Reader Mail: When Should I Give Up and Buy a Larger Wardrobe?

When to Buy Larger Clothes | CorporetteWe’re curious what the readers have to say about today’s reader mail:

This is embarrassing, but I’ve been fighting a losing battle with my weight for a while now.  Before the holidays, I had about a week and a half”s worth of clothes that still fit.  After the holidays I’m now down to a few pairs of pants and a very stretchy skirt. I wore a summer dress (t-shirt material!) the other day because it was the only thing that fit and was clean!!  Should I just give up and go buy new clothes?  I don’t have any major meetings or suit-wearing things coming up, and the only person at work who sees me on a daily basis is my secretary.

Eeeesh, we hear you, sister — the holidays were not kind to us either.  For our $.02, you’re treading on thin water with such a limited wardrobe — even if no one sees you regularly, we feel like people will start to notice.  Besides, it’s always more professional (and flattering!) to wear clothes that fit, rather than stuff yourself into clothes that are too small.  But in terms of whether you have to give up the ghost and go buy new clothes… our answer to your question depends on a number of factors.

Assess how fast it will take you to lose the holiday weight. (To us, the holiday weight and the pre-holiday weight are different animals.) What is your current schedule like?  Have your eating and exercise habits returned to normal (or have you even stepped it up a notch?)  It’s been two weeks since New Year’s Eve — have you lost weight since then?

How much effort does it take you to fit back into your old clothes? For example, if you avoid sodium-filled foods and drink water with lemon (helps with bloating) for a day, can you fit back into your pre-holiday pants?  What effect do products like Spanx have on your wardrobe — can you fit back into smaller clothes by wearing them, even if you’re uncomfortable for the day?

Finally, what’s your budget like? If your bra no longer fits (and an extender doesn’t help), you should put some of the money towards buying a new bra.  If your Spanx collection is limited but helps you fit into your clothes, put the money into those types of things.  Beyond that — do you have the basic things to wear?  We’d list that as black trousers, one simple pair of colored trousers (gray? brown?), a black skirt, and a black blazer.  If you don’t have those things, troll the sales or hit the lower-cost stores like Old Navy, Limited, or Ann Taylor Loft.  Beyond that, we might advise you to buy empire-waisted dresses that fit your bust and arms.  (The bonus to these is that you can wear them both when you’re smaller and larger.)

The other thing we’re going to advise is to set a time limit.  You say you have no major meetings or suit-worthy events coming up — but it will not always be that way.  Figure out how much weight you’ve gained (yes, get on the scale), pick a sensible diet and exercise program, and give yourself 1.5 weeks to lose each pound.   At the end of the time, reassess.  We would say that if you haven’t made any progress, just bite the bullet and buy some new clothes.  If you can fit into your pre-holiday clothes (and feel like you’re on a losing streak) then hold firm, and continue to lose weight until your old wardrobe fits.

There are no right answers here, and it’s a difficult question.  Readers, what are your rules of thumb for buying larger sizes?  Do you do anything like give away clothes you haven’t fit into for a year or more?  What do you think the reader should do?



  1. I completely agree with everything C said. When I feel like I have gained weight, I make sure I have a few things to wear that will work for most situations, if not I go to Old Navy. Then I set a realistic time limit. At the end of my time limit I am brutally honest with myself–if the old clothes don’t fit, they don’t fit, and it is time to make a plan to redo the wardrobe. This has happened once. It was very depressing on the one hand, but it was nice to have clothes that fit me, looked good, and were comfortable again. Yes it is not fun to recognize that you’re not the same size you were a year ago, but it is better to have clothes that fit than not. And you feel better about yourself!

    Good luck!!

  2. pinkrobot :

    I try on everything I own every 3-6 months, and if it doesn’t fit during the Great Try On, I get rid of it.

  3. Ugh. I hate this holiday weight gain business too. Ack. Damn. OK, venting’s over.

    Bottom line: if you buy a larger wardrobe you are giving yourself permission to be a larger size. The questions then become:

    Are you OK with this? If so good for you. Life is short and you have more important things to do than diet and despair over a few pounds. You should look your best regardless of your weight, so go out and buy some fantastic pieces that flatter your body, and move on.

    Are you not OK with this? If not, you then:
    – Buy the bare minimum (see suggestions in the main post … a bra, black pants, whatnot), lose the weight, then put these things in a box labeled “fat clothes” and stash it in a relatively inaccessible part of your house.
    – Buy nothing and lose the weight. This is definitely a tough love strategy – you never give yourself permission to gain that weight, not now, not in the future. – and your hair shirt (as it were) is the crappy t-shirt stretch dress.

    If the weight is holiday weight you might try the Master Cleanse for a few days, then back to a sensible diet and exercise routine. If the weight is a longer-term issue that became unavoidable thanks to additional holiday weight gain, it’s time for a deeper soul-searching on how you feel about your body, your weight, what your eating and exercise habits are like, and a realistic attitude toward age and all that comes with it weight-wise.

  4. Anonymous :

    For what its worth, I think everyone always looks best wearing the size their real, current size (whatever number that happens to be) as opposed to wearing clothes one, two or more sizes too small.

    I’d go buy a few more separates to get you through until you can determine whether your new size is temporary or permanent. If you happen to lose the weight and don’t need them anymore, find a local organization that donates gently-used business clothing to financially-strapped women trying to transition back into the workforce after an extended absence – it’s a great giving option that will make you feel better about having spent money on clothes you no longer need!

    • That is a great suggestion. Bottomless Closet is just such and organization, and typically has an acute need for LARGER sizes of women’s professional clothing (although any and all sizes are appreciated).

  5. Anne Vohl :

    If you are over 60, it might be hard to lose weight. If not, just make the effort and lose the pounds. Eat half the usual amount at each meal, eat four meals a day instead of three (do the math), reduce alcohol, reduce fats and sugars. No butter. Just see what happens! You will soon be wearing all of your clothes. Some people have several wardrobes to use as they go up and down in weight. Just think of the carbon footprint of that! Eek!

