Swimsuits & Beachwear

Bikini, Short Skirt – Why Not At Any Age?

over 40 woman at beachLast week I received this email from a reader in Toronto, Canada. Liz H. writes:

Dear Deborah,

I haven’t worn a bikini in more than a decade but a recent fitness program, coupled with a Christmas vacation to the Dominican Republic, made me decide to give one a try. I packed a one-piece as well because, as “everyone” knows, women over 50 shouldn’t be seen in bikinis unless their name is Helen Mirren.

When our family arrived at the resort, we prepared to hit the beach. I must have asked my husband and teenage daughters a half dozen times if they thought I looked okay before I sucked it up (and in) and made my way to a deck chair.

As I sat, sipping my mojito, I surreptitiously looked around to see how I compared to the other women on the beach. Guess what I noticed; I looked fine but more importantly, the vast majority of women on the beach were wearing bikinis and two piece bathing suits regardless of their age, shape or size. Here I had been so worried about what people would think and standing out in a bad way!

As the week wore on, I got very comfortable, literally, in my own skin. I came to admire every single other woman who did the same, regardless of whether she was a size 2 or 22. It occurred to me that we make way too much of a fuss about silly rules regarding what we “can” and “can’t” wear.

Deborah, please tell your readers, particularly the ones who are escaping a cold winter for a warm southern destination, to embrace who they are and wear whatever they want on the beach.

Here is my reply…

Hi Liz,

I know plenty of over-40 gals who wouldn’t be caught dead in a bikini, regardless of what kind of shape they’re in. I happen to prefer a one piece, but that’s just me. However, I love your positive attitude and couldn’t agree more that the fashion police often take things too far. Helen Mirren doesn’t worry about them. She was 63 when this photo below was taken!


helen mirren bikini


Good for you Liz for wearing a bikini. I’m sure you looked fabulous! Cheers, Deb

carol middleton
Carol Middleton in tights.
photo: daily mail online

Ladies, Did any of you happen to notice this article in the Daily Mail Online about Carole Middleton’s legs?

While applauding her for her great gams, the paper also couldn’t keep from pointing out that some felt the patterned tights she was wearing might be a tad youthful for this 59 year-old grandmother.

A minor brouhaha erupted over this picture and article with readers writing in to express their outrage. For example, one Daily Mail Online reader wrote, “This would not even look good on someone half her age. She is a deluded woman living in the past.” Ouch!

Another reader added, “This lady ought to dress with the appropriate decorum befitting her age; after the age of 50, ladies should wear clothes to the knee or just below. I am much more elegant, of a similar age and build and would never contemplate being seen in that apparel.”

Frankly, I find their comments sad. Let’s be honest – not all women, regardless of their age, look good in revealing clothes. But many of them do. I have pretty nice legs and I wear some of my dresses a couple of inches above my knee.

Fabulous After 40 is all about helping women make the most of what they’ve got while looking classy, not trashy. That said, it’s crazy that people think they have the right to tell us how to dress based on a number and that women limit themselves because of what other people tell them is and isn’t okay.

Style is ageless. It’s about expressing the true essence of who you are in a tasteful, elegant way. I think it is time we thought for ourselves, fashion police be darned. Wear what you like and use some common sense as to what looks classy and what flatters your body, just as you should at any age.

Your turn: How many of you over-40 readers wear bikinis? Do you think agree with Liz, that every woman should wear one, regardless of her age, shape or size? And what do you think of Carol Middleton and Gam-gate?


Join the Conversation

41 thoughts on “Bikini, Short Skirt – Why Not At Any Age?

  1. Helen Mirren looks great, and I can’t really see the problem with Carole Middleton’s outfit. It’s actually quite toned-down. If, on the other hand, she had worn plaid stockings, and been clad head-to-toe in hot pink or lime green, it would be a different story.

    I don’t wear bathing suits, full stop. I am a martial artist and dancer, with a very angular, athletic build, and I personally think you need a few curves to look halfway good in any kind of bathing attire. But it’s a moot point since I am neither a swimmer nor a beach lounger.

  2. I have always worn a bikini, even when I was pregnant. I think it is about attitude and self acceptance. I do not have a fully toned and perfect size body, but I found that there are so many different styles that no one woman could go wrong. My husband and I have only been married for over 4 years and he in his 50’s and me in my 40’s, he gave me his opinion and said he would love me no matter what my size. I told him lets not push that envelope, but he said as long as you are comfortable that is what counts. So I always have been and still am my biggest fan.

