Over the years, I’ve written a lot about how to decide whether to keep wardrobe items or let them go. This isn’t always an easy decision to make. Ideally, we’d all just purchase pieces that are exactly right for us, wear them until they’re worn out, and then pass them on to charity or for textile recycling. But unfortunately, that’s not always how it works out…
There are many reasons why we might purge items from our closets when we haven’t worn them all that much, including purchasing mistakes, poor garment quality, and style aesthetic shifts. Another important explanation for passing things on relates to changes in our body size, which is the focus of today’s post. I’ll reveal some of my personal experiences with size changes and how I’ve managed my wardrobe through such transitions. I’m actually dealing with this type of situation right now and am still processing how best to navigate it, so I’ll share about that, too.
My Menopausal Weight Shifts
I have long maintained what’s been termed a “hidden holding zone,” which for me consists of a large plastic bin that’s stored in my garage. This bin usually houses clothing that’s too small for my current size, especially since menopausal weight gain became an issue for me about six years ago. After “the change,” I went up about two sizes, depending upon the type of garment in question, without changing my eating and exercise habits in any way.
The dreaded hormonal shifts made it difficult for me to lose weight for the first few years after menopause kicked in, but I was gradually able to drop about a size over time. I think my hormones eventually leveled off, but I also needed to change the amount and types of foods that I ate and step up my activity level a bit. I’m sure it’s different for everyone, but my metabolism took a pretty big dive after the change, so even when I ate less and exercised more, I still never got back down to my pre-menopausal size.
As my weight progressively increased during my early fifties, I periodically moved any clothes that were too snug into my “holding zone,” which eventually expanded to three large plastic bins. I initially held on to all of those too-small clothes, as I hoped to one day bring them back into my main closet. Sadly, the majority of those items never made it back into my regular wardrobe rotation. As the months and years went by and I was unable to slim down to my previous size, I gradually passed things on.
My style preferences were also changing over those few years, so I didn’t necessarily even want to hang on to all of my old pieces anyway. I reviewed my holding zone items at least twice a year to see what might fit, as well as what I did and didn’t still like. Anything that was still too small that I wasn’t excited to potentially wear again got donated. But even some of the garments that I would have loved to wear again were eventually purged because they were just too small for me and that wasn’t changing.
How Long to Hold on to Clothing that Doesn’t Fit Us
This begs the question of how long we should hold on to clothes that don’t fit us, whether they’re too big or too small. Again, there’s no one right or wrong answer to this. We all need to decide for ourselves, but I think it can be helpful to set some parameters around it, such as the following:
1. Number of Items and Storage Capacity
If you have a lot of extra storage space in your home (or a storage unit, but those can be problematic for many reasons), you may choose to hang on to more pieces. If you’re limited in terms of space, designating a certain number of items to keep or a particular container size in which to house them may be a better way to go.
In my case, although I kept a lot of clothes that didn’t fit me while I was going through menopause, I now choose to limit my hidden holding zone to just one large plastic bin. Not everything in that bin is for size-related reasons, either. In some instances, it has to do with styles that I’m not sure I like anymore but don’t want to be too hasty about purging. Occasionally, I’ll come back around to liking particular pieces, so I usually wait a little while before passing things on. However, having the limitation of just one bin for my questionable items prevents me from hemming and hawing too long about anything.
2. How Likely You Are to Fit into Things Again
A little over a year before I started gaining menopausal weight, I was at my lowest weight in many years. My weight was unnaturally low due to health challenges, but that didn’t stop me from purchasing new clothing in sizes I hadn’t worn in about twenty years. I was excited to be a lot smaller and I didn’t think about the fact that my lower weight would most probably be temporary.
Sure enough, after I started feeling better and was able to eat more food again, I gradually went back to my “normal” size and the new clothes no longer fit me. I kept those rarely-worn smaller pieces for a couple of years, but it soon became clear to me that I wouldn’t be that thin again, especially as my hormones started working against me as I neared fifty. A bit at a time, I purged those much-too-small garments until eventually they were all gone.
If you’re holding on to clothing that doesn’t fit you, ask yourself how likely it is that you’ll be able to wear them again. If pieces are off by just a size or two and you tend to fluctuate in weight, it might be a good idea to keep them (but not in your main closet!). But if you’re looking at several sizes up or down and you haven’t worn those items for years, perhaps the best option is to pass them on so other people can use them while they’re still in style. Even if you’re not all that into trends, clothing will eventually look dated and will be less likely to find a new home with someone who’ll actually wear it.
