A guest post from Colour Consultant Sarah Heron
Around 8 in 10 women will experience symptoms of menopause (with an average of seven symptoms). Better known symptoms tend to include hot flushes and low energy levels, but less talked about are the psychological effects of menopause – such as a lack of confidence and self-esteem.
For some women, these effects can be devastating and influence everything from work performance to sex life and body image.
Sadly, a study published in 2016 in Women & Health found that of 75,256 postmenopausal women taking part, 83% were unhappy with their bodies. Many Rest Less members have also told us that finding outfits that allow them to feel stylish, comfortable, and confident during menopause is a real challenge.
If menopause has left you feeling anxious, confused, or frustrated over your wardrobe choices, then it’s first important to remember that you’re not alone. There are also plenty of ways for you to explore and rediscover your personal style during this new chapter of your life.
Below, we’ll take a closer look at how menopause can impact personal style and confidence, and offer 10 practical tips for styling your way through it.
The menopause taboo - is there light at the end of the tunnel?
Thanks to recent and ongoing campaigns by high profile celebrities such as Davina McCall, Lorraine Kelly, Oprah Winfrey, and Gwyneth Paltrow – menopause is now a topic high on the media agenda. It’s officially ‘out of the closet’ and is slowly becoming less of a taboo and more of a cappuccino conversation.
Whether you’re somebody who’d prefer the topic to remain discreet and undiscussed or are rejoicing in the new vogue of the topic, it’s difficult to avoid the meteoric rise of the very public discussion around menopause.
Many argue that this should have happened much sooner, considering it affects almost all women at some stage in their lives – which according to the latest ONS data, is 51% of the population!
Menopause is a huge topic to cover, but one particular aspect that needs to be talked about more is the impact it can have on a woman’s body confidence…
Exploring the link between menopause and body confidence
The link between menopause and body confidence may not be immediately obvious – largely because it’s often the result of a number of different symptoms coming together.
Anxiety, mood swings, low mood, brain fog, and issues with memory retention can all contribute to self-doubt about performance – both in the personal and professional sense. Even women who were previously confident and independent can sometimes find themselves feeling more fearful or experiencing a loss of control.
Add physical changes to the mix – such as weight gain, skin changes, and hair loss – and it soon becomes easier to see how menopause can affect confidence levels.
Plus, since many women gain confidence from having sex and feeling desired, falling estrogen levels and a loss of interest in sex caused by menopause can also affect how sexy or feminine you feel.
As a result, it’s not unusual for women going through menopause to feel stuck, confused, or overwhelmed by what to wear. And when mood and confidence are low, understandably, the easier option is to dress in ways that hide your figure, rather than flatter it.
Our sense of style can have a significant impact on how comfortable we feel interacting with others and putting ourselves out there in the world. And many believe that what you wear is an extension of your inner self; a way to demonstrate who you are and to express your personality. So, it makes sense that if we’re hiding our bodies, we may begin to hide other parts of ourselves too and shy away from new opportunities.
All of this can lead to self-criticism about how we look, feel, dress, and cope with life, which can further affect confidence over time.
For some people, menopause may also occur simultaneously with significant lifestyle changes such as retirement, starting a new job, becoming a widow, dating again, or getting used to an empty nest. These can affect your sense of identity and assurance too, not just about who you are, but about what your personal clothing style is.
How menopause offers a new opportunity to explore your style
While menopause can be difficult, the good news is that it’s also a wonderful opportunity to explore your personal style and learn what colours and styles flatter you – all of which can ignite self-confidence, boost mood, elevate your look, and facilitate self-expression.
And even better, this doesn’t need to be expensive either as there are plenty of quick, affordable, and effective ways to style your way through menopause.
10 ways to style your way through menopause and increase body confidence
1. Choose natural fabrics
Falling levels of the hormone oestrogen can impact the performance of the hypothalamus in the brain which controls body temperature; leading to hot flushes and night sweats.
If you experience these symptoms, then clothing in breathable, natural fabrics such as bamboo, cotton, and linen tend to be more comfortable options (especially in the summer) – rather than synthetic fabrics that can trap heat and odours.
