2017 Update: We still stand by this advice on how to keep a working wardrobe while losing weight, but you may also want to check out our more recent discussion of how to shop for clothes while losing weight. (Congrats!)
We’re still behind on reader mail (sorry, ladies!) and catching up… Today’s question is about how to keep a working wardrobe while losing weight.
I was recently laid off from a somewhat conservative field. I’ve very overweight and have been using my unemployed time to try to lose some weight. I’ve lost 15 pounds and my dress clothes no longer fit.
I’m still very overweight and I estimate that I need to lose about 10 more pounds before I can fit into the size 18 at Ann Taylor or the Tahari sets at Macys and Filene’s Basement. I’m estimating that it’ll take me 6-8 weeks to lose that additional weight. In the meantime, I’m trying to network, going to industry events, and I want to be prepared for any last minute interviews or other events. Even 5 pounds can make a difference in the way clothing fits and since I don’t know how long I will be unemployed, I’m trying to avoid having to buy new dress clothes every few weeks.
Can you suggest a few unemployed-budget pieces for the “women of size” or do you have other suggestions on pieces that might fit even as my body shrinks? I really don’t want to spend $450 at Talbots for a suit that I will only wear once or twice for a couple hours, but being heavy, I am very aware of the fact that I need to look a little more polished than the average person.
First off, congratulations on losing some weight. It’s so satisfying to get your weight loss in motion — keep the momentum going! (This author lost about 35 pounds a few years ago through Weight Watchers, so we know how you feel.) In general, it’s hard to keep a working wardrobe while you’re losing weight — nothing fits anymore! We always knew it was time to buy new pants when they could be removed without unfastening them, and wound up buying a lot of clothes on sale at Banana, Gap, and department stores.
How to Keep a Working Wardrobe While Losing Weight: What to Wear for Networking Events
For your situation — where you don’t necessarily need to worry about daily outfits that fit, or about “repeating” the same outfit too many times — we would recommend investing in a few dresses that look professional because they will last you for a several sizes. (In fact, we might suggest trying it on with a pair of Spanx — this will account for at least 5 pounds of weight — and as you lose the weight, stop wearing the Spanx with the dress.) A basic black shift dress or A-line dress can be worn with one of your older suit jackets, or even just a wrap or a colorful scarf or some jewelry for an event. A cardigan is also appropriate to throw on top of the dress. We’d go for basic shifts and shirt dresses, such as the one above (available up to size 24W at Nordstrom’s for $138): Donna Ricco Shirred Faux Wrap Dress (Plus), or the sheath dress available at Travel Smith for $84. This kind of outfit is entirely appropriate for lunch with friends (new and old), alumni events, as well as industry events. (If you’re worried about bumping into network-ees at the supermarket, our advice is the same for you as for anyone — nice casuals such as jeans or khakis — or, for your situation, perhaps casual dresses such as this boatneck dress from Land’s End.)
How to Keep a Working Wardrobe While Losing Weight: What to Wear for Interviews
In terms of suits for actual interviews, our advice is thus: go to a store with a great return policy, like Nordstrom’s, and invest in a great suit that makes you feel confident and smart and beautiful and professional. Keep the tags on the suit, and try it on frequently (let’s say once every two weeks). If you get that interview, it will be worth the investment — and you can always sell it on eBay or at a consignment store if you find you no longer have use for the clothes. If you pass through the size without getting the interview, no harm, no foul — back to Nordstrom’s to return the suit and get another in a lower size. You might want to check out our suggestions and the comments from readers in our post on finding great suits if you’re larger.
Finally, you didn’t ask our advice on this, but we’ll give it to you anyway — once you’re two sizes away from your old clothes and they can’t be recycled into newer outfits, pack them up and put them away. Take them off the hangers, get them out of eyesight — make it a chore to get at them. (Or, give them away entirely.) That way, if you gain any weight there’s a stopper in place.
Congrats again — we hope this advice on how to keep a working wardrobe while losing weight was helpful to you. Readers, anything to add? What do you consider networking essentials that you should have even if you’ve been laid off and losing weight?