3. Do the Clothes Suit Your Lifestyle and Style Aesthetic?
When I went through my holding zone bins of two-small clothing following menopause, I started by doing a quick initial pass. I looked through all of the garments prior to trying anything on, holding up each piece and asking myself if I could see myself wearing it again if it fit my body. This question had to do with both lifestyle and style aesthetic considerations. I pondered whether I had occasions in my life for wearing the pieces in question, and I looked at whether I still liked the color, pattern, style, and silhouette. Such examination usually led me to eliminate at least a few items that would be better off in someone else’s closet.
My second pass involved trying things on, which was often demoralizing, as I discovered that a lot of it still didn’t fit me. But occasionally I’d be pleasantly surprised when previously loved pieces could make their way back into my closet once again. I continue to make a point of going through my holding zone regularly, even when it’s not for size-related reasons. Sometimes we think we’ll like something forever, but fashion styles and our preferences move on, even if the latter happens at what seems to be a glacial pace for some of us.
A New Wardrobe Dilemma
In recent years, when I’ve dealt with size-related “keep or purge” decisions, it’s been for clothing that was too small for me. However, my current wardrobe dilemma is the flip side of the equation, clothes that are too big. This is a welcome problem in some respects, but I still need to figure out how to address it.
Earlier this year, my blood work revealed that my A1C levels had climbed into the pre-diabetic range. This wasn’t a huge shock, as my levels had been “borderline” prior to the pandemic, and there’s a history of diabetes on both sides of my family. In fact, my father recently had to start taking diabetes medication despite being somewhat underweight and having basically good health habits. My habits were also mostly good (compared to most Americans, anyway), but that wasn’t enough to keep me away from blood sugar woes.
With the stress of the pandemic, my husband and I slacked off a bit on our good eating habits. I baked more often than usual, and we relied more on processed foods than we did previously. His blood sugar and cholesterol levels inched up as a result, but his A1C remained within normal ranges.
Receiving the pre-diabetic label scared me, so I vowed to make changes. I didn’t do anything too drastic, as I’m wary about strict diets and major restrictions given my history of eating disorders. I gradually cut out sugar and processed foods, and I also signed on to a meal delivery service to make it easier to eat healthy on days when I don’t want to spend much time on meal preparation.
Changing my eating habits has produced slow but steady weight loss over the past five months, which was accelerated recently when I was going through some difficult personal situations. I haven’t weighed myself in years, so I don’t know how many pounds I’ve shed (I also don’t know how many pounds I gained during menopause), but it’s enough to have many of my clothes feeling much too loose. This is especially noticeable with my pants, as I always gain and lose the most weight in my lower half. I’m grateful for the weight loss and I’m feeling lighter and healthier, but I now have a dilemma regarding my clothes.
Holding Zone, Alter, or Purge?
Fortunately, most of my tops and toppers still fit me, and some are even a better fit with my smaller proportions, as they predated the menopausal weight gain. But after trying on all of my pants and jeans, though, I found that there aren’t many that fit me well at this point. Some are passable at my current size, but many just look too large and sloppy now. So, what do I do?
- Should I fold up all of the too-big pants and put them in my holding zone bin?
- Should I alter them to fit my current size?
- Or should I pass them on?
I’m still working through the best answers to those questions, but I’ll share some of my thoughts here.
Alter a Few Pants to Wear Now
First off, I need some pants to wear now, so I’m going to have a handful of favorites tailored to fit. I’m only going to tailor those pants that are an easy fix, such as taking in the waistband. This will be less expensive than buying new, plus it’s not easy for me to find pants that fit me well anyway. I don’t really need that many out-and-about pants, as I only wear them a few times per week on average. I also tend to wear plainer bottoms and use my tops and toppers to add variety and visual interest to my outfits, so having just a few pairs of pants and jeans to wear will be fine.
Unfortunately, the black cropped pants that were my absolute favorites over the past three summers cannot be successfully altered. They were always a bit too big for me in the waist, and now they’re much too baggy all over. It’s relatively easy to take in the waistband or narrow the legs on most pants, but when pants bag out in the derriere region, that can be a difficult fix. So, if that’s the issue with any of my existing pants, I’m not going to attempt to have them altered.
