The needs of different demographics in the workforce are slowly being realised, but the needs of people undergoing menopause are still sadly neglected. The professional clothing industry needs to learn how to accommodate menopause in uniform options, and the PCIAW® has reached out to Sarah Wilsher from The Menopause At Work to highlight the ways garment design can be modified to help.
As the retirement age rises worldwide, the workforce is undergoing a significant shift, and women between the age of 46 and 64 are now the fastest-growing demographic in the workplace. It is estimated that approximately 80% of menopausal women are currently in the workplace, and with more than 45% saying menopause has had a negative impact on their work life, it is now more important than ever for employers to consider ways to improve their support and understanding of menopause at work.
One of the most impactful ways to do this is to consider the design and functionality of workplace uniforms. By creating menopause-friendly professional garments, designers can contribute to fostering comfort, confidence, and inclusivity for women during this transformative life stage.
Considerations for Designing Menopause-Friendly Professional Garments:
Breathability and Moisture Management: Menopausal symptoms often include hot flashes that produce a sudden and extreme surge of heat up through the body. Hot flashes can make the face and neck redden and can cause the individual to physically sweat. Designers should prioritise breathability and moisture-wicking properties such as microfiber blends or performance textiles that can draw sweat away from the body, reduce the discomfort caused by perspiration and ensure comfort throughout the day for the wearer.
Opting for lightweight and breathable fabrics, and natural fibres like cotton, linen blends, or bamboo allows for increased airflow and improved thermal regulation. These fabrics also tend to be hypoallergenic and less likely to cause skin irritation.
Temperature Regulation: Incorporating features such as ventilation panels, adjustable layers, or strategic placement of cooling fabrics (particularly on pulse points such as wrists, neck, and hips) may help regulate their body temperature effectively.
Personal Hygiene and Sensitivity: Genitourinary Syndrome of Menopause: (GSM) can present with some of the most embarrassing symptoms of menopause; stress incontinence, vaginal atrophy (dryness, burning & irritation) repetitive UTIs and yeast infections can be extremely painful for the sufferer, so designers should consider the seam alignment in trousers, perhaps considering a gusset panel to avoid multiple seams meeting at the crotch as this can exacerbate any irritation.
Although menopause is defined as the final period and the end of the reproductive years, before this happens women often find their periods are unpredictable and much heavier than they were in the past. Avoiding light-coloured fabrics for skirts or trousers to avoid any leakage being seen will reduce anxiety for the wearer.
Designers may also consider providing an absorbent gusset liner in trousers that can provide an extra layer of protection. This is particularly helpful if an individual cannot frequently leave their workstation to change their sanitary products. (i.e.: Armed Forces, Police, Paramedics, Field-based, etc)
Modifying Professional Clothing for Changing Body Image and Size:
During menopause, women may experience changes in body image, size, and weight distribution. Designers can implement the following modifications to professional clothing to ensure comfort and confidence:
Adjustable Waistbands: Bloating is a common problem for many, so incorporating adjustable waistbands, such as elastic or drawstrings, can accommodate fluctuations in waist size, providing a personalised fit that remains smart and professional.
Silhouette and Style: Choosing styles as part of a range that offers a relaxed or slightly forgiving fit, such as A-line skirts or tailored garments with strategic draping, can provide comfort while maintaining a professional appearance.
Layering Options: Introducing versatile layering pieces, such as cardigans or blazers, enables individuals to adapt to varying body temperatures while maintaining a professional look.
Highlighting Examples of Innovative Designs for Menopausal People:
In recent years, the fashion industry has witnessed a growing focus on designing professional attire that caters to the needs of menopausal individuals. Some notable examples of innovative technologies and designs include:
Temperature Regulated Fabrics can absorb and release heat based on the wearer’s body temperature, promoting thermal comfort during hot flashes. (Brands include 37.5, HEIQ, Dezeen, and Eysan)
Hidden Ventilation Systems: Certain professional garments feature discreet ventilation panels or mesh inserts strategically placed to allow airflow without compromising aesthetics.
Adaptive Clothing: Designers have embraced adaptive clothing concepts that incorporate adjustable features, discreet magnetic closures, and stretch fabrics to accommodate body changes while maintaining style and professionalism.
It is important that the garments are designed with menopause symptoms in mind, but not designed just for menopause. The symptoms listed above may also be experienced by individuals following surgery or medical treatment, so should be accessible for all wearers, without carrying a menopause label.
Sarah is a licensed Transformational Coach, Trainer, and Speaker specializing in Midlife and Menopause. In her role as a coach, she provides support to successful individuals going through midlife transitions, guiding them to navigate this stage of life with confidence. With her expertise, Sarah helps her clients embrace the changes and challenges that come with midlife, enabling them to thrive.
As a Trainer and Speaker, she raises menopause awareness in SME companies, emphasising the impact on individuals and those around them. Sarah’s mission is to improve understanding of menopause and menstrual health, creating a stigma-free environment where everyone feels valued and empowered in the workplace.