Dressing for Weight Fluctuations

Dressing for Weight FluctuationsDressing for weight gain and loss is hard. Maybe you’re in treatment for an eating disorder. Maybe you’ve gained weight after taking medication. Maybe your appetite has decreased and you’ve lost weight. There are a million reasons why sudden weight change might occur.

Unfortunately, I’ve been there. When I first was put on medication, I gained 60 lbs in about a year. I stayed stable until I was put on Clozaril for a few months and gained 10lbs. I ended up stopping the Clozaril and lost that 10 lbs. When I started severely limiting my caloric intake, I lost 20 lbs, only to gain 30 for an unknown medical reason. A few weeks ago, I was put on a new medication and have gained a few lbs since then.

Sometimes, it’s not a slow and small weight gain, and a lot is affected from such a drastic change. Your self esteem, your self worth, and your wardrobe become foreign, slow to adapt to a new situation.

Or, let’s say you feel confident about yourself and your weight. No matter what, your closet is due for an overhaul. Easiest way to handle it? Sweatpants and huge t-shirts. While those might work at home, they become less appropriate and more depressing at work or running errands.


Dresses can be your best friend. Sundresses, wrap dresses, and cowl dresses work really well. The key is embracing fabrics like jersey, spandex blends, etc. You can pair them with stretchy leggings, and it’s appropriate for any season or situation. In a relaxed setting, oversized tunics and leggings work well. Tunics look big, but they are made to look big as opposed to buying a larger size of an item that is meant to be fitted. I can’t tell you the last time I actually wore real pants.

As depressing as this thought may be, maternity clothes also work well. Many of them don’t look like maternity clothes at all, yet they’ll still accommodate some weight gain. In addition, since they’re also designed to be worn postpartum, they also look good with weight loss. Yes, this sounds embarrassing as all hell, but you know what? The only one who has to know is you. I have a few camisoles from Target that I wear when I’m in a rough patch and have to double up on some Seroquel, and not one person has noticed that it’s maternity clothing. I do draw the line at nursing bras, though.

The idea of camisoles leads me to my next tip: layering! Layering allows you to adjust clothing to cover up exposed skin that happens when your weight changes. For example, it took me an embarrassingly long time (and one mortifying suggestion from a teacher) to figure out that there was a gap between my jeans and my t-shirt, especially when I sat down. Plumbers, you can sympathize with me here. Tanks and camisoles usually come longer and stretch, moving and growing with you. Similarly, they also allow you to wear your larger shirts for longer by hugging your midsection. Finally, they are usually cheaper than other clothing, so you can stock up.

The strangest suggestion I have? Wear scrubs. I know it sounds nuts, but think about it: they are stretchy, comfortable, come in a million sizes, cheap, and no one is going to judge you. There’s no rule that says you can’t wear scrubs unless you’re a medical professional, and unless you happen to be in a medical setting, no one’s going to rely on you for medical advice. These obviously aren’t for formal occasions, but they’re perfect to wear while running errands.


I don’t have much experience in this area, so I’ll refer you to a great Art of Manliness article.


In terms of clothing, stick with basic, foundational items in neutral colors. They don’t have to be expensive, and you can get a bunch of uses out of them. In addition, shopping doesn’t have to be a nightmare scenario. You can buy online and try them on at home, or you can go to a store with which you’re comfortable.

One coping mechanism I use is to concentrate on finding nice accessories, things that can stay with me regardless of my weight. I like to pick out nice shoes, scarves, watches, etc rather than become upset about my actual clothing. A cute purse is a cute purse regardless of how much I weigh at the time. And, when I slip my feet into my nice shoes, I remember that I can enjoy how I look despite how I might feel.



It’s helpful to establish a “uniform” for yourself. This cuts down on the number of choices you have to make when getting dressed, allowing you to focus on other, more important decisions. This is surprisingly easy to do — the key is to dress in layers and mix-and-match.