As I see where my weight will level off, I’m going to try to make do with what I have as much as possible. I’ll do the alterations that I mentioned above, and I also ordered some “perfect fit” jeans adjuster buttons to quickly and easily improve the fit of my jeans. These inexpensive buttons can be used in both weight loss and gain situations to either take in or let out the waistband an inch or so. I remembered that my mother-in-law used to have this type of contraption, so I sought it out and easily found it on Amazon. These buttons are easy to put on and take off, and they do make a big difference!
Making Do and Buying a Few…
The majority of my at-home pants are not so baggy that I can no longer wear them, although they’re definitely a lot looser than they used to be. I may alter a few of those, too, but I’ll probably just keep wearing the baggier pants when I’m at home since impeccable fit isn’t as critical there. For when I leave the house for walks or casual errands, I may try to purchase a size down in two or three pairs of the joggers that I like to wear. Fortunately, these pieces tend to go on sale often, so it won’t cost me a whole lot of money.
I don’t have many too-small pants left in my holding zone bin, as I gradually moved most of them on over the years. However, I did hold on to two pairs of pants and two pairs of jeans from my pre-menopausal days. I’m on the fence about the pants, as they’re both lower-rise and I now prefer at least a mid-rise option. But I’m going to try to wear them for a low-stakes occasion (i.e., a one-to-two-hour errand) and see how I feel.
One of these pairs (solid black) could potentially replace one of the pant options in the four-by-four wardrobe I wrote about last week, as I was kind of settling in terms of the length of those pants. I’m less certain about the jeans from the holding zone, as one pair is a bit too short and the other is somewhat too wide at the hem. I need to decide if I want to wear the short pair with flats (which I don’t wear all that often) and if I want to have the legs on the other pair narrowed. I’ll figure this out over the next few weeks.
Through all of this exploration, I’ve wondered if I had kept my too-small clothes from five years ago or so, would I want to wear them now? Perhaps I’d be excited to pull out some of them, but I realize that many of those pieces are just not my style anymore. I just looked back through my folders of purged items from 2017-2019, and I only identified a handful of pieces that I’d be interested in wearing now, so I did the right thing in passing most of the old items on when I did.
When to Hold on to Larger Sizes
I’m hoping this weight loss will be permanent, as I don’t intend to return to my previous way of eating. The specter of potential diabetes with all of its myriad complications should prevent me from going back to eating too much sugar and processed foods. Of course, continued aging may result in further metabolic shifts, so it’s possible that I may regain some of the weight down the road.
There are things that are unknowable, which makes me wonder if I should hold on to my larger-sized pants. I think I’m going to follow the same basic process that I used for the clothes that were too small for me, as it worked well then. I’ll keep any larger pants that I could see myself wearing again if they fit me (or if I later opt to alter them), until at least this time next year.
I don’t want to feel like I’m setting myself up for failure by keeping these pants, but I also want to avoid having to go out and buy a bunch of new clothes should my weight inch up again for some reason. These pants are too large to wear attractively, but not so ridiculously big that it’s out of the realm of possibility that I might wear them again someday. However, If I do multiple holding zone reviews and the pants are still too big, I’ll probably gradually pass them on, just as I did with the too-small clothing during my first few years of menopause.
I’ll likely pass on some of my rarely worn pants that are now too large, including two pairs that have pleats in the front. I now shy away from this detail because of its widening effect. Two other pairs of pants are on the short side, so I may opt to purge those, too. I’ve “settled” far too often with pant lengths because it’s very difficult for me to find pants that are long enough for me. Even tall sizes can be too short for my long legs, especially because I also like to wear at least a small heel. Realizing that I don’t need a wide array of pant options and not wanting to spend a lot of money on tailoring may push me to purge pants that I don’t love and have been hanging on to for too long.
Conclusion – and Your Thoughts?
I think I’m approaching the situation of too-large clothing in a prudent manner. I’m tailoring a few items, making a small number of strategic purchases, letting go of things I wouldn’t want to wear anyway, and storing the rest in my holding zone bin. I’ll continue to revisit my holding zone at least twice a year and bring pieces in and out of there as needed. And I will do periodic updates on the blog about my keep, alter, or purge decisions, as well as other wardrobe management topics.
Weight gain and weight loss are common issues for many of us, so it’s helpful to have a strategy in place for dealing with this. I’d love for you to comment about your experiences in contending with weight shifts over the years. You may have a tried-and-true method that you use, or you may have some regrets about the way you’ve managed your closet in the face of weight gain or loss. As with most issues in life, there is no one right answer, but perhaps we can provide tips and suggestions for each other to help make things easier. I look forward to reading your thoughts!