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Guest Post: “Old” Is Not A Style

I hadn’t thought about this post in the #diversityinlingerie context, but I suppose we’re accidentally doing a theme this week. I’ll be away from the blog for a few days, so I was thrilled to have the smart and savvy Wide Curves step in for me. 

Image via Lola Haze

Image via Lola Haze

There’s been quite a bit of buzz lately about diversity in fashion – clothing and lingerie. While most of it has been centered around size, lately, the diversity buzz has begun to include age. There have been a few posts out there about lingerie for older women, speculating on what would fit the aging female figure. Also, there’s been a call for older lingerie bloggers, for a rounded perspective on fit and style.

So, here I am. Older, and with perspective.

Basically, women want to look their best possible at any age. By the time we reach a certain age, we’ve developed a style that reflects how we want the world to see us, and we want to be able to continue that style as we age. I personally have no plans to graduate to powder blue, long-sleeved, shapeless flannel gowns trimmed in ribbon and lace. I’ll take that silk chemise in cobalt blue, thank you very much!

Image via ID Sarrieri

Image via ID Sarrieri

What a maturing figure needs are stylish options. As we experience life (age, babies, illness…) we tend to go up a size or two. We usually keep our basic shape, just larger. So, a size 8-10 turns into a 12-14 or 16-18. What I feel is needed is more lingerie in the ignored sizes of XL/14-16, XXL/16-18, that aren’t plus-sized, and are of equal quality and style as sizes XS-L.

So what’s the difference between a “straight” (I dislike that term, by the way) size and a “plus” (I dislike that term, too) item? Generally, plus sized items are cut for women carrying size in specific areas where straight size women may not. And interestingly, if you cross over into plus sizes you may have more attractive, stylish selections because of the surge in specialty plus sized designers, along with brick and mortar retail stores.

Image via Pinterest

Image via Pinterest

What do I mean by ignored? Well, here are some quick stock numbers I pulled from a large online bra retailer:

There are 35% less bras to choose from moving from a 38FF U.K. to a 40FF U.K.
There are 53% less plunge bras to choose from moving from a 38F U.K. to 40F U.K.

Additionally, brands like Freya discontinue styles past 38 bands (except maternity), and Panache Superbra has a very limited selection of bras above a 38 band, reserving larger bands for the new Sculptresse label (which does not have a plunge bra).

This trend repeats itself even more in sleepwear, chemises, gowns and robes.

Image via Between the Sheets

Image via Between the Sheets

More to the point, once a woman enters the straight 14-18 size range, in-store options and online diminish. Most lingerie designers cease production around the 32 waist/42 hip range and retailers still refuse to stock many (if any) items over above these dimensions. You’re sized out of designers you’ve worn for years, and you aren’t plus-sized. In some cases, designers who manufacture both straight and plus sizes have gaps in their size charts between the largest straight size and smallest plus size – and you fit into neither. You’re in a no-woman’s land fashion desert.

I have found the most difficult thing about clothing a changing body is getting sized out of my favorite brands, and finding brands that are reflective of my style. Celebrating a birthday is an event I’d rather deal with by buying a larger size, perhaps changing shades or colors, and avoiding see-through mesh – not by changing my personal style to accommodate market availability.

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Hi there, I’m WideCurves! A forty-something chemise fanatic who started blogging as a way to record my attempts to find bras, lingerie and clothes that fit my changing body. You can read about my journey at www.widecurves.wordpress.com or follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

15 Comments

  1. Amen! It drives me crazy that all of a sudden I am expected to cover my arms and hide my knees. My husband still seems to enjoy my shape and style in a skimpy chemise or teddy. And I certainly enjoy wearing pretty, sexy undies. Did the manufacturers forget where a good portion of their money comes from???

    • Laura, I agree wholeheartedly that there is a severe lack of supply in a market segment that has a chunk of disposable income.

      I’m baffled by the lack of supply. Truly.

  2. There sure are a lot of great topics coming out of this Diversity in Lingerie campaign. I totally agree with this post. I am in size limbo as well. I’m 35, I’ve had two kids, and I am now about 25 pounds over what I used to be before kids. I’m also tall with a big bust so that all adds up to size limbo. I am a 12/14 and have a lot of problems with fit. When i try the smallest plus size to accomadate for height and chest it’s too big. But often the straight size in 12/14, L/XL is too tight on the chest and the tummy (which I’m trying to hide). Jeans are the worst. I need a high waist and often high waist aren’t high enough for my tall frame. If they are too low it squeezes my muffin top. Thankfully I have found Torrid which starts at a 12 and I have found their size 12 jeggings to be perfect. However they are still to short for winter so I might have to figure out how to add some length to them. Their shirts are a better fit as well being not to tight or too loose. Unfortunately the prices aren’t that cheap and they don’t have very good sales. I’ll shell out for jeans but don’t want to pay a lot for t shirts no matter how fancy. We definitely need more options for those of us in size limbo. I think there might be a lot of us in there.

