Many women experience a midlife spread, which can quite suddenly make it challenging to find flattering clothes that are also stylish. Yet there is no need to panic; there a number of steps you can take that will have you looking fabulous again. Let’s look at some tips to disguise that post-menopause weight gain and the associated lumps and bumps. Yes there are stylish clothes available to hide a muffin top or big belly.
Updated April 2022
What’s the answer? Cover yourself up in shapeless clothes, stay at home in your tracksuit? No, neither of those; you are a dynamic woman with much to offer the world, my aim is to have you feeling great in your clothes, and ready to head out into the world and give them hell. So let’s find clothes that are flattering for a big stomach and have you feeling great.
[This post features links to some of my favourite brands – brands I wear and buy from. In some cases these may be sponsored, or I have included an affiliate link. If you click on an affiliate link and purchase, we will earn a small commission. You won’t pay any extra though and you will help us to keep the doors open]
Get your foundations right – tight undies create a muffin top
Ill-fitting underwear is not only uncomfortable, but it accentuates your muffin top, so take the time and buy the right fit.
When it comes to your bras, the same principles apply. Not having the right fit can result in several things. A cup size that is too small will have you popping out over the top, which won’t look good under tops and dresses. If the band under your bra is too tight, the flesh around your breasts will be pushed down and out, and in the worst case it will meet up with your muffin top. A tight under band will also usually mean any back fat can also look lumpy under your clothes.
Make sure the sides of the bra are sufficient to properly hold you in. A properly fitting bra will not only look better, it will feel more comfortable. Take the time to get properly fitted for a bra and know your preferred brands and sizes – it’s a valuable investment all round.
As well as your bra, make sure your knickers fit properly and don’t cut in. The style of knickers you prefer is entirely up to you, I prefer full briefs without thick seaming, but if a G-string is your preference just make sure it is comfortable and doesn’t cut into you. Don’t assume full briefs are necessarily dull and boring. Take a look at the lovely options at Taking Shape including some leopard print undies
Note that I’ve not talked about tummy tamers or shapewear. While I do have some of these and will wear them on a special occasion or under a particularly slinky dress, I honestly find them hot and uncomfortable. Unless they are full body they tend to ride up and create their own problems. I’d be interested to know if anyone has found a brand that doesn’t do this…..
Have the right bottoms for your tops — check those waistbands
It doesn’t matter what you wear on the top of your body if the waistband on your pants or skirt is too tight. It isn’t unusual to find, for example, a pair of jeans that fit perfectly everywhere else, but cut in around the waist. Similarly with skirts. If the waistband is too tight that midriff flesh has nowhere to go but up, which is not what you want. The waistband on the Frockk pants in the image further down this post, with a deep band of elastic shirring, is a good example of one that will be flattering and comfortable.
Choose your skirts, jeans and trousers carefully, make sure you have room to move and test them by sitting down rather than just standing up when you try them on. Consider adjustable waistbands including drawstrings and be careful of both firm fixed waistbands and elasticised ones, which pull in too tight. Stretch is great when it has give, but it can be a double-edged sword, so again do the ‘Sit Down’ test.
With jeans, it’s a matter of trying brands and shapes to see what works best for you. Check measurements against your own and consider stretch as well as ‘rise’ (i.e., high rise, mid rise or hipster). Take a look at the Bengajeans from Blue Illusion, there is a reason these have been in hot demand for years. They are also available for Petites who struggle with the length of most jeans. Birdsnest also has a wide selection of jeans to choose from, and the site allows you to select by fit.
Know the shapes and fabrics that flatter a bigger stomach
Be clear on what shapes suit you and flatter your body. I like box-shaped tops and flowing dresses that skim my waistline, but I also make sure they are not too big – I don’t need to add any more substance to my look. I also like anything cut ‘straight through’ rather than waisted. Partly that is because of my lumps and bumps, but also I have a scoliosis and that means my ahem ‘waistline’, bulges far more on one side than the other.
For me it is the fabric that makes the most difference when it comes to hiding my lumps and bumps. Be it a top or a dress, I will typically look for fabric with structure so the garment holds its shape rather than clings to my body. Linen and linen blends have become so popular in recent years, and it’s a fabric that holds its shape beautifully, including when it is a linen knit. Also add good quality cotton and rayon to your shopping list, as well as bamboo. Similarly with woollen and cashmere garments for cooler weather; good quality wool has enough structure to hold its shape.