  6. another option if the person really doesn’t want to buy new clothes are Bella Bands – they are sold for women in early-pregnancy, and can “extend” pants and dresses without being noticable (it just looks like you are wearing a camisole under a sweater).

    That said, after having my baby, I have finally given up that the weight is not going to melt off and I’ll be my old size. I’m working toward it, but at the same time, building up a new working wardrobe that fits. It sucks (I really like my old clothes!), but as C says, you also have to look presentable, and too-small clothes always look bad no matter how nice they are. On the plus side, I guess one day I’ll have “feeling fat day” clothes!

  7. At the very least, buy the temp clothes. You don’t need the “incentive” of looking crappy to lose weight. In fact, the worse you feel, the harder it will be for you to put time and energy into yourself. We don’t need to punish ourselves in our real lives for not conforming to some imaginary body we have in our head. We’re punished enough and “incentivized” by the world already.

    I’m a HUGE fan of having the sliding scale wardrobe, with at least one great outfit for my normal, thin, and fat self. It’s horrible to have something important, put on that suit/dress and have it look bad and have nothing else to wear. I’ve got bigger fish to fry! I agree with the carbon footprint issue, but I’ll be green elsewhere to make up for it.

    • I’d suggest buying a few new things so you can at least have two weeks worth of clothes to wear in rotation. When you have so few things that you’re getting to the point where you have to do laundry every few days to ensure you have something clean to wear, it’s time to go shopping.

      There’s no need to spend tons of money. I find that BR/AT outlets are great places to get basics for a reasonable price. I’ve been to BR outlet on many days where everything in the store is 40-50% off. No, they won’t be timeless pieces that will last you for 20 years, but it should get you through until you can lose the weight.

    • Totally agree that looking crappy = feeling crappy = no incentive to put effort into yourself. Look good the way you are now, and use that energy to work through those pounds and get back to where you wanted to be.

      I also keep a small range of sizes in my closet for those monthly fluctuations.

      • Same here. Looking crappy and being uncomfortable all day in too-tight clothes never did anything good for anyone. Having clothes that fit and flatter is not the same as giving yourself “permission” to be a bigger size.

        • Just from personal experience, I would disagree. But again, if going back to the pre-gain weight is not really the goal, then good for you & not a problem.

          Different strokes for different folks, but, for me, bigger clothes just makes losing the extra lbs less a priority.

  8. Oh, I totally hear you. I had a baby in August, but didn’t come back to work until Jan. I *thought* that would be enough time to lose everything, but I’m still working on about 10 pounds, and most of my suits don’t fit. I use a Spanx and sucked it up and bough a reasonably priced ($130, plus used a birthday gift card) suit in a larger size. I am back on Weight Watchers (previously lost 25+ lbs on the program) and hoping that I will, albeit slowly, begin to fit back into most of my spring wardrobe when the weather heats up.

  9. I agree with all the advice above, but I would add – don’t make a decision until you have had a physical at your doctor’s – it might be holiday weight, but it might be something else (or in my case, several something elses), which, with the information, might allow you to build a strategy in terms of buying clothes for the immediate future.

    I had lots of problems with my weight in 2006-2008 – my strategy was to invest in a couple of black pantsuits and buy a couple of different sizes in pants when I bought the jackets – ie I wore a 10/12 for years, and went up to 14 quite quickly, so i bought jackets and pants in the 14s, but also got a pair of 12s (which fit bigger than an average 12) and a pair of 16s. I bought the 16s as an insurance policy, in case I would end up being put on steroids which, sure enough, 4 months later I was – and was I glad to have those 16 pants around. Conversely, when I finally got better, and the weight finally started coming off, I was glad to have the 12s that fit a bit big as transition pieces, and was VERY glad to have a few of my old clothes to fit into as well (I only kept my favorites in 12s when i got rid of my 10/12 clothing). I had gotten rid of all of my 10s, and now that I am a 10 again (in the interim, I discovered I had food intolerances which, once under control, caused another 20 pounds to come off) I wish I had kept.

    Obviously, this is all stated with the caveat that I am tall, so it seems that I need to drop a lot of weight before I actually lose a full size (plus, while the jackets in the 14s are very loose, I can still get away with wearing them for another little while), but knowing why the weight was coming on so fast really helped me strategize the clothes.

    Oh another thing – I bought several wrap dresses when I was still putting on weight – they are easy to accessorize and fit a range of sizes.

  10. I think a lot of this has to do with how much weight you’ve put on. I’d take in to consideration that if you decide to lose the weight, it’s going to be at around a rate of 1-2 lbs a week. So let’s say that you lose 1.5 lbs a week… At that rate, how long would it take you to fit into your clothes again? (not squeeze into your clothes–fit!) If it’s less than a month I’d go pick up the staples at old navy and really adhere to your fitness plan. If it’s more than a month I think you need to go shopping. If this is the case, I would focus on getting pieces that I really love and that I think could be easily taken in by a tailor after the weight has been lost.

    • What makes a piece “easy” to have a tailor take in? If pants are lined, is this do-able? are skirts and dresses hard or easy? The only way I’ve ever really used a tailor is for cuffs and hems.

      • A good tailor can do anything, seriously. Lining? No problem! Shoulders? No problem! Waist, seat, side seams… you get the idea.

        • P.S. – Well-made articles take to tailoring better than poor quality duds. Look for extra fabric where the seams meet for pants and skirts. If the skirt has a zipper in the back, a tailor will work with the side seams.

  11. I had to put together a professional wardrobe in a larger size post baby and found consignment stores to be my best friend. They tend to carry better quality clothes at a reasonable price. I personally find that better made clothes just seem to look more flattering when you are a larger size. My first shopping foray post-baby I tried on clothes at H&M, Target, etc. (I was not going to spend a lot of money on clothes that I was not going to be wearing for long) and I left the stores frustrated with how poorly everything fit. I ended up buying a few higher quality basic pieces and filled out the rest with consignment store finds. The better construction of the clothes just seemed to hide any “imperfections” better.

