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How to Dress When You’re Losing Weight — Without Spending a Fortune

The first time I bought clothes that weren’t plus-size, I expected confetti to fall from the ceiling.

It didn’t, of course, but my elation at ditching my size 24 jeans for size 14 made me feel as if it did.

I remember standing in the puny dressing room of an Old Navy store near my home, trying not to stomp my bare foot on one of the pins from previous customer’s clothes that lay scattered across the thin carpet. As I pulled the size 14 jeans over my hips and easily slid the zipper up and buttoned the jeans, my heart pounded with excitement.

After a decade of wearing plus-size clothes, I felt as if I had realized a dream. I didn’t even care that the curtain that separated me from the dressing room hallway that bustled with other shoppers didn’t close completely. I didn’t have to hide anymore.

That day taught me a lesson that would have served me well months earlier: When you’re losing weight, you should buy smaller clothes as soon as possible.

Why Smaller Clothes Are Motivating

As I moved along to lose 100 pounds in 12 months, I kept wearing the same clothes I always did — right up until I bought those size 14 jeans. To me, that made sense. The size 24 clothes that had been tight had started to loosen and were actually comfortable. I figured I’d just wait until they were way too large — sloppy-looking — and then buy new. I told myself that it was a great way to save money.

There were a few problems with that notion. The most significant was that the looser my clothes became, the more praise for weight loss I received. That sounds great, right? 

It wasn’t. The praise and loose clothes made me feel as if I’d already hit a major goal — and that feeling could easily translate into a license to skip workouts and overeat.

Thankfully, I would put myself right back on track when my weekly weigh-in showed a slight (1, 2, or 3-pound) gain. One reason was that Wayne, my husband, was also losing weight (and dropped 100 pounds, too!). He never criticized my eating, but witnessing his consistent exercise, portion measurement, and wise food choices kept me on track. 

I was incredibly lucky. Not everyone has that type of role model. And even when they do, it’s easy to let the pounds pile back on when your clothes feel loose.

New clothes needn’t be expensive; it’s better they’re not.

I did mourn a few pieces of plus-size clothing when I lost weight. They were splurges, and no matter how I tried to wear them on my smaller body, they just didn’t work. 

Now that I think about it, that’s how I discovered Poshmark, an online second-hand clothing site. The reason I chose that site over others was that many of the clothes they sell are gently used — as was the pink suede skirt and velvet swing coat I listed — and there were safeguards in place for both buyer and seller.

I funneled the money I earned from the sales into smaller-size pieces that I could wear. Unfortunately, I didn’t do that until I was 10-sizes smaller than when I started. If I had bought smaller clothes earlier, it would have given me a chance to get to know my new body and the styles I liked without a significant financial investment. And it would have been a big ego boost, too, because that was physical proof I was succeeding. 

Plus, shopping was suddenly fun! Rather than buying whatever fit, I finally had choices. But I did limit what I would spend, because I hoped to be smaller in not too many months. And I was.

So where do you buy smaller clothes at reasonable prices? You don’t need to shop at Poshmark or Old Navy, of course. There are plenty of department stores, specialty shops, boutiques and online options; take your pick. And you don’t need to replace your entire wardrobe. In fact, you shouldn’t. You want to wait until you hit your goal weight and develop your style before you make costly wardrobe investments. As you lose weight, just choose a retailer or online site you like and buy yourself a smaller piece or two.

Why Clothing Matters

I recently read an essay by a writer who discussed how each piece of clothing from her weight-loss journey reminded her of emotional highs and lows. 

I know what she means.

I have an investment piece or two that I bought when I was larger (say, size 14). I make that too-large clothing work in different ways — wearing one linen shirt as a jacket, for example — and it reminds me of how excited I was when I first fit in that size. And it also makes me feel great that it’s now so large on me.

There are clothes in my closet that inspire me for the opposite reason. Now that I’ve gained back a bit of weight, I look with longingly at my size 8 jeans. You can bet they inspire me to do what it takes to get back into them.

As you lose weight, reward yourself with some new clothes. You’ll likely find, as I did, that spending just a bit of money on them pays off in extra motivation.

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