Jerseys can work too, depending on the cut, and the thickness of the jersey. Much as I love the look of soft jersey fabrics, I don’t have a lot of these pieces in my wardrobe because they tend to sit against my curves in a way I don’t find flattering. Having said that, tee shirts are a wardrobe essential and I have a growing collection of these in a soft jersey from Styling You The Label. These tees are cut for curves and provide shape without cling.
Also, determine whether tucking in your tops or leaving them loose works for you. I tend to always wear my tops loose and out, although I will occasionally play with a half tuck. Take the time to play with the different options so that you know what works best for you. Not sure how to perfect a tuck? This article has lots of great hints.
Use accessories and features to draw the eye away from your mid-section.
There are lots of ways to do this. Choose outfits with interesting details at the top, perhaps a neckline that draws the eye, or off-the-shoulder or cold-shoulder details. A V-neck can also be great as it shows more flesh and takes eyes up. Wear strong accessories, such as jewellery or scarves. Don’t choose pieces that end at your waistline, you want them to end up high or be worn long, away from your mid-section. A hat can be a great idea too.
There are differences of opinion as to whether patterns can flatter or be a problem when disguising a midriff bulge. My opinion is that they can flatter, and in fact hide a million sins, but be careful with your choice of pattern; don’t wear one that draws the eye to your middle and don’t choose a pattern that ‘wears you’. The pattern needs to be of a scale that matches your height and size.
Know what brands supply stylish clothing that IS flattering for a big belly.
It is in your interest to support the brands that acknowledge real women and older women. Don’t try and shop where the young ones shop, you won’t get the in-store or online support you need, and the clothes will be cut to suit younger, more svelte frames. Look for brands that show clothes on a variety of body shapes, and do buy the best quality you can afford. You are looking for tops and dresses that are flattering, but that does not have to mean frumpy.
Some of my favourite places to shop are:
Birdsnest – more an emporium than a store, birdsnest offers it all from clothes, to shoes, jewellery and gifts. Coupled with excellent service, do check them out. Birds Nest also offers fit recommendations for different body shapes and provide loads of advice with each piece. Located in Cooma NSW, Birdsnest is mostly an online store but they offer a no hassles 365 days returns policy – how good is that!
Blue Bungalow – another one stop shop which provides a beautiful array of clothing and accessories. Incredible customer service and delivery too. Located in Newstead Brisbane, put Blue Bungalow on your must visit list, but also don’t hesitate to shop online with them. I just ran through their online selection process for jeans which really helped me to refine possibilities to suit my shape and style preferences. Definitely give them a try, you can even call them for help and place an order over the phone.
Blue Illusion – the place to shop for classic French inspired pieces that will hold a place in your wardrobe for years to come.
Costa Vita Purolino – this Noosa based business specialises in beautiful Italian linen clothing in a mix of prints and block colours. You will find everything from classic to fun from this brand. I regularly model for them and can give my personal guarantee that many of their pieces are very flattering. I also love that pieces from each release work back with previous releases, and popular pieces like the Lipari Dress in pink in the image at the top of this post, are regularly released in new seasonal colours. Ethical manufacturing is also a feature of Costa Vita Purolino
Cotton Dayz – Cotton Dayz understands the battle when it comes to finding plus size women’s clothing that not only fits perfectly but also adds colour and spice to your wardrobe. Embrace your curves and step out in their stunning, stylish colourful designs, everything from work wear to vacation styles.
Frockk – A Perth based brand with clothes ethically made in Bali. Featuring natural fibres and loose lines designed to skim and flatter. Note the wide waistbands which will not cut in. The image above features 4 Frockk designs. Frockk offers a wide range of sizes and their clothes have a casual but stylish vibe with beautiful shapes and fabrics.
Modalia – another source of stunning linen pieces with a European feel. The tops and dresses in particular have beautiful drape and I love wearing this label. All the products are designed in Australia and made in Europe, strictly working with partners certified “OEKO-TEX 100 ® Standard” emphasizing superior quality, individual style and unique design.
Styling You The Label – beautiful Australian made clothes from basics to bling. Showcased on models from size 6 to 20 and of different ages, abiities, ethnicities and shapes. These pieces are cut for curves and fabrics range from linens to easy care technical fabrics. These are pieces you will have in your wardrobe for years. Mix and match with confidence from one season to the next.
Taking Shape Style – a plus size clothing specialist that designs specifically for curvier women from size 12 to 24. A long time provider of clothes to suit women of substance, including underwear and also stockists of accessories, swimwear and sleepwear.