  12. Whatever you decide to regarding your ‘old’ weight, I suggest taking everything that doesn’t fit today and putting it in a box under your bed. There is nothing more depressing or self-defeating than staring at a closet full of clothes every morning that don’t fit. Feeling bad about yourself is no way to start the day.

    • I agree!! You are so right about this.

      • Anonymous :

        The flip side is that leaving all of those clothes in your closet could be motivating – seeing them every day reminds you of why you are making an extra effort to make smarter food choices, commit to exercising on a regular basis, etc.

  13. P.S. 110% agree that better quality always look better, but especially if you have gained some weight. The cheap stuff is unforgiving in every way. Besides, if you drop some cash on nicer pants, jackets, etc. and lose weight, you can always get them taken in at the tailor.

  14. big law associate :

    Don’t be embarrassed about your weight gain, it happens to all of us.

    Agree with others that it all depends on how much weight you have gained. When I’m trying to lose between 5 – 1o pounds, I religiously monitor what I eat and track my calories on I also cut out all alcohol, drink tons of water, eat/snack often on small meals, and try to exercise when I can. I find that even when I don’t have time to exercise, I lose weight if I am very conscious of what I eat. Good luck!

    • I use too… and the iPhone App. I love them. Helped me really see what I was eating and where all my calories were coming from.

  15. A little off topic, but sense it has been brought up – Outside of medical problem/pregnancy weight issues I don’t think its very healthy to maintain multiple wardrobes that allow you to yo-yo from one weight to another. It’s one thing to have a feeling fat/skinny outfit – but its healthier to maintain your weight (whatever it is). If you are fluctuating more than 5 lbs. you need to reevaluate how/what you are eating (or visit a doctor if your diet isn’t changing).

    • Anonymous :

      Well said.

    • I think a 5 lb. or one-size fluctuation is pretty common, especially around the holidays. People’s diets and exercise patterns change all the time if your job doesn’t provide for routine (not everyone’s does). Also if you’re short, it can take less than 5 pounds to put you in a different size. I have thin (4), normal(6), and fat(8) suits. That way no matter what happens diet/exercise-wise, I look put together and professional at work.

    • Some women can gain/lose up to 5-10 pounds throughout the month solely due to hormonal fluctuations. I know the average for me is about 5 pounds. I’m not short enough that it puts me in a different size, but clothes certainly get tighter during the heavier time. I tend to have a fairly steady exercise schedule.

    • I’m short and gain most of my weight in my tummy and butt, so 5 lbs is enough for me to wear a different size. In the past 6 months I’ve gone up about 7.5 lbs; that’s the difference between a comfortable 8 and a tight 10 or a loose 12. Obviously it would be great if I could avoid that much fluctuation, but I also think it’s unhealthy to obsess about what I eat and weigh. When I had more of an attitude that the 5+ lbs was not acceptable, I ended up feeling like crap about myself and gaining another 5+ lbs. This time I’m trying to take it as a reminder that I haven’t been treating myself as well as I’d like recently rather than viewing it as some kind of failure. My hope is that as I continue to learn strategies for keeping fit and eating healthy without feeling deprived, I’ll be more able to stay within a few pounds of goal weight, but I’m not going to stress about it.

    • Your point about fluctuations is good, but I think 5 pounds is a bit extreme. I am healthy, eat well, and exercise, but I fluctuate about 5 pounds between winter and summer as I’m much more active in the summer.

      • I fluctuate from 5-10 pounds day to day, and it can pretty easily be traced back to hydration, salt, coffee consumption and time of the month. I have been both quite heavy and extremely thin, and my body does this at both ends of the scale and has done all my life. (I am also heavy and broadboned, and it takes approximately 20 pounds weight loss or gain to move me between sizes, though.)

        Point being, it’s not extreme, or abnormal, for everyone.

  16. Just wanted to thank the letter-writter for sharing this problem. I’ve struggled with my weight and self-image for years, and I admire the letter-writer for taking the bull by the horns in a straighforward (and shame-free) way.
    Also, high praise for all these commenters who are answering the question that was asked—about clothes—without gratuiously adding weight-loss tips or other unsolicited commentary. Even well-intentioned advice on this subject can be hurtful when it wasn’t requested.
    Finally, let me add a vote for keeping the option of tailoring in mind. None of the buying decisions you make now have to be permanent!

  17. Re: CJ in CA and Citygirl: agree, agree, agree!! For many of us, wearing ill-fitting clothes will only make us feel worse and (in my case) contribute to even more weight gain, and sometimes getting the bigger clothes is simply not a matter of giving yourself “permission” to gain the weight.

    I’ve been where this reader is. I put on quite a bit of weight (not just holiday weight) during a particularly difficult and stressful few years recently. I finally decided to buy clothes at the bigger size. Was it incredibly tough to admit I was that size? Yes. But for the first time in a very long time, I actually felt physically comfortable in my clothes. I felt like I looked nice. This brought me some badly-needed relief and, in a way, freed my mind up to focus more on my day-to-day work and activities, since I wasn’t always getting down on myself for how I looked.

    Eventually I got my life back in order and have started to lose some of the weight, but I am very glad that I bought the clothes in the bigger size. What also helped was that I ordered the clothes online and returned what didn’t work – dealing with this stuff at home was much easier than having to deal with it in the dressing room!

  18. MissAnnOnymous :

    I second AC who suggested consignment stores. I’ve recently had to build a complete professional wardrobe from scratch and have had fantastic luck at consignment stores. Trousers from Ann Taylor for $12, cashmere/wool winter dress coat for $60, designer blouses for $20. I even found my size twin and bought everything she had consigned. You’ll feel great knowing that you look well put together AND that you scored a great deal.

    Personally, I choose (as do all of my female relatives) to keep clothes around in a range of sizes. Judge if you will. Sure, some items go out of style between weight periods (I was last my current size 7 years ago), but staples like great trousers, knee-length skirts and blouses stay around.

