In my previous shopping diary entry, I committed to pausing my shopping habits to rediscover and reuse items from my existing wardrobe. The intention was to reintroduce myself to garments I hadn’t worn recently and evaluate their continued place in my collection. Contrary to my plan, over the past two months, I acquired two new items. The reason? My body has evolved.
While my online presence may suggest it’s business as usual, behind the scenes, I’ve grappled with a health challenge. This issue has led to several bodily alterations. Medication, unfortunately, has brought along an array of unwelcome side effects, with weight gain standing out prominently.
The reality is that many of my clothes no longer fit, and it’s a sentiment I deeply struggle with. Items that have become unwearable encompass my entire jeans collection, a significant number of my tops—including T-shirts and particularly button-up shirts—and most of my skirts and dresses. However, garments that remain friendly to my current state include bottoms featuring elastic waists, roomy “oversized” shirts, and notably, jumpsuits. Their non-restrictive design around the belly is a godsend, and their inherent chicness provides a much-needed boost of confidence during moments when I feel less like myself due to visible weight changes.
Optimistically, if my health trajectory progresses positively, this weight gain should be a temporary phase. I aspire to return to my customary size within a year. But the interim period poses a dilemma: how to address my current clothing needs without investing excessively in temporary items.
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Four Wardrobe Tips for Dealing with a Changing Body
Here are a few things I’ve tried so far when it comes to clothes to deal with the fact of my different size and shape.
1. Move stuff that doesn’t fit out of the way. I usually organize my closet by the type of item (say skirts or tops), and then by color. Since a small percentage of my wardrobe currently fits, though, it’s disheartening to see clothes that I can’t wear. So I’ve re-organized, moving all the items that I can wear to the front and the things that don’t to the back. I think of this limited selection as a capsule wardrobe for this time in my life.
2. Evaluate what you need — and thrift it if you can. One of my consumption goals for this year even before the health issue was to shop secondhand more. Secondhand goods, of course, are more economical and sustainable than buying brand new. (Though I recognize it can take more time, so it may not be realistic for everyone.) To me, thrifting makes even more sense with clothes that might be transitional. Why waste money and resources on something I may not wear long?
I’m always trying not to buy too much. (After all, it’s what this blog is about.) So, I thought: what are the key garments that I really need? The things that I wear often and that form the base of an outfit?
One answer was jeans. For my recent trip to San Francisco I wanted a pair of jeans to travel in. (Because it’s chilly there, but also because I don’t trust the pockets on the casual elastic waist pants I already own, which are all made out of thinner materials. Pockets are especially important while traveling.) After visiting a few thrift stores, I found a pair of gray American Eagle jeans at Goodwill that fit (in the sense that I could get them on). The price? $10.
Honestly, though, they don’t look that great on me. The jeans are baggy in the back and legs. That leads to the next tip.
Some clothes are better at changing with you than others.
3. Buy less, choose well. This is my goal in normal shopping times, but I kind of forgot about it because my mindset was “this is temporary.” In buying this not-quite-right pair of jeans, I realized that the same rules about shopping apply no matter what size I am. Which is to say: I should shop thoughtfully and take my time to evaluate a garment. What is it made out of? Is it constructed well? Does the cut flatter me? Will it be versatile with my other clothes?
In retrospect, I panic bought these jeans because I was afraid I wouldn’t find pants in time for my trip. But I also thought, “these are good enough” when they were not. Maybe it would have been better to spend more money on something I already own, like the Everlane Way High Jean (reviewed here), but in a larger size. That assumes that the same cut works for me in my current state, which may or may not be true. But I should take the effort to find out. Better to wear something that flatters me.
4. Look for garments that can be worn looser or tighter and can accommodate a shifting body. Some clothes are better at changing with you than others. I recently bought the Gallery Dress from Curator SF, a small ethical brand. The sack dress shape means I can wear it at different weights — and with or without a belt. Though the dress drapes loosely on the body, it’s cut in a flattering way. (Some similar ideas: shirt dress, T-shirt dress, wrap dress.)
Unlike with the jeans, I deliberated over this purchase. I think I made a good buy. This dress makes me feel chic while being comfortable. And that feeling is important. One of the biggest challenges for me is finding ways to feel good during this health difficulty.
I know I’m not the only one who has dealt with a changing body. If you have suggestions to add, please leave them in the comments.