Dressing For My New, Middle-Aged Belly

I am going to try to write this without sounding whiny or shallow or overly vain.  Try.

Here’s what’s going on: I have a new body that I’m learning to dress, and I’m not happy about either—that is, the new body or having to learn to dress it.

I’ve always had a good body. I mostly took it for granted, though I was reminded of it often by both women and men.  When I would read studies that said “women don’t like their bodies,: I’d think “not this woman.”  And I always dressed with confidence because of that. I had a good idea of what looked good on me because so many things did. Dressing myself wasn’t that hard.

Provocative clothes have never been my thing, but I have always leaned toward what was fitted—not a lot of wiggle room. That’s changing now. I’ve heard and read many times that middle-aged women—even those who are not overweight—tend to put on weight around the middle. I assumed this didn’t apply to me. I was fit, hadn’t been pregnant, and have a pretty healthy diet.  Why would I suddenly get a belly?  Well, ummm, because I’m middle-aged?  (Actually, that might be an understatement; I’m only middle-aged if I’m going to live to be 112).

So about six months ago, I started to thicken around the middle. I was pissed.  Still am. I started to run again—against doctor’s orders—as a way to try to offset this.  I wrote about it in my blog, The Spinsterlicious Life.  I wanted to chronicle it because I assumed it would be temporary and I would look back at it someday and smile.

Not smiling yet.

A short while ago, though, I stumbled across something called “ruching.”

    I love ruching. I love it because it can camouflage what I’m trying to hide. I can still wear fitted dresses that give the illusion that I’m not hiding a gut that makes me look like I’m 4 months pregnant.   Norma Kamali is my new best friend. She uses ruching (or something that looks like it) a lot.  She has a Wal-Mart line and a full-priced line and I shop them both.  Here’s one of my favoritesfrom her Wal-Mart line: I bought four of them. Here I am wearing it, successfully hiding my middle-aged belly.   And, this summer I bought and wore my first one-piece swimsuit. Norma Kamali again. They both have “gathers” that hide stuff. The white one is the one I currently have and the brown is the one I’ll soon be buying for my trip to Turks & Caicos.  And now I’m into sweaters. Not because I’m chilly but because they hide my gut. My friend, Benilde, and I would often admire Eileen Fisher’s ads because they are very attractive but we, perhaps a bit cattily, would say the clothes are not for us—they’re for women with bodies who need more “forgiving” clothing.  We are now those women. I now have a closet full of long-ish, drapey sweaters that help hide my gut. Here are a few more that I plan to buy:  But my favorite hide-my-gut strategy is boots.  Yep.  They are stylish, look good on me, and deflect the eye away from my middle. I already have several pairs and I’ll be wearing one or both of these very soon:  
So, while I’m grappling with this newfound body part, I’m also intending to learn to “get over it.”  So what if I have a bit of a gut? So what?  I’m not there yet.



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  • Andrew September 14, 2015 at 2:58 am

    It is an awesome post and help me very much for losing weight

  • Mary Kieffer January 20, 2013 at 8:04 pm

    I just stumbled on this site by searching for ‘dressing for middle aged women with belly’s’. I have now bookmarked it. Like the article. I never weighed over 100 pounds until I turned 35 and had two more kids. then BOOM I haven’t seen my knees (or other parts) in YEARS!!! diets, exercise, nothing works, which i believe is more stress related than the other two components of a healthy life style. I will read on and maybe get some inspiration, now i just need to ideas on how to dress and not look like my mother or my daughter.

  • L Sorensen-Jolink November 29, 2011 at 6:41 pm

    Here, here, Shelley: young enough and old enough…the best of both!

  • Shelley November 21, 2011 at 7:44 am

    I need to find me some ruching. Love the comment about 112 years old…where on earth did we come up with ‘middle aged’ to describe this time, unless it’s the middle between youth and ‘old age’, as in infirmity. I figure so long as I am able to do the things I want to do and to life independently, I’m ‘young enough’. Middle aged, indeed.

  • angie November 8, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    I feel your pain and it deeply saddens me that spanx has become part of my vocabulary;).

  • Patricia Yarberry Allen November 8, 2011 at 7:26 am

    Dear Eleanore,

    Your comment is such a telling one. “I was afraid commenters would call me superficial for not caring about something meaningful…” Women can choose to be free from the “mean girl” judgemental remarks in this life stage. It says more about the person who writes, “Women who color their hair or use botox or face fillers are denying their age…etc” than it does about women who choose to look their best with sexy clothers that flatter their figure, who do a little work to have fewer wrinkles and maintain good skin and whose hair is now a color that requires monthly support! We are going to write more about fashion and style, not bring it on. Personally I love superficial things. Thanks for a great piece for many of our readers.


  • Eleanore Wells November 7, 2011 at 10:46 pm

    Oh, thank goodness! I was afraid commenters would call me superficial for not caring about something more meaningful …like my good health. Thanks. Really

  • Judith A.Ross November 7, 2011 at 11:06 am

    My body started going toward that apple shape a few years ago. One thing I found that helped was reducing the amount of simple carbohydrates in my diet: bread made with white flour, potatoes, and white rice, for example. I almost always have open-faced sandwiches (one piece of bread, rather than two) and try to focus on vegetables and protein.

    You may already be doing that, but has worked for me. And I love all the styles you suggest. You look fabulous in that dress!

  • hillsmom November 7, 2011 at 10:17 am

    Yes, I feel your pain. I read that when you have to get pants with an expandable waist, you’ve given up. Yes, it’s true. I know I’ll never get into the size 10 pants hanging in my closets, and I should just gather them up for the Good Will or Salvation Army thrift shop. What’s stopping me other than a good book or three to put off the inevitable finality? Oh, and don’t forget the computer which is always wonderful for wasting time. Perhaps it’s just denial. Was it Erma Bombeck, or perhaps Nicole Hollander, who remarked that a starched caftan was not going to help either. Sigh….Good Luck! “Smear all the mirrors with Vaseline.” (That was Erma Bombeck)

  • Patricia Volin November 7, 2011 at 8:36 am

    Great piece. I started ruching about two years ago.