    • Very true… I keep clothing in about 3 or 4 different sizes. I regularly change sizes. During that-time-of-month I can go up almost 2 full sizes… and that is 1/4 of my life!

  19. I am in a virtually identical situation (but am not the one who sent in the reader mail). For well over 15 years now, I have been a size 00 (at 5’2″) and have had a pretty decent wardrobe, 15-years in the making. However, in February 2009, I quit smoking (10 yrs, 1 pk/day) and began working out regularly (something I hadn’t done since high school field hockey!). The combination of those has caused me to gain about 15 lbs, which makes me now a 2. While I am able te recognize that the weight gain is healthy, it is taking me some time to get used to it. Nonetheless, the extra 15lbs just doesn’t fit into size 00 and xs clothes, no matter how I push, prod, and squeeze. So, while I am slowly building a new wardrobe, I am having attachment anxiety and finding it almost impossible to get rid of pretty much anything. Okay, I can’t lie… Completely Impossible. I haven’t gotten rid of one thing. :(

    Although it has been almost a year, there is a piece of me that still thinks I might someday get back into half of my wardrobe, at least (hey, miracles happen). Further, I am afriad that getting rid of those old clothes will mean I have given myself permission to remain a size 2 or that it might even lead to additional weight gain. (Also, please keep in mind that, while a size 2 might sound small, I have actually gained 16% of my previous body weight, which is a pretty large increase).

    So, while all your suggestions to ‘just get rid of it’ and ‘buy the staples’ sound so reasonable and easy, they are extraordinarily more difficult in real life. I would love feedback, suggestions, etc.

    • I completely understand! There have been items that I loved so much that even though they didn’t fit I didn’t want to get rid of them.

      I think I read this in one of the books Lucky magazine put out. When you are trying to get rid of something that you are attached to, first take it off of a hanger and put it in a bag in your closet. A few months later, move the bag to a hall closet. After a few months more you will be tired of having this random bag in your closet and you will be glad to get rid of it, at least that’s the idea. This has worked for me in the past, and I hope it helps you.

    • Two tricks that have worked for me in the past:

      1) Promise yourself to discard two (or three) articles of clothing for every one new piece you buy. Going through your entire “thin” wardrobe at once can be overwhelming; finding two old sweaters you like less than the one you just bought is much easier.

      2) Put a friend in charge. It works even better if that friend can wear your old size– giving clothes away is more fun when you know the recipient– but anyone with fashion sense can help you weed your collection. Just tell him or her to pick out the best 10% to keep, and give away everything else.

      • Your #1 is a great way to deal with any too-much-stuff problem. My boyfriend and I are trying to keep our stuff-ownership at it’s present levels, so we have a one-in, one-out rule.

    • Anon – Congratulations on quitting smoking! You should be so proud of yourself! I’m not sure I can give any advice on parting with your old clothes, but I know that, as others have said, when I’m wearing clothes that fit properly, I feel so much more confident. Maybe if you tuck the old clothes out of sight for awhile and freshen up the closet with newer items, you might have an easier time of letting go? At any rate, here’s to the healthy, new you! Hurrah!

    • It sounds like you were probably below your natural body weight at an 00. Smoking and not exercising made you thinner. Now that you exercise and don’t smoke, it seems like you’re at a natural and healthy weight. So I’d say you should definitely “give yourself permission” to stay a size 2, and I doubt you’ll gain more. Discuss it with your doctor if you’re really concerned.

      As for getting rid of your old clothing – go shopping every once in a while and buy new pieces you love. Instead of getting rid of your old clothes, take them out of your closet a few pieces at a time (to make room for the new ones) and put them in storage in your house. Once you realize you don’t miss them anymore, then you can give them away.

    • I’m 5’1″ and for all of my teens and twenties wore a 4. I now wear 8’s and 10’s. That was a difficult adjustment for me, but I eventually realized that this is still a healthy (and some would say sexy) weight for me. At 5’2″ and a size 2, you have nothing to feel bad about. If this is where your body wants to be, and you’re healthy and smoke-free, that’s fantastic!

      I did have a hard time letting go of my smaller-sized clothes, both because it meant acknowledging the weight gain and because I had really loved some of them. But every time I’d go through my closet I’d re-evaluate, and each time I’d find that I no longer wanted to keep some – they looked dated, were no longer my style, etc. I’m lucky to have a lot of storage space, so it all just goes in boxes until I’m ready to reconsider again.

  20. It’s been two weeks since New Years and if you were serious about losing the holiday weight you wouldn’t even need to write in.

    Most clothes will still fit okay after putting on a few pounds (I mean 5, not 15). And, even as a working professional, you should be able to lose 2 pounds a week through diet and exercise.

    The fact that you can’t fit into your old clothes shows that you’ve put on a lot of weight and aren’t really doing much to fix the problem. Get some new clothes because like it or not, your old wardrobe is staying boxed for a while.

    • Wow. Consider that the original LW’s inability to shed the extra pounds gained might have zero to do with her “seriousness” about losing the weight. She could have a sick parent, child or something else going on in her life that is keeping weight loss as a low priority. To the original LW, go out and purchase some new work clothes. Not because you won’t ever make it back to your original size but because you deserve to look and feel good about you right now. kudos for writing in about a real problem for many women.

    • Wow. I consider Corporette to be a place we support each other throughout the multitude of issues that affect corporate women. This includes keeping shoes clean in winter; finding the best work tote to hold all your papers, computers and lip gloss; student loans and other money management issues; gender discrimination; finding the perfect outfit for that last-minute dinner; and even supporting each other through weight gain, weight loss, lunch-on-the-run, and a heck of a whole lot more.

      A comment that a fellow Corporetter isn’t “…really doing much to fix the problem” doesn’t sounds very supportive. I was taught long ago that if what you have to say cannot meet all three of the following criteria, it is best not to say it at all:
      (1) Is it nice? (2) Is it necessary? (3) Is it true?

    • man, that’s harsh. tough day?

