The Hip Shelf and the Older Woman, 1948

Found photo

“Great Lakes—David and Mother, 1948” is written in faint ink on the front of this photo.  It evokes a lot of questions.  Why was it taken from the back? Had David been in the Navy during the war, or did he sign up afterwards?  Was this a short leave, or was he coming home for good?

In fact, though, I asked none of these questions when I bought the photo.  Instead, I was fascinated by the mother’s rear view.  It looks a lot like mine.  Although I haven’t gained any weight in the last twenty years, my body is shaped very differently than it used to be.  My hip fat has migrated upwards, close to my waist, forming what I call a “hip shelf.”  I’m fascinated by this feature of many older women’s bodies.

I thought that I had invented this term, but of course I didn’t. Some on line sites discuss the wide high hip as the main characteristic of a common body shape.  Perhaps.  But I’ll bet that is much more common among older women than younger ones.  Perhaps I should seek out photos documented my rear view as it’s changed over time. That would be an education.

How has your body changed as you’ve aged?

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5 Responses to The Hip Shelf and the Older Woman, 1948

  1. eimear says:

    the body change was truly something I didnt think much on until my clothes started fitting me differently, I am now ‘thickening’ around my waist and had to let out an a-line skirt I made a few years ago, only to find the hem is now fractionally off (going slightly down at the sides by about 1/4 inch) – I was planning one or two new skirts for the winter, and am now a bit flumoxed with decisions, should I go empire line and what tops will now work with this shape. Ultimately this is relatively minor, but its the subleties of the changes and tailoring around them that does serve up a few dilemas

  2. Jo says:

    I hadn’t heard about “hip shelf” but I have been seeing a lot online recently about “hip dip,” which might be related to the body shape that has a wide upper hip. I never knew this had a name, but it’s been my body shape my whole life. So, even though I’ve always been thin-to-normal weight, I’ve avoided wearing anything tight that showed what I thought were weird-shaped hips. Turns out it has to do with your bone structure.

    But, obviously, that can’t be what’s going on with older women. For me, aging has mostly resulted in loss of muscle tone and saggy skin (and other parts).

  3. That’s pretty much been my rear aspect all of my adult life, no matter how much or little I weighed. (I have a hip dip as well–I think that is mostly owing to a fairly large quad muscle in relation to where it meets my hip joint). It is the main reason I rarely wear pants–my hip-waist ratio is so extreme, and my rise so long, and my rear so full, no one in rtw is making anything that fits me! (Although it must be said that I recently thrifted a pair of Gloria Vanderbilt pull-on jeans that fit reasonably well for what they are. The flat waist is the only reason it works on me).

    The main thing I’ve noticed as I’ve gotten older is that I’m more prone to show the small daily weight fluctuations around my middle, where I never really used to gain before, my rib cage is slightly bigger after the babies, and my skin texture is different, not quite the crepey texture of old age, but different from the young skin I used to have. I’m still middle aged though, so lots of changes still on the horizon!

  4. Judith Rickard says:

    Re: the photo – I think David had just graduated from basic training at the Navy’s Great Lakes Training Center. That would explain the “parade” leggings he is wearing…and the presence of his proud mama.

    Mama has classic age-related changes showing in her back, also: rounded mid-back and rounding of the high back just below the neck – what used to be rather horribly called dowager’s hump. And yes, I’ve seen the latter creeping up on me, along with the hip shelf. AND forward-tilted waistline (3.5 inches!). That has been a challenge, especially with pants fitting.

    A surprisingly good change with age was the disappearance of my outer thigh pads (“turkey thighs”). It seems gravity struck, and that tissue slumped to my inner knee area, looking like knock knees.

    No complaints, though. My body is relatively healthy for which I am thankful every day! All Bodies Are Beautiful.

  5. Nann says:

    I agree with Judith’s guess about the photo. (I live 15 miles up the shoreline from Great Lakes Naval Training Center.) Yes to hips and thighs and the menopot. My other questions: why do breasts get bigger as we age?

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