Opinion: why age shouldn’t matter when it comes to bras

Fashion Bust columnist Margaret Kennedy questions the assumption that ‘older’ women need bras specially designed for them.

When I was young it was common to be told that you needed to wear clean knickers in case you were knocked over by a bus. Today, the choice of underwear is more likely to be influenced, personal taste and preference aside, by the likelihood of having to reveal it to a potential partner, or perhaps even worse, other women in a changing room.

So what does this mean for the older woman? Does she choose her bra with the potential audience in mind, or are the days of ‘sexy’ lingerie all in the past?

There are several problems with this. Perhaps we should start with the definition of  ‘old’. After all, to a twenty-year-old, a woman of forty appears ancient. When you reach forty, however, the threshold for what you consider ‘old’ has disappeared off into the distance once more. I am approaching my 70th birthday. Not only do I not consider myself old, but I have no intention of letting mine or any definition of old influence what I buy. I wear bras which have been designed with the younger figure in mind. They fit, and they look good. So what is my take on the ‘sexy’ lingerie for the older woman debate?

I find the small ads in Sunday papers for lingerie very depressing. I realise that there are many people for whom the availability of low cost, comfortable undergarments is a real plus. I would never suggest that anyone spends money they can’t afford buying lingerie, or that they struggle with a poor fitting, uncomfortable bra simply for the look.

But I do take issue with the assumption that when you get to my age, one’s interest in exciting lingerie is over. I think that particular argument goes something like this. A women wears beautiful lingerie because it will be seen by men and after a certain age, that becomes less and less important. Therefore it is safe to conclude that after a certain age, it doesn’t matter what a woman wears next to the skin.

I think otherwise. Let’s start with sex. We are told that post-menopausal women enjoy sex more because they no longer have to worry about contraception. And the surveys reveal that some women are still having sex in their eighties. So the assumption that the older woman will not be interested in ‘sexy’ lingerie because she is no longer ‘sexy’ is clearly wide of the mark.

But there is a difference between having sex and attracting or pleasing a partner so I am prepared to concede that older women may be less likely to be choosing their underwear with the potential audience in mind, not necessarily because they have lost interest in being attractive but simply because the opportunities are fewer.

I have been married for over 40 years so I certainly don’t choose my underwear on the basis that I might be taking my clothes off in front of new partner. Although, if I am honest, and I was looking for a new partner I would certainly be choosing what I wear very carefully.

But the reality is that after 40 years my husband rarely notices what I wear. I don’t choose my bras to please him. I choose them to please me.

Aubade, Chantelle, Marie Jo

Left to right: Aubade, Chantelle and Marie Jo – some of the brand’s in Margaret’s lingerie drawer

I love pretty bras. My lingerie drawer contains bras from Chantelle, Rigby & Peller, Empreinte, Marie Jo, Aubade, and more, top brands that sell wonderful, well-designed bras to be worn by young and old. I like to see myself in them but, more important than this, is the impact they have on my self-confidence. When I wear a good bra, which has been checked by an expert fitter – and I do recommend using this service because it costs nothing and can radically change the size and shape of bra you wear – I feel really good about my body shape.

A lot of what is written about bras for older women talks about defying gravity, about sag, the need for support, comfort. It is true that body shape changes as you get older, and it is easy to slip into the habit of allowing your breasts to drop by an inch or two, and to migrate towards your armpits. But none of that has to happen.

The fact that you’ve had three children, breast fed them for months, have put on or lost weight, that your flesh has become less firm and your breasts have dropped – none of this means that you need go around emphasising the impact of time on your figure. Good bras are good regardless of whether or not your body is perfect and a well-fitting bra can have a transformative impact on your shape.

When I go out wearing a good bra, I walk a little taller and a little straighter and it has nothing to do with ‘sex’ or being ‘sexy’.

Search the internet for ‘bras for the older woman’, and it is quite clear that there are a lot of people out there who are getting older and looking to find good quality, comfortable bras that look good. And there are plenty of shops and brands that cater specifically for this market. Which is good because we need choice, and we need products which suit our budgets and our physical requirements.

I am not suggesting that there shouldn’t be bras that have been designed specifically for the older women. But I am questioning the assumption that lies behind the decision to go down that route because there is no reason why mature women should be any less interested in wearing beautiful undergarments than their younger sisters.

What do you think? Do you share Maggie’s views or do you disagree? Leave a comment and share your opinion.



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