5 Wardrobe Rules to Help You Dress During Weight Gain and Loss

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It’s a rare woman whose weight doesn’t change at all throughout the course of her adult life. Whether it’s due to lifestyle changes, the natural course of getting older, pregnancy, or whatever, it’s part of most people’s life to deal with changes to your body at some point or another. While we hope women can embrace those changes in a healthy way and realize that it’s totally normal and okay not to remain at the same weight forever, we also recognize that weight fluctuations can make getting dressed a tad more challenging.

Fortunately, there are some strategies you can use to make your wardrobe a bit more versatile, so that you feel good in your clothes (and your skin) no matter what the scale says. In our view, owning clothes you love that fit your current shape is a sign of self-love and body-positivity and acceptance. Do you really need to keep those three pairs of jeans from college? Your college self—gorgeous as she was—is in the past. Keep the clothes that fit the current, beautiful you.

Ahead, check out five tried-and-true wardrobe rules that make dealing with weight changes less stressful and more stylish.

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Rule 1: Do a Closet Audit

Look through your wardrobe and make three piles: Keep, Tailor, Toss. Keep pieces that currently fit you, can last through weight gain/loss (we’ll talk about those in Rule 2), choose pieces to tailor if you need an item taken in or let out, and your final pile should be pieces that don’t currently fit at all, and may never fit again. Obviously, this last one doesn’t apply to pregnant ladies—don’t throw out all your clothes!

For example: Did you gain or lose a few pounds? Don’t keep those pieces “just in case” you go back to your old weight. Clean out these items so you can replace them with new items that fit you properly and you can actually wear. (If there’s a beloved non-tailor-able item that’s a smidge too small or big, hang onto it if you must, but limit it to one or two really special pieces that you truly might wear again.) Size is just a number and filling your wardrobe with pieces that fit you now will make getting dressed in the morning a lot easier and more fun.

MORE: 30 Things Every Woman Should Own by Age 30

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Rule 2: Invest in Transitional Pieces

One major struggle about dressing during a transitional weight period is that if you shop for certain expensive investment pieces during this time, they may not fit you in six months. Instead, we suggest that you invest in “transitional” pieces that will fit you now and later. These items have stretch, adjustable waists, and can be just as flattering within a 10-20 pound range.

These items include:

  • Wrap dresses, skirts and shirts: The adjustable waist is extremely flattering for all body types
  • Shift dresses: The shapeless silhouette is perfect for weight loss and gain. You can belt it to define your waist, or let it hang loose.
  • Knit and cotton fabrics: Jackets, blazers, dresses, sweaters, and shirts in stretchy knit or cotton can work with a changing body.
  • Stretch denim: Look for denim with a little stretch in the legs so they can transition with your body.
  • Elastic waists: Look for dresses, skirts, dress pants with elastic waists. These will be forgiving with weight loss and gain, and last longer than structured waistbands. You can also have your tailor add adjustable waistbands and additional buttons to bottoms that you need to expand or take in.

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Rule 3: Visit your Tailor

Tailors can help you completely transform your wardrobe. If you lost weight, make sure to take in arm holes, baggy pants, waistbands, and shoulders. If you gained weight, they can add width to your waist and take out seams on clothing to make them fit—and much more! If you have an item you want to keep, make sure to see if your tailor can adjust this piece to fit you properly before tossing or buying a new version. The price of tailoring is normally a fraction of the price of a new garment.

MORE: How to Figure out (and Fix) Your Fashion Blind Spots

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Rule 4: Stock up on Budget-Friendly Essentials

If your current weight is temporary (like with pregnancy or adjusting to a new medication), stock up on budget-friendly essentials for that time, including everything from blouses and denim to fitted items—you don’t need to invest in high sticker price items. If your weight has been stabilized for about six months, then you can invest in those quality pieces, but save a few bucks during this transitional period.

The key, as always, is to focus on fit and proportion. Make sure to have a few well-fitting pieces on hand, and remember, they don’t have to be expensive. Also, since your body is changing, that means your bra size is probably changing, too. Make sure your underpinnings fit correctly and you don’t have spillage or gapping, because they can really help a shirt or dress fit better.

Rule 5: Accessorize!

Shoes, handbags, accessories, and jewelry are great pieces to finish off any look. Most of these things will not change with weight gain or loss, so having a few pieces you really love can help you feel more confident in seconds.

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