You will need:

  • A few unmarked t-shirts (varying colors)
  • A few pairs of dark-wash jeans
  • A few dark-colored polo shirts
  • A couple pairs of light khaki slacks
  • One navy sport coat, nice white shirt, and blue striped tie
  • One pair of dark sneakers
  • One pair of dark dress shoes
  • Several pairs of dark socks
  • Sweater
  • Underwear
  • Comfortable swimsuit
Casual T-Shirt + Jeans + Sneakers
Casual Event Polo + Jeans + Dress Shoes
Business Casual Polo + Slacks + Dress Shoes (+ Sport Coat)
Formal Dress Shirt + Slacks + Sport Coat + Tie + Dress shoes
Menswear doesn’t change much based on the season, so these basic combinations last throughout the year. You can always add a sweater to an outfit if it is cold out. If you are in need of something more formal, such as a black tie event, you can rent a tux from a local vendor.



You will need:

  •  A few plain, short-sleeve tops (varying colors)
  •  A few pairs of dressy jeans/slacks


  •  A few skirts with a few pairs of leggings/heavy tights
  •  A few cardigans (neutrals- some light, some dark)
  •  One black sundress (short-sleeve/sleeveless)
  •  One black “nice” dress (short-sleeve/sleeveless)
  •  One pair of flats
  •  One pair of “nice” sandals
  •  One pair of decent-looking boots
  •  One scarf (color or neutral)
  •  A few pieces of costume jewelry
  •  Underwear
  •  Comfortable swimsuit
Casual (Warm) Shirt + Pants/Skirt + Sandals or Flats
Casual (Cool) Shirt + Cardigan + Pants/Skirt and Leggings/Tights + Boots
Casual Event (Warm) Sundress + Sandals or Flats + Jewelry
Casual Event (Cool) Sundress + Cardigan + Flats or Boots + Scarf
Business Casual (Warm) Dress + Flats + Jewelry
Business Casual (Cool) Dress + Cardigan + Flats + Jewelry
Women’s wear isn’t nearly as simple as menswear, but once you’ve established your body type*, preferences, and basic wardrobe, it gets easier. The key is to pair the same clothes in different ways in order to fit the season and occasion. You also want to make sure the big items (tops, bottoms, and dresses) are neutral and the accessories (shoes, jewelry, and scarves) have some color.


* If you don’t know how to dress your body type, turn to graphic below.


Dry Clean? Never!

Go out of your way to buy clothes that don’t need to be dry-cleaned or ironed. If you find an article of clothing you like, buy several of that item in varying colors. If you don’t have the time or space to stock up, you can take a picture of the tag in case you want to buy it later.

Use the infographic below to help you read the cryptic clothing symbols:


Easy to Wash

At the end of the day, instead of throwing everything into your dirty linen basket or on the floor, just deposit everything into the washing machine directly. Continue to choose items from the same color grouping until the washing machine is full. Then, throw in the cleaning products and press the button. This way there are never any dirty clothes lying around the house or sitting unwashed, getting smelly, in a basket. It also eliminates the task of separating whites from darks etc. and limits the need to do multiple loads.

Then just throw them in the dryer. For one person this should mean that you only need to do one to two loads of washing a week and you already have an organized system of boxes to put the dry clothes away. This should take up about 30-45 minutes of work a week. It also relieves you of having to look at mess that will further lower your mood. It provides a powerful message to your brain that even if you are depressed, you can still get things done. Not to mention that looking at increasing mounds of dirty clothes can overwhelm you with the prospect of work, which can make it, more unlikely you will clean.

Dress with All the Colors of the Spectrum

Divide your clothes into three groups. Almost everyone, regardless of their coloring, looks good in dark colors; the black and grey spectrum. Likewise, most people look good in the white/light color spectrum. Decide which color spectrum really suits you. Ask for advice if you are unsure.

Rearrange your clothes storage along these color lines. If you don’t have a lot of space or money, buy cheap but sturdy boxes from a storage place then tape them together so they function like a multi level cupboard. You can cover it with a nice sheet or decorative throw.

Socks in Surplus

Always remember to buy a large surplus of underwear and socks. While you can wear some clothes a few times before washing them, clean underwear and socks are a must. When they get too old or have holes, you can throw them out and grab a new pair from your stash. In addition, if you buy all one color (such as white or black), you don’t have to bother matching lone socks.