    • Wow. I consider Corporette to be a place we support each other throughout the multitude of issues that affect corporate women. This includes keeping shoes clean in winter; finding the best work tote to hold all your papers, computers and lip gloss; student loans and other money management issues; gender discrimination; finding the perfect outfit for that last-minute dinner; and even supporting each other through weight gain, weight loss, lunch-on-the-run, and a heck of a whole lot more.

      A comment that a fellow Corporetter isn’t “…really doing much to fix the problem” doesn’t sounds very supportive. I was taught long ago that if what you have to say cannot meet all three of the following criteria, it is best not to say it at all:
      (1) Is it nice? (2) Is it necessary? (3) Is it true?

    • divaliscious11 :

      Harsh much? You have no idea what the writer might be dealing with…. or what caused the weight gain… I know I personally have gained about 5-7 lbs this past year, but it was incredibly stressful with a possible job loss, then a relocation etc… but now that my life has settled down, I am happily on a plan to get rid of it… Maybe she just isn’t there yet….

    • Sweetheart, really. Go have a snack before you start posting on the Internet. You’ll feel better and be much nicer to others.

      I’m sorry for whatever happened to you to make you this angry and bitter, but please, don’t take it out on other people.

    • Other people have addressed you’re tone, but you’re also just plain wrong about a few pounds not affecting how clothes fit. Not all women gain weight in the same places or in the same way. I, for example, somehow only carry extra weight on my belly – five extra pounds makes me look 4 months pregnant and causes my pants to fit very poorly.

  21. Another anon :

    I gained a temporary 15 pounds due to medical issues and steroids. I bought some dress pants in a larger size. When I later lost it all my tailor was able to take it all in for about $10 per item.

  22. Been there. While in law school I trained for a marathon, and naturally lost a little weight. I bought all my suits at this point… smart, right? Well, 2 years later I’m an attorney who has to wear suits most days but when I went to grab one for the first time it was a disaster. Luckily the skirts still fit but there’s no way I could wear the pants to the office. skin tight pants = entirely unprofessional. It took me a loooong time to let go of all the clothes I bought during those 5 months of training. I wanted to believe i was a 0, but I’m not, and will never be again.

    Think of the wasted closet space… then take your old clothes to a consignment store….then use that money to buy new clothes!

    I think the reader should buy necessities so she’s not wearing the same thing every day. Then join a gym. If clothes that fit are so scarce then this indicates to me that weight came on quickly. If so, it can come off quickly. Quit treating every day like a ‘cheat’ day, the holidays are officially over.

    • I had a similar issue. I bought a lot of clothes when I was living short-term in a city where I had an incredibly active lifestyle and then moved back to my normal lifestyle where I have to drive everywhere. I figured out pretty quickly that it was impossible to maintain that thin weight unless I was walking at least 1-2 miles a day just in the course of a typical day. I still exercise daily now, but without that extra calorie loss from walking everywhere, I went up about 15 pounds.

  23. I’m glad the original LW wrote in about this, because it’s an issue that affects a lot of women (whether they are gaining or losing weight, or changing size rapidly due to pregnancy). I’ve been struggling over whether to spend money I don’t have on clothes for my current size, knowing that I won’t be in them long, but there are lots of great tips here.

    Thanks, ladies, and can anyone recommend a truly great tailor in Boston?

    • I can’t, but I’ve always had success (in New York and Colorado) with tailors suggested by the sales associates in Talbots. Just ask them who they use/could recommend and then go from there.

      • Yes! Newbury Street Tailors, right on Newbury Street. I bought a dress on clearance that was two sizes two big, and they cut it down and now it fits absolutely perfectly. They’re fantastic.

  24. I’ve struggled with my weight courtesy of a thyroid problem — lost 30 lbs, hit a bad stretch of being out-of-whack and gained much of it back. Am now on the way down again. Some thoughts …

    Ditto to the wrap dress suggestion. They’ve been great, in both directions (losing and gaining).

    I also far prefer shopping online to shopping in a store. It’s easier to find sizes, try things on at home when you might be upset at the result (not fitting into the size you thought you would), try things on when you’re ready to deal vs. when you can squeeze out an hour to run to the store.

    If you’re down to such a small selection, you do need to do some shopping. I would take the suggestion of buying some basics in the size you are now, though if it will make you feel better, buy less expensive stuff that you see as temporary.

    As for having clothes in multiple sizes — well, that’s a pretty personal choice. Some people fluctuate, some don’t. Some struggle with their weight, some don’t. I definitely fluctuate courtesy of my thyroid and menstrual cycle; a constant diet and exercise alone doesn’t resolve it. Figure out where you fall on this spectrum and do what will make you most comfortable.

  25. divaliscious11 :

    Jersey and Spanx!

    Seriously though, do you have a plan for weight loss? If you have no plan and don’t plan to make one, then go shopping. Otherwise, I think its important to have one or two things that fit at your current size, so you don’t feel bad about yourself, and then work your plan. Buy decent quality neutrals.

    And as someone else mentioned, I am a big fan of ‘fat clothes’ (sorry, not being pc here…). As one who has always held a lot of water during my cycle, I always have one or two outfits that are roomy for those days so i am not self concious if I have mmetings or presentations etc…

  26. I feel for you and good luck in whatever you decide to do. Not sure what size you are, but I recently did my measurements and have bought some cute and not too pricey items on myshape. They tell you what size you should wear based on the measurements you sent in, and it varies a great deal. I bought a size 10 dress and size 6 pants, and a Large shirt and they all fit great.

  27. If going up a size really bugs you–look at it this way: the sizing of most clothing lines sold in the U.S is completely arbitrary. I’m a size 6 at Ann Taylor–and a size 12 in DKNY. What’s important is finding clothes that fit properly and make you look and feel beautiful–not what the tag says. After all, the only person who will ever see that tag is you!

    • I even know some women who cut the size tags out of their garments so they don’t need a constant reminder of their “number”!

