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Melissa T. Shultz Headshot

Body Image After 50: The Slip Up

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The last time I bought a slip I was 36 years old. It's been carefully preserved in a lingerie bag in a drawer that hasn't been opened for nearly a decade. I had high hopes the old slip would provide a graceful measure of distance between my now 51-year-old body and the new dress I just bought to wear to a family wedding. One glance at its yellowed lace and I knew that time had not only marched on for both of us, but one of us had to go.

What happened to women's undergarments while I was away? Elizabeth Taylor in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is my inspiration. Her low-cut, one-piece, form-fitting slip lined with white lace was the epitome of sexy. Do they even make that style slip anymore? That's the garment I'm looking for when I find myself back in the lingerie department.

The very word slip, something so slight under your clothing, speaks volumes about the nature of its relationship to a woman. Only you know it's there, and knowing it's there does wonders for the way you move, the way you stand in the light.

Walking up and down the lingerie aisles, even with my glasses on, I found myself asking: where have all the damn slips gone?

It's not as if I've lived under a rock for the last few years. I know about Spanx, and Spanx-like undergarments that make the other thing I was looking for -- control top pantyhose -- seem about as slimming as a housecoat. But who knew we had such unattractive arms, backs, thighs, behinds, mid-sections and hips that we need to suck it all in with "slips" that no longer literally slip on but that look more like bathing suits from the 1920s with the addition of Velcro crotches or, in one case, a teeny tiny hole I think you are supposed to pull apart for "convenience"?

For those who want to control only their lower half, there's also the half-slip option with a combined cinched stretchy butt bra to lift and separate. I wondered what would happen if, say, while you were dancing the "slip" accidentally moved from back to front and you developed a sort of kangaroo effect?

Regardless of half "slip" or whole, I found myself trying to pry the new style versions apart like a rubber band and imagining how I'd squish myself into each without actually breaking a rib or walking as if I had my thighs super-glued together. Dermatologists must be raking it in -- has anyone done a study to see if there is an uptick in body rashes? And who is working on the new super breathable and "hot-flash-free" line of Spanx for the post 50 crowd? What about the man (they have Spanx for them too) and woman who get naked together for the first time and it takes a half hour to remove all the Spanx and then, when they are standing there looking at each other, they realize they began their relationship under an illusion?

I did eventually find and buy a plain, loose-fitting whole slip -- not at all Elizabeth Taylor inspired, but closer than the slips of armor I'd just seen. There were two colors and one style to choose from. Back at home, I tried it on under my dress, then stood in front of a window and asked my husband how I looked.

"Great," he said. "But I can see the lines from your slip. And you have static cling. What if you just wear the dress?"

"Just the dress?" I asked.

"Yeah," he said. "Just the dress."

Just the dress. Hmmm.

If you see me at the wedding, and I have bulges -- blame it on my husband. And a weakness for chocolate.