It is a sad but inescapable fact that many of us when we become “a certain age” will gain weight around the start of menopause. Some of us start the change in body shape in peri-menopause; they are in their early to mid-forties when it happens. 

This change in shape is caused by shifting hormones. Oestrogen and Progesterone begin a slow slide down to about 20% of their earlier levels (for Oestrogen) and 1% (for Progesterone). There is an increase in Testosterone levels and a corresponding drop in the metabolic rate. A very simplistic explanation but it is this series of events which inevitably lead to a weight gain around the midriff.

And it is this change in body shape that causes so much heartache and consternation. The old catch-cry “I’ve got nothing to wear” becomes a reality.

Related article: Five Anti-Aging Tips for Women of a Certain Age

One of the major problems of course is that designers and manufacturers seldom seem to consider anyone over 40. As an example, they either don’t understand, or don’t care, that there are many women who really don’t want to display the tops of their arms in something sleeveless.  Women would just like to be able to buy something that isn’t a 3/4 sleeve, a long sleeve or a cap sleeve! A sleeve to the elbow is just fine ... 

And another major problem is women themselves. Those women who insist on keeping up with ‘fashion’, those who abandon all hope, those who deliberately dress like Granny because they are at the age at which this is expected, and even those who have never known what suited them and now know even less ...

But this is the time in every woman’s life when she can finally (if she hasn’t already done so), create her own style. 

There are a few tips that we all find useful when dealing with a new shape and when creating our own style:

  • You need to establish your body shape and you need to be brutally honest! You’re dressing for the body you have now; not the one you had possibly even 12 months age.
  • Find clothes that fit you and are the most flattering for your shape. Please do not wear tents or big baggy tops with leggings! This is a look that is very un-stylish and will make you look big or bigger ...
  • Where possible, especially if you’re prone to flushes (or flashes), stick with natural materials such as cotton or good quality silk. Many of the silk products available now are cheap and nasty and will make you sweat ... if you can, spend the extra and get something that will last and will always look good.
  • If you are prone to flushes, layers are good. For example, you can start with a camisole, add a short sleeved blouse, perhaps a cardigan and a light jacket. When the heat begins to rise, you can remove layers until you feel cooler, without risking the disapproval of others (not that you care what others think!).
  • Now is the time to be daring, different and even eccentric. You’re at an age at which it’s expected that you will become different, so go for it; create your own individual style and dress as you have always wanted to ... with chic and elegance and style. But don't be silly! Weird doesn’t work ...
  • For all women, fitting is fabulous and tight is tacky! If you're a little overweight, tight clothes show more bulges and will make you look fatter and older! Actually, this applies to all ages.
  • When you're wearing dressy pants, make sure they are long enough to be worn with high heels (unless heels really cripple you), that cannot be seen until you sit down. In other words, make sure your pants are long enough ... super chic. This rule really applies to every pair of pants you wear. Even jeans, which can look dreadful if they are too short.
  • And you know, cut off pants as a fashion statement don't really suit we ladies “of a certain age” because, as we age (and this applies to men too!), our skin frequently starts to resemble a 60s crepe frock. Yes we can moisturise, but in truth there isn’t enough moisturiser on the face of the planet to truly change that look! 

Please, keep cut-offs, pedal-pushers, whatever, for at home, at a barbecue or at the beach. If the weather is hot, wear really light cotton full length pants or jeans, or go mad and wear a skirt. As a style statement, they absolutely do not work.

Read next: Five Anti-Aging Tips for Women of a Certain Age

Among other pursuits, Penelope Whiteley is author of the book "Hot Stuff: the Ultimate Guide to Style for Women of a Certain Age," has her own fashion line and speaks on various topics to audiences around the world. You can find out more about her at or