Shopping for undergarments at department stores can be an exhausting, challenging feat as you grow older.

Goodbye to sexy: A short course in shopping for elder-wear

After months of isolation during the initial days of the pandemic in 2020, guess what my radar settled on for that first shopping trip in a mall?

Underwear. Elder underwear

I was so exhausted upon returning from the big bra expedition, I had to take a nap. It’s hard work to bend over and rake through the bottom rungs of department store racks to find just the right bra for an aging body.

Years ago–long before turning 65–comfort became the key feature I sought in shopping for everything from automobiles to gynecologists. The car had to be a zero-entry product with an adjustable driver’s seat. If the door frame had a threshold that might trip me in getting in or out, the car was nixed. Heated seats became a must-have.

The gynecologist? She had to be recommended by friends who assured that they never felt even a pinch during a pap smear.

Goodbye underwires that pinch and things that push up

New bras now must meet similar requirements. Underwires are out. Padding is okay, but at my age, the three hook, back fasteners had to make way for a broad back five.  (I’m way past the age of worrying about a male having difficulty undoing three fasteners, let alone five.)

I spent the first several months of the pandemic trolling Facebook ads for bras that could smooth out fatback bulges and hold up saggy flesh. I soon got burned by a cute little t-shirt with sewn-in bra that promised to make me look like an 18-year-old. When it arrived from China a few months after languishing in customs, it caused one of the biggest laughs I’d had during the pandemic. And trying to get into it almost resulted in a trip to a chiropractor (I haven’t had time to shop for one of those yet). Chinese women are a lot smaller than Americans…just sayin’.

That Chinese t-shirt experience and the pandemic motivated me to

  1. lose some weight
  2. order some athletic bras and
  3. try some of those things that fasten in the front and guarantee to improve your posture on account of having a crisscross thingy in the back.

The C model soon showed its impracticality with arthritic fingers trying to fasten the front, in the dark, while shoving uncooperative flesh out of harm’s way. The B model failed due to its requirement of being put on head-first, then failing to support even minimum bouncing while merely walking across a room.

I sure hated to part with these red sandals. By now they’re probably in a new home on younger, sexier feet.

Saying good-bye to sexy shoes

About the same time that I had to make the shift to new undergarments for elders, shoes became a sore subject…literally. I blame this on my Sweet Adeline’s chorus and rehearsals that required standing for hours on risers. Admittedly, some of the agony that resulted in leg twitches, pain, and insomnia on nights after a rehearsal had more to do with my poor circulation and with pulling out of water aerobics classes during the pandemic.

The foot pain caused me to head to a real-life shoe store. The kind with men who kneel at your feet, measure them with that cold sliding ruler, then disappear into the back room to return with a tower of boxes holding your next Cinderella slipper. Except the slippers have now morphed into clodhoppers.

“This is what the dealers at the casinos around here wear, and they’re on their feet all day,” explained the young whippersnapper (did Red Skelton invent that word?) The thick soles on these models promised cushy standing support, but they looked like they’d been whupped with an ugly stick. Oh well.

I’ve been wearing the white and black versions of those things for the past two years now. They are a step up in elderly couture from the first old lady shoes I bought at an SAS store years ago. I think the saleslady became quite offended when I asked with dripping sarcasm if she could find an uglier pair in my size.

Now whenever I attempt to wear anything sexy on my feet for more than three hours, my legs cramp and keep me up all night and my poor feet turn red in protest. I have since purged my closet of all sexy shoes. I told them goodbye and good luck and sent them on their way to a thrift store and future younger feet.

Covering liver spots and lizard skin

I am now seeking lessons in elder makeup. The trials in that arena I can again blame on my chorus. For ten years I’ve worn little to nothing extra on my face except for liver spots and lipstick. But an upcoming competition on stage, under stage lighting, called for stage makeup. Enter false eyelashes. Enter things like pore putty and a daily moisturizer. And when it came time to apply the eyelashes for the first time, I had to call in a younger reinforcement with steadier hands.

Someone needs to do the world of baby boomers a favor and put out a primer on elder fashion and makeup. Maybe that’s what this drivel is. All I know is, I cringe at my younger self for making fun of women years ago who seemed to live in big, flowery mumus. How embarrassing, I thought back then. Why would they go out in public dressed like that?

Today, the judgmental woman that was me is eating her words and hoping I don’t embarrass the younger generation when and if I go out in public wearing my favorite new uniform—yoga pants. They don’t camouflage my saggy old bulges of skin like mumus did for older women decades ago. But they are great for supporting atrophied leg muscles and mildly compressing varicose veins. One of these days I might even wear them while practicing yoga. Just don’t hold your breath for that.

News flash and P.S. – Walmart sells mumus. Maybe I’ll have to give one a try…and wear it over my yoga pants.

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