What to Wear During a Weight Gain (or Loss!)


I hear you. Transitions are tough. Tricky. Traumatic even. (Sorry—I never miss a chance to alliterate!).

They are confidence killers. And that’s what stinks. During a time when you could use a boost of confidence the most, a wardrobe that no longer fits or suits your lifestyle has the exact opposite effect. It is deflating. I believe that we all deserve to feel beautiful and polished and charming, no matter which season of life we currently find ourselves in. Does it require a little more time, effort and money? Yes, but you are so worth it. And so is your family. You owe it to them to feel your best and prettiest and happiest as much of the time as you can, because when you feel lovely, you are a lovelier person to be around and lovelier to your loved ones. Sorry for all the love, but you get the idea.

I know it doesn’t take long of not feeling and looking my best to make me sulky and bad-tempered. But maybe that’s just me.

One of my readers wrote that the temporary weight gain and lack of cute clothes were causing her to feel like she needed therapy. Now, I’m not suggesting that clothes are therapeutic. Wait, yes, yes I am. Sometimes, happiness really can come from the outside in. A pretty new pair of shoes, a fresh coat of nail polish and a new lipstick shade can change your outlook. Then, if the doldrums still linger, you may find you need less time on the therapist’s couch or on that friend’s shoulder to lift yourself out of it.

From what I hear, you guys could use a little hand holding through transitions, and fortunately, I have helped dozens of women navigate them in style. In the last post, I discussed the need to determine whether your transition is temporary or longer term, and much of that has to do with the reason for the transition. Changes can be lifestyle-related (stay at home to work outside the home; work to retirement; stay at home mom to on the go mom; student to employee), weight related (significant weight loss, significant weight gain, illness related weight loss or gain), or both (transitioning into or out of pregnancy). And they each require a different take on the same basic model:

Assess What You Have + Set a Budget + Buy Core Capsule Pieces = Transitional Wardrobe

Whether you are currently trying to lose weight, have experienced a temporary weight gain, or are pregnant, the Transitional Wardrobe is the temporary wardrobe that helps you look and feel amazing during this phase of your life. Because it is temporary, it is smaller—a true capsule wardrobe. And because it is temporary, I recommend rounding it out with affordable basics and then splurging on accessories—those sizeless wardrobe enhancers that work now and later.

The formula is essentially the same for short and long term transitions, but a longer term change, like deciding to stay home after years in the corporate world, or going to work after years as a student or a SAHM, requires a couple of modifications.

Assess What You Have + Set a Long Term Budget + Buy Core Capsule Pieces = Goal Wardrobe

The difference lies in which of the core capsule pieces you choose (focus on the casual pieces first if your lifestyle is transitioning away from working outside the home, or the dressier pieces for a transition back to work), and what you spend on them. Instead of the potentially temporary pieces that I recommend for the Transitional Wardrobe, you should plan on investing more (or thrifting and sale-shopping to get the best for less) for your Goal Wardrobe, because these are the pieces that will be the foundation of most of your ensembles for a long time.

As I mentioned before, you had a lot to say on this topic. Here, some of the survey responses from readers who are struggling through a weight transition:

“Trying to lose weight right now and need some advice on what to wear while I am transitioning to goal weight.”

“I am currently working on losing weight. Need help in figuring out what [are the] best outfits for me. Casual and dressy.”

“I’m a 68 y/o woman who is presently about 100 lbs over-weight. My younger, thinner me is in there, wanting to desperately get out, but until I can get some of it off, it’s hard for me to feel comfortable in old, fat lady clothes. And that’s all I can find in the stores in my size, anyway.”

“After being diagnosed with a chronic illness, I was put on several meds that made me gain over 40 pounds. No matter how hard I try I can’t lose it. It’s time to have a “real wardrobe in this bigger size. I don’t know what to buy that looks good and hides my trouble spots. I’ve always gravitated to the same cuts and styles that looked good on me then…  They don’t work any more!”

And these are just a few of the survey responses about this topic. It has also come up a number of times in BeautyMommy VIP.

“I’m spring cleaning my closet and I have run into a conundrum. I have been losing weight and have clothes in my closet from size 6 to size 12. Right now, I’m a size 10/12, and I’ve been trying to only keep the clothes I love, but some of the clothes in my current size I don’t really love or like very much, but it’s what fits right now. What do you suggest I do?”

This post will focus on what to wear when you are in a weight-related transition period. In the next few posts, I will discuss pregnancy transitions and work/home transitions. So here, how the formula works, step by step.

1. Assess What You Have

Be brutally honest. Take EVERYTHING out of your closet that is not in your current size(s) or season. No cheating. If you currently wear a 10/12, don’t sneak any size 8’s in there. Get them out of your closet! (We will revisit these later!)

Now, take a look at everything you currently have, like and wear in your current size. Now, eliminate everything from your Starter Capsule Wardrobe that is in bad shape—pilled, stained, stretched out.

Take pictures and upload them into StyleBook, Cladwell, or Polyvore. This is your Starter Capsule Wardrobe. It may be smaller, or ever larger, than you think, but this is your honest-to-goodness wardrobe right now. Take a hard look at it. Are these pieces purchased in a hurry to fill a need as your body transitioned, or do you truly like and enjoy wearing these pieces. Make a mental note of what works and what doesn’t for future purchases.

