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Should Women Over 50 Show Cleavage?

  |   By Elisabeth Dale

Is it okay for women over 50 to show cleavage? 

My ideal world would be one where zero fashion police exist to judge women by what they wear. But that's not the case. And breasts are highly sexualized, by both sexes. I remember years of hiding mine under high-neck styles, to avoid unwanted attention. It's also a matter of personal comfort. There's no fashion rule requiring anyone to expose décolletage. But my business includes educating readers about lingerie. So it's natural to see models showing cleavage in these pages.

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Helen Mirren

A couple of months ago I posted this image of actress Helen Mirren. It was an example of the many different styles of lingerie older women might want to wear.  But I was taken aback by a few comments made by men my Facebook cleavage

Why the shock? First, male readers never make these types of remarks on my social media, even if I'm taking part in a lingerie photoshoot. I chalk it up to older women not being considered "sexual" or sexually attractive. After all, it's youthful and perky breasts that are the ideal. But I'm not complaining, either, because they were laughably hitting on Helen Mirren.

Sexually suggestive comments by men are an unfortunate part of talking about lingerie. It's especially annoying and frustrating for those who create, sell, or write about lingerie. But with few fashion models over 50, one wouldn't think of it as a problem for my generation. Instead, we get mixed messages about our appearance, especially when we show cleavage.

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Susan Sarandon, 2016 SAG Awards (Image REX) 

For instance, Susan Sarandon was publicly criticized by Piers Morgan for wearing this outfit to the 2016 SAG Awards. In response, Sarandon's fans flooded Morgan's feed with cleavage photos of their own. If Sarandon were a younger celebrity, would this have been an issue? But the Red Carpet seems to be a natural place to shame women of any age for their fashion choices (cleavage barring or not).

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Lina for Playful Promises
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Pam Lucus for Playful Promises

A few lingerie brands are stepping up and using older women to show off their lingerie styles. These gorgeous photographs are one of many in the Playful Promises Ageless Fashion campaign. The reaction by readers seems supportive, except for a few men who felt compelled to remark how they weren't attracted to the older models. (The feeling, I'm sure, is mutual.)

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Model Mel Brady (Photo: Peter Bongiorno)

Women don't all support each other on this issue, either. Take the case of one over 50 lingerie and swimwear model. Mel Brady got some pretty awful comments and body shaming critiques by female readers when the Fashion Over Fifty Facebook page published this photo. The post was eventually taken down. But why so much vitriol? It's Brady's job to put her body on display.

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Jane Fonda at 2017 Emmy Award (Photo: Rex)

Women over a certain age are damned if we do and damned if we don't. Some attack Madonna for showing her boobs or dressing younger than her age (whatever that means). Others find it annoying that Jane Fonda, age 79, looks so "young." But is it anyone's business? Aging beauty is a conundrum. You have to appear "ageless" while somehow still looking your chronological age. One would think our Golden Years would give us a pass on dressing the way we please. Because I'm pretty sure Jane Fonda doesn't give a damn what anyone thinks.

Elisabeth Dale in Fleur of England
Image Mikel Healy Photography, Sarah Nelson Make-up

Maybe it's 'cause I've hit my 60s, but I don't care either. My recent headshot session with Mikel Healey resulted in some very lingerie-centric photographs. And I love them. They make me feel beautiful and alive. In the end, I dress for myself. Everyone else's comments, either positive or negative, are irrelevant.

Do you think it's okay for women over 50 to show cleavage? How do you define "ageless beauty?"

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