The other day, I got down my box of too-small clothing for the first time since surgery. I went through the things I thought might fit that would be appropriate for fall and winter, and put away a few things from my closet that either don't fit me anymore or likely won't by the time their season rolls around again (and also a couple of things I'm just not feeling like wearing these days). Because I'm a lifelong weight-cycler, I have clothing that covers nearly a 100-pound range, from something like an 18 to something like a 26. I'm in the middle of my wardrobe right now—I have a few things that are too big, and a few things that fit more loosely than they did, and a few things that newly fit, and a few things that fit but don't look quite the way I'd like them to, and a few things that simply don't fit yet (including some that never fit in the first place, because I bought them anticipating more weight loss than I actually had).
I was noticing how nice it was to get out some things I haven't worn in a long time, most of which are more recent acquisitions (because I was really upset about my most recent weight gain, and also broke as hell, the combination of which resulted in not a lot of new clothing purchases on the way up) and thus reflect a sense of who I am and how I dress that feels up-to-date and comfortable and good. It's nice to feel, in this stressful time, a real sense of pleasure about caring for and dressing myself, and I had a nice interlude with the clothes box. I've taken pleasure in clothing since I got to college and found my way both into the amazing, critical Fatshionista Livejournal community and also under the self-presentation wing of a woman who's still a very dear friend, who despite being five feet tall and maybe a hundred pounds soaking wet put 19-year-old me in her car one day, drove me to the mall, and marched me to a Torrid to oversee a $400 spree that changed my wardrobe and my life forever. God bless her and keep her. Clothing has been a way for me to manage my self-presentation, to intervene in the way the world responds to me and my body. It gives me a sense of femininity and a sense of control over my social persona that fatness has sometimes threatened. I love clothes. I love them as signifiers, and I love them as sensory experiences. And yes, I will miss my wardrobe when I have to replace it. I'll miss it a lot.
(Side note: I'm hanging onto my too-big things to donate to the Big Fat Flea event this spring, and if you happen to be in the tri-state area I would really encourage you to consider donating too. The Flea is a thoughtful organization that brings stylish fatties together to freshen up their wardrobes on the cheap and raise money for fat-politics group NOLOSE. I understand a certain irony in the name there, but my fat politics are as ever they were, and it's an inquiry and a cause that I really believe will be close to my heart 'til the day I die.)
My closet covers a wide range of sizes not only in the actual size tags that are in the clothes I own but also in that my entire style of dress has adapted for size flexibility. Which means I know exactly how I'll be managing the transitional period that I need to cover between when I run out of clothes and when I settle at a stable size. Which is good, because I love clothes, and I like taking my time to find the right ones, and I like buying fewer things I really like, that have heft and substance, rather than filling my closet with fast fashion, even though I will definitely need some cheap-and-cheerful filler pieces. But here's how I've dressed for maximum size flexibility, for my own reference and for the reference of anyone it may help:
- Stretch. Obviously. Clothes that have this have size versatility. Especially skirts and dresses. Things will look different on you at different sizes when they're stretchy, but that's something you can style and accessorize.
- Sack dresses. Suddenly find yourself a size or two down? Grab a belt. The dress is already cut to drape, so it won't look bad the way a baggy waist on something that's meant to be fitted would.
- Wrap dresses. The alternative to no waist at all is a waist you can adjust. True wrap dresses offer you this opportunity, and they're pretty universally flattering and widely available. My favorites come from Kiyonna, but they're all over the place.
- Tunic-length and empire-waist tops. Tops that skim over the hip and hit you at the natural waist will add size flexibility to your wardrobe because if you don't like the way your bottoms are fitting, you can cover it up with a longer top. An empire waist hits you at your natural waist (which is less prone to fluctuation than your low waist anyway, thus giving your top a longer life), which helps things not have that baggy, shapeless vibe that some long tops can have. This one kinda feels like cheating, but it 100% works.
- Neutrals. Black, grey, navy, taupe. That way, the outfit is more defined by the accessories, and you don't look like you're wearing the same thing all the time. Plus, I really love a palette of mixed neutrals; I think it's understated and sophisticated. I get that a lot of people never wore color when they were bigger and have a real emotional investment in bringing color back—and I say rock it, if that's your thing, but I've always worn color (and sometimes quite a lot of it), so I don't have super-serious feelings about cranking it down.
- No pants. The fit on pants is finicky. Personally, I've always had problems because my hips are significantly bigger than my waist, proportionally—so if it fits me in the hips, it gaps at the waist, and if it fits me at the waist, it's too tight in the hips—so years and years ago, I solved this problem by just cutting pants out of my wardrobe completely (except for stretchy or compression pants for the gym). Instead, I pair dresses and skirts with leggings and tights, which are much more size-flexible and also cheaper and easier to swap out when my size changes.
So that's what it'll likely be. Not that I won't also want to be experimenting, trying new things, branching out, and challenging my sense of self and style. Just that, you know, when those things fail, a girl still needs to put on clothes to leave the house in every day.