After weeks of lashing rain and grey skies, the sun has finally come out. And boy is it shining.
Temperatures could soar as high as 34c tomorrow, making it hotter than Ibiza. So in good old British fashion, many of us will be flocking to the beach to make the most of the sun before the heatwave is predicted to break this weekend.
And there’s more good news, too. We may be able to go on holiday abroad within a fortnight, as ministers negotiate ‘air bridges’ with countries including Spain, Greece and Italy. And for millions of women such as myself, that means one thing: it’s time to dig out your bikini.
I’m already dreaming of lying on a beach in Saint-Tropez, drink in hand, wearing my favourite pink triangle bikini, with gold rings on the hips — with at least a couple dozen more to see me through the week, so I never have to sit in a wet swimsuit. And the scores of celebrities modelling their beachwear on Instagram shows me I’m not alone.
However, while lithe 20-somethings will be throwing on their skimpy swimwear with abandon, many older women will be reaching for a more modest swimming costume, convinced that their bikini days are behind them.
Swimwear designer Melissa Odabash (pictured) has shared her top ten tips to help over-50s women get it right in a bikini as temperatures in Britain soar to 34C this week
Well, I’m here to tell you this doesn’t have to be the case. Just look at the fabulous bikini pictures posted by Brooke Shields, 55, recently. Looking glamorous and exuding confidence in a bright two-piece, she was a sight for sore eyes. And that’s not just because the bikini in question was one of mine.
If ever an image were to challenge the perceived wisdom that a woman over 50 should consider her bikini days behind her, then this was it. She looked amazing; a true celebration of womanhood.
Ah, but she is an actress and former model, you cry. She looks nothing like your average middle-aged mortal. She doesn’t have to worry about a sagging bottom, wobbly thighs or a deflated cleavage. I hear you.
Brooke stands alongside Cindy Crawford, 54, Helen Hunt, 57 — who dazzled in a black bikini in Malibu this month — Christie Brinkley, 66, et al, a stable of beautiful women whose supermodel bodies appear ageless. Of course she still looks good in a bikini.
But, as a former swimwear model due to enter my 50s later this year, I know her body will have its own flaws and idiosyncrasies, just like any other woman’s. She chooses to work with them.
How deeply it saddens me that so many women reach a certain age and decide their bodies must be covered up — somehow convinced fellow beach-goers must be spared whatever particular imperfections they happen to bear.
Who says you must be physically perfect to be allowed to experience the simple pleasure of feeling the sun and air against bare skin? By the age of 50, a woman is ready to shake off the mantles of self-loathing; able to embrace the changes that the years have brought as emblems of a life well-lived, and to hell with what anyone else thinks.
After more than 20 years as a swimwear designer, selling bikinis to the discerning public as well as celebrities including Beyonce, Rihanna and Halle Berry, I can assure you no woman thinks her body is beyond improvement.
But the secret of bikini confidence is this: accept your imperfections and work with what you’ve got.
Here, I share my top ten tips to help over-50s women get it right in a bikini as you head back to the beach this summer…
Ms Odabash’s top ten tips include sticking to a Sixties straight across, low-cut look like Brooke Shields (pictured)
STICK TO FLATTERING BOTTOMS
My golden rule for over-50s applies to the cut of their bikini bottoms.
Avoid the high-leg look, which is hard enough to pull off even at 25, because it’s so unforgiving and won’t make your legs look longer.
Stick to that Sixties straight across, low-cut look like Brooke Shields. It will create the impression of an hourglass shape, whatever your figure, and won’t leave you feeling exposed.
Instead of following pattern trends go for a block colour like Cindy Crawford (pictured), 54 — a timeless classic that will last years
DON’T SCRIMP ON YOUR SWIMWEAR
See your next bikini as an investment piece. While younger bodies are more forgiving, at 50-plus that bargain you got for £20 won’t hold you in properly in all the right places, because its Lycra content will be too low.
After too many wears the colours will fade and the fabric will disintegrate.
Instead of following pattern trends go for a block colour like Cindy Crawford, 54 — a timeless classic that will last years. Then, whether you are 50, 60 or 70, you will still look a peach on the beach in your bikini.
Pictured: Salma Hayek, 53, wears a turquoise bikini with side ties as she relaxes on the beach
TRICK TO HIDE ROUNDER TUMS
Many of us find that, as we get older, our waist gets wider, giving you a rounder middle lacking in curves. You can still create the illusion of them with side ties, a style favoured by Salma Hayek, 53.
