A reader recently emailed me asking what I tell my clients in situations where they are dealing with truly temporary weight gain and don’t want to spend a lot of money on clothing and settle into a larger size but also don’t want to feel bad about themselves.  I thought this was an excellent question and I asked her if I could write about it.  

No matter how truly temporary weight gain is, I think every woman considers it temporary.  If we were to poll a large group of women to get an idea of how of them were content with their current size vs. how many were working on weight loss, those working their way down would completely dominate those who have happily settled into what the scale says. 

A Woman’s Relationship to Her Weight and Body Shape and Size is Personal

Before I go on, I will preface all of this by saying that the discussion of weight has always been and always will be delicate with new discussion points being added as we evolve as people.  For example,  in recent years the movement towards body positivity and body acceptance at any size, which I am strong favor of, can also cause those who do want to talk about their dissatisfaction with their body size and a desire to lose weight to come across as fat-shaming or judgmental of those who are of equal size but who choose to not to follow the same path.  

To all that I say, when it comes to whichever journey a person chooses in regards to their body size, it is nobody’s business but the business of that person and their doctor.  If someone wants to lose weight and is making this decision from a mentally and emotionally stable headspace —meaning wanting to lose weight that is not due to a history of disordered eating —everyone else should back out.  This decision also doesn’t always reflect this person’s opinion on body size in general, it’s simply what they want for themselves.  The same is true for those who have found body acceptance at whatever size they sit at on the weight spectrum.  This is the decision of this person and her’s alone, not the world.  The public should not feel at liberty to openly discuss the size of that person simply because she has chosen to accept herself as a larger individual.  Bigness is not permission to make this person a discussion topic.

Perfection of Punishment

Back to this reader’s question and her very temporary weight gain, I’d like to also bring into the equation my point that in some regards, many women also view all weight gain as temporary because I feel it enriches this discussion and makes it even more relatable to more people. As I said, a majority of women will always live in the headspace that weight gain is a layover, not a destination. There is a mentality of punishment when it comes to shopping for clothing in larger sizes. Women I have spoken to have put off working with me, saying they would call me back just as soon as they dropped those few extra pounds. Why would they adorn themselves with good clothes in a size that makes them unhappy? For many women, this is a fallacy, like spending a lifetime chasing a mythical unicorn. There’s an undercurrent of punishment attached to holding off reward that has an odor of, “I can’t be good to myself until I am absolutely perfect.” Women accept the mediocrity of less than what they deserve in their clothes instead of letting themselves have better until they fit their version of perfect, smaller, and what they looked like ten years ago, with contempt at even the thought of settling and putting any investment towards their wardrobe until they do. Settling would be accepting defeat.

In some cases, yes, weight gain truly is temporary.  Medications, life’s setbacks, stress, hormone imbalance, illness, and so on, all can wreak havoc on the body and cause it to gain weight, sometimes even rapidly.  The body is an amazing machine and it’s incredible to think about what it does every day just to keep us alive, but it’s a machine that can be thrown out of balance quite easily.  In this reader’s case, it sounds like this may very well be the case.   In times like this, often weight gain is fast, confusing, frustrating, and very hard to grapple with because the body expands faster than a person can keep up mentally, physically, and emotionally.

How to Shop for Clothes During Temporary Weight Gain

Focus on Knits

Knits are a lot more forgiving than woven and tailored pieces.  They have the ability to expand and shrink with you as you gain and lose.  Be careful of knits that are too thin or sheer or lack enough drape to work with your body.  The key isn’t to hide out under layers of bulk but to find pieces that have a fluidity of movement and enough give so the sizing isn’t as static, stiff, or rigid. 

Your entire wardrobe doesn’t need to be comprised of knits but they can be helpful in areas where you gain the most.  Choosing pants and skirts with elastic waists, tops that have drape and ease, pants that have density but stretch, can all be helpful pieces that will offer you a bit more flexibility when your weight is in fluctuation.  

Build a Tight Capsule and Rely Heavily on Accessories

When I think about a wardrobe due to temporary weight gain, I think about a pregnancy wardrobe.  In a lot of ways, it’s basically one and the same.  It’s a temporary period of time that your body will be larger than usual,  a new body shape that you aren’t familiar with dressing, and a body you definitely don’t have a lot of clothes in your closet that fit it.  I’ve never been pregnant, so I’ve always had to seek out the advice I’ve heard from those who have been and it’s usually the same — a few reliable basic pieces in a very tight palette worn over and over again, changed up with accessories to look different.  If your weight gain is truly a temporary situation (be really honest here), this is the way to go.  

I wouldn’t even go beyond one base neutral color and I’d probably choose navy or black and then two colors to mix in that relate together. Given my preferences, these colors would likely also be neutral, but they might be different for you.  I’d dress in a lot of monochromes, I’d work with the shoes I have because feet do get smaller with weight loss, and I would use and buy more accessories.  Once the weight comes off, I’d continue to use the accessories and at that point, I’d probably be so over the capsule anyway that, thank goodness, it no longer fits.  This truly is the biggest stop-gap solution of them all.  I’m talking about maybe ten pieces, max, and very basic ones.  Maybe two pairs of pants, a dress, three tops a cardigan, a blazer, and two sweaters.  My capsule would probably be comprised of this:

  • One pair of navy ankle pants
  • One pair of jeans
  • Ivory blouse
  • Navy blazer
  • Camel cardigan
  • Grey t-shirt
  • Navy simple midi dress
  • Camel  pullover  sweater 
  • Navy top
  • Grey pullover sweater

And then I’d accessorize the crap out of it to make it work for a ton of different situations.

