RULES OF THE ONE-PIECE I’m proof you’re NEVER too old to wear a bikini

For­get ageist fash­ion edicts. You don’t have to wear one-pieces once you’re 50, says

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - MORE - SU­SAN­NAH CONSTANTINE

IT’S the mo­ment ev­ery woman dreads – a sad mile­stone on the road to mid­dle age. You look in the mir­ror and re­alise the time has come when you must Never Wear A Bikini Again. And so, heart sink­ing, you em­brace the aw­ful truth and reach for the mod­est one– piece to spare your blushes – and ev­ery­one else’s – as the sum­mer ap­proaches. But wait. Must it re­ally be this way? I’ve just con­ducted a mini in­ves­ti­ga­tion for the Irish Mail on Sun­day and bring good news: we’ve all got it wrong.

The truth, con­trary to the views of those ageist fash­ion ed­i­tors, is that the bikini is best for mid­dle-aged women – pre­cisely be­cause a bit of cleav­age and a flash of leg give you a shape while, in con­trast, a badly cho­sen one-piece puts years on you in sec­onds.

My own Da­m­a­scene mo­ment came last year at the age of 55 as I tried on swimwear ahead of a fam­ily hol­i­day. I looked like a lardy ball of dough – this was be­fore I’d lost weight – and my boobs were so big they needed their own post­code.

I looked and felt an­cient, the im­age of my mother, which is why I plumped for my navy and white striped one-piece from Mon­soon.

And it was only thanks to my 17-year-old daugh­ter Esme that I saw the truth. ‘Mum! What are you do­ing?’ she said, in the with­er­ing tone of an out­raged teenager. ‘That thing makes you look frumpy! The bikini is so much bet­ter.’

To her mind at least, a swim­suit equalled grand­mother. Even de­spite my bulk, a bikini was far more youth­ful. And she was right.

In other words, when it comes to the great beach­wear de­bate, less is def­i­nitely more.

Not that find­ing the right out­fit is an easy task be­cause, thanks partly to in­ter­net shop­ping, the choice is over­whelm­ing (beachlov­ing Coleen Rooney has been snapped in an as­ton­ish­ing 107 biki­nis in the past decade).

We’re sur­rounded by styles that prom­ise to smooth, sculpt and lift with end­less pad­ding, bon­ing, ruch­ing and swathes of un­nec­es­sary ma­te­rial that can make you look more frumpy.

Yet mi­nor tweaks can make ma­jor dif­fer­ences to how you look and feel.

With that in mind, I’ve agreed – per­haps un­wisely – to pose half naked, in swimwear that high­lights the good, the bad and the down­right dis­gust­ing. And in the process, I’ve es­tab­lished a few sim­ple rules.

MY TOP TIPS FOR BIKI­NIS

The most im­por­tant thing to know is that you’re cre­at­ing an il­lu­sion. If you go to the beach, your body will be on show whether you like it or not, so the task is about the pro­por­tions on dis­play.

Figleaves, an on­line bra re­tailer, is great for struc­tured swimwear such as the €57 Se­cret Gar­den bikini in our main pic­ture, far right.

It has a flo­ral pat­tern – a no-no on one-pieces – but it’s very mod­ern. No twee rose­buds here. I would avoid pad­ding, even on small boobs. Bot­toms should be rel­a­tively low-cut. Buy a size big­ger than you are to avoid them cut­ting in and giv­ing you four cheeks, not two.

I hate tank­i­nis be­cause the top al­ways rides up, but they do serve a pur­pose if you’re self-con­scious.

And though I’ve been a great ad­vo­cate of big pants, the retro 1950s styles make me look as if I was born in the 1950s.

Don’t buy boy shorts to hide your bot­tom – they’ll make it look big­ger.

And side ties can dig into the hips, mak­ing you look like a trussed-up chicken. I’d ad­vo­cate buy­ing ev­ery­thing on­line in mul­ti­ple sizes, and send­ing back the bad ones.

On a sunny day, go out in the gar­den in your swim­suit with a mir­ror and look at your re­flec­tion in one of your win­dows. Or take a selfie and see what it looks like.

You’ll get a more ac­cu­rate pic­ture than a shop chang­ing room. It turns out that one-pieces are newly fash­ion­able thanks to pro­grammes such as Love Is­land, and I’m not say­ing that all of them are bad. If, how­ever, you are go­ing to wear one af­ter the age of 50, stay away from cos­tumes with large cut-out sec­tions.

Your flesh will flop out of them like a way­ward her­nia, and do you re­ally want a di­a­mond-shaped tan on your stom­ach?

Don’t wear flo­ral – un­less it’s a very big print – or frills.

When it comes to straps, the ad­vice is the op­po­site from biki­nis. Thick straps are age­ing. Leave love hearts and flamin­gos to the five-year-olds.

Like most older women, I carry my weight on my breasts and round my tummy.

It’s tempt­ing to flaunt big boobs to hide other things, but the more you push them up, the more crepey your skin gets, which is also age­ing.

Don’t be afraid of a strap­less cos­tume if you’ve got a smaller cleav­age. It cre­ates a clean line across the boobs.

Go for a low­ish cut on the bot­tom un­less you re­ally want to look like Pammy An­der­son in Bay­watch circa 1992. The only colour to avoid is black, which brings out the red in skin and makes you look even heav­ier.

Bright and block colours are con­sid­er­ably bet­ter.

Geometric pat­terns are fine; hor­i­zon­tal or ver­ti­cal stripes can be fresh and youth­ful.

Ruched swimming cos­tumes such as the €74 pink one-piece above left from Las­cana are not nec­es­sar­ily bad, but I think all that added ma­te­rial can add ten years.

The key is to ap­pear as though you live on the beach and have made zero ef­fort.

And re­mem­ber that ev­ery other woman – and, in­creas­ingly, man – feels the same amount of self-loathing.

Fi­nally, a sarong is your best friend. And if all else fails, take up ski­ing.

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