I’m just a girl, standing in front of my closet, pleading that a single pair of pants will fit, asking why nothing fits, knowing why nothing fits, and simultaneously trying to quell a panic attack about nothing fitting.
Unsurprisingly, after a year of rarely leaving my 800 square-foot apartment, my body has changed.
Amidst the joy of returning to some semblance of normal, I find myself experiencing pangs of anger, annoyance, and outright exhaustion at the looming back-to-office date with a wardrobe that no longer fits, and the reality that offices aren’t going to switch to a sweatpants only dress code when it's finally safe to return to work. A change in size not only increases your to-do list and clothing expenses, but it also can cause a shift in how you see yourself. Clothing is an extension of ourselves and how we want the world to see us, so suddenly losing the comfort of a wardrobe that reflects your carefully curated identity is unsettling. And frankly, after last year, I don’t have the energy to muddle through that again.
Whenever an article of clothing fails to fit me, it feels like a death; melodramatic yes, but emotionally I am still standing in a shop delighted to have found the exact right garment. So, if you are going through this now, take a minute, and allow yourself to grieve the unexpected loss of your wardrobe.
But now we have to pick ourselves up off the (metaphorical or literal) closet floor and reframe the nightmare of rebuilding your wardrobe into the opportunity to level up your closet from the last decade—because let’s be honest, there are absolutely pieces in there you wouldn’t be wearing even if they still fit. It’s time to let them go and create a wardrobe that reflects who you are today, both in body and spirit. In my early 20s I went through this exact experience—from a varsity athlete to a plus-size recent graduate—and I struggled to define both myself and my closet, a period that taught me how to rebuild a closet on a shoestring budget, without forcing my body to maintain a size it simply wasn’t anymore. So, if after a year of sweatpants, your weight gain is seemingly innocuous until you try on a pair of jeans (my own recent struggle), here is my advice for how to rebuild your wardrobe while honoring your body.
Where Do I Even Begin?
Looking at an entire wardrobe that doesn’t fit is an overwhelming feeling. The good news: You are probably not going to need to replace all of it within the next month. Exhale and instead focus on the places you are actually going to —your office, dinners out and running errands. Shift the question from “where do I begin” to “where am I going during the average week? What pieces do I need to get me through the next few months.”
Part of this process will include trying on everything in your wardrobe to determine what fits and what doesn’t. That can be both triggering and disheartening, so work through it at your own pace, reminding yourself that your body has changed before and it will likely change again over the course of your lifetime. That weight gain or loss are neutral shifts and not personal failings. Knowing what fits or doesn’t will save you so much time in the long run, especially when it comes to adding pieces that will work well with the garments that still fit. It is a tedious task, so I like to pair it with a glass of something to take the edge off. You survived a pandemic, you can do this too.
From there, prioritize workhorse pieces that can be easily restyled for different situations and that fit the most urgent closet gaps (for example, trousers and a blazer for work, a few nice blouses, a pair of jeans, and a cozy sweater). While you might not want to have a capsule wardrobe in the long term, starting from that mentality can make rebuilding your wardrobe feel, dare I say, manageable. Finally, if you have a formal affair coming on the horizon, borrowing or renting clothes can be a quick fix to avoid overspending on new pieces that might not fit in a few months, which brings us to our second big question.
What If My Size Changes Again?
Your size might shift again as you return to the world outside your apartment. Heading to spin class, walking to work, shifting what you eat and how you spend your time can all be catalysts for your body changing size, but you can’t only wear sweatpants for the next six months as you wait to find out. Fortunately, there are countless styles that are designed to encompass a few sizes, giving you stylish options whether or not your size fluctuates now or in the future.
Look for designs that can be tied tighter or looser as needed, like a wrap dress or skirt, or garments that are shirred, which conveniently are ideal for weight gain or loss while embodying the cottagecore aesthetic, as well as clothes that look great oversized like button-ups, blazers, and basic tees. Drowning in fabric is a mood; now’s a great time to embrace an exaggerated silhouette paired with accessories you have and love, so those new pieces feel more familiar.
I know there is an underlying temptation to use your ill-fitting wardrobe as a tantalizing incentive to force your body back to it’s pre-pandemic form, but I am pleading with you to give yourself, your body, and your mental health a break. You just survived a pandemic—buy the cute dress and celebrate that your body carried you through a global disaster. It feels obscene to even have to say this, but your life is too short to waste time in clothing that makes you feel badly about yourself. You deserve better than that so act accordingly.
What Do I Do With the Garments That Don’t Fit?
Stop wasting your time trying on outfits that don’t fit right and make it easier to find the ones that do. I recommend dividing out your closet, relegating pieces that don’t fit to the back of your closet for the next few months, and making the pieces that fit you the easiest to access.. This will also visually serve you in those panicked moments of “I have nothing to wear.” Set a reminder in your calendar to re-evaluate your wardrobe again in six months to see if hanging onto those too-small garments is still necessary.
You are giving yourself the time to see what happens next, a tender bit of space for this messy in-between we are inhabiting. Maybe your weight will change, and those old pieces will once again fit. If they don’t, that is also going to be fine because you’ve started building your new wardrobe, one that serves the body you have now, with plenty of room for new pieces you’ll find over time.
Originally Appeared on Vogue