If you’ve been raised around predominantly cishet communities, you might have some fixed ideas about menopause (E.g. that it only affects women, of a certain age, in a certain way.) But, what about the people that fall outside of the margins?

In the spirit of Menopause Awareness Month, we’re here to help demystify this experience one conversation at a time. We interviewed fashion-designer and fellow Fitzroy local, Alice Edgeley (she/her) to learn more about her experience with menopause, business and pleasure.

Passionfruit: Alice, thank you for chatting with us. To kick us off, would you please share your pronouns, passions and professions?

Alice Edgeley: My name is Alice Edgeley (she/her) and I’m a fashion and costume designer, small business owner, and the drummer in the band Curlers. I’m fascinated with fashion history, intersectional feminism, queer and lesbian culture, poodles, glamour, reading and resting.

P: And how would you describe your relationship with menopause?

AE: I’m in deep perimenopause. It started with migraines in my 30s, which became frequent until I had them for up to 10 days a month. Then the night sweats kicked in, followed by more frequent, heavier periods, restless legs, and really bad brain fog. Quite confusingly, a lot of this coincided with the pandemic, lockdowns, having Covid-19, then long Covid and glandular fever. So, it’s been hard to tell the causes for each of the symptoms.

P: That sounds really stressful. How did you end up knowing it was perimenopause and how much did you know before actually experiencing it?

AE: I didn’t know very much, and I’ve found most health professionals to be extremely unsupportive. They’ve looked at me repeatedly and said, “You’re too young to be going through menopause.”

Now that I understand more about it, and all of the symptoms, I realise that’s what I’ve been experiencing, but I really had to find that out for myself. After sifting through information online, in books, from friends and my Chinese medicine doctor (shout out to Stella at Remedy, Modern Chinese Medicine), the possible symptoms blew my mind. Restless legs was something I hadn’t even considered was a symptom, and my feet have been feeling so weird; like they want to yawn. I have to flex my toes and wiggle them for relief. That’s perimenopause!

P: From noticing outlier symptoms to more typical ones (like night sweats), how have your perceptions around menopause changed?

AE: A huge amount. I never really understood that perimenopause was a thing. But, of course, your periods don’t just stop one day. Your hormones fluctuate and change in the lead up to menopause and postmenopause. Your body is getting all its eggs out and this has an impact on your physical and mental experience. I hate that society uses the term ‘hormonal women’ like a dirty word, and how menopausal women are seen as crazy, demanding and daggy or frumpy, etc. I want to push against that perception and make it normal. Not just for myself but also for others. I’ve been trying to lean into ageing, to embrace it.

P: Your label, Edgeley, celebrates beauty beyond numbers, whether they appear on a label or a birthday cake. How has your experience with perimenopause influenced your work and your approach to business?

AE: I’ve had to take it really easy. I let myself have slow days. A lot of my customers are also around my age so I’ve been talking to them about their experiences too which has been a huge help. Ranting on Instagram has been really well received. I’ve learnt a lot that way, got useful resources and recommendations and feedback that it’s been reassuring for others to hear.

My clothes have always been for everyone and anyone who wants to wear them.  Some people think they can’t wear certain clothes after a certain age but I had an 80-year old woman who’d just had a pacemaker fitted buying a mesh dress from me. My mum who’s 74 still wears my leopard dresses and looks amazing. It’s about whether you like the style, not whether you’re the right age. I’ve made quite a few custom 40th or 50th birthday outfits which I’ve loved! I mean, what an honour for me, and a great way for them to ring in a new decade.

P: How has your experience influenced your relationship with pleasure?

AE: I’ve been in a same-sex relationship for the past 12-13 years now, which is the longest relationship I’ve ever been in. It’s an absolutely lovely progression, but obviously not that crazy, mind-altering, sex-all-the-time thrill of the first couple of years. I’ve found myself feeling very strong in my sexuality. Much more in control.

Because I’m in a hetero relationship I’m often assumed to be straight and that’s not where I’m at. I’ve identified as queer since I found out what that meant as a teenager and growing into middle age it’s felt necessary to take time to reaffirm and reconnect with my queer self. That felt really important and empowering (though I cringe to use that word).

I’ve had such a joyous time attending lesbian/queer, non-binary nights, like the Planet Queer Party and the Smoking Mermaid. Reading lesbian classics like, Tipping the Velvet (Waters, 1998) and Fingersmith (Waters, 2002), and watching Gentleman Jack have also brought me great pleasure and thrills! I’ve also had long periods where I’m really not at all interested in sex due to migraines and illness. And I’ve occasionally experienced the dreaded dry vagina which definitely made me feel less sexy and less like having sex. Lube is great!

P: Finally, what advice would you share with your younger self about perimenopause?

AE: Peri menopausal symptoms can start in your 30s or 40s. It really helps to talk to friends and share your experiences. Find health professionals who listen to you, which is easier said than done but worth the hunt. Revel in your sexuality and take the time to take your time.

Aspirin is amazing for migraines. Keep up the kookiness.

Contrary to popular belief, menopause isn’t something that only affects women aged 50+. In fact, 1 in 12 women and people with ovaries experience early menopause for a whole range of reasons: from family history to severe endometriosis, cancer treatment or surgical hysterectomies.

Follow Alice Edgeley on Instagram @ms_edgeley and shop her latest collections at edgeley.com.au

Want to hear more from our community? Check out our Sex & Menopause section and read our blog on Navigating Menopause With Pleasure in Mind: The Role of Personal Lubricants.