Fitness Articles

Building a Weight-Loss Wardrobe on a Budget

6 Tips for Finding Clothes When You're on Your Way to Your Goal Weight

If you ever stared at your closet full of clothes and thought, “I have nothing to wear,” imagine how Amanda McQueen, a 28-year-old from Alabama, felt during her weight loss journey. “I’ve lost 115 pounds in total. I started at 260 pounds and a size 22, and now I’m at 145 pounds and a size 8,” she says. “I’ve gone through five or six wardrobes in the weight-loss process.”

If it weren’t for her smart shopping tactics, Amanda could’ve burned through her checking account faster than she burned away the fat. Instead of going wild with her credit card, Amanda purchased clothes that would last through several sizes and shopped at second-hand stores. Now in maintenance mode, she focuses on buying quality essentials, like the little black dress, that works well for many situations. “Never in my wildest dreams did I believe I’d be a size 8,” she admits. “I’m still working on rebuilding my wardrobe for good!”

Lose Weight, Save Dough
For Marisa Gizzio, a 42-year-old who lost 65 pounds, buying new clothes was an important emotional milestone in her weight-loss process. “It makes you feel good about yourself to wear something that fits you well,” she points out. “It doesn't have to be expensive – just treat yourself to a nice fitting outfit because you are worth it and deserve it!”

To reward yourself for your healthy weight loss, save some cash for each pound you lose. “It is such a great motivation,” notes Beth Klein, who saved $5 for each of the 55 pounds she lost in the last year. “It was so exciting for me to see the jar of money get more and more full, and was great to have it there when I really needed new clothes.”

Don’t be tempted to rush into a pricey department store. To save at name-brand stores, sign up for their e-mail blasts to get coupons and take advantage of seasonal sales. Alternatively, spend some time browsing the racks at discount chains like Marshall’s, TJ Maxx, and Ross, to get more bang for your buck.

If you love to hunt for a good deal, second-hand stores or thrift shops are another excellent option. “I shopped at Goodwill a lot, especially during the early stages of my weight loss,” says Marisa. “Believe it or not, I got some really nice, name-brand pants/shirts (like Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, Gap, and Old Navy). At $3 per pair of pants and $2 per shirt, I could shop away and not feel guilty about spending clothes that weren’t going to fit in a few months.” Additionally, try asking your family and friends if they have any gently-worn items they’d like to donate to your new wardrobe. Marisa’s mom cleaned out her own closet and donated many essentials to her daughter.

Buy Smart
Depending on how much weight you have to lose, you may have to buy "transition" clothes as you get closer to your goal. Alexis Burnett, who lost 50 pounds, tried to only buy a few new items during her transition stages. “Once I realized this was a long-term journey, and that I planned to lose even more weight, I would not to buy expensive things in my intermediate sizes,” she notes. Instead, Alexis used belts to cinch larger tops and altered skirts and dresses to fit her new body.

As you rebuild your closet, you may be tempted to buy trendy clothes to show off your new frame. At first, “stick to the basics,” advises Alexis. “That way you’re covered in any situation.” Women should invest in dark denim jeans, a crisp white button-down, a stylish dress, a blazer, a practical winter jacket, and other staples. Men should focus on purchasing a crisp polo shirt, great-fitting jeans, a versatile jacket, trousers, khaki pants, and button-down shirts. Try on items in new shapes and cuts than before – you might be surprised at what looks great on your new body.

Consider materials that are more forgiving, like stretch jeans or wrap dresses. “I found stretchy, but not too-tight dresses to be my savior during the weight loss process,” says Beth, as the dresses would look great through several sizes. Also, buy some clothes a tad too small if you anticipate you will continue to lose weight.

Don’t forget the most important essential – underwear! In particular, a properly-fitting bra makes or breaks the entire outfit. Buying underwear in your new size is a fun way to increase confidence and feel sexy in your new body.

New Body Nerves
Shopping for new clothes can be more than a drain on your bank account – it can also be an emotional drain. “It was always weird shopping for smaller sizes. I would always be convinced it was a mistake. I would think, "There is no way I'm a size 4! These pants are marked incorrectly,” Alexis remembers.

