My body size and shape have been pretty consistent throughout my life. In middle school, I prayed for a growth spurt that seemed to be taking its time, and in high school, I waited for curvaceousness that never quite arrived. Though frustrating in those moments — it’s never fun to wish you looked different, even in small ways — the bright side was how predictable my body was. Online shopping was a breeze because I always knew what size I’d be, and there were few surprises when it came to figuring out what styles made me look and feel my best.
Over the last year or two, my friends and I have started to vent to each other about body changes we’ve noticed now that we crossed the mid-20s threshold. One of my friends described it as feeling like “a second puberty.” Our bodies don’t look or feel the same way they always have, and while that’s perfectly normal and okay, it can feel disarming!
For me, it was a struggle because online shopping became time-consuming and hit-or-miss, and social events started feeling stressful because of the pressure of finding something comfortable and flattering to wear. This is new territory for me, and continues to be a learning experience, but here are three tips I’ve used to help adapt to unexpected changes in my body.
1. Explore rental services like Nuuly or Rent the Runway, or shop secondhand.
Earlier this spring, I had a number of events to attend, but nothing in my closet felt right. One of my well-dressed colleagues recommended Nuuly, a clothing rental service where you get to pick six items, keep them for 30 days, and send them right back — no laundry or repairs required! This was perfect for me in my “in-between” state because while I’m getting used to my body’s changes, there’s no pressure to keep an item that might not fit me or feel right in a month.
If renting isn’t your cup of tea, thrifting is a great option. Because secondhand items tend to be more affordable, there’s no pressure to break the bank for a new outfit. I also find that when something like a pair of jeans is “worn in,” the item feels better on my body, with no break-in period required. Clothing swaps with friends are also a fun way to thrift! Before two of my friends moved to LA and London, they had a big clothing swap party at their apartment and I walked away with some adorable items – one of the dresses I’m wearing right now, actually.
2. Buy clothes with “room to grow.”
This is an art, not a science, and something I’m getting better at over time! I’ve always had a habit of buying clothes that fit my body perfectly, and now that my weight is fluctuating, those same pieces are uncomfortable and collecting dust in my closet.
As I’ve started expanding my wardrobe, I’m careful to pick items (especially jeans!) that have a little room for weight gain or bloating, without looking like they’re a size too big. Like I said, definitely an “art,” and will require some trial and error.
I’ve started looking out for items that have stretch incorporated into the fabric or construction of the item. Lycra and elastane are always a green flag for me! Abercrombie is a brand I’ve noticed that does a good job with this. Many of their dresses and tops have adjustable straps and stretchy smocked panels that allow for wiggle room. They — along with other brands like Madewell — also have a line of “curvy” jeans with extra room in the hips and thighs for those who need it.
3. Be gentle to yourself and work on staying present in your current body.
Body changes aren’t easy, and it can be hard to remain “present” and love the skin you’re in. Something I’ve found helpful is donating clothing that no longer makes me feel good. I move items that have the potential to be altered into a separate area, away from my closet, until I’m ready to deal with them. Keeping these items out of sight and out of mind (for now) helps me a lot with getting dressed each day!
Leaning on friends who have gone through this (or are going through it currently) is also hugely helpful. Struggling with body fluctuations can feel isolating, and knowing that you aren’t walking the path alone makes it feel less lonely. You got this!