I’ll admit, I’m one of those perpetually thin people that got blindsided in my mid 50s by weight gain. I’d been thin (even painfully thin at times) my whole life. And then one day I woke up and there was this midsection that appeared, causing me to upgrade my undies to “highrise” and my feelings about myself to “lowrise”. I’d had two children in my late 30s/early 40s and so I knew there was this inevitable shift, but this was new. How do you embrace sewing for a post-menopause with style body? And how do you adjust to your changing body with love and forgiveness? Sewing helps both!
The pandemic cemented my feelings about elastic waist pants. Why on earth should a button and zipper define how I feel each day about myself? And because I can sew, going up a size isn’t an emotional battle. Neither is going down a size either.
If you’re having a bad relationship to your pants, I strongly recommend reading and downloading this great article from Sew Liberated about changing your relationship with your pants. The strategy involves some closet management, some sewing and some ideas about changing bodies that is really helpful!
Enter sewing for post menopause with style. I gravitate toward classics with an edge – I’m as likely to be in a “JCrew-esque” pair of pants and a striped tee shirt as I am in a moto jacket or asymmetrical tunic. I’m not the Doc Martens and tattoo with purple hair edgy but more the Sewing Workshop edgy (go ahead, google it, they make great, arty patterns!)
Embrace elastic waists!
I’m first going to say you should embrace your body as it is right now. And with that, you should embrace the joy of elastic waist pants and skirts. Is this fashionable? I saw a ton of trendy young women in Europe in them, so, yes!
Elastic waists are forgiving and flattering with drawstrings and multi-channel casing/ topstitching. Half-elastic waists (Pietra, Emerson, Rose pants) are also flattering on pants, shorts and skirts. I also love the Jalie Simone pants and shorts (and have made them for my daughter, as well.)
Embrace comfortable tops
There are a zillion amazing tops patterns that are flattering and fun to sew and wear. Find a few styles and silhouettes you like, that aren’t clingy (unless you like clingy), that flatter YOU in colors you love. For most of us, that is a looser top (but not necessarily untucked, you can still do a half tuck or even a full one with enough roominess in a top). A cropped top might overlap your waistband of your pant or skirt by an inch or so, giving you coverage but a nod to trends. I’ve even drafted a blouson tube top (all the Euro girls wearing tube tops, though usually tight and small) that’s flattering on a middle aged body, and YES your shoulders are totally awesome. Wear a seamless strapless bra (tube style with molded cups) You can get that free pattern right here.
If you have a style (like I do), find inspiration in ready to wear styles from the brands you like, but honestly, they’re not the only choices. If you look at other designers or brands outside of your comfort zone, you might find some really cool stuff. Arty styles (like Vogue Patterns, especially their designer lines) are timeless and flattering in part because they don’t follow the trends. Sewing Workshop, Marcy Tilton, and many other designers are offering fun garments that don’t scream “I sewed this in 2023!” and yet, are interesting and flattering to a post-menopausal body. Athleisure is another great way to wear more edgy sporty outfits without schlumping around in plain gray sweatpants or black leggings. Check out patterns from MimiG, Greenstyle, BurdaStyle, Sew News and Vogue for interesting athleisure patterns that are a step up in style but still comfortable/roomy. This arty style from Simplicity bares just ONE shoulder (and trust me your shoulders look awesome!)
Find designers with a line of patterns that you can sew over and over. Ann-Normandy Designs patterns, designed for linen fabrics is one such line. These garments are flattering on, they are designed for linen (my favorite!) but open to other woven fabrics, and they are timeless. If you like a designer’s line, all the rest of their patterns will fit similarly and you’ll make the same adjustments to the patterns, which is a huge bonus when fitting a midlife midsection!
Sew two or three garments at a time – a top and pants, or top and skirt, or a few pairs of bottoms and then a few tops. This way you have things to wear right now, while your body is changing – and there’s something life-giving when you put on a size that fits you (versus suffering in something that doesn’t.)
Go sleeveless. A decade ago, a friend and former sewing pattern designer said to me that she was all about the sleeveless – menopause sucks – and I didn’t understand that until I was here. I make almost everything sleeveless or cropped sleeve, because I’m hot. When I travel especially, between the stress, the heavy backpacks – I prefer to be sleeveless and cool (er.) I don’t stress out over my arms – I use light weights frequently, my sports use my arms and I’m not going to swelter in sleeves for the sake of some made-up idea about hiding middle aged woman arms.
Go natural – linen, cotton/lycra, bamboo/lycra, Tencel and even wool all offer breathable options for year round wear. It’ll help with those hot flashes. I don’t subscribe to the “wicking” of many athletic type brands – I’ve been sweltering in lightweight joggers on airplanes and got up feeling soggy even though they said they were breathable. They’re not THAT breathable! Certainly not against that (polyurethane) airline seat or the plastic chair you were sitting in.
Five year-round patterns for midlife menopause style:
Ann Normandy Short Sleeved dress: this dress floats away from the body, has a flattering V-neck and short sleeves. Cropped above the knee, it is youthful but not too youthful. You can sew this over and over again.
Sleeveless tunic top – also Ann Normandy patterns. Did I mention sleeves can be a problem in menopause? You know this (weknowdis, if you’re a SNL fan!) This one has a unique underarm shape that I love, that great V neck (so flattering) and an A-line tunic length that you can leave out or half tuck into your….
Rose Pants by Made by Rae / shorts /crops – flat in the front, elastic in the back, pleats for that trendy full trouser look right now.
HotPatterns Fast & Fabulous 365 drawstring skirts – elastic waist, with two different hem finishes, this knit skirt pattern is my go-to for fun skirts. I wear these with tank tops, a cropped Moto jacket or jean jacket over and look chic while being cool and comfortable.
Add a duster or casual blazer to the mix. I like the Friday Pattern Co. Cambria Duster and I love the Boyfriend Jacket by Christine Jonson (although that might not be available any more). Arty side, try the Tremont from Sewing Workshop. Jackets definitely skim over a midsize midsection and these aren’t too oversized or too warm if you’re vacillating between chilly and hot flash. All are unlined for that very reason!
Styling a post menopausal body doesn’t mean giving up on getting fit either – you can embrace stylish clothing while you’re working on fitness, and those athleisure patterns will help you outfit yourself for those activities yet still transition to whatever else you’re doing during the day afterward. I do snack-size workouts – yoga for 30 minutes, 10 minutes of weights, a lot of walking – so my day is fitness-full without having to carve out an hour to work out.
There are benefits to midlife, post menopause. Namely the final departure of your Aunt Flo (who will never come to visit you again!), and the fact that in midlife, we generally understand the meaning of life and are less prone to taking on others’ opinions – whether that be society or family.
And remember: age is a gift not bestowed upon everyone!
My favorite older sewing influencers: SewOrnery, BlakandBlanca
My favorite non-sewing older influencers: Goodbye, Crop top, Icon Accidental
Free patterns available here: