Learning to Need Less Clothing

Here is my obligatory picture of me standing in one leg of my old size 18 jeans.

I promise I have since cleaned up that makeup brush mess!


If you go look at my progress pictures, these are the same jeans I am wearing in my official before picture. In those pictures, those jeans were too tight. In an effort to avoid “real” plus sizes (JC Penney carries up to size 18 and sometimes 1X in certain regular brands), I had been squeezing myself into size 18 bottoms and generously cut XL tops. I lost about 40 pounds before they were too big, so it is pretty clear I should have been wearing at least a size or two bigger!

Now I wear somewhere between a 0 and a 6 (usually a 4 on the bottom with small or xsmall tops – I’m just slightly pear shaped). Along the way, I had to get rid of and replenish my entire wardrobe multiple times. And this has taught me a lot about clothing.

I mean, it wasn’t so bad at first – as I said, my old clothes mostly fit until I had lost about 40 pounds, when I had to start buying size 16s. And even then, there were certain clothes (mostly stretchy ones) that I got away with wearing until I was down about 60 pounds. If I really needed something, I would run to Goodwill and buy it. This worked pretty well (as I will elaborate on late) – I once realized I had no slacks and a business casual meeting the next day, and my Goodwill run produced two pairs of Express editor pants for under $10 (these are super nice, btw, and my mother has inherited them rather than being redonated).

I don’t think I bought any real clothes until around black Friday, when my mom took me out and bought me something like 2 pairs of jeans, a pair of slacks, two sweaters and 4 or 5 tees and blouses. I had never realized until that point that it was possible to basically make due on so little clothing. Seriously – I remember once in high school bragging that I had something like 40 hoodies (I have 2 now!!). But I had to make due on it – even with my sale and thrift store shopping (Goodwill is the only decent one at school, but back home there are some other places), I have spent way more money than I ever planned on clothing during this journey, and I was rapidly abandoning what new clothes I did buy. I remember I had lost about 20 more pounds (bringing me down to 80 pounds total) after my mom bought me those new clothes and asking her if she would like them because they were a little loose. She hadn’t really realized how quickly I was losing weight (this was probably in February or March, so only a couple months later) and said something like “but I just bought you all of those! Don’t you like them?” It is just really difficult to fathom how quickly I needed new clothing.

Now that I’ve been stable for awhile and gone through redonating tons of clothes (and unfortunately donating some things new with tags), I’ve been trying to actually replenish my wardrobe, rather than simply buying the barebones and adding in random items as needed. The whole process has been rather illuminating. The main thing that I have learned is quality over quantity.

Remember, I have had to replace EVERYTHING. Well, except socks. I still have some of my socks (the dryer at the others). During my loss, I prioritized jeans and tees for daily wear that at least would not fall off (so often up to 2 sizes too big), things I needed for professional settings, and bras. I have replaced my bras about 500 times, I swear (side note: you are probably wearing the wrong bra size and I suggest checking out this awesome calculator). I noticed, though, that as I bought my $20 maidenform bras, that by the time I needed a new one, they were worn out – after only about 3 months! I had not really noticed in the past because I had a larger stock to pull from, so when I had to throw one out and replace it, I didn’t realize it was so new. Now, to be fair, I usually buy DKNY or Calvin Klein ones at TJ Maxx to save money, this means that  if I bought a $100 bra and it lasted one year, I would be spending the same exact amount of money. Whoa! Now, I know that not everyone can afford that upfront cost (I, too, have been sort of poorish),but if you are on the borderline, remember this lesson. Also, hunt sales (I find $60ish bras at TJ Maxx for about $15-$20).

And remember: you don’t need 1,000 $100 bras (or even 1,000 $20 bras). Most suggestions I have seen have been a minimum of three. I own 5 (three t-shirt and two push-up/plunge), and probably need a 6th (multiway or strapless). Then I will be set! I used to own so many that they didn’t even fit in a dresser drawer! I’ve also greatly reduced the amount of other things I own. I only own four pairs of jeans (skinny blue, skinny black, straight leg blue, boot cut blue), 2 pairs of slacks (light grey and dark grey), and 2 hoodies (one zip up, one pullover). I could probably use some more of some of these things (I had a pair of black slacks, but they are too big now and need replaced), and there are other items I probably went overboard on (I have so many skirts I have 2 hanging from each skirt hanger, but to be fair they were ALL thrifted or purchased on sale for less than $15).

Now, getting back to the benefits of thrifting. I almost NEVER buy anything at full price. My husband and I aren’t poor, but remember – and I can’t stress this enough – I’ve had to replace all of my clothing. Things you forget about – underwear, plain tees, camis, pajamas, coats, and shoes. Who would have guessed I’d lose a shoe size?! I shop for everything except undergarmets and shoes secondhand (I am not against secondhand shoes, they just usually don’t have any in a 7 or 7.5 since everyone else buys them first). Now, I shop for them in regular stores, too, but I wait until they are basically a million percent off. But the best bang for my buck always comes from thrift stores. For example, my best “real” store deal (actually online) was these pumps for about $55 (they are super comfy btw). My best thrift store finds:

  • 100% wool and 100% silk skirts from places like Ann Taylor and Talbots for less than $5 (I got some fully lined wool pants this way, too!)
  • $100+ leather purses for under $15
  • Bajillions of Banana Republic sweaters for like $1
  • Professional looking, fully lined blazers for less than $20

I could have never found deals like that in a real store.

My one final tip on cheap clothing (for those who are now as tiny as me): buy unisex stuff (i.e. hoodies) from the kids section. A women’s medium is about the same as a kid’s extra large, and a women’s small is about the same as a kid’s large. I buy stuff this way and save about 50% off the price all the time.

Random aside: despite my adoration of skirts, I am quite annoyed that all 4 pairs of my jeans are currently drying and I will probably have to wear a skirt today in the 35 degree snowy weather. Here’s to hoping it’s not that snowy and River and I can actually get out for a run later!


2 thoughts on “Learning to Need Less Clothing

    • Thanks!

      The main thing I did was count calories using MyFitnessPal, which taught me a lot about portion sizes and what foods are more filling (surprise: it’s the healthy ones!). I also became more active – I try to work out at least 5 days a week! There is a lot of background info on the “about me” page if you are interested, as well.

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