    • Bizzy, I experience exactly the same issues (minus the height) and it is extremely frustrating to keep trying over and over without good results.

      Have you tried any designers who specialize in clothing for larger busts? I also have a list of retailers who tend to cut to my figure, and I stick to them (of course, it’s a small list…).

      I’ve found better jeans selection online, since many retailers won’t carry much (if any) inventory over a 12/14. I’ve discovered they also sell different lengths (that I never find in their retail store). I struggle with a high rise and it makes jeans shopping even more difficult – is this your problem, also?

      Some days I think jeans are a more difficult fit than bras…and that’s pretty difficult!

  3. Love this post. I’d disagree on a one small point you made, re body changes in aging. Many women go down a siz! (or up a size in the bust but no where else.) I started running at 47 and got in the best shape ever of my life, dropping 2 sizes. Then I went through menopause and went up a bra cup size (learned that this happens to one out of 5 women). I’m 57 now, still smaller than I was 20 years ago but about the same boob size as when I first developed. Maybe breast size just goes full circle as you age? Just sayin’ that it’s different for every woman and there is no fast and hard rule.

    • Elisabeth, I think that’s the best news I’ve heard in years! I am now looking forward to 47!

      Yes, everyone is different. Isn’t it incredibly interesting (as well as frustrating) how our bodies change over time?

  4. My situation is similar to Bizzy, though I’m older and don’t have the height. I’m generally good with a L, but depending on the item, such as a chemise, there is no room at all for my breasts (36F). I’m actually working on an order now with Deb at Two Figs, and am excited at the prospect of sexy, attractive nightwear that *fits*. It really shouldn’t be this difficult, sigh…

  5. I have more money to spend on bras and clothing that fits me well than I did when I was in my 20s. I don’t feel old, so I still want to wear my jeans and t-shirts (only now my t-shirts are fitted ones from BiuBiu or Urkye) like I have for years. So I can certainly see your point, and I do think there’s a market being ignored.

    At the same time, I don’t have first-hand experience with the problem because my body hasn’t changed that much – an extra 10 kilos but no changes in band size. I guess I’m fortunate in that most of the things I want to buy are still available to me or never were (largely because of my bust), so I feel that my options have improved – I can now buy a bra for $40 instead of $120 in my size, even though my chest continues to get larger. When I’ve been sized out of things, it’s been because my breasts got larger, which isn’t related to age.

    So, given the expansion the large-bust market has had over the last several decades, I’m optimistic that companies will emerge to fill this gap.

    • AE, I agree the large-bust clothes and lingerie market has expanded, and that’s great news. I hope the trend continues, and we have some new players in the U.S. market, as well.

  6. Yeah, no plans to hide my arms (hey, I weight lift, I want to show them off!) or dress in a big brown bag either. 😉 Oh, and that Claudette set.. WOW, if only that came in my size!!!!

    Now in my mid-30’s after two kids I’ve found that my shape is different but I’m still a lot smaller than my highest weight/shape (both in part due to healthier eating for my kids and also because I’ve taken up weight lifting). But my shape is different! My boobs are a lot bigger thanks to breastfeeding and my hips/thighs are also bigger (for once in my life I have somewhat of a nipped in waist due to the extra weight I’m carrying there). Plus, my stomach is rounded. So while I can still fit into straight sizes just fine the way they are cut just don’t handle my body very well. I wish there were longline bras in my size (that could handle a rounded stomach!), I wish there were non-made-to-measurement dresses that were cut for rounded stomachs too. I also wish mainstream clothing stores would account for different butt and hips sizes in their clothing.

    • June,

      Do you think plus size clothing would fit you better than straight size clothing, or do you think there needs to be something totally different out there?

      I agree, I wish more clothes came with labels explaining cut and body type. I also wish the stores that provided that type of labeling were consistent with each other…would make things easier.

      • I think some of the adaptations that are made for plus-sized women would work better on my body type even if I do fit in straight sizes. For instance, more space cut around the middle (and a tighter fit in the underbust), more space in the upper arms (those are always tight on me!), bra bands with more side support/wide bands etc. I read once the list of adaptations that Elomi makes as compared to Freya/fantasie and most of them I was thinking “man, I need that”.

        I actually remember too that back in my plus-sized days when I would shop at Lane Bryant that often the fit was better because the clothes were cut for a curvier shape and were more generous in the bust/hips.

        • June, that’s interesting. I’ve often wondered why “plus-size” generally refers to size 12+ (US)…when there are women with smaller bone structure carrying weight in places that may make their fit more plus.

          Personally, I’ve only been able to wear a few Lane Bryant pieces…bottoms, actually, and the fit issues are different than what I have in straight sizes. Ditto for other plus brands. I have been hoping with the surge of plus designers I’d find one that cuts for my figure. I have a terrible itch to try Igigi and Anna Scholz. And if I ever make it to Italy, Elena Miro.

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