My triceps are saggy, I loathe the gym and the strappy vest tops were ditched about a decade ago. But when it’s hot (and I’m feeling even hotter), why should I feel uncomfortable and unhappy because I’m deemed ‘too old’ to go sleeveless? Why the Arm Paranoia?
In a feature written for the Telegraph, I spoke to Dr Carolyn Mair, Reader in Psychology at London College of Fashion: ‘Women can feel conscious about showing their ageing arms because they don’t look like the images of arms we constantly see. Images of very young models and celebrities who’ve been digitally altered. The toned smooth and firm image becomes the ‘norm’’ she explained. So, unrealistic imagery, together with under-representation has an impact, ‘older women can lack confidence in their appearance especially if if it differs from the norm, so why would we dare to show our arms?’
I’m all for the right to bare arms. And the beauty of being part of such a powerful demographic is that we are creating the rules; not paying attention to outdated, age-related instructions. To me, these age-appropriate rules and regulations about ‘what not to wear’ feel redundant today. It’s all about ageless style and dressing to suit your body and personality, now. Though admittedly, decorum and more formal occasions require consideration…
One thing I have found is that there are ways to conceal without being too covered up – it’s definitely worth paying for a superior sleeve. Flattering cap sleeve styles cover the top of the arm and the armpit area, overcome Arm Paranoia and allow a lovely breeze (waft factor is important, too).
But surely the more we see arms of every age, the better? Dr Carolyn Mair concurs, ‘Yes, it would, but it takes confidence.’ Bring on American Vogue editor Anna Wintour and her 6am tennis habit or Michelle Obama whose version of power dressing is to show off toned upper arms in dresses without sleeves. These impressive women are never going to give in to a small wobble. Granted maintaining ‘Power Arms’ takes a strong commitment to exercise, but, but, but, ‘Arms come in all shapes and sizes (even young arms) and we need to understand that beauty is more than appearance,’ adds Mair, ‘Women of all ages should wear the clothes they feel comfortable in and care less about their perceptions of other people’s opinions. In reality, most people will not be bothered at all; other beauty shines through far more than the shape and size of your arms.’ Sensible words. Surely it’s time to wave goodbye to Arm Paranoia?
Read the full feature HERE. And here’s a selection of sleeved and sleeveless styles. Take your pick: