Ask Lisa: ‘Since the menopause I have put on weight around my tummy – can you help me create a new style?’

ask lisa
ask lisa

Lisa Armstrong is The Telegraph’s head of fashion. She began her career in fashion at Vogue. She has written four novels, has an honorary doctorate from the University of Arts in London, and was awarded an OBE in 2022 for services to fashion.

Each week, she responds to your queries, lending her expertise to help you shop smart. Have a question for her? Submit it below.

Dear Lisa,

Seven years ago, I left my high-powered director job in London to run a boutique hotel in Majorca. Where I used to have my uniform of Reiss suits, Karen Millen dresses and heels, I now feel very stuck since moving to Majorca (I’m sitting here in an old cardi and my daughter’s cast-off trainers).

The hotel atmosphere calls for something more relaxed. As I’m cooking breakfast and running to the laundry, I need something that doesn’t restrict me. Plus, there’s the summer heat.

Since the menopause I have put on weight around my tummy, and now my, top-and-bottom combos just cut me in half. I love monochrome but probably need a bit of colour as my hair is now completely grey, though a nice platinum colour.

As for shoes, flats are a must. I’m now 56 and just 5ft 1. I used to wear All Saints at the weekend and love high fashion, but combined with all of the above I just don’t have the income anymore to splash out on expensive items. I have also lost the patience to trawl through online shops. I want to look fashionable, confident, relaxed and ideally could do with a capsule wardrobe. Can you help me create a new style?

– Joanna 

Dear Joanna,

Formulating a capsule wardrobe can be really fun as well as a great opportunity to start from scratch. If you have time, I highly recommend selling as much of the wardrobe that no longer serves you on Vinted or eBay. Getting rid of anything you don’t wear will both clear your mind and help you understand what you do want, as well as generating some useful cash for new buys.

You say top and bottom combos cut you in the middle so we’ll leave those for the moment and focus on dresses. Slightly raised waists could be the most flattering option for you – lengthening your legs and skimming your tummy. Here are some good examples. Look for lightweight cottons, seersuckers and linen or (if the creases bug you) linen mixes.

midlife fashion
midlife fashion

Red embroidered dress, £90, Monsoon; Jacquard dress, £170, Aspiga

The issue with dresses is that it’s harder to ring the changes - you may need four or five to get you through summer. M&S has some pretty good ones this season. Aspiga has some pretty (albeit more expensive) options too. As you’re petite, avoid fussy prints and go for plains or stripes – anything that isn’t twee.

A cropped lightweight chore jacket (plain and neutral to go with everything) would help give a different look. And you can also add gold or silver  jewellery for glamour, as well as t-shirts, tanks, and cotton cardis. The £8 organic cotton tanks from John Lewis in half a dozen shades are hard to beat.

midlife fashion
midlife fashion

Long linen jacket, £227, Poetry; Organic cotton tank top, £6.40, John Lewis; Mix metal bracelet, £70, Jigsaw

You say you probably shouldn’t do monochrome, but one of the chicest summer holiday wardrobes I’ve ever seen was that of Tilda Swinton in A Bigger Splash (thank you Dior). But monochrome doesn’t have to be black and white. What about Mediterranean blue and white? Or a tangy green? Or shades of orange and terracotta?

A Bigger Splash tilda swinton
Tilda Swinton in A Bigger Splash: 'One of the chicest summer holiday wardrobes I've ever seen,' writes Lisa - Film Stills

Coming back to those tops and bottoms cutting you in the middle - you could try wearing matching co-ords for a more streamlined look that’s relaxed, practical but also elegant. Add some crisp striped shirts on toning shades for a change of mood. Wear the shirts buttoned up some days and over contrasting or white t-shirts and vests on others.

midlife fashion
midlife fashion

Dogtooth jacket, £195, Poetry

I hear you on the flat shoes – but how about some flatforms for extra height? The espadrilles from Tom’s have comfortable soles and for every pair bought, they donate shoes to those in need. But you’re in the land of espadrilles and can probably pick up several colours cheaply.

midlife fashion
midlife fashion

Suede espadrille, £70, Tom’s; Yellow espadrille, 61, Soludos

Have fun,

– Lisa

Do you have a style query of your own? Ask Lisa here.


Ask Lisa: 'I'm 70 and love fashion. How do I not look like mutton dressed up as lamb?'

Read more