This example Starter Capsule Wardrobe features a couple of bottoms, 5 tops and 3 dresses. Yours may be smaller, or much larger. Decide how many outfits are possible with your current Starter Capsule pieces. The easiest way to do this, of course, is to multiply tops by bottoms, and then add the dresses, but of course that only works if everything goes with everything else. Count the number of combinations, and use that as your starting point.

Not counting variations with accessories or layering, this example Starter Capsule Wardrobe yields 13 possible outfit combinations. Since I consider 21-28 outfits a reasonable goal for a Transitional Capsule Wardrobe, some strategic shopping is in order.

2. Set a Budget

For this shorter term transition, I recommend a small to moderate budget. For this example, I used a $200 budget, and shopped exclusively at Target, to keep it simple, but, with some sale sleuthing, thrifting, etc. you could find higher quality pieces and still stay within this budget. (A longer term transition would require a larger budget, but it would also be spread out over a longer period of time). Decide on a figure that you are comfortable with and stick to it.

3. Buy Core Capsule Pieces

The next step is to choose pieces from my list of Core Capsule basics—essentials that help fill in the gaps in any wardrobe. You can read all about them in this post on building a capsule wardrobe. The best part about the Core Capsule pieces is their versatility and the fact that, with small adjustments to fabric or style, they can adapt to any lifestyle. For example, a dressier lifestyle would require a black blazer and black dress pants, for example, while a black cardigan or moto jacket and black ponte knit pants fill the same need in a more casual wardrobe. And while I chose the obvious black and white neutral color palette to illustrate the core capsule wardrobe, you can use any light or dark neutral of your choice.
There are 5 things to keep in mind when shopping for anything new, whether you’re shopping for a Transitional Wardrobe or a Goal Wardrobe.

1. Body Type:

Everything you buy, from now on, should be suited for your unique body type (Style Dial number). After all, now that you know what flatters your shape the most, you’ll find it hard to settle for anything less. This is where the shopping cheat sheet comes in handy. Refer to your body type rules when shopping and you will find the perfect silhouette, every time. (If you don’t know your Style Dial number, click here to find out for free!)

2. Color Palette:

Use your Starter Capsule Wardrobe (from step 1, above) as a jumping off point, and start to create a color palette for your wardrobe. The Cladwell app can really help with this, but, in simplest terms, pick 3 neutrals, 2-3 colors and then throw in denim, which is a universal neutral. In the case of our example Starter Capsule wardrobe, the neutrals are beige, black and white, and the colors are blue and green.

3. Lifestyle:

The most versatile pieces, of course, are those that can be dressed up or down. A black dress in a substantial knit can be dressed up with heels or worn casually with flat sandals and a denim jacket. Whenever possible, look for these lifestyle spanning pieces. Unless your job requires a suit, choose a jacket, skirt and pants that work together to create a suit look but select a versatile fabric (with stretch!) so that these pieces work for more casual wear too.

4. Personal Style:

Small details can bring these potentially boring basics to life and also express your sense of personal style. For example, a black tee can be drapey (Relaxed Style), embroidered or embellished (Boho Style), sleek and trendy (Chic Style), clean and simple (Classic Style) on in a henley or collared style (Preppy Style).

5. Season:

Since we are focusing on creating a temporary Transitional Capsule Wardrobe, focus on the current season when creating this look. Eventually, when you get to your goal size, you’ll want a fall/winter wardrobe and a spring/summer wardrobe, although there may be several pieces that span the seasons and work year round.

This is what our Starter Capsule Wardrobe looks like with the addition of half a dozen core capsule pieces. This sample wardrobe is designed for a Style Dial 2 with a casual lifestyle and Relaxed or Boho style. The Core Capsule pieces we added, all from Target, include a white button down, jean shorts, a black knit dress, a black lace tee, a military style jacket and a black skirt. All of these items are from Target, and taking advantage of a Buy One/Get One 50% off promotion, the total of the 6 pieces came to about $175. I spent the most on the thick scuba knit skirt ($50) and the jacket ($60).

Starter Wardrobe with Capsule Pieces

So, for only $175, and by adding only 6 pieces, we have more than doubled our wardrobe options. Now, instead of 13 potential outfits, the number jumps to 32 possible outfit combinations. This is now your Transitional Capsule Wardrobe, and these are the pieces you will wear and live in for the spring/summer season. Following this system takes some planning and discipline, but, if you follow it closely, you’ll end up with a chic capsule wardrobe that will save you time and money.

But if all of this budgeting and capsuling has you feeling a little, well, boring, cheer up. In my next post, we get to the fun part: Accessorizing and outfit creation! I’ll show you how to take this Transitional Capsule Wardrobe and use it to create polished, pulled together outfits with color, life and personality.

And the best part? Accessories are transition proof!

I hope you found this step by step method practical and helpful! Transitioning your wardrobe is a challenge, but a simple system can make it seem so much more manageable. Remember: Start with what you have, add a few key pieces, and mix to create a month’s worth of looks. Let me know how it works for you!

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