Michelle Heaton and Fifty One Apparel: Singing the praises of a cool clothing range

T-shirt sent for review purposes

Michelle Heaton Raxa V Neck Fifty One Apparel.png

When I was a little girl, I had a T-shirt that I adored and never took off. Never. It had a cartoon princess on the front of it (less of the comments please) and I wore it non-stop – even to bed.

Fast forward 40-odd years and I’m still the same. This time, however, it’s allowed.

Fifty One Apparel, the makers of clothing to help hot flushes and night sweats, sent me a T-shirt to try that you can wear out or in bed. And it’s never been off my back – especially during Britain’s heatwave this weekend.

(Now I know I should share a pic of me in the Tee, but I’ve cracked one of my front teeth so I’m more Snagglepuss than Supermodel at the moment. I wore it while being interviewed about HRT by Hugh Pym for the BBC 10 O’Clock News!)

If you haven’t heard of Fifty One Apparel, they’re a new range offering a capsule collection of lounge and leisurewear designed to help you cope with hot flushes and night sweats. You can literally wear them right into bed!

The garments are created using material originally designed to regulate the temperatures of Nasa astronauts, but don’t think big bulky spacesuits. My Tee (the Karin V-neck – pictured below) is gossamer light and easily the comfiest T-shirt I possess. It feels as if you’re wearing nothing. It has also been amazing at keeping me cool over the last couple of days.

It works by taking the heat away from your body when a flush or night sweat hits and then releases it back so you don’t get that horrible freezing cold spell afterwards.

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I received a size 10, which gives me a loose but not baggy fit (I’m an 8/10 normally). The V isn’t too long (a boom for us with fried eggs for boobs) and best of all it has decent sleeves that cover and fit. I’ve lost count of the number of sleeves that are too long or too tight.

What I really like is that their ambassador is singer Michelle Heaton, who went through an early menopause aged 35 after having a hysterectomy.

Michelle has been incredibly honest and open about her menopause and the strains it put on her marriage. Choosing her to be an ambassador sends out such an important message about the need for everyone to #KnowYourMenopause and that it’s not just a “mature women’s problem”. Also that the men in our lives need to understand what is happening too.

Let’s see if we can get Michelle with a #KnowYourMenopause poster to match her Fifty One Apparel clothes… Call me, Michelle – let’s make this happen!

Here, Fifty One Apparel founder Louise tells us more about the collaboration and why menopausal women need their own clothing…

Why did you start Fifty One Apparel?

This began with a trip to Iceland with some girlfriends and in sub-zero temperatures one was stripping off while we piled on the layers. I couldn’t understand why or how. Six months later, listening to a piece on Woman’s Hour, I heard a husband lament about how his long-suffering wife was experiencing the most horrendous symptoms associated with the menopause.

I’d just finished a meeting with a large retailer showing a technical fabric for menswear and I thought the fabric in the back of my car might just help those symptoms. And this is how it began.

I got back to the office, googled: “Clothes for the Menopause” and was provided with an array of polyester products in old-fashioned nightwear at exorbitant prices. I thought: “There might just be a need out there.”

What is the Fifty One Apparel philosophy?

To provide good quality fabric with a high technical spec/well-made products at prices which do not discriminate. We’ve tried to keep the prices accessible to the mass market as we understand the menopause does not only hit those with a bulging pocket.

Sustainability is a high priority for us too. We work on not using plastic in our packaging and hope that all elements can be reused or recycled – we’re a small company so we do not have access to buying huge volumes which sometimes restricts our preferred choices.

Our factories are all ethical and our fabrics are produced in mills where the environment is high on their agenda, be it in UK/ Europe or the Far East

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Why is your clothing special?

While the technology is not new (it was developed to help the early astronauts keep their body temperature regulated), we’re not aware of any other brand marketing to menopausal women using this technology.

We also don’t use polyester, which naturally wicks away moisture, as we believe women like a cellulosic fibre/yarn as a natural handle – from a styling perspective, it’s given us an opportunity for flexibility in our designs.

Is there really a need for menopausal clothing?

There are women who would say: “Get on with it and wear less,” but in our focus group, it became clear that women, particularly those in the workplace, welcomed a garment that would make them less self-conscious during a hot flush.

We promote comfort. We don’t claim to have a medical solution to this symptom, but we do know that night and day our customers are happy – even those not going through the menopause are wearing our garments.

What should women consider when dressing for hot flushes and night sweats?

Most women’s first thoughts are to wear as little as possible, but this isn’t the solution, especially as night sweats can result in damp and unpleasant bedding.

The most important aspect is comfort (and also design if aesthetics are important). The beauty of Fifty One Apparel’s garments is that the aftermath of a hot flush – usually a cold episode – is avoided.

The difficulty with our slant on the technology used is people recognising it actually works. If you’re hot, you know you’re hot and when you’re cold, you know you’re cold. But when you’re comfortable, you don't give it a thought!

Tell us about your collaboration with Michelle…

We made contact with Michelle because we saw her as a great ambassador for those women who have suffered early menopause. We wanted to tell them that our product is not for just the older woman, but also has wide appeal. And it’s definitely worked.

Michelle has been very supportive of our products. We sent her one garment to try and she phoned us straight away to say how much she loved our products.

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Your range is leisure-based. Do you have plans to expand?

Our first range was definitely based on lounge/leisure/sleep but our second range is more dress for work – although we have designed all our tops to sit with a little short so they can be worn for sleep/lounge too

What made you smile today

Your DM telling me you loved you Tee!

My husband locking himself out in the garden!

WHAT DO YOU WEAR TO HELP THE HOT FLUSHES? DO MENOPAUSAL WOMEN NEED THEIR OWN RANGE? LEAVE ME A COMMENT BELOW.

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