Katie Suchman, who lost 50 pounds, agrees with Alexis. “It definitely felt weird shopping in regular mall stores at first. It was a strange mix of being overjoyed that I could even find clothes in regular (non-plus sized) stores, but at the same time, I sometimes felt embarrassed that I always had to start my search at the back of the racks where the big sizes were,” she recalls. Over time, Katie says she adjusted to her new body. “The joy of being able to find clothes that fit well eventually overcame the rest of those insecurities.”

It’s common for people who have recently lost a significant amount of weight to struggle with their body image. Shopping can elicit feelings of self-doubt, fear of regaining the weight, and other negative emotions. View each shopping trip as a chance to celebrate your accomplishments and reaffirm your commitment to a healthy lifestyle. To further increase your body image, get in touch with your new body through body-mind exercises, like yoga.

Your Old Clothes
Negative feelings are the exact reason Amanda gave away or donated all of her larger clothes. “I saw it as a commitment to myself to not go back to that place,” she says. “By keeping the clothes I would have felt like I wasn't fully committed to myself and my new lifestyle. I wanted someone to have them that needed them.”

If you choose to donate your old clothing, save the receipt for a tax credit. Alternatively, sell your larger clothes to a second-hand shop, such as the national chain Plato’s Closet, for extra cash to fund your new wardrobe.

However, you may want to hold onto one pair of larger pants! Whenever Alexis feels overwhelmed or stalled in her progress, she pulls out her size 12 jeans to comparison next to her size 4 body. “It’s like my personal trophy,” she says.

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Member Comments

    Whatever you do, keep all your different sizes of clothing. Unless you are rich and can afford to buy new for the rest of your me, friends. Reality.
  • I TOTALLY Agree with MM1114 !! WHY DO THEY Put plus size clothes in the DANG BACK??? I was already embarrassed about my size, than to HAVE to go the BACK to the store, or at Goodwill to a DIFFERENT Section to find what will fit, was SO AWFUL !! Though for me it was also a motivation because I HATED THAT SO BADLY !!! The MOMENT I realized I was FINALLY in an 18 I DID GO SHOPPING !! I LOVED it !! I had been in 24/26 so yes, this is pretty good.

    I have kept a few of XLs for that "just in case" because I have so many problems with my left foot and I have been,, and HOPE TO NOT BE Again restricted from exercising last year from May through the end of Dec and YES I DID gain ,, 40 lbs !! I had to get different clothing when I was well enough.

    WHY do the clothes manufacturers change the sizes of clothes? I used to take a medium and I weighted 115 lbs !!
  • Telling us sizes is misleading and useless. It all depends on the manufacturer. My overweight self can wear Chico clothes in size 1. (Purchased at garage sales or thrift shops). That means nothing to me when I get on the scale. Measurements and weight lose tells the real story.

    Although it does feel good to tell someone I wear a size 1. :)
    I've lost 46 lbs., I've got 44 more to lose. But right now I go to Goodwill first to shop. I've
    been lucky to find what I need. I found a Las Vegas sweat shirt, which is where my DS
    lives. Everything I bought is too big now! So I probably check them out again. I'm going
    back to Las Vegas in November. Have a Thankful & Blessed Thursday! LYL! P.S. Keep
    up the good work & we'll make it to our goals.
  • I love this article. I'm excited to get to that place that I need to go shopping and buy new clothing!!! I can't wait for that transition. And I LOVE the idea of keeping one pair of pants as a trophy! That's such a great idea and one I never thought of.
  • I am a huge fan of Ebay... I like that I can search for exactly what I want, when I don't have time to poke around brick and mortar stores. Lots of people sell their larger sized lightly used clothing as they lose weight, and I have been happy to pick up the bargains. Also, there are folks out there who shop outlets and clearances, and pass on the savings. And when I'm done, I donate or sell them!

    I definitely agree that new bras and underwear are a necessity - they make a world of difference. Stretchy knits work great, and some items like fleece and t-shirts, yoga pants, etc., can definitely see you through multiple sizes. More tailored clothing, such as for work, I find on Ebay... I've also made liberal use of my local tailor to take things in, since for my job I have to have some business jackets and skirts that fit well.
    My issue is different. I lost some weight, not nearly enough and I'd like to celebrate with new clothes and a shopping trip. I feel what keeps me motivated is looking good (ok, maybe just acceptable) in the mirror.
    But I haven't lost enough weight yet. I'm at 12 size for pants and 16 for tops. I still have clothes in that range.

