For many women, menopause raises a lot of questions around personal identity, while physical changes can also impact self confidence. Janine Coney from Own Your Style is an Image Consultant and Personal Branding Coach, and here she talks about helping women to find their own style as they get older.
Explain to us what you do.
I'm an international style coach and personal branding expert, I help women to step into the most confident version of themselves so they can be seen, heard and remembered.
How do you help women?
I help women become their authentic selves. As we go through life, we all change and we often find we can lose ourselves. As we get older we can feel invisible and I don't think women are ready to be invisible as they get older. Some people, myself included, actually feel they're entering the prime of their lives. We want to be seen, heard and remembered and feel we have so much of our lives left to lead. I want women to feel totally empowered, to step into that true version of themselves and realise they can still stand out from the crowd.
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What do you think presents the biggest challenge for women in menopause in relation to your work?
I think the biggest challenge for women going through the menopause are the mindset problems, as well as physical problems, which mean you do feel invisible and underrepresented. I think in years gone by you might have been happier to accept that, but now women aren't prepared to fade into the background - we still feel we have a lot to give and we want to do that.
What happens though, is we get bogged down in the hot flushes and the mindset problems and brain fog, and that can become overwhelming. Sometimes you have to stop and reconnect with yourself, re-find yourself and reposition yourself. Yes, you have evolved, but you are still a person and deserve to feel as amazing in menopause as you did earlier in your life. Some women feel even better after they have moved forward from all the hormonal changes. We feel we can be a better version of ourselves because we're older and wiser.
Do you think women are realising they can have a second phase of life after menopause?
Yes definitely. I think years ago when my mother went through menopause, it was an ‘end is nigh’ scenario but it's changed now. We're not prepared to settle for that and we're looking for ways to make going through that change better for ourselves. Medically things are approving, media wise it's spoken more about but not as much as it should be. It's shocking to think we got to a stage where women have been leaving work because small changes weren't happening.
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What's your advice to women starting to experience menopause symptoms?
From a styling point of view, what you wear makes a difference to how you feel. My number one tip is layering - it sounds simple but it's awful if you're in a meeting and can't take layers off. So, adapt your wardrobe for the working week ahead and the situation you're in. If you're travelling on the tube and the train, maybe rethink the big thick coat and jumper and look at alternatives. Explore silks, wool, linens, cashmere - those breathable materials. You can even get underwear made from materials that are cooler against the skin.
If you're looking at yourself as a personal brand, the key word is authenticity. Don't try to be someone else. Stand in your own power and realise that the experiences of your life have all brought you to the brilliant person you are now. Accept that, step into it and own it. My point here is when you go through menopause you can feel lost and I think there needs to be a determination not to be lost and to choose to work on yourself and how you want to be seen - go forward with that mindset.
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How do you work with your clients?
I work in two different ways - as a style coach and I am also trained as a stylist and life coach, but we always start with the inner work. We look at bringing out style confidence - who you are, your values, your personality and how you want to be seen, so you're not dressing for someone else or for a lifestyle you don't have. Peoples' wardrobes can stay stagnant - perhaps you're still buying clothes because you worked in an office but now you work from home. It's like an audit; looking at you as an individual.
Then we start, on a styling point of view, to make sure you’re bringing out your authentic style in what you’re wearing. The look and feel of the clothes is essential - comfort is always everyone's top priority, especially in menopause. So we look at the wardrobe and make sure it's matching your personality, and that the colours are right for you. The right colours can make you look younger, healthier and they affect the way we feel too.
We also look at shape. I think of it as ABC - accentuating, balancing and camouflaging. Usually the bits we want to camouflage no-one else notices, but if it's important to you then it's something we will talk about and I will give you tips on styles and how to wear things that disguise those areas. Generally, what I want women to feel is so empowered that when they go shopping it's easier and they can build a wardrobe that moves forward with them.
Do you think the clothing and style options that are available now for women as they get older is improving?
I think there's a whole big conversation there in terms of women over 40 being represented in terms of clothing. I read that something like 76% of women don't feel they're represented with brands as they get older. I do think the way we talk about menopause has improved though. I feel very strongly about that as well as anxiety and mindset - years ago you wouldn't talk about that at all. You never used to talk about menopause and if you did you were a bit of a failure for not handling it. I think it's all moved forward so much but I don't think women are represented effectively.
It sounds as though style is a tool for self confidence but also for armour?
You're absolutely right - clothes do act as armour for people. The whole ‘look good, feel good’ cycle does have an impact.