Managing Your Wardrobe When Your Weight Fluctuates
The weather starts to turn and I pull out my favorite pair of jeans. Slipping my feet through the legs, I begin to pull them up and suddenly feel that awful resistance. I fight for a full minute to coerce the jeans over my thighs and booty only to face another brutal battle when it comes to the zipper.
I feel betrayed by the jeans, but that quickly turns into feeling betrayed by my own body.
They used to fit.
My body used to be acceptable to these jeans.
They no longer fit.
My body is out of control... I'm out of control.
Does thAt scenario sound familiar to you?
At this point, most of us take one of two paths. Either we suffer our way through the day wearing jeans that are way too tight because we're in denial that our body has changed, or we bury them deep in the shameful depths of our closet, vowing that they'll fit after our next round of Whole30.
There has to be a better way.
Few things take the wind out of our self-esteem-sails as quickly as finding that we no longer fit into an outfit that we used to feel confident in.
I know this feeling so well. I've experienced a few weight fluctuations in my life, and I know how discouraging it can be to feel like you have nothing to wear that fits right. When trying to shop ethically and facing the higher price point of responsibly made clothing, this helplessness is even more acutely felt.
I've had friends and clients ask me, "How can I justify investing in ethical clothing when I'm not sure what my body will do after this pregnancy?" or say, "I'm not sure what my personal style is, because I'm not even sure what my body type is... it's always changing!"
While there are absolutely times that an entire new wardrobe is necessary (a major change in weight being one of them), I've found that a huge amount of women face ongoing frustration with their closets as their bodies ebb and flow through seasons of life.
So what's a gal to do?
Fitness (or not)
I'm not here to talk about the fitness side of this journey today, but there are plenty of great resources out there to help you navigate what lifestyle works best for you *insert shameless plug for my older sister who is a health/fitness guru and currently specializing is postpartum fitness* For those who have asked about my personal workouts, I've been doing Tone It Up at home for years!
The reality for women is, no matter how healthy we are, there's a huge likelihood that our bodies will experience some ongoing fluctuation. I think the sooner we accept that, the sooner we can take control of our self-esteem and closet.
Knowing your body
One of the most practical steps we can take in the pursuit of a body-positive-closet is truly understanding our bodies. (I don't just mean taking an online quiz that reduces our identity to the shape of a fruit.)
It's so helpful to know how our bodies are likely to fluctuate and base our wardrobe around that. For example, I know that my upper body never changes much when my weight fluctuates. My arms, chest, and upper torso stay pretty consistent. This means that I can safely invest in tops and jackets without the fear of losing the ability to button them after an indulgent weekend.
I also know that the aforementioned indulgent weekend is going to manifest itself in my hips and thighs. And I'm ok with that. I've made peace with my body type and am not going to waste any time being surprised when it does exactly what it's always done when a new pound or two (or ten) make themselves at home. This means that I curate my wardrobe with pants, dresses, and skirts that are more forgiving. When I welcome an extra inch around my hips (even if I plan to say goodbye to it soon), it's so helpful to have a stretchy pair of jeans that will accommodate the newcomer.
If I primarily owned super structured pants and loose tops, I would be really thrown off with any weight gain. It works well to have items that are form fitting on the most consistent part of my body and looser on the fluctuating areas.
When we take the time to understand how and where we gain and lose weight, we're able to choose items that compliment our shape instead of making us feel unnecessarily uncomfortable.
What to look for in a garment
It's easy to think that for a garment to be forgiving, it has to be super baggy and loose to avoid any hints as to where the perimeters of our body are. I have good news: that isn't the case! Sure an oversized garment is one option, but here are two other qualities to look for:
Adjustable Sizing | Brands are getting more and more genius with creating patterns that can be easily adapted for fluctuating size. Matter Prints Jumpsuits are a great example of this!
Timeless Silhouettes | Certain classic silhouettes like shift dresses and kaftans are universally flattering and allow for major body transitions to be handled with grace. My favorite ethical brand for shift dresses is Sotela (these clothes were actually designed with women's fluctuating bodies in mind!) Sseko Designs recently released this Moody Floral Kaftan that is stunning on anyone sizes 2-16... I can't think of any other garment I've encountered with such a generous size range!
When to Buy
I've had many women ask something along the lines of, "When should I start intentionally building my wardrobe? Should I wait until I achieve my goal weight?" It's a tough question, and there's not one right answer. Here are two questions that I like to ask women when they're making that decision:
Are you really truly unhappy/unhealthy with your current weight, or do you just feel pressure to fit back into your old clothes?
If you truly feel unhappy with your weight and need to make some changes, then it might be best to wait to overhaul your closet until you've started to understand what your new healthy weight will be. However, you may find that the only reason you're unhappy with your weight is because your old clothes don't fit the way they used to. If that's the case, work on swapping out items that make you feel less-than-stellar but keep the clothes you still enjoy.
Do you currently have the budget to add one or two items to your wardrobe?
If you're able to even just add one or two quality items to your wardrobe, it can make a world of difference. For example, my body type might demand a slightly larger pair of jeans than I was previously wearing. I'll choose to invest in those instead of a new shirt since I know my weight fluctuation won't really affect my shirts.
How You manage your wardrobe can have huge implications for your body image. It's worth controlling your closet instead of letting it control you.
I hope as you're reading this you know how valuable and beautiful you are. If you're dealing with negative body image or weight fluctuation frustration, know that you're not alone. Your clothes should never make you feel less queenly than you are, please don't give them that right.
If you've dealt with anything covered in this post and have some wisdom to pass on to others, please share it in the comments!