  28. I would definitely try to do a few things:

    buy a pair of black/grey pants that are inexpensive (H&M/express/ATL) and a jacket that doesnt’ match but GOES (e.g. tweed, print, etc.) in a larger side that you can leave unbuttoned and wear no matter what weight you are. This means you’re not investing a ton of money in pieces when your weight might change, but you can still get things tailored as you lose weight and stretch your wardrobe using what does fit.

    Also, try wrap dresses and loose, blousy tops — those work wonders for me on days when I feel like I’ve had one too many cupcakes.

    And if you’ve lost weight a few months from now, take what’s too big and tailor it. If you haven’t, invest in new clothes in your new size — I’m a big believer in dressing the body you have, not the body you want. Squeezing yourself into a suit that’s two sizes too small may motivate you to lose weight (if only so you’re not cutting off circulation), but it can look unprofessional.

    It happens to the best of us – good luck!

  29. Of course you should buy new clothes. There’s absolutely no sense in walking around in tight, uncomfortable clothes and stressing yourself out every morning trying to find something you could possibly wear. I doubt you have time for that. You have better things to do. Like others have said, if you end up losing weight, you can have your new clothes taken in. Plus, you’ll feel more confident and look better.

    I feel like this diet mentality among women has just gotten out of hand. I don’t think it’s really healthy. Health has little to do with your weight as a number and calories as a number and all of that. I encourage those of you reading this thread who are unfamiliar with it to learn about Health at Every Size. The major components of HAES are:

    1. Self-Acceptance: Affirmation and reinforcement of human beauty and worth irrespective of differences in weight, physical size and shape.
    2. Physical Activity: Support for increasing social, pleasure-based movement for enjoyment and enhanced quality of life.
    3. Normalized Eating: Support for discarding externally-imposed rules and regimens for eating and attaining a more peaceful relationship with food by relearning to eat in response to physiological hunger and fullness cues.
    The USDA reported the benefits found in a recent study of HAES:

    This approach may not keep you supermodel thin, but it will keep you healthier and happier than chronic dieting. We’re all born with different metabolisms, and these things change as we age. The indicators of our health aren’t this one-size fits all standard of ideal weight. There are healthy “fat” people and healthy “skinny” people, and there are unhealthy “fat” people and unhealthy “skinny” people.

    We’re all busy professionals, and I’m sure most of us are under quite a bit of stress. That stress takes a toll on our bodies. The stress of yo-yo dieting and the constant pressure we put on ourselves about our weight just adds to that. Listen to yourself, make peace with food and your body. It’s been a struggle for me to embrace this approach, but it’s improved the quality of my life tremendously.

    • Agreed one hundred percent, a.

    • What sane advice in regards to health, diet and exercise!

    • anon - chi :

      At the risk of irking other commenters, I don’t think I can accept the principle that anyone can be healthy regardless of size or that your weight and number of calories consumed have little bearing on your overall health. This may be true within some range, and perhaps that range is larger than what mainstream media would have us believe, but it just isn’t true that you can be perfectly healthy if you are, say, 200 lbs and 5’0″. You would be at higher risk of heart disease and diabetes. I would think you would be at risk of joint problems as well, not to mention you would be simply unable to perform some physical tasks that a smaller person could. I’m all for self acceptance and avoiding obsessive dieting or unrealistic quests to hit the “perfect” weight, but I don’t think it’s healthy or useful to promote the idea that people can be healthy at any weight so long as they accept themselves.

      • I don’t think that’s what HAES is trying to do either. If you read the link A posted, you’ll see that most of the HAES participants are much more active than women who focus on dieting alone.

        There was an interesting NOVA episode that followed a group of people who lived inactive lifestyles and decided to train for a marathon. Throughout the process, the participants went through a battery of tests at set points during the training. In the end, none of the marathoners had lost significant (if any) weight, but the change in their general health level was pretty amazing. I can’t remember what the exact measurements were, but they measured breathing, heart rate at certain activity levels, and other similar factors.

        • anon - chi :

          Sure – and I think it’s a great concept. My point is merely that Health At EVERY Size is not actually possible, and that A’s comment that weight and calories consumed have little bearing on health is not true, at least outside a certain range of weight and calories. I fear that this thinking (“it’s ok if I’m ok with it”) can be more destructive than helpful and sometimes functions as an excuse to continue a truly unhealthy lifestyle.

          • Anonymous :

            I agree with anon-chi, and think it is worth noting that the point she raises regarding an “it’s okay if I’m okay with it” mindset is equally harmful if a person is dramatically and unhealthily underweight (no matter how “healthy” the food choices or the level of physical activity).

          • That’s why there’s the focus on exercising and eating nutritive foods when you’re hungry until you’re full. It’s hard to live an unhealthy lifestyle if that’s what you’re doing. You might be at a higher weight than society considers perfect, and you might not eat a ~perfect~ nutritive diet, but we’re not talking sitting on the couch and binging on cheetoes 24/7 either. If someone is eating healthily and exercising regularly, then there body is going to stabilize at a weight that is right for them unless there’s some other medical issue going on.

          • anon-chi:
            It’s a good thing you get to do what you want! Just try your best not to judge other people by what they look like, and you won’t cross me. I’m a big fan of HAES AND I’d add that you can’t tell anything about someone’s health (or ambition, or drive, or focus) by how they look. Everyone makes choices that affect their health, and you don’t actually know if that thin person smokes and never wears a seatbelt, and broke both knees playing volleyball, or that size 22 ran a marathon last month, eats a ton of vegetables, and has no family history of any disease.

            Of course this is terribly off topic!

          • Holy cow ladies, let’s keep the snarkiness to a minimum.
            I think the idea of HAES is a great one. The first love is self love, right? I think the idea is that if you lead a healthy lifestyle (including appropriate exercise AND nutrition) you will eventually get to whatever is a healthy range for you. But just because you are “accepting” of the way you look doesn’t magically mean that you’re healthy.
            Personally, I’m 5’2″, 165 lbs, and a size 12. I think I’m darn cute just the way I am and it took me a long time to accept my body the way it is. I actually got mad at a trainer at my gym who stated that one of the reasons I needed to sign up with his service was “to look better” (needless to say, I did NOT sign up with him). But no matter how much of a hot mama I may feel that I am, carrying 30-40 extra lbs of fat is just not healthy. The best my size 12 self can do is try to lead a healthy lifestyle now, which will hopefully lead to whatever my healthy weight-range is.
            And, btw, I did recently sign up with a trainer who’s less of a jackass.