  3. Wow — When I first glanced at your photo of Carol Middleton, I thought: “Wow, she looks terrific — and her outfit is perfectly age appropriate!” So I was totally shocked to read about the mixed reactions in the Daily Mail.

    Carol’s skirt is practically to the knee — not even a mini, in my view. And her tights are perfectly tasteful for a woman of a certain age (who might be disguising veins or flaws). Seriously — why would anyone see anything wrong with this rather tailored outfit? Would they rather see her in a housedress or a frumpy skirt down to her ankles?

  4. Thank you for a great website! I wore my bikini up until about 2 years ago – and I am 51! Since then I decided that a one-piece would be more flattering.

    I love Carol Middleton’s outfit – she looks great! So what if she is a gran, she is slim and trim and can wear that look very successfully!

    Linda, KZN, South Africa

  5. Good grief! I have just turned 50 and am gradually recovering from the shock of realizing how society does try to shut you down once you reach a certain age. How dare anyone be so self-righteous as to pick someone to pieces based on their age and what they perceive they should be wearing. Obviously some people have too much time on their hands, and are pretty sad and bitter, if they can find fault with someone as classy as Carole Middleton. Patterned tights belong to the past? What?
    As for bikinis – the same. Wear what you want. I have never been comfy in a one piece and find them too hot and actually a bit claustrophobic in our humidity as silly as that may sound. To think there are probably people are out there thinking I should be more covered up is hilarious… Who on earth do they think they are?

    Brisbane, Australia

  6. I always wear bikini’s. I’m 49 but too tall for a one piece. They simply never fit me (I’m 1.80 meter). A too short one piece is very uncomfortable.

  7. I myself had a bikini on, this December holiday. I will be 55 this month end. I don’t see anything wrong with wearing bikini’s at any certain age. if you feel comfortable and look good in it, why not.

  8. At 58,I wear a bikini when I go south and feel totally comfortable . I work out and take care of myself and my husband commented that I looked better than lots of the younger gals on the beach! What the heck…you only live once! Why are we so hard on ourselves?

  9. Speaking for myself, I am 57, size 4 & have a bit of midline bulge I prefer to keep hidden & tank tibia work best for me. I am not a sunbather, so don’t spend much time in a bathing suit anyway. I prefer a nice sundress. I do think it’s individual preference however. Not everyone looks like a model, even in their 20’s !!!

    As for Carol Middleton… I think she looks awesome and I don’t see anything wrong with her outfit. Again, I prefer my skirts to sit just above my knee, but the odd one is a bit shorter, and I do have a pair of patterned tights, which I think add some interest when wear a black dress or skirt.

  10. Mrs. Middleton always looks great and appropriate. I’m not sure why being a woman over 40, a mother, or a grandmother means you need to check your sensuality at the door and robe up like a nun. It’s patently ridiculous. Life and everything that comes with it, including sartorial flair is not the sole province of the young nor should it be. I recently turned 50 and I will continue to dress with class and verve and to h*ll with anyone who will tell me differently. As to a bikini, if you feel good in one and want to wear one, have at it. I don’t think that age alone should dictate one’s clothing choices.

    1. Here hear…I’m turning 40 next year and I’m not giving up the bikini, the long hair, or the short skirt. And where is it written that someone over 40 has to get the dreaded “mom” haircut?

  11. I am 48, and I’ve never worn a one-piece swimsuit. It has never been a flattering look on me. I am about 124 lbs at 5’6″ with a high waist and long legs. A bikini has always been a better choice for my body type. Granted, my stomach isn’t quite as tight as it has been in years past, but I had a baby at the age of 43. I work hard, but I’ll never look 20 again, and that’s okay. :)

    As for Carol Middleton, I say she is beautiful and looked beautiful in the short skirt and patterned tights. Probably, most of her critics wish they had the body to dress like that. Jealousy makes people say terrible things. If it was a Hollywood celebrity, it would have probably been overlooked. She should be able to wear anything she feels comfortable in.

  12. I frequently visit my sister who lives in Florda. I am almost 50 and she is 46 and we both wear bikinis at the beach and so do lots of other women around our age, even older. I say wear what you feel comfortable in. I have some limitations due to health problems and one piece bathing suits are not an option. If I want more coverage I wear a tankini.

