Jayne Dawson: Why a middle-aged woman in a bikini is creating a stir

Alexandra Shulman. PIC: PA
Alexandra Shulman. PIC: PA
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Well then, she has created quite the controversy. Alexandra Shulman I mean, she who was editor of upmarket fashion magazine Vogue for 25 years.

Just this summer, Alexandra left her job to try, as she said, a different life. And, it turns out, that different life included posting selfies of herself wearing a bikini.

“Big deal” you might be thinking, with a bit of a tut and an eye roll thing going on.

And you would be right, of course. It’s not a big deal. It’s an irrelevance.

Alexandra’s bikini shot is not going to affect the stand-off between Donald Trump of America and Kim Jong-un of North Korea, and it’s not going to make the unfortunate people of Guam feel any less terrified about a nuclear bomb landing on them. It’s not going to help the bereaved and traumatised of Syria or the starving of the Sudan.

It’s all a nonsense.

And yet. The shot of a 59-year-old posing in a mismatched holiday bikini has made major headlines.

Alexandra has been called “brave” and “honest” for taking it. What that really translates as is: “We can’t believe you posted that picture because in it you actually look 59 years old.”

That’s the sad reason for all the fuss. This is not a picture of a former supermodel holding back the years in a way that appears not just miraculous but positively magical.

There is no sorcery or alchemy involved.

This is not the humble brag of a woman pretending to be letting it all hang out when she knows quite well she looks fabulous beyond all understanding. This is a woman choosing to show what a 59-year-old really looks like in a bikini and - this is the important bit - NOT CARING that she doesn’t look amazing.

So yes, in its trivial, first world problem kind of a way, this bikini picture matters.

I gave up wearing them years ago. I decided, in my thirties, that it wasn’t seemly for a woman of my great age to show flesh. I might be causing offence to onlookers with my ageing, sagging skin.

The idea that I could wear a bikini just for myself, should anyone have suggested it, would have blown my mind.

So when she posed for her own bikini picture, Alexandra Shulman was making a statement - or if she wasn’t then she sure is now.

Because, following the kerfuffle, Alexandra has been talking: “I love bikinis. I have never thought it mattered to anyone how I look wearing them. I fully intend wearing them to my grave,” she said. “I am comfortable with my own body. Being comfortable with your body has relatively litle to do with how you look,” she said.

Wow. Just wow. This is powerful stuff.

And maybe a tad hypocritical, you might think, since Alexandra has devoted a whole career to making us believe that thin, glossy and beautiful was the only way to be.

But still, better late than never. Alexandra must be applauded for her current stance. We live in tough times when it comes to female body image. Girls barely out of the womb are critical of their looks.

They are learning to look in on themselves instead of out of the world at an age when they should be running, jumping and flinging themselves into joyful handstands.

Instead of all that they are taking in the message, from the very air around them, that their bodies exist to please others.

It starts young and it continues for life: the worrying, the starving, the obsession with the mirror.

But Alexandra, from her Greek hotel room, has made a little stand against all that.

She has put her money where her mouth is. She has pictured herself looking less than perfect and said: “I am confident and this is okay.”

It’s not world peace but it’s a little salvo against the forces that put we women down. Thanks, Alexandra - I’m thinking of buying a bikini of my own.

Peter Sutcliffe.

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