      • I agree. My family has a history of obesity and the effects are devastating on their health and quality of life.

  30. I agree – I think that walking around in too-tight clothes is not only uncomfortable (and unprofessional), but you will be consumed with losing weight and have your pinched waist-line to remind you 24/7. That will actually make it HARDER to lose the weight than when you feel great and good about yourself at whatever your current size. Get clothes that fit so you can FEEL hot and beautiful and confident and in a great mood. You’ll be more likely to stop dwelling on food, which means you’ll probably end up eating healthier and having fewer binges. You’ll also feel more like being active, taking the stairs or showing up for a fitness class when you like what you see in the mirror. EVERYONE looks silly in too-tight pants and EVERYONE can look and feel great in clothes that fit :) Good luck!

  31. I think the women who have had children can relate to going up and down the scale. I’ve worn size 4 (slimmest) and size 12 (post-baby). That range has narrowed, but periods of happiness/stress and the seasons determine my weight more than anything else. If it’s tight, I don’t wear it (at least not to work! LOL). I think giving yourself some room to fluctuate is so much better for the psyche!

  32. North Shore :

    Re: keeping clothes in different sizes. Any other litigators out there? I had a three week trial last year, so was under a lot of stress. For about a month, I had hardly any time to eat, and no appetite anyway because of all the work and constant crises. I lost tons of weight, and by the end of the trial, my pants were about to fall off me. I’m sure people could tell that my suits didn’t fit. IMHO, there was not much I could do about this. I’m not going to go buy suits that are smaller than my size just for the next big stressful case. I did the best I could with belts. And of course, returned to normal weight within a few weeks.

    • Litigator here. But, stress and billing have the opposite effect on me. No time to work out, and the only pleasure I have is in some yummy food while I am working late and thinking about my husband putting my kids to bed. I have a hard time juggling me, family and work, and right now, me is getting the short end of the stick. :( Im afraid this post might have been a sign I need to admit to a new size.

      • Litigator in the HOUSE! I drop weight when I’m stressed too, and it could be 10-12 lbs. Trials are bananas! I just wear my smaller/narrower cut suits and indulge lots of well meaning compliments about how “great” I look…. (if only they knew!).

      • This is the phenomenon known as “seamlessweb ass.”

  33. Buy new clothes.

    You’ll look, feel & act better – more empowered.

    And what you buy now can be tailored down to your future svelte self for just a few $$.

  34. Congrats on your mention in Oprah magazine by the way!!

  35. This may be of limited use but I kept my bigger clothes after I lost weight and now am using them to expand my pregnancy wardrobe. :)

  36. I think others have said this, but I’ll say it again: go to the doctor. There are a number of hormonal problems that can cause weight gain you can’t reverse. You may need to change birth control pills. You could have developed hypothyroidism – it can happen in a very short period of time, my mom’s showed up in 13 months between annual exams. If you’ve gotten off birth control recently, get tested for PCOS – one sure sign is a free testosterone level that’s too high. Unless you can really pinpoint lifestyle issues – you know you’ve been eating the wrong things and not exercising enough – get checked out. It may be middle-age metabolism slowdown but it could be something else. Don’t blow it off. I have PCOS and it was damn near impossible to get diagnosed, even though I’ve had symptoms since I was 12. Get a full physical and a bloodwork panel done by a sympathetic doc and have an honest conversation about what’s going on. They should want to help you figure this out.

    As far as the wardrobe – my weight has fluctuated a lot in recent years, as much as 50 lbs between the time I conceived and when I was breastfeeding my son. I believe it is valuable for your psyche to have clothes that fit. Maybe the larger size is forever and maybe not – but you can get into a cycle of self-loathing that will bring you down really fast. Also, clothes tell other people who you are and how you feel about yourself. If you’re wearing old, shabby, worn-out clothes over and over, people will think you don’t value yourself enough to buy decent clothes. Bite the bullet and buy 3-4 more outfits in the larger size. If you are able to lose the weight, getting rid of them will feel great (I just did that myself, with some stuff I had bought after I gained weight last year). If you stay in the larger size, so be it – at least you’ll look OK.

    I know very well how awful it feels to be heavier than you want to be – but if you get sucked into a “shame spiral” and stop dressing nicely and taking care of yourself, your head-state will just get worse. Go get some new clothes. :)

  37. Lots of useful advice already posted. My $0.02: when you buy new clothes, see whether you can get them with a bit of “stretch” so that even if you do lose the weight, they won’t look baggy. I did this when I waslosing the baby weight & it worked a bit better than getting say 100% cotton or whatever without any stretch factor. Good luck – whatever you decide!

  38. housecounsel :

    I am just so happy to read this thread and know I’m not the only one who has lived through these wardrobe and weight travails. I can’t tell you how many suits I have with pants in more than one size.

  39. Liz (Europe) :

    Don’t give up on the weight, DO buy a larger wardrobe even if it’s just a suit and a few blouses and a dark skirt/pants and a woolen cardigan or two

  40. mamiejane :

    As a mid 50s litigator who has had fluctuating weight issues over the years (menopause will knock the snarki-ness out of a lot of life long skinny people) I would suggest having some clothes that are weight flexible. My favorite thing is cardigans and sweater sets. They will accommodate fluctuating sizes and if they are made out of good wool, cashmere or a silk blend, can be very professional. And they work with good slacks or a skirt and even give you a little extra coverage with a knit dress. Also, heavy knits, like St. John (which I know are pretty pricey) will work even with a few extra pounds.