Shop Luxury Brands Resale 

Next, in order to make weight gain feel less like a punishment, be it very temporary or a gradual step down, resale is an absolute must. Again, not a punishment. Don’t go and buy some sad cheap garments resale because you’re feeling fat and miserable. Go and buy a few beautiful luxury pieces that you can temporarily love and can consign back when you are done. Cheap clothes have no resale value. I’d get my butt online to places like The RealReal and shop brands like Marina Rinaldi, Max Mara’s plus line, which starts at a size 4 and sizes up to a 24, Akris Punto which size to an 18 (a slim designer 18, so more like a 16), Lafayette 148, which sizes up to a 24, St. John, Vince, Veronica Beard, I could go on, all these brands, and more, can be found on resale sites like The RealReal and Poshmark for a fraction of their prices retail and offer plus sizes. If you’re a size 18 or smaller, M.M. Lafleur sells their pieces resale on their Second Act site. Eileen Fisher has their Renew Program and offers plus size in a generous selection.

The point is, temporarily being a larger size, does not mean fishing cheap, ugly punishment clothes out of a bargain bin.  Clothes from better and designer brands can be consigned back when you are done with them.  If they are in good shape, they can be put sent back or dropped off at a RealReal location if you have one near you and they’ll do all the listing and selling.  If you have the desire and time, you can list pieces yourself on Poshmark, and ThredUp is a place where you can send clothes that may not be in the best shape for The RealReal but where they will handle the listing and selling for you.  You may not get back exactly the equivalent of what you spent, but even a few pieces of better in your wardrobe will make this temporary stop of wearing a larger size a much more palatable experience.

Use Resale to Buy Non-Luxury Things

You don’t just have to use resale to shop exclusively for luxury. I’m also not saying pick up a bunch of cheap t-shirts and crappy sweaters, but if spending any money at this size feels hard, buying good clothes at resale prices on sites like Poshmark may be easier to deal with. Wouldn’t you prefer a nice sweater in good or excellent condition at a price you’d pay for something cheap at a store that makes a sweater out of something that would flame up like a Roman candle at the first sight of a flame? Cheap clothes have no resale value. Nobody wants, sad, cheap clothes that once belonged to someone else. But when you’re done with that well-made, well-priced knit top you loved for a short window of time, it can live on to the next person who is living through the same thing you are right now.

Consider Closing Rental From Plus-Size Subscription Services

While I wouldn’t suggest this for your entire wardrobe, to keep things fresh, subscription sites like Gwynnie Bee, or Eloquii Unlimited, cater to plus size women and give customers the opportunity to temporarily infuse their wardrobes on a rotating basis with fun new pieces at a flat rate that varies in price based on how much you want and need.

Gwynnie Bee, which offers sizing from 0-32, has rental plans as little as one item at a time shipped to you for a flat rate of $49 a month, and up to 10 items sent per delivery for a monthly charge of $199.  Eloquii Unlimited offers a four garment plan for $79 a month, for women sizes 14-28, with free shipping both ways.  You can visit both their sites for more details.

Want Something New?  Invest in Accessories

You don’t want to buy new clothes because your current weight isn’t a welcomed guest, but you want something new. It’s a perfect time to put your money towards some accessories to freshen your wardrobe. Maybe this is the time to buy that investment bag you’ve been coveting, the designer scarf you always wanted, or that stunning piece of jewelry. One area I’d hold back on is investing in shoes because it’s not uncommon to lose weight in your feet. Certainly, buy new shoes, but maybe hold off on finally buying the Choos. A client of mine needed all new boots after losing 30 lbs. because her old ones suddenly became too big. Investing in expensive shoes when you are at your largest size and have plans to lose may not be a sound choice.

Once you lose, you can continue to wear and enjoy your accessories at any size.

Find a Good Tailor and Alter As You Size Down

Weight loss isn’t quick no matter if the gain is temporary or longer-lasting and the way down can be a slow one.  This will not be a size now to goal size tomorrow situation and a tailor can help you take clothes you enjoy wearing today and help step them down slowly until they can no longer be sized down any longer.  Usually, clothing can’t be sized down more than two sizes, but two clothing sizes usually equal to about 30 lbs. total which is a significant amount of weight loss.

Weight Gain Doesn’t Have to Be Treated As a Clothing Punishment

No matter where you are regarding your current weight, be it temporary or something you chip away at slowly, and whether you are mentally accepting of it or are fighting it with every breath, what you wear does not have to be a punishment of clothes you don’t want to wear because you intend it to be a situation that won’t last long. Just like you plan for your extra weight not being permanent, the clothing you wear doesn’t have to be either. But temporary does not mean ugly, or what you wouldn’t choose. You can love the way you look at any size no matter how long you need or want to be whatever size your body is.