How to Work with Your Wardrobe When You’ve Gained Weight

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Let’s be honest: Sometimes weight gain just happens. Thanks to hormones, stress, medications, travel, the holidays, or a number of other reasons, our weight may occasionally creep up higher than we wish. Unfortunately for many women, unwanted weight gain sometimes leads to a loss of self-esteem and happiness. But gaining a few extra pounds doesn’t have to derail your healthy self-image. Nor does it mean you have to swap out your great wardrobe for a lot of drab and shapeless outfits. Even if you’ve gained some unwanted weight recently, you can still look great and feel at home in the clothes you love. And the best part is, you don’t have to run out and buy a whole new wardrobe (although it’s fine to treat yourself to a few new pieces if you want to!). Instead, follow these style strategies to ensure that you feel and look great in your own clothes right now.

First, try everything on. If your weight has changed recently, it’s important to take stock of what still fits, what may fit again someday, and what may never fit again. Set aside a little time to take everything out of your closet and try it all on in front of a mirror, so you can see how it looks right now.

 Be realistic about what doesn’t fit anymore… When you come across clothing that is never going to fit you well again, there’s no shame in moving those pieces on. What you shouldn’t do is keep your wardrobe mostly full of clothes that just don’t work for you any longer. Donate those items today. You’ll free up space to bring in clothing that is appropriate for your life right now!

 …and while you’re at it, get rid of any items you don’t love. This is a good time to take stock of the clothes that no longer belong in your life and get rid of them. It’s too easy to keep pieces that you still care about even though you realize you’ll never wear them again. So be very firm and honest about items you wouldn’t miss and move those pieces on as well.

 Take stock of what is left. Once you weed out clothes that either no longer fit your body or no longer fit your life, you will be left with a foundation of options you can currently choose from. Keep in mind that some of these garments may fit snugger than others. That’s fine; you don’t have to wear them for the time being, and you will have a chance to reassess them later. But in general, you should have some great options you can wear right now.

How to Work with Your Wardrobe When You’ve Gained Weight

Outfit: Worth look book

Enjoy your roomier outfits right now… Anytime you’re a few pounds heavier than you normally are, you can live in your roomier clothes for a while. Depending on your body shape, you can even choose to accentuate what you love while downplaying other areas. Here are a few tips:

  • If you carry weight around your waist and your legs are thin, wear a slim skirt or pants with a looser top.
  • If you carry weight around your hips and thighs but your waist is small, choose a belted dress with a looser skirt. A short jacket over a fuller skirt also looks great on this body type.
  • Shift dresses and swing dresses, tunics paired with leggings, and tops worn with dark wash bootcut jeans are all great options for everyone because they are both forgiving and flattering. Wrap dresses are also a great choice for most women because the waist helps to create a flattering hourglass shape.
  • And no matter your body type, you can’t go wrong with long cardigans (belted or unbelted), V-neck tees and shirts, and tailored outfits.

How to Work with Your Wardrobe When You’ve Gained Weight

Outfit: Worth Look book

…but don’t rely solely on your elastic-waist pants. It can be all too easy to slip into leggings or pants with an elastic waistband most days. But it’s important to resist this urge because elasticized pants are so forgiving that they allow you to gain weight without the telltale snugness that accompanies regular pants. Instead, try to primarily wear pants that feature a zipper and waistband. Jeans and slacks with this design style keep you in check by giving you an accurate reading of your size and weight.

 How to Work with Your Wardrobe When You’ve Gained Weight

Hanky Panky Retro Thongs

Consider your undergarments. Your undergarments are every bit as important as your outer layer of clothing. A good bra that is supportive and sized correctly is crucial for a flawless silhouette. If you wish, you can also add a smoothing camisole for extra control and a smooth look underneath your clothes. Finally, I highly recommend the Hanky Panky Retro Lace Thong for its figure-flattering coverage. It has a wide lace waistband that doesn’t create the dreaded “muffin top,” and when worn with skirts or dresses, it negates the need for control-top pantyhose.

Add a pop of color to a solid-colored outfit. Column dressing is a simple way to look longer and leaner. You can either wear a skirt and top, or a top and pants in the same color—often a darker shade like black, charcoal, or navy—to look pulled together and stylish. Then top your look with a jacket, scarf, necklace, or other accessory in a separate color to add contrast.