    Should I go ahead and buy some stuff regardless? Or is it unhealthy indulgence?
  • Useful article, but unrealistic & disappointing closing line. Really, guys! This is or was a weight loss site. Many of us would be thrilled to hit a 12 let alone start there. I wasn't a size 4 back when I weighed 115 at 5' 6" for most of my life!

    What next? Thigh gap models in the exercise demos?

  • I started out 4,5X within 2 years I was a size 8 even a few 6's.
    I bought my transition clothes at thrift stores. During that time I found fantastic clothes , many designer, some with new tags,
    I started blogging about my thrift buys.
    I had planned to spend a small fortune on a goal reaching wardrobe.
    But then I thought, why should I? The clothes I had been buying are fantastic,, just keep on doing the same.
    I dress like I spent thousands and only me and those I tell know.
    With all the money I save I can buy a brand new item if I want to.
    I don't recommend keeping clothes in a wide size range. That undermines your commitment to stay on track and the size you are If you need to keep more than one size, only go up one .
    In the past 40 years clothes designers, manufactures have adjusted the sizes. Women gut bigger but didn't want to buy larger sizes, So change the size , make everyone happy.
    The 6,8's of today were 12,14's .
    Don't get hung up on size. I did at first. But now it doesn't matter the number in the label. It's how it fits and how I look wearing it.
    Good luck in finding clothes that make you feel fantastic.
    Spark on.
  • Skirts with elastic in the waist were a big help to me as I lost 45 pounds and went from a size 20 to a 14 petite.. Unlike trousers, they don't have to "fit right" across the seat and in the thighs to look good. Also, shirts/sweaters without structured shoulders and ones that could be belted were good. Those clothes looked good through multiple sizes.

    Finally ... I recommend that you be prepared to make a few mistakes. Just like with the weight loss itself, you will probably slip up a few times and make a few purchases you regret. You probably made a few bad purchases when you were gaining weight, too. It happens. Forgive yourself and move on.
    I keep clothing one size up and down because of my yo-yo-ing weight, but I don't keep clothes I know will go out of style before I am able to fit into them again and I don't keep my fat clothes anymore.
    And if you have "transition" size clothing, DO NOT get rid of those, because, reality says you might need them again, and you will be thankful you didn't get rid of them. Unless you are rich, don't toss larger sized clothes. I'm almost 68, I have clothing in a whole bunch of sizes, and I keep the nicer stuff because I've needed them, more than once. The same thing with undies. Do yourself a favor.
  • I agree with Marlo3456, great article until the last paragraph. Yes, cheers for you if 12 to 4 is healthy, but so many of us think size 12 is almost unreachable.

    I have lost my first 50 and almost 50 to go. I noticed that when I went to buy a celebratory outfit, a size 14 is not the same as it was 30 years ago, so I'll chill out and if I am wearing a 4 at the end of this journey, I will understand what is happening. And, then, sizes will carry no meaning whatsoever. But, as of yet, I have not been desensitized.

    And, why do stores put the larger sizes in the back of the rod? I wonder how all the size 4s would feel if they always had to contort themselves to find the size they are hunting!
  • A friend of mine had a "Naked Party". LOL! It's not what you're thinking. She invited me and my sisters to a party wear everyone brought clothes they no longer needed or wanted. So if you saw something you liked all you had to do is grab it and try it on. I got a lot of shirts and some slacks for work. My sister who found a lot of casual pants and business pants. We had food and wine. Everyone brought some kind of clothes/accessori
    es and food. It was fun, I'm definitely going again.

About The Author

Caitlin Boyle Caitlin Boyle
Caitlin Boyle writes a daily food and fitness blog, Healthy Tipping Point, which chronicles how Caitlin balances her busy lifestyle with healthy eating and exercise. She also runs Operation Beautiful, a blog that encourages women and men to replace positive notes in public places to encourage self-esteem and develop a positive body image. She is also the author of the book based on Operation Beautiful.

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