Ties at the neck and hips draw the eye to these points and detract attention from your tummy.
Want more coverage? High-waisted bottoms help smooth out any lumps.
The straps worn by Melanie Griffith, 62, look substantial here, but still sexy, writes Ms Odabash
HIDDEN SUPPORT TO AVOID CHUNKY STRAPS
Sadly, unless you’re fortunate, your days of wearing barely-there wisps of fabric bikini tops are behind you, and your boobs will need support.
But you don’t want to look like you’re wearing a bra on the beach, or — and this is my pet hate — to appear matronly. Go for hidden underwiring for support and adjustable straps, so you can get the lift that feels right for you without having to go too wide.
A bikini top that ties at the back also means you can go as tight as you need to feel properly held in.
The straps worn by Melanie Griffith, 62, look substantial here, but still sexy.
Go for higher-waisted, ruched bikini briefs like Shirley Ballas (pictured), 59, ideally ones that can be rolled up or down so you can get the right height for you
HIGH WAIST COVERS A MULTITUDE OF MARKS
Stretch marks, C-section scars, and general sag around the belly can sap anyone’s confidence.
Go for higher-waisted, ruched bikini briefs like Shirley Ballas, 59, ideally ones that can be rolled up or down so you can get the right height for you.
Avoid the temptation to go too high, as this will make you look out of proportion — no higher than the top of your belly button is a good guide.
Detail on your top — triangular shaped like Christie Brinkley, 66, is wearing works well — such as a central ring or an embellishment on the straps, tricks the eye into thinking there’s more cleavage
BOOST FOR YOUR CLEAVAGE
Use clever tricks to feel more voluptuous.
Detail on your top — triangular shaped like Christie Brinkley, 66, is wearing works well — such as a central ring or an embellishment on the straps, tricks the eye into thinking there’s more cleavage.
Padded inserts will also leave your bust looking perkier.
A tan, whether it comes from the sun or out of a bottle, is a bikini wearer’s best friend. It evens out blemishes while hiding cellulite and scars (Pictured: Helen Hunt)
GOLDEN TAN FOR INSTANT GLAM
A tan, whether it comes from the sun or out of a bottle, is a bikini wearer’s best friend. It evens out blemishes while hiding cellulite and scars.
Apply a layer of fake tan before even trying on a bikini and you’ll feel more confident.
At the start of your holiday, or throughout if you’re pale-skinned and don’t tend to tan, go for swimwear in darker colours such as navy blues, warm browns and black. Avoid bright colours — yellow and orange — as they will wash you out.
Helen Hunt, 57, ticks both boxes with her even tan and dark bikini.
Dry brushing is a brilliant way of tackling cellulite. All you need is a good natural bristle brush, firm enough to create friction (Pictured: Elle Macpherson)
SMOOTH AWAY DIMPLES
Dry brushing is a brilliant way of tackling cellulite. All you need is a good natural bristle brush, firm enough to create friction.
Without wetting the brush, start at your feet and move in slow upward motions for natural exfoliation that smooths out little bumps.
It also boosts your circulation. Fellow bikini wearer Elle Macpherson, 56, is a fan.
For pear-shaped ladies with small shoulders and larger hips, avoid halter necks. Pull your straps out wide across your shoulders, aligning them with your hips like Jennifer Lopez
DITCH HALTERNECKS TO HIDE WIDE HIPS
While a loss of curves are a problem for some, for others they can be something we want to detract attention from.
For pear-shaped ladies with small shoulders and larger hips, avoid halter necks. Pull your straps out wide across your shoulders, aligning them with your hips like Jennifer Lopez, 50.
You’ll find your shoulders look wider and your hips instantly narrower, which will balance proportions really nicely.
Buy your bikini true to size like Courtney Cox, 56, in this well-fitting number — you’ll look better for it
MAKE SURE THE SIZE IS RIGHT
Many larger women make the mistake of going up a size or two, thinking they’ll look better the more covered up they appear.
It’s a bad move: skin is neutral — it’s the fabric you notice and so a larger size will only make you look bigger.
Buy your bikini true to size like Courtney Cox, 56, in this well-fitting number — you’ll look better for it. You’ll also avoid a saggy bottom, which is a terrible look, whatever your size.