  13. Hello Deborah and all the Glam Gals! Carole Middleton looks great! Why al the negative and unkind comments? If an outfit is fashionable and looks good on you, then wear it joyfully! Even those who wear bikinis, you go girls!
    Additionally, Lady Gaga showed up at an event wearing a dress made out of raw animal flesh?? Frankly, I found it disgusting. Where was the outrage then?

  14. I’m 63 and I still wear a bikini! I figure, if you look good in it – why not? I also wear short skirts because my legs are my best feature. I think that all of the Middleton ladies have fabulous legs and I say if you’ve got ’em, flaunt ’em! There’s no rule book out there. Do what makes you feel good about yourself.

  15. Have you ever been to England … home of tweed skirts and twins-sets on most of the over-40 crowd? A glam outfit is adding pearls to your twin-set. You’ll see more ‘fashion’ in London, but as I spent a couple of hours waiting for a train in Paddington Station last fall hoping to see great outfits to photograph for a blog post on this site, I could count over-40 ladies in great outfits on the fingers of one hand. When a high-profile over-40 woman truly looks fab (like Carole Middleton), it apparently rates a public dressing down (pun intended). My take on this, and the bikini issue, is ‘if it feels good, do it!’ Confidence is our best accessory.

  16. She looks great in the patterned tights. I have always loved them, they hide dark veins and they’re fun. I’m 57 and I have been wearing them this year also.

  17. I think Carole Middleton looks wonderful. I do not feel she is as the saying goes, “Mutton dressed as Lamb”, on the contrary. This lady is very youthful but still very classy. It would never occurred to me not to wear patterned tights or skirts a few inches above the at my age of 57, and I am in no Way as toned as Carole Middleton. I look at her as very smart classy and with it!

  18. I am 66 and personally would not wear a bikini even though I am not over weight; but I do not feel that age should have anything to do with whether one wears one or not. If you look and feel good in it go for it. As far as short skirts and printed stockings, I personally wear my skirts right at the top of my knee and wear printed stockings and boots or heels, depending on the look I am trying to achieve. When put together with the right accessories and top it looks great at any age. I have a friend in her early 80’s who is very classy and she on occasion will wear leggings, above the knee tunics and boots and looks great. I get tired of young people dictating how we should dress, they have no real concept of style and good taste.

  19. I am a 49-yr old youthful looking grandmother. I love fashion tights/hosiery, my husband loves them more on me, he compliments me over & over and can’t keep his eyes off of my legs whenever I wear them! I wear whatever I look good in and feel good in. However, I don’t do bikinis or mini skirts anymore (recently stopped at age 46). If you got the figure- than flaunt it.

  20. Carol looks great, don’t know what all the fuss is about. I’m 42 and always choose a bikini. To me one pieces look matronly.

  21. Give me a break! It isn’t like Carol Middleton was wearing a midriff bearing top! In fact, she looks very chic. I like how she has taken a page from Carine Roitfeld’s book. If she was covered from head to toe in baggy, ill-fitting clothes, she would be accused of being “too mumsy”. I am almost 43 and have several pairs of patterned tights and often wear some iteration of her look in the photograph. I currently don’t own a bikini; I could and would wear one if the opportunity arose, but it would be an athletic style (no strings!).

  22. I thought Carol MIddleton looked great in this outfit and I loved it! There was nothing too revealing in the least bit and whats the difference – a plain tight vs a pattern. As far as bikinis at a beach, why not? It is the appropriate place to where one. I applaud all women who are comfortable in their skin to wear an outfit like Carol or bikini at the beach plus maybe it allows society to be more accepting of everyone which in turns allows everyone to be more accepting of themselves – just as they are – just as Deborah said, we are our own enemy. I can think of MANY more inappropriate outifts and on much younger people .

  23. I love it. A true fashionista. Nothing inappropriate about it. She probably didn’t think twice about wearing it. The look of confidence.

  24. Carol looks great. I particularly liked these 2 comments in the Daily Mail article: “If you’ve got legs as lovely as Carole’s, it’s a sin not to show them off.” and “Lucky Michael Middleton, I say.”

  25. Carol Middleton looks fantastic – I literally thought it was KATE! We should all have enough confidence at this age to wear what we want when we want and let the Fashion Police talk to the hand!

  26. Personally, I’m not a fan of bikinis, regardless of age or size, as I don’t think they’re tasteful or classy. There are so many great swimsuits with fabulous details–why limit yourself to so little fabric??? And, I think the pattered tights are absolutely beautiful! I have a pair myself, though I’m not a grandma.