Bamboo in particular has amazing hypoallergenic, anti-bacterial, and moisture-wicking properties which can help you to stay cool.
2. Discover which colours complement your hair and skin tone
Levels of pigmentation in our skin and hair decrease as we age, so the colours we once wore may not continue to flatter our hair and skin tone in the same way. Increasingly, many midlife women are embracing the trend of ‘wisdom highlights’, also known as grey hair.
If you’re not sure what clothing shades best suit you, a colour analysis can help to identify those that naturally and physiologically complement your natural tones, enhance the healthy glow of your skin, make your eye colour pop, and even make you look years younger.
Conducted by a trained colour consultant, a colour analysis involves analysing the colourings of your hair, skin tone and texture, eye colour, and whiteness of your eyes and teeth.
Following analysis, the consultant will assign a palette of colours that you’re naturally and physiologically predisposed to wear, and the impact of wearing these colours can be transformational.
A colour analysis can be conducted online or in person. To find out more about how to find confidence through colour and style and book a consultation, you might want to visit my website; True Colours with Sarah Heron.
3. Explore alternatives to black
Some women find that wearing black can become more difficult with age because it can have a draining effect – highlighting wrinkles and blemishes and adding shadows and bags under the eyes. As a result, it can be helpful to consider alternatives to black where possible.
Chocolate brown, navy, and dark greys are all good ‘neutral’ colours that can be used to build any outfit. Again, a colour analysis can advise your ‘best’ neutrals and complementary accent colours.
Or, if you’d like to steer away from neutrals and add more colour to your wardrobe, you might want to check out these 10 ways to dress with colour and confidence.
4. Revisit your make-up choices
If it’s been a while since you’ve changed up your make-up palette, then revisiting your colour choices and exploring which colours suit your skin tone can be a great way to rejuvenate your style.
Our lips tend to become thinner with age, so it can help to avoid dark and matte lip colours as this can make them look less plump.
Colourful lipsticks on the other hand, instantly lift and brighten complexions. A moisturising, mid-strength pink shade will typically flatter those with a cool undertone, while a mid-strength coral shade is often best for skin with warm undertones. Nude shades in soft, muted tones, one or two tones darker than your natural lip colour also works well as a general guideline.
For an extra glow, it’s worth opting for lip products with a velvet, cream, or soft matte finish with hydrating properties, rather than a matte finish, which can be drying. A glamorous, gloss finish can also be fun and complimentary, but it’s worth using a moisturising base (such as a lip balm) first.
Eyebrows and eyelashes
Like lips, eyebrows also tend to become thinner with age and may need more definition. However, many women prefer to use brown mascara rather than black, to achieve a slightly softer look around the eyes.
Investing in a lash curler can also be game-changing because it can help lashes look longer, thicker, and fuller.
It’s worth checking out eye curlers from high-quality brands such as Tweezerman and Shiseido as these tend to be made of sturdy metal and have rubber pads on the clamps to give a better grip on eyelashes.
Finally, our skin becomes drier and less elastic as we age, so it can be helpful to consider whether you’re using moisturisers and foundations that support and enhance it.
5. Support your body’s silhouette
While it can be tempting to wear loose-fitting clothes or size up, in many cases this can actually make the silhouette of your frame appear wider, which may make you feel bigger and more self-conscious.
This is especially true when two voluminous items of clothing are worn together, as the look can become boxy and shapeless. Therefore, pairing voluminous pieces with more fitted ones can help to give you a more flattering shape.
For example, a floaty chiffon blouse could be combined with a pair of high-waisted, stretchy, figure-hugging jeans. These days, it’s also possible to find stylish jeans with tummy control or ‘lift and shape’ features, for an added boost of confidence.
Many women find clothing that skims, doesn’t cling, and drapes well without being stiff or floppy is generally the best option.
Shift dresses are a popular example of this, as they’re cool, flattering, and can easily be layered with a cardigan or jacket, but won’t cling in places that might make you feel self-conscious.
6. Build firm foundations with a good fitting bra and shapewear
A natural drop in oestrogen can make breast tissue less elastic, and it’s completely normal for breasts to lose their shape with age. But if you’ve been wearing the same bra size for years, it might be worth getting your breasts re-measured.
