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Should older women really dare to bare or is it time to put it away?

When actress Susan Sarandon appeared at a recent award ceremony in a white jacket and a plunging black bra her outfit ignited an age-old debate on what is suitable attire for mature women. Here, some well-known faces give us their revealing views on what’s acceptable.

By Kerry McKittrick

It's not unusual for an Oscar-winning actress like Susan Sarandon to hit the headlines. As well as one of Hollywood's biggest stars, she is also an outspoken activist for numerous causes and can often be seen flicking the V-sign for peace on the red carpet.

Recently, though, her wardrobe has done the talking. The 69-year-old appeared at the Screen Actors Guild Awards at the weekend wearing a white MaxMara suit with nothing more than a black bra underneath putting her substantial cleavage on display.

The outfit caused quite a ruckus on social media, with many commenting that a woman of her age should not have her chest on such open display. While she certainly isn't the first Hollywood star to flash her assets on the red carpet, because she is pushing 60-plus, the actress has quickly become one of the more infamous. Other female film stars of a certain vintage, including Helen Mirren, Catherine Zeta-Jones and the first 50-year-old Bond girl Monica Bellucci, regularly grace the red carpet looking sexy but understated, so did Sarandon make a fashion faux pas? Some commentators also claimed her oufit was inappropriate for the occasion as Ms Sarandon took to the stage to introduce the in memoriam segment of the evening?

So, when is enough, enough? Is there a point when mature women should stop showing off their assets, leaving the plunging necklines and skirts slashed to the thigh to the younger generation?

We talk to five celebs about flashing the flesh.

‘I do not have a problem with anyone showing themselves off’

Pamela Ballantine (57) is currently presenting chat show UTV Life each Friday at 10.40pm. She says:

Susan's outfit doesn't work - it does look a little like she's forgotten to put her top on. It's the wrong bra to wear for a start and she obviously didn't see what it looked like while she was sitting down because it looks even worse then. I think she could nearly have got away with not wearing anything underneath and just having been taped into the suit. In this case it just looks like ordinary underwear.

It's a lovely suit but she's just not wearing it properly. Even the trousers are too short and too wide and it almost looks as if someone has done a bad job at taking them up. If they touched the floor or tapered in at the ankle they would look much better.

I don't have problem with anyone showing themselves off. If you look at the photos of Susan there's not a wrinkle there - for a 69-year-old she is a stunning woman with a good set of boobs. Anyone can wear whatever they like as long as it's worn well. Helen Mirren (left) is as stunning woman who wears fabulous outfits but she isn't always covered up, so she doesn't hide herself away.

If you have good assets then why not."

‘If you can carry it off at her age then why not go for it’

Alison Clarke is the founder of the ACA Model Agency. She has two sons from her first marriage, Stuart (28) and Philip (24). Alison lives on the north coast with her husband, golfer Darren Clarke, and his two sons, Tyrone (17) and Conor (15), from his first marriage. She says:

I think Susan's outfit was fine for such a glamorous awards ceremony. She wasn't showing off too much cleavage at all and if you can carry it off at her age, or any age for that matter, then why not go for it.

They were pointing in the right direction so there's nothing wrong there.

Fair play to Susan. She's a 69 year-old woman and she still looks beautiful."

'All women should develop a style that suits their figure'

Lynda Bryans (52) is a TV presenter and lecturer. She lives in Belfast with her husband Mike Nesbitt, the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, and their two sons, PJ (20) and Christopher (18). She says:

To be honest, it looks a bit like she forgot to put her top on. I call my assets Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes because they should be up where they belong. The thing is, gravity is gravity, which is why some women have surgery to correct the effects of it - and Susan Sarandon clearly hasn't, which is great, good for her. But, perhaps she shouldn't wear something like that? I think it would be better, even if it was a bustier top, so you couldn't see the bottom of it.

Susan Sarandon is a fine-looking woman with a great shape but with time your decolletage changes shape.

She's stunning but I don't think she's showing her cleavage off at its best, so it looks like she's trying to hard.

A little black top would have made all the difference to that outfit.

I've seen full-length pictures of that suit and I don't think the trousers do anything for her either, but that jacket is clearly very well cut.

When I was presenting on TV, I wore jackets because they looked smart. I often wore a jacket with a bustier underneath or nothing at all, but they wouldn't have been revealing ones like that.

I think this is the point when you recognise the difference between style and fashion.

All women of any age should develop a style that suits their figure - if you have short legs then cut-off trousers might not be the way to go. The classiest looking styles are worn by women who don't follow fashion but wear what suits them.

We shouldn't be judging women at all really - would we be saying the same thing about a man wearing the same thing?"

'It's becoming de rigeur to flash as much as possible'

Kate Smith (50s) is a broadcaster. She lives in Belfast with her husband chef Michael Deane and their son Marco (15). She says:

Susan Sarandon is a very good looking woman and if she's comfortable wearing that then there aren't any rules against it. It's her choice. I don't think age comes into it.

What she is wearing is not offensive in anyway, so I can't see why people would object to it. People should be able to wear what they want when they want to.

You only need to walk around the streets of Belfast to see women of every age bursting out of outfits that are far too tight for them and Susan Sarandon would give any of the young girls a run for their money.

Girls in their teens, 20s and 30s think they look fabulous in skimpy outfits so why shouldn't Susan Sarandon do the same thing?

She's very good looking and obviously looks after herself, so why shouldn't she wear what she wants.

It's common place to show off these days anyway.

You see celebrities on the red carpet wearing dresses that are completely see-through and it's not a big deal in this day and age. It's becoming de rigeur to flash as much as possible."

'Nothing about Susan's suit speaks of the fashion of today'

Pat Jordan is the founder and owner of Jourdan, the luxury women's fashion boutique in Belfast. She says:

I think this outfit jars a bit. To be honest, I don't like anything about what Susan Sarandon is wearing at all. It would have been more flattering for her to have worn a sheer top with the bra underneath.

The suit is dreadful anyway - it has a horrible neckline and a tuxedo jacket would have been much more flattering and fashionable. I don't like the length of the trousers either and the colour is too stark for her, so it makes her look very pale.

The suit has really big shoulder pads and I actually wonder if it's something that Susan has resurrected from some time in the Eighties. Nothing about that suit speaks of the fashion of today.

We all have to do certain things as we get older.

When you come to a certain age you can still be stylish like Helen Mirren.

I recently saw a picture of George Clooney's wife Amal in a prong-shaped dress that was very revealing and I did think to myself that it doesn't matter how glamorous you are, there is a certain point where you should stop showing it all off. It's easy for women to show off without showing off too much.

The split shoulder is very much around this season. You can also create the illusion of showing off by wearing something sheer in chiffon or lace.

That offers the appropriate cover without exposing everything."

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