Jane Fonda recently bemoaned her supposed batwings on “Grace and Frankie” by wiggling her underarms back and forth, pretending they actually had fat on them. She’s in her 70s, and they barely moved. I’ll bet that if she actually did have underarm flab, she wouldn’t have been showing it off.
Like gray hair, flabby or wrinkled upper arms are one of the signs of age that women think they have to cover up — but plenty of women who’ve chosen to reveal the gray still hide those arms.
The question is, should we? By covering up, aren’t we buying into someone else’s definition of what’s unattractive — or trying to “pass”?
Some bold older women are all for covering up. Take Iris Apfel, the famous “geriatric” style icon who in 2015 told the Guardian:
“I think when you’re paying $15,000 for a dress you’re entitled to a pair of sleeves. It makes me crazy. Because everybody knows that older women, no matter how much of a jock you are, you look like a horse’s arse in a strappy dress. And that is not appropriate.”
I have never had slim, toned upper arms. Or actually slim, toned anything. As a young woman I made sure to wear at least elbow length sleeves to cover up my marbled biceps. When I hit menopause I got hotter and sweatier, and long sleeves just didn’t cut it on hot days. So I compromised and started wearing short sleeves. Bowing to comfort before modesty, I’ve stuck to short sleeves into my 70s. Not sleeveless, mind you.
The truth is, I am ambivalent about showing any part of my upper arms. I find myself paying close attention to the sleeves of the aging stars on the red carpet. The View’s sleek and fashionable Joy Behar, 73, always wears sleeves. Helen Mirren, 70, finds glamorous low cut gowns that cover her upper arms. Judy Dench, 81, is known for her flowing long-sleeved red carpet gowns. Susan Sarandon, 69, just scandalized the fashion press by wearing a low cut bra with a plunging-necking suit jacket to the SAG awards. She got to be sexy and trendy without baring her arms. Go Susan!!
But what about the rest of us? I admire a Florida friend who is pushing 70, has chubby arms and always goes sleeveless in her fashionable flowing outfits. She has a flamboyant personality, and her bare arms are part of her persona.
And then there’s Aretha!
I wish I were as brave. How about you? Are you brave enough to show your upper arms? Or do you just not agree with the whole bare-it idea?