I also recently went from size 12 to 14 & @emilycrockett is right about the fashion cliff. < 5 lb gain sent me over. https://t.co/L7DPZHl1Fw— Wandering Scientist (@wandsci) September 12, 2016
You could say "just lose those 5 lbs." I am trying, and shopping hell is a major reason. But it is hard to lose weight in peri-menopause.— Wandering Scientist (@wandsci) September 12, 2016
I eat well (despite a weakness for ice cream) & am active (exercise 3-4x/week + daily walks). But I've had 2 kids & have gained a few lbs.— Wandering Scientist (@wandsci) September 12, 2016
So finding flattering & professional clothes has become a major time & money sink. A heartfelt f*** you to fashion industry for that.— Wandering Scientist (@wandsci) September 12, 2016
Like I said in my rant, about a year and a half ago, I gained a few pounds and that tipped me from a size 12 to a size 14, and as Crockett notes in her essay, this is like falling off a fashion cliff. Or, at least teetering on the edge of one: I can often still find size 14s at my usual stores, but there are almost never size 16s. As hard as I find shopping now, I can tell it will get even harder if I gain more weight.
Now, I'd like to be back to my earlier weight. In fact, I would like to be about 5-10 pounds lighter than that earlier weight. But I also want to enjoy life. I want to live the healthiest life I will enjoy, and given the realities of how I'm experiencing perimenopause, that probably means I'm stuck as a size 14.
So that means figuring out how to solve this clothing problem. I've been thinking about how to solve this for awhile. I wrote about it way back in March. I've decided against hiring a stylist, at least for now. I can't justify the expense. But I also need to recognize that my specific challenges require spending more money than I might like on clothing. Actually, it really boils down to one specific challenge. I am busty, and the extra weight has made me even bustier: I've settled into a 38E. This means two things: (1) I am going to spend a lot of money on bras, and (2) Anything I wear on my top will be stretchy or customized. I have tried and tried and it is time to accept that this last bit of weight gain has made it impossible to buy any non-stretchy item for my top that fits properly off the rack. It was always a challenge to do so, but I'd found some brands that worked. I cannot find any brands that work anymore.
My bottom half is significantly easier to dress. I am lucky that I can still usually buy off the rack trousers that fit, and skirts are no harder than they ever were. It is a struggle to consistently find the cuts that flatter me and I am constantly searching for decent pockets... but these are not new problems.
Having acknowledged these facts, I have made a plan. I recently accepted a project that essentially guarantees I'll make enough money to stay in business through 2018, and therefore I'm going to stop hoarding money in my business account quite so aggresively and bring some extra profit over to my personal account to allow me to buy what I need to get without worrying about how much I am spending.
I am going to spend what I need to get the following items immediately:
- One or two jackets (or structured cardigans) to wear when I need to dress up a notch. If I go with a structured cardigan, I don't need to customize, so I'm considering this one from MM LaFleur, a brand I've heard good things about. (I've considered doing a Bento Box from them, but their collection is a step too dressy for the laid back style required in my particular locale and industry. Looking like a lawyer would not be a good thing here.) For jackets, I either need to go to Nordstrom (or similar) and find one that fits across my chest and then get it tailored to fit everywhere else or order a bespoke one from Sumissura. I have no idea which will be cheaper, but I have a suspicion that I'll have to shop the plus size collection to get a jacket that fits around my chest, and I am generally unimpressed with plus size jackets. So we'll see. Also, I'm not super enthused about a shopping trip, which may tip the scales for the bespoke option.
- One or two solid or business-friendly print dresses that I can wear with a jacket or nice cardigan. I've heard good things about Leota for dresses, so I'm considering ordering from them. Or checking them out at Nordstrom. Or both. I am also considering customizing this dress at eShakti. I'd need to change the neckline, but eShakti lets me do that.
- If I can find one, I 'd love a nice business skirt in black or navy. However, I have been looking for something appropriate for quite some time, and haven't found it yet. There are lots of lawyer skirts, but see my comment above about how it would be a mistake for me to dress like a lawyer. So I'm looking for something that may not exist. I'll address this in the second part of my plan.
- Some good tights. I'm looking for a new go-to brand of tights. I used to love tights from the Gap, but either they changed or I changed (or both) and now those no longer work. Suggestions welcome in the comments. I like a fairly opaque tight.
- Appropriately dressy (i.e., nice but not lawyer nice) black and possibly navy shoes to wear with skirts and dresses (and maybe also trousers). I want to be able to walk in my shoes without my feet hurting. I have these Taos shoes in red and they are perfect. I'd buy them in black, but they are out of my size. My need to buy black winter shoes in summer (because I was going to New Zealand, where it was winter) led me to discover how easy it is to buy shoes at Zappos, so I suspect I'll just do that.
And that's it. Once I get these things, the urgency will be off. Then, I can move to the next phase of my plan, which has exactly one step: find a good local tailor/seamstress who will make me truly bespoke clothes. I think this is likely to be the only way to solve my skirt problem. It will also provide a good way to solve future problems that crop up. Individual pieces will be expensive, but my hope is that they will be worth the extra cost because they will truly fit and be exactly what I want/need. Perhaps then I will spend less money buying the "almost but not quite right thing that will do because I need something to wear NOW" items.
OK, so that's the plan. And now I'll share what I have found that works well for me, a slightly overweight and definitely busty middle-aged woman. I share these things in case any of them also work for any of you.
- I buy a lot of my "wear to existing clients" shirts at Eddie Bauer. The men in my field wear chinos and button down shirts. Or, to be honest, jeans and t-shirts. I am never going to like the button down shirt option for everyday. Bespoke is really the only way I can get ones that don't pull and gap and look trashy, and that is expensive. Plus, I don't think the style is flattering on me. I find that Eddie Bauer polo shirts work great for me, and I have several different colors. Their Favorite V-neck T-shirts also work great. They are thick, in a flattering cut, and with a v-neck that flatters without showing too much cleavage. I can absolutely get away with wearing one of their t-shirts to work, particularly with a cardigan.
- Trousers are harder. Eddie Bauer bottoms do not fit me right. I used to have a favorite go-to style at the Gap, but they changed it. Then I found some nice Tommy Hilfiger ones, but those are gone now, too. Basically, when my pants wear out, I have one really crappy shopping trip where I try on a bunch of different pants. If I find something that looks good, I buy it in several colors and wear it until it fades or otherwise stops looking sharp.
- I love eShakti (that is a referral link) for dresses and occasionally for skirts and tops. I find that I like things better if I add an extra inch to my bust measurement.
- After many trials and disappointments, I have found a sports bra I love. To my surprise, it is not an underwire style, but it has an extra top clasp that makes it awesome. I am at the upper limit of its size range, though. Yet more incentive not to gain more weight.
- I like the Corporette blog for providing ideas of brands to look at. That is where I found out about MM LaFleur and Leota. It also led me to Lo and Sons bags, and I love my bag from them. The style on Corporette tends more towards the lawyerly than will work for me "as is," but it does provide new ideas and leads that have helped.
And that's my deep dive on clothing. Feel free to leave suggestions and ask questions in the comments.