How to look and feel fabulous, whatever your waist size

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So you’ve breezed through the hot flashes, taken control of the emotional rollercoaster… but you’re feeling down because your dress size has gone up? Stop right there. With some clever styling and properly fitted foundations, you’ll look – and feel – fantastic, even if your shape has changed a little. Stylist and dressmaker Gilly Woo reveals all…

As we age our metabolism slows and we need less calories to function. Often people gain a little weight during menopause and the middle age spread sets in. Almost all my long term clients, who I have been dressing for a decade of more, have put on a little weight over the years. It’s normal, it’s natural and if your jeans are starting to feel a little snug lately believe me you’re not alone!

I’ve helped lots of women get their confidence back after gaining weight during menopause and with a few simple styling tips there is no reason that you can’t look and feel fabulous regardless of your waist size.

Let’s start with the foundations

Get a good bra

Did you know that up to 80% of women wear the wrong size bra? I once style a women in her 60’s who had been wearing too small a cup size and too big a band size for years. It took us a few attempts to get her perfect size as it’s not an exact science, but when we did it absolutely transformed her silhouette.

  • I recommend having a professional bra fitting once a year because your size is unlikely to stay the same throughout your life.
  • Don’t keep old bras too long either, the fabric will lose its elasticity over time and will no longer perform as it should.
  • Did you know that six to nine months is the average lifespan of a regularly worn bra – so don’t keep an overflowing drawer of oldies!

Shapewear vs. comfy well-fitted pants

Shapewear is in every store now and there are solutions for almost every type of outfit promising to smooth out every type of lump or bulge. Shapewear can be useful for feeling svelte on special occasions but let’s be honest, no one wants to wear Spanx every day! So I say leave the tummy control briefs in the drawer until you’re going somewhere fancy and invest in a really good bra and some comfortable briefs that genuinely fit you.

If you normally wear a thong or a tanga and you’re noticing a vpl lately, opt for a bikini of full brief instead. If you need to go up a size then definitely do! Don’t be disheartened by labels, they are irrelevant and meaningless. Buy briefs that fit and you will be happier and healthier as well as looking slimmer.

Layer up

Everyday essentials

A deep drapey cowl neck or wrap tops over a fitted tank top are oh-so-flattering and easy to wear. Any draped fabric in the tummy area is usually a good look if you’ve gained a little weight. Also try styles of tops that hug your high hip and are looser around the waist and tummy. I love the serenity top from Bam clothing as a perfect example of this.

Chic kimonos cardigans

Kimono cardigans are fabulous wardrobe staples, you can wear a more fitted top underneath and let the kimono drape around your curves in a comforting way. Such a great option for adding color and print to your outfit too! They come in a variety of lengths so the options are endless and they look fantastic as day wear or for a night on the town.

If you like dresses, cross over and wrap styles are the ones to choose, and again, layer with a lightweight tank or camisole if they are low cut.

Love Spandex

A bit of give is good

Always choose jeans that are 2% spandex. This is enough to be comfortable whilst still offering enough support to make your legs and bum look smooth and contoured. A 2% stretch is a great ratio in anything tailored and as I said before ignore the size label and buy what fits you. If you wear a size smaller and you’ll look a size bigger.

Make friends with your local dressmaker

Got an all time fave outfit which is in good nick but feeling a little snug lately? Take it to your local dressmaker to see if it can be let out on the seams or have a panel added.

This is often possible to do and means you can still wear your best dress without having to forgo the cake for a few weeks. If your favorite outfit can’t be made bigger there could be an option to take a pattern from it and make a slightly roomier copy, you could even commission another one in different color.

Work it

Tailored vs. baggy

Putting on weight can affect your confidence and make you want to hide your figure with baggy shapeless clothing but a little gentle tailoring to flatter your curves is a great option for looking smart and professional at work. If you feel restricted in a suit then try a blazer made from fabric with a little Spandex in it. I have a brilliant one made from a thick jersey fabric which I wear all the time.

Flatter your best features

A straight cut dark blazer without buttons is a great choice with a camisole or loose top in a lighter shade underneath because the eye is drawn to the narrow strip of light color giving the illusion of a slimmer silhouette. If you have good legs, show them off with slim fit pants or a pencil skirt paired with a swingy tunic top or kimono cardigan.

Party on

Don’t let a few extra pounds spoil your fun. Chiffon shirts in sexy prints or block colors paired with statement jewelry are a great Friday night staple. Semi opaque drapey fabric like chiffon, is great for striking that balance of sexy but comfortable. Pair with skinny jeans and your favorite dancing shoes and you’ll be stepping out in style.

Corsets are your secret weapon!

If you have a gala dinner or ball to go to and you fancy splashing out get a corseted ball gown made. A bespoke corset will take up top 4” off your waistline and smooth out your contours making you feel sculpted and sexy and definitely red carpet ready regardless of what the scales say!

About Gilly Woo

Gilly Woo – known to her family as Gill Cockwell – began her sewing career at the tender age of six and was sketching designs and fashioning garments by the time she was ten. Since 2000, she has built a brand synonymous with quality, individuality and style – though most of all, she helps women find and express their most confident, fabulous selves. From dresses cut to dazzle for brides who use wheelchairs to red carpet looks featured in magazines and worn to The National TV Awards Gill’s portfolio is as diverse as the people she’s worked with. She’s an experienced stylist on magazine photo shoots and catwalk shows, has taught hundreds of people to sew, and has even stepped back in time on  BBC TV…

Read Gill’s full biography here

You might also be interested in…

Exercise for menopause weight gain with Jane Dowling

Menopause skincare tips by Caroline Barnes

Gilly Woo

Gilly Woo


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