond redemption unless I wore a bag on my head. So now I let it all hang out.It’s such a relief

  4. truthseeker

    December 18, 2012

    Ha-ha. Well, according to society, no one wants to see your old a** any way so why not dress as you please? What angers me most about the societal dictum that women over 40 should “cover up” is how not only ageist but sexist it is. So what if you’re not 25 any more. You should die? You should wrap youself in a shroud and wait for death? You may be waiting a long, long while. Do as you please.

    Unfortunately it’s true that beauty we celebrate is youthful. There’s no denying that the vast majority of us look better in youth than maturity. And when it comes to men, youth is queen. End of story. You can either try to radiate as much youth as possible (I chose this) or give up, but don’t whine. You will never change it.

    What you can change is how you respond. Take your maturity, embrace it, and do the best you can with what you’ve got. When you can, you will be able to fly in the face of convention and do your own thing, whether that means wearing no sleeves, a shorter skirt, or bold colors.

    After all, this is your one and only life, and as a grown ass woman, you should not be cowed into conceding your sexuality just because some snooty younger woman finds your creepy, flabby bits “disgusting.” Honestly, I feel some of these children – male and female alike – are THREATENED and not truly disgusted. Mature women have the confidence and experience, if they have the style too, well, tht gives her entirely too much power.

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