According to 2019 research carried out by underwear brand Nudea, 90% of women are wearing the wrong size bra.
When it comes to getting a bra fitting, you can either measure yourself or go and have a professional bra fitting in-store. There are plenty of helpful YouTube videos that can help you to take your own measurements at home, such as this one from Nicole Crook Online.
If you’d like some specific bra recommendations for your breast size and body shape, Marks & Spencers has a handy brafinder tool. You can also book a professional bra fitting through their website or arrange an online consultation.
It’s also worth considering whether an investment in good shapewear would help you feel more confident and comfortable in your clothes. Much has changed in the world of shapewear thanks to Spanx and other new brands entering the shapewear market, and shapewear is more mainstream and prettier than it once was.
Many high street stores now stock reliable shapewear and offer complimentary bra measuring and fitting services. In addition to Marks & Spencer – John Lewis, House of Fraser, Selfridges, The Magic Knicker Shop, Rigby & Peller are a few more examples that are worth checking out.
7. Choose stylish and comfortable footwear
Comfort becomes key for many after menopause – but, if possible, it’s worth seeking out shoes that make you feel good about your outfit too.
Flats and wedges are easier to wear than heels for many women and many retail brands now sell pretty loafers, stylish trainers, and dainty ballet pumps that combine both fashion and comfort. Moda in Pella, Carvela, Heavenly Feet, and Liv for Shoes all have good options.
A pair of shoes that you love can add a whole new dimension to an outfit – for example, by adding a pop of colour or helping to dress it up or down.
8. Check your hemline is a flattering length
In order to elongate your frame, it’s worth opting for hemlines that end at the slimmest part of your legs. If you’re not quite sure how to choose trousers and skirts that achieve this, then there’s a handy calculation that can help.
Start by measuring your height from your shoulder to your heel and divide this measurement by 1.618 – the Golden Number. To achieve the most flattering look for your body type, your hemline should be this measurement from your shoulders down.
This measurement is based on the Rule of Thirds and will help you put together the most flattering outfits, with appropriate proportions. It’s generally accepted that a ⅓ to ⅔ ratio is the most aesthetically pleasing division of spaces.
9. Wear layers for temperature regulation
Dressing in layers can help you adapt to changing temperatures while maintaining your style. For example, you could try a moisture-wicking camisole under a blouse, with a jacket or cardigan on top – so that if you get too hot or cold, your stylish outfit remains.
Scarves can also be handy for an extra layer of warmth and to add flair to your outfit.
10. Know your body shape
Creating a balanced silhouette is often the secret to looking and feeling good. This involves learning how to dress and flatter your unique body shape.
If you tend to carry weight around your midsection and want to de-emphasise it, wearing clothes that have eye-catching details above the bustline or around the hemline can be a useful tool.
Other options to consider include tops that skim and don’t cling – possibly with ruching, draping, and/or a hemline at hip level – as well as asymmetric or waterfall tops and jackets, that create vertical lines and are visually slimming.
Lastly, avoiding pleats and choosing skirts and trousers with side zips can help to create a smoother, bulk-free line around your midsection.
Alternatively, if you carry weight around the hip and thigh area, there are a few things that can help visually balance the upper and lower body.
For example, emphasising the top half of your body with contrasting colours, prints, horizontal stripes, wider lapels in jackets, and breast pockets will detract from the lower torso.
In addition, A-line skirts, trousers in darker colours, flare or bootcut jeans, and tops and jackets with a hemline above or below the widest point of the hips tend to be most flattering. Embellishments or accessories such as scarves and necklaces can also be used to help draw the eye upwards.
One of the most wonderful things about menopause is the opportunity it gives us to put ourselves first, evaluate who we are, reconnect with who we’d like to be, and embrace life to the fullest. And what better way to do this than through style – exploring what flatters us most and using it to communicate who we are to others?
Award-winning actress and star of Sex and the City, Kim Cattrall encapsulates this belief beautifully when she says, “I see menopause as the start of the next fabulous phase of life as a woman. Now is a time to ‘tune in’ to our bodies and embrace this new chapter.”