Does The Lingerie Industry Let Women Down?

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By Elisabeth Dale

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There’s a growing segment of the female population ignored by the intimate apparel industry. They desire beautiful and stylish quality intimates, are savvy consumers, and have the necessary disposable income to buy what they want. So what’s their problem? They, like me, are women 50 years of age and older.

I understand why lingerie and swimwear models reflect the attributes of youth. Perky breasts, tight skin, and flat abs make great backdrops against a beach or bedroom. But intimate apparel is also focused on a younger demographic fashion style, whether it’s the cut of the garment, color, or girlish embellishment. It seems best suited for shapes decades away from the effects of gravity.

Brands have stepped up the style and sexy factor when it comes to lingerie for new mothers. Turns out women don’t want boring and unattractive underwear just because they’re pregnant and breastfeeding. But no one has addressed the needs of women way past post-pregnancy or after menopause, unless you count the plastic surgeon community’s “mommy make-over” packages. If you can’t diet and exercise your way back to a pre-pregnant or more youthful shape, you can go under the knife.

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That’s what I did. Even before my three kids, my boobs were never firm and perky. And birthing three babies flattened them out. I had a surgical breast lift because I didn’t like the way my breasts looked in a bra or a bikini top. I didn’t want high and mighty adolescent breasts. I just wanted them resting higher than my elbows. I traded scars, spent thousands of dollars, and took medical risks to improve their appearance. I didn’t regret my decision.

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Nearly ten years later, and post menopause, my breasts don’t look like they did after surgery. I’m the one in five whose boobs got bigger after the night sweats ended. My breasts are less dense and more fatty. They don’t hang the same way. I can no longer wear the bathing suits and lingerie I bought a few short years ago. My body is fit and healthy, but changed.

The good news is that I’m content with my age, how I look, and my perspective on life. I’m also anxious to buy a new lingerie wardrobe. But I’m frustrated because the $10 billion dollar intimate apparel industry has less to offer me in the way of appealing and fitting attire.

They may adapt, as the on-line lingerie buying community grows bigger and stronger. According to Cora Harrington, founder and editor of the popular The Lingerie Addict, “the lingerie blogosphere is overwhelmingly dominated by the voices of young women. That obviously affects what most of us talk about as we haven’t yet gone through the lifestyle and physical changes that tend to affect women in their 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, and beyond.” As these young women and their followers’ age, the industry might act on changing consumer demands.

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From a financial perspective, it doesn’t seem smart to ignore the ranks of female baby boomers. We not only have greater disposable income, we outspend the younger generation. Many of us can afford the price tag that goes along with luxury fabrics and high-end designs. No matter our income bracket, we haven’t lost our desire to wear sensual and romantic foundations. Surveys (even those conducted by industry giants) show women over 50 enjoy sex more than they did in their 20s. Plus our numbers are growing, not shrinking.

Should intimate apparel executives heed my request, let me add some advice. Don’t replace current images of slim models with slightly older versions of the same body type. I’m looking for a new and innovative approach; one that accepts, embraces, and even honors my wizened womanhood. An unyielding bikini thong or thick, padded push up won’t do my thin skin any favors. Plus “less” fabric doesn’t translate to “more” sex appeal for my generation. And I promise to be loyal to your brand if you can think outside the bra and create complementary bottoms that don’t offend my less firm bum.

I’m ready to celebrate my aging body with style, grace and sensual fashion. And I’d like to do it while wearing something fabulous, underneath it all.

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