Urgent text from close pal in London: “I want to know: what to wear on my legs now that I’m not comfortable going barelegged yet don't want to expire from heatstroke? Help, LOB, help!” It’s a problem Looking Our Best has yet to solve, especially as the sight of her own venous, putty coloured pins exposed out on the public thoroughfare has small children screaming in fright. Enter the key words ‘going bare legged after fifty’ into Google and you’ll discover a hotly debated topic. Grown-up women exposing their less than firm white flesh come summer is seen as inappropriate as wearing a pink towelling tracksuit with a sparkly logo across the backside. Even the Wall Street Journal deliberated over the bare legs issue stating that for women who entered the work force before the 1990s, (that’s us, mid-lifers), hose is considered "as necessary as underwear". They don't need to tell us about the FT (Fake Tan) index, as we all know that applying biscuit scented gunge is a tiresome palaver. And all that required waxing, exfoliating, pummeling, moisturising, followed by standing around to dry off, has LOB's previously neglected legs considering suing for harassment. The consensus on several beauty blogs is that the well dressed woman should grab Sally Hansen's Airbrush Legs. Given that our summer temperature can fluctuate by 10 degrees either way in one day, this product (basically a wash off foundation for the legs) is a speedier option than applying heavy duty fake tans that supposedly last several days but get increasingly blotchier. For great advice on the latest cosmetics (including the best fake tans) of interest to us mid-lifers, check out the excellentCrafty Crone's Grown Up Beauty Blog. But whichever magic ingredient you apply to your shivery pins, you’ll still have the goose-bumps when caught out in the sudden change from balmy breeze to gale force east wind. There’s also the little matter of the north/south colour divide – your legs say Mediterranean, your upper limbs say Siberia (apart from the tanned palms). The option is to investigate a cover-up. While LOB has a sartorial problem with the whole leggings/jeggings/treggings alternative and has never really recovered from the time a relative said she looked like a ball of wool with two knitting needles sticking out of it, all the same, the leggings plus floaty chiffon dress combo can work well on the grown-up womanly frame. This summer look from Dash of chunky knit wrap and grey leggings, has a casual elegance. Another alternative is the churider – adapted from trousers worn by Indian women. A stylish younger woman of LOB’s acquaintance swears by these as an elegant cover-up under simple summer dresses or short linen tunics as the fit is much more flattering than tight, unforgiving leggings.
Made from fine cotton lawn and cut on the bias, the long legs are designed to fold slightly at the ankle (looks a lot nicer than it sounds). They are loose along the thighs, but tighter on the calves, and with tiny button fastenings at the hem. Available by mail order from Toast online, (approx €48) they come in varying tones of charcoal, blue and black (as shown in these two images)
Whether we opt for bare legged chic or classy cover-up, the decider ought to be what we are wearing plus the weather on the day – not what the ageists decree. After all, us grown-ups may getting on a bit, but thankfully are nowhere near having what writer Alan Bennett once described as "the kind of old lady's legs that seem to have gone out now, which begin at the corners of the skirt and converge on the ankles".