Wardrobe boot camp: how to shop for clothes while losing weight

Nikki ParkinsonFashion, How to 23 Comments

Editor’s note: This is regular series in which we help Styling You readers solve a particular wardrobe or clothing crisis with a little advice and some shopping suggestions. If you think you’d like to be considered as part of a Wardrobe Boot Camp post, then please email me ([email protected]) with a couple of photos and a brief run down of what specific help you would like.

Danae lives in Perth and works at a consultancy. She’s been dropping some kgs and wants tips on how to shop for clothes while losing weight.

Danae - wardrobe boot camp

The plea

I live in Perth and work at a consultancy, so wear business casual during the working week. Otherwise I’m pretty casual with my dressing. I’m currently about a size 14.

Well after a year of putting on weight, I’ve decided to kick it to the curb. It’s all going well losing  5kg in five weeks so far and nearly 10kg from my heaviest last year. My dilemma now is how I buy clothes for my ever changing body, so they don’t give me a saggy butt essentially (one place I didn’t have excess weight to begin with). I still want to look good, and feel confident but don’t want to spend a fortune in the meantime (friends love it when I give away nearly new clothes though).

I was so excited a few weeks ago that jeans and work pants fitted without the muffin top, but they are now becoming a bit loose, and the work pants I put on today are falling down, which I can deal with but the saggy butt area I’m not a fan of.

Thanks, and all help is appreciated!

The tips

This is a question I get asked quite a lot and thanks to my dodgy thyroid I’m experienced to help with answers. My weight can fluctuate hugely – even in one week – and then takes somewhat drastic measures to reign it back in. Such is the nature of the beast. Most days, I’m accepting of it and my wardrobe has grown to accommodate the fluctuations.

At the core of my advice, though, is that every woman deserves to feel their best every day. Clothes that fit, flatter and bring out a woman’s confidence can make a very big difference.

I’m a big believer that it’s not about the next five or 10kg or more. It’s about now (just one of the statements on the SY manifesto). Feeling good at any weight.

Life is for living and not holding back.


Most of us are constrained by budgets, so I frame my advice around that too. Everyone’s budget is different but it makes sense not to buy complete wardrobes at every stage of your weight loss … to be more mindful of how you shop is always a good thing.

So here goes …

1. Clothes are generally the first thing we notice when losing weight. The clothes we’ve been wearing everyday start to loosen up. And clothes that may have been sitting in your wardrobe from a time when you weighed less probably start winking at you (unless you’ve culled them like I’m always banging on about 😉 ).  And should you venture into a clothing store, the shiny new stuff is practically begging to be tried on. It’s at this point, I’d like the mindfulness to set in.

2. Establish a shopping plan. The only way to really know where you’re at with your current wardrobe is to do that wardrobe edit and this is even more crucial if you are on a weight loss campaign. You want to establish what you have already in your wardrobe that can work for you as you go. And you need to identify gaps in basics so that you can add to your wardrobe as you go.

3. Concentrate on the basics. If you have the wardrobe basics covered at each stage, you’ll always have something to wear and will feel good. Do embrace colour. To keep within a budget, maybe choose one or two accent colours for your basics so they mix and match together.

4. Treat yourself to new accessories. Shoes, necklaces and scarves will give you a boost and turn your basic outfit into wow.

5.  To avoid the saggy baggies, shop for clothes in stretch fabrics. I’m not talking nana-wear, I’m talking good quality jerseys, bamboo, modal and knits. Pieces that fit you now but will still work through to the end. Think tube skirts, tunic dresses or tops, leggings, jersey wrap dresses. Even with jackets, seek out a jacket in a jersey or ponte.

6.  At the first milestone, consider having existing tailored basics altered to fit. Even better if you can do this yourself. Experienced alterations people know how to do this so that the garment still looks good.

7.  Don’t hold on to pieces that are now too big for you. If in good condition, take to a charity and embrace your new shape. Don’t look back.

8.  When you reach your goal, plan out a new wardrobe to suit. There’s a fair chance that your style may have changed or you need to find it again. Follow the steps in my Unlock Your Style e-book and you’ll be able to do this mindfully and over a period of time.


How to shop for clothes while losing weight1. 02wear bamboo leggings $39.95 |  2. Sancerre shirt $89 (on sale) | 3. Blue Bungalow scarf $29 | 4. Walnut ballet flats $39.95 | 5. Sacha Drake dress $239 | 6. Seed ponte blazer $64.95 (on sale) |     7. I Love Lola collar necklace $59.95 | 8. Aussie Girls Love Shoes heels $189

Ok, over to you. Have you got any tips for Danae? Have you been through something similar? Would love to hear how you approached this journey?

PS. Personal stylist and blogger Imogen Lamport (Inside Out Style) has co-authored an e-book with Jill Chivers, the woman behind My Year Without Clothes Shopping Program to create this e-book