  41. I read something awhile ago that stuck with me: to avoid getting larger with age, vow never to buy bigger pants. It’s almost become accepted as normal to gain weight as you age, but it’s not inevitable or unpreventable. (Even the tiny amount of 1 pound a year adds up to 20 pounds over 20 years!) I agree with the the thinking that if you buy bigger pants, you are making it mentally much easier on yourself to give up on returning to your prior size. If you accept this, “give up” on losing the weight and have conceded to “losing the battle,” then I don’t see what the problem is with buying new clothes. If you don’t want to concede to becoming the larger size, buy new larger clothes if you must, but keep in mind that it will make you more “comfortable,” in more ways than one, being larger. If you can lose the weight while wearing the larger clothes, good for you – the only loss is the money spent on the larger clothes, which, as others have said, can be donated or tailored.

    • I disagree. Having been there, and having made the decision to buy the bigger clothes, I can say with certainty that the only thing I was giving myself “permission” to do was to buy clothes that fit the body I had at the time, and to feel good about the fact that my clothes looked like they fit. I was bigger than I wanted to be, yes, but at least I knew I looked put-together and professional, which in its own way was a much-needed self-esteem booster.

      I did not start feeling comfortable “being larger,” as you say, simply because I had clothes that fit. The ongoing efforts to lose the weight and regain my health continued, but the daily battles with my closet, and all the stress that came along with that, stopped. Which, for me, was a good thing.

      • If that worked for you, great. For me, the stress of tight pants gives me extra motivation to get back into shape – but I do have skirts for work that are more forgiving and wearable than pants when I am bigger (in that they sit higher on my waist, but aren’t too short).

  42. I honestly can not wear pants that are too tight because it would squeeze my stomach and make me gag. I would probably get a few basic outfits and try not to build an entire wardrobe if you think you will be able to get back in your original size. Can you take a few pants that can be let out and take them to the seamstress instead? Also, find material (and styles) that are a little bit more forgiving so that it can accommodate a small range of fluctuation in your weight.

    I wore a size 8 for a long time, and after I lost weight, I still wore my size 8 outfits for a while while I transitioned to buying size 6 clothes. I actually kept most of my size 8 clothes which now comes handy as I am expecting (especially the roomy tops that are more forgiving than the pants). Good luck.

  43. redheadesq. :

    Totally love the last two comments by M in CA and y. Hay for high self esteem!! Someone earlier mentioned Spanx — is anyone REALLLY comfortable sitting at her desk all day in Spanx?? I wore the “Power Panties” one day and I had to rip them off by 11 am after horrible cramps from being squeezed in so hard at my desk. Yuck.

  44. Agreed re: the earlier comments that even once you lose the weight, you will likely get some use out of larger clothes if you’re planning on having children. I bought a variety of inexpensive pants and tops/sweaters (along with one suit) one size up from my normal size when I had my first baby. They got me throught early pregnancy until I had to buy maternity clothes. When I went back to work after the baby, they got me through until the last of the baby weight came off (which for me took nine months). Now that I’m pregnant again, I expect to be back in them pretty soon. It was very much worth the money that I spent to have things that fit well and looked good even if it was just for a few months.
    Also, I was unexpectedly surprised by how much I liked having a smaller wardrobe–it made getting ready everyday much easier. This stuck with me even after I lost the weight and I ended up getting rid of a lot of clothes that I didn’t love. I had a lot of luck with The Limited for this type of stuff–obviously the quality isn’t something that is going to last a lifetime, but for an “interim wardrobe” it worked out very well.

  45. Dear M,

    I think, Kat and the other commenters have already made the best suggestions in terms of clothes. Buy a few now and use some tricks, so you can feel comfortable, and re-assess after trying to lose some.

    I’d like to note that putting on a few extra pounds is normal (especially beyond 25) and I don’t think there is any shame in gaining a bit. But it sounds like you are uncomfortable with your post-holiday weight, so I would like to suggest a diet change (not a “diet” – most cardio problems actually stem from yo-yo rather than being overweight for a long time) that can really help with that. Since I started working I have finally found eating discipline so I always kept my weight in a certain range, however this past year due to a complete lack of exercise keeping my weight meant eating very little. And I love food too much for that. The diet I’d like to propose is called Insulin-Food-Combining. The book about it is available on google books. Basically the diet just mandates when you eat what food groups but allows you to eat more and still lose/maintain weight. You’re supposed to eat lots (we’re talking 4 full sized pretzels) of carbs in the morning, whatever you like for lunch and stick to protein-rich foods (think Hamburger sans bun, salmon and eggs) and no carbs at night. The research behind the diet suggests that a lot of the fat burning happens at night, but only when your body is not dealing with the insulin from recent carb ingestion. Also proteins combined with carbs (think full burger or cheese pizza) speed up fat storage. So following the diet you can eat a lot of everything, just at the right times. The regimen also automatically eliminates snacking, because a major factor is eating just three times a day so your insulin production can slow down in between and your body focus on burning fat. Exercise is strongly suggested, but I am too lazy for that and just by changing my diet to this regimen it’s been super easy to maintain my weight without going hungry.

    Hope it helps.

  46. beenthere :

    I’m probably older than anyone else on this list, and I finally have the answer to this. The only way to lose weight is to go out and buy some nice, expensive bigger clothes. It’s worth the money to lose weight.
    Then part two – if you are like I was, as soon as you lose weight, you promise yourself you will never get fat again, and you throw out all the “fat clothes.” Not this time.
    I gained nearly 50 lbs in law school, and as I lost the weight, I boxed all the fat clothes up. I have boxes in my closet labeled from 110 up to 150 (I’m short). A few times, I’ve had to pull out the 110-115 for a week or two. This time, I will keep those boxes until the clothes disintegrate. They are my insurance policy.

    • I totally agree. I have identical clothes in sizes 6, 8, and 10. I also have identical sweaters in small and medium. I found that if I really like my bigger clothes, I have a harder time losing weight unless I also own them in smaller sizes. I wait to buy the additional sizes until the clothes are on sale.