How to Work with Your Wardrobe When You’ve Gained Weight Anne Klein Jacket: Nordstrom

Wear small patterns and prints. You’ve probably heard that black is a great color choice for weight gain. While that is certainly true, you can still enjoy bolder looks as well. For example, smaller scale patterns and prints look great on fuller figures, and vertical stripes give the illusion of an elongated body. Do, however, steer clear of very loud or overpowering patterns. They are almost always difficult to pull off.

 Don’t get hung up on the size on the label. If you do decide to go shopping for a few new pieces, don’t be too concerned with the size label on your new clothes. You’ll only upset yourself by trying to squeeze into a too-tight pair of jeans that claim to be your size. Instead, ignore the label altogether and focus only on how you look and feel in whatever you are trying on. And remember, sizing often varies by brand, so there’s no point in getting hung up on your “official” size in the first place.

 Wear heels. Stepping into a pair of heels is one of the easiest ways to look longer and thinner. When you add a few extra inches to your silhouette, it pulls the eye upward and gives you that great “legs for days” look. While you don’t have to wear them every day, most women need at least a pair of nude heels and black heels for dressier events. So find a high-quality, supportive, and comfortable pair that you love today.

How to Work with Your Wardrobe When You’ve Gained Weight

Shoes: Nordstrom

No matter what the scale reads, always remember that you’re powerful, vital, and beautiful just the way you are. Sure, it’s fine to set goals for weight loss if you wish, but don’t forget to be unconditionally kind and nurturing to yourself right now in the present moment. And when in doubt, wear whatever clothing excites and inspires you and makes you feel like the beautiful person you are.


  • Marla Tomazin, Certified Image Consultant, established her image consulting business in 1990 with the goal of helping clients identify an authentic image and develop its effective expression. Marla utilizes her abilities in evaluating body shape, movement, and coloring as well as synthesizing optimal cuts, lines, colors, and textures. This results in balance and proportion that accentuate attributes and conceal flaws. Marla has appeared on numerous TV and radio stations and programs. Visit

8 Responses

  1. Susan G says:

    I loved your helpful hints on how to camouflage that extra weight gain with certain styles BUT it would have been more effective if the models used were reflective of that. Everything looks sleek on someone who is tall and a size 6.

    • Bernadette Robinson says:

      So agree! Why not get a realistic looking woman who is overweight to model the clothes? Especially as you keep saying you can still look good with a few extra kilos.

  2. Beth Martin says:

    Fabulous article and such great trips!!! I love the loose tops with skinny pants. My favorite!! Thank you for always coming through with sensible, actionable tips.

  3. Kathie Collman says:

    You are writing directly to me, every day, for the past 30 years! Seriously, this is wonderful advice for nipping and tucking with no scars! I love it.

    Thank you for such great ideas. You do what you do so incredibly well.

  4. Mary-Ann H says:

    It’s hard to tell what looks good on a larger body if all the models shown are slim.

  5. Martha says:

    Agree. All the models are slim. What if I’ve gained weight everywhere? I’ve been thin my entire life- used to lots of compliments on my shape and cute clothes. Due to medications and stressful events, and age, I’ve put on 30-40 lbs. I do not know how to dress this body! I look awful in everything. I’m drab and frumpy. Do not even want to leave the house. Hard to feel pretty when I do not feel pretty anymore. Beside traumatic events and life feeling like a nightmare right now, I’ve lost my looks. Very discouraged. I need help so I can somehow like what is see in the mirror. I avoid mirrors. But that changes nothing. I feel ugly and just want to hide away.

    • Cheryl Benton says:

      Hi Martha,
      I am so sorry you are not feeling beautiful because I am sure you are, but understand being down about weight gain. Many of us have been there. One thing that might help – make an appointment at a good department store with a personal shopper (they do not charge, they make commissions on anything you buy.) A good personal shoopper/stylist can help find styles that will make you look and feel fabulous.

  6. Desiree c vanfossen says:

    looking at the photos of thin fit women, made me wonder if they knew what “gaining weight” actually looked like.. i felt insulted

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