Is there such a thing as too much skin?

As we age, how much is ‘too much skin’? This week I shared a photo on social media of an older model on the catwalk for Vivienne Westwood at London Fashion Week. She looked fabulous and many others agreed.

She was wearing an off-the-shoulder sleeveless dress, with long gloves, while the hem was asymmetrical – hitting her thighs at the front, and draping behind her at the back.

However some labelled her ‘mutton dressed as lamb’ for showing too much skin, namely her legs.

This sort of debate isn’t uncommon. All over social media I’ve seen similar posts on 40+ pages and groups, leading to heated debate and even trolling. For example, last year a very popular 50+ forum shared a photo of a 50 something model showing off a bit of cleavage under a leather jacket, resulting in scathing attacks, and followers deriding the page for supporting such an image.

There’s certainly a traditional viewpoint that you should cover up the more you age. But, with style rules blurring and new positive ideas about ageing coming to the forefront, is it time we abandon the notion of needing to cover? Or is there still a point where showing skin can become too much skin?

As far as I’m concerned, the only thing that matters is how you feel. If you’re comfortable to show it, then go for it! I’m not exactly advocating going out in your underwear but, in the same way as you shouldn’t feel dictated by ageist style rules as you get older, so you shouldn’t feel pressure to hide yourself if you don’t want to. And the good news is, for every negative comment I’ve seen about an older woman showing skin, there are 10 more positive ones.

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That said, no doubt you’ll still want to look classy, and you may worry that showing a bit of skin will ruin that. After all, that seems to be the general rationale behind the negative comments. But it’s all about balance, and there are definitely ways you can show skin, whilst still feeling both sexy and sophisticated:

Focus on one area

If you’re going to show off one area, consider covering up elsewhere. So if you’re going to reveal your décolletage, wear a longer skirt or trousers. Alternatively, if your look is about your legs, opt for more coverage up top. This will balance your look, ensuring you shine as a whole.

Opt for feminine, looser cuts

Contrast the sultriness of your skin with more demure, flowing styles. The trick is to look for contemporary, stylish pieces that in themselves don’t already scream ‘sexy’.

Remember, your best ‘asset’ may have changed

Most of us have favourite bits of our bodies, and others we’re less fond of. But it’s important to remember our figures naturally change as we age, especially through menopause. Your ‘asset’ may look different but don’t be discouraged and feel like you have to completely cover up. You just need to adjust and adapt, and find a new favourite. And it may be a part of your body you once disliked, but has now developed and looks fab.

If you’re going to show cleavage, invest in a great bra

A lot of women get very self-conscious about their cleavage as they get older, often due to loss of ‘bounce’ or crêpey skin. This is nothing to be ashamed of but, to help you feel more confident, invest in a bra that truly fits. You’ll have great support and less chest folding.

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If you’re extra nervous, look for sheer styles

Even if you wish you could, you may not feel like you can dive straight in to showing off skin. So instead, look for pieces with sheer fabric, such as on the sleeves, or a skirt with a lining that ends slightly higher than the hem. That way you can ease yourself in, gaining confidence as you go.

Remember, as with all things style then you’re the boss! Social media is a breeding ground for judgement and criticism, so don’t let that lead you. Instead go with what makes you feel good… every time.

About Jacynth Bassett

I'm the founder of the-Bias-Cut - Shopping With Attitude Where Ageism Is Never In Style. Swiftly becoming recognised as one of the UK’s leading pioneers of style at every age, I have written on the topic for The Guardian online, The Huffington Post and have contributed to an internationally published book. I also regularly speak on panels and podcasts, am a ViewVo accredited business mentor, and the weekly ‘Style Advisor’ for The Menopause Room. In my spare time, I love to dance, specialising in hip-hop, and to dine out with family and friends.