  27. On the bikini front, I am with Liz – any woman who feels comfortable enough in her own skin – no matter her age – should wear a bikini! On the Carol Middleton front, I find the comments very shallow….. for a start, patterened tights are in style again, so she is hardly living in the past… and she looks fabulous, so why should she dress like a dowdy old spinster just because she is over 50?…. actually on the brink of 60! KUDOS to you Carol – you can now join the ranks of Helen Mirren, Emma Thompson and a host of others that have so elegantly shown us that women over 40 (or 50 or 60 or 70…..) don’t have to fit the old-fashioned stereotype of what these age groups are ‘supposed’ to dress like!

  28. I am turning 57 next month and yes, I wear a bikini. I find it motivating to keep in shape and who is really judging? Only ourselves! As for the tights, I think she looks great, I would wear them maybe in the evening but you go girl! I think there is such a thing as age appropriate (ie baring your midriff) but it doesn’t mean boring.

  29. Hi Deborah

    I think a lot of the time other women are the enemy. Why are we so ready to attack each other instead of supporting them, is it more about their own securities? why do they feel the need to attack women like Carol Middleton, instead of taking a good hard look at themselves. I also think it’s too easy for people to say hateful things behind the anonimity of cyberspace
    Good on you Liz for feeling confident and comfortable to wear a bikini, I’m sure you looked fabulous!

    Sydney, Australia

  30. Carol Middleton looks great! When I was in London I noticed that the english have a great time with their tights and accessories. You could buy great socks at these stops near the Tube so the tights are great, and she plays down the pattern by going basic black with the other peices we see in the photo. She did a great job, and looks very nice. maybe when I’m braver I’ll try shorter skirts again. but paired with a good jacket, like she did.
    As far as the bikini, if it works rock it. I’m not ready for that yet. I live in Western NY, and am pretty pale year round. Good for the skin, but tough to look summer glam. in a hurry. I could look to update my swimsuit…maybe something made in the United States, I don’t know if I can find Fair Trade that does what I need a swimsuit to do. (I can look into that). But yes, for others whatever their comfortable in and is modest overall is a good thing.

  31. I wore a bikini just last month when in Florida. I’ve seen better and I’ve seen worse over the spectrum of ages so wear what you feel comfy in and phooey to nay sayers. I feel there are things people should and shouldn’t wear regardless of their age (mini’s that show it all if you dare even sneeze come to mind) and Carol Middleton looks good in that outfit.

  32. I agree with Liz completely. There’s something very liberating and empowering about seeing all kinds of shapes, sizes, ages on the beach. Bikini? go for it! The only time I’d put on the breaks would be thongs and pasties.. but that’s for every age. When it comes to a one-piece or a standard bikini.. whatever makes you happy.
    Generally, it’s the same with all clothing. As long as you feel good in it.. and it’s not overtly sexual..go for it. Overtly sexual dressers are inappropriate at every age.

  33. I think Carol Middleton looks great, and I would wear that outfit (I’m 49.) Things that are a “no” at any age: visible underwear, too-tight clothing, and too much trendy clothing all at once.

  34. I do wear a bikini! I recently lost about 50 pounds and am a 46 year-old grandma. I don’t wear the same style bikini my 21 year-old daughter would wear but it is still a bikini none the less. I think if you have a nice figure and you’re comfortable then you should go for it. When I was heavier I always opted for a one-piece or a tankini to cover up those areas I didn’t care to share. People can be mean, at any age, unfortunately.

    As far as Carol Middleton and “Gam-gate” I am completely in her camp. She looks fabulous!! Age is just a number for the most part. At 40+ we shouldn’t dress like our 20-something daughters, but a skirt above the knee with patterned tights doesn’t seem too scandalous to me.

    1. I thought Carol Middleton looked fantastic. I’m not a fan of patterned tights at all but don’t find any problem with anyone wearing them, they’re just not for me. As far as the length of her skirt, it’s perfectly tasteful. Goodness some women are just so mean-spirited. Why do so many judge other women so harshly? I love the idea of wearing a bikini but I just don’t think I could bring myself to do it. Maybe this summer?

      1. I personally won’t wear a bikini, since my midriff isn’t what it once was. There are so many snazzy one piece suits out there.

        I don’t see the problem with the patterned tights and short skirt. The skirt isn’t that short, and the tights look stylish. I wouldn’t wear a skirt much shorter than that, but this one is perfectly stylish, classy, and modest.

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