Getting your Style Back…
I don’t know about you but I had this episode during menopause when I just didn’t know what to wear anymore; my body shape changed, nothing felt right when I put it on and I felt blaaa. I was at odds with my wardrobe. There were clothes that were now too tight, clothes that I thought were perhaps too young, clothes that I liked but hardly ever wore for one reason or another, and down one end I had thrown in disgust all the work skirts and pants that no longer did up.
Because I was avoiding the mirror, my wardrobe and going out, I simply went into auto pilot in the mornings to get ready for work, then spent entire weekends in my leggings and a sweatshirt, hair pulled back and no makeup. I was in the middle of dark moods, stomach bloating and hot flushes! I still wanted to look nice and dress well but I had lost all enthusiasm and I was frustrated with my body.
I found these words the other day in my iPad ‘diary’ where I would sometimes type out my frustrations and feelings…. I had to actually put on a dress and go out this particular day and this is what I had written that night –
The dress was fitting snuggly around the middle. I was still less than comfortable with the new menopause middle of me but at least today wasn’t a high bloatage day, it was just a regular additional padding day, a thickening. A new me I was yet to reconcile with, which made me always feel like I was in the midst of an unfinished argument.’
That’s how it was. I would tell myself to try to accept that this was just how it was going to be now. That I couldn’t find the energy to exercise more and I couldn’t face eating less so I would need to come to terms with my new shape. Then I started to wonder if I should buy different clothes, begin the transition… and so for the next year I gravitated towards loose fitting clothes, bought blouses rather than fitted tops etc. It really was only half a size that had gone on but half a size is so annoying because you are neither one thing nor the other. While fitted didn’t look like it used to, loose didn’t look right either! Also my weight was really up and down from one day or one week to the next. The half size could become a whole size in the bum and hip area (is that even possible!) and then shrink down again without rhyme or reason. Picking something out of the wardrobe to wear was like playing Russian roulette!
The upshot of all of this has been that now I have the weight back under some control (through changing my diet to avoid the stomach bloating triggers and incorporating a program called Metabolic Aftershock into my life), I have a very mixed wardrobe. I went through recently and tried to organise it, by ruthlessness. To which the local second hand/charity shop benefited greatly! I also bought some bags that go under the bed and filled these with ‘clothes for later’…. clothes that I felt were going to be more appropriate a few years from now (the older styles I had thought I should be buying having put the weight on) and also clothes that I was a bit tired of wearing but were too good to give away, and I thought I could pull them out in a few years and have something semi-new! But there’s still work to do in the wardrobe before it is truly organised; things have just got easier because more clothes are fitting now. I’m not quite so terrified to open the doors!
I’ve also spent some time recently looking at magazines and at online stores and thinking about what I want my style to be. I’m not sure I ever really had a ‘style’ as such. I’ve always liked to look appropriate and ‘nice’, and I’ve always made an effort to dress well for work (it used to be that I would wear suits and shirts most of the time – that has relaxed a bit now but I still like to have work outfits as such, in a distinct area of my wardrobe. I’m sure this isn’t the most economical but it makes it easier to decide what to wear for work and it kind of helps with getting into the mind set of work, like playing a part/wearing a costume). Outside of work I wear mostly jeans and can be a bit casual due to popping into the shops on my way to or from a dog walk! But I also have good dresses, leather jackets and some nice knitwear. I like an excuse to get dressed up (although there have not been many of those for way too long). I like to feel feminine and sexy, again something I need to practise more often. Life’s been a little quiet.
Anyhow…. re-thinking your style…. it’s not just a good time to do it but it’s also kind of necessary, between a changing body shape and age appropriateness. And add to that a need to kick start some fun, build some confidence and feel sexy again, if you have been hiding away like me! Your re-styling might just be a few tweaks here and there, or it could be time for a radical makeover. You’ll know which it needs to be.
Here’s some ideas for the kick start:
- Look at books, magazines and online articles for ideas. Cut out/print pictures of women looking the way you would like to look and outfits that convey the style you would like to have. Why not make a mood board so you can look at it whenever you get a chance, take things off and add to it over a period of weeks to fine tune it into YOUR STYLE. Don’t forget shoes, handbags and jewellery.
- Have a go at organising your wardrobe – read Sally MacKinnon’s helpful tips in my post Advice from a personal stylist. I like her idea of hanging clothes in ‘like groups’.
I picked a long weekend when the weather wasn’t so great for tackling my wardrobe…. you will probably need to pull it all out, think major mess before you can start to make it better. And you need to be in the mood for trying on. I used the bed in the spare room for making piles on – mending/alterations, dry cleaning, charity shop, for my niece, not sure/need to find what it will go with, yes/winner!
- Think about the clothing essentials for mid-life; what do you have and what do you need to purchase? Think about how to mix and match your staples with other pieces to get maximum outfits. Consider having a session with a personal stylist if you are lacking direction or feeling over whelmed, or don’t want to spend money without being sure it’s on the right items.
- This is a good one if you’ve got or have had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, as it helps with the memory issues! Write up outfit combinations in a document on your iPad or iPhone. Use categories like ‘casual’, ‘smart casual’, ‘dressy’ and ‘formal’ and detail the entire outfit including shoes, handbag and jewellery. I’ve done this since I was sick whenever family come to stay or when going back home to stay with them, because I knew I wouldn’t have the capacity to think about what to wear, due to my energy being used up by activities over and above what I would normally be doing. It works really well. I now want to do this for my new style, so that whenever I step up to the wardrobe and go blank I can easily refer to my notes.
- If you are thinking about a full makeover, consider whether you have the time and fearlessness (and funding) to do everything at once, or whether you’ll need to approach it piecemeal. Again a mood board and a session with a personal stylist would be fantastic preparation exercises to do. Check out my post 2 Great Makeup & Makeover Books. You’ll need to know what you are doing with your hair before deciding on any new clothes to buy…. remember, as we age it is better to go lighter rather than darker with hair colour, as it softens the face and any regrowth is less visible. Also the length of your hair often influences the style of necklines that suit you best.
- Think about your shape, size, height, colouring, best features – if you are going for a full makeover I would recommend purchasing the book Staging Your Comeback by Christopher Hopkins (also known as ‘the makeover guy’). He talks about the 6 basic image profiles; classic, casual, romantic, dramatic, innovative and alluring (and you are allowed to have 2 profiles that you are equally or unequally matched to). This really does help with determining who you are and how you like to dress, which makes any of the decisions with regards to changing it up a gear so much easier. Christopher’s book is fantastic, inspirational, and also comprehensive because he specialises in not just styling hair (which he is incredible at) but the full makeover – from determining your body type and profile, to new ways with makeup and colour, to planning your ‘coming out’ post re-invention. You can tell he thoroughly and genuinely enjoys making over women of our age – check out some of his makeover videos online. The befores and afters are incredible to see (and quite frankly I could look at Christopher for hours on end lol…. yep I know, not going to happen!)
Take some risks, push outside the little style box you’ve been living in if need be. If you’ve decided to take action with regards to some extra pounds you want to lose, then do this first. Feeling leaner is a great catalyst to getting enthusiastic about a style makeover and you will be ready for some new clothes. Take your time and enjoy the process. Work towards a particular event or holiday if that will motivate you. It’s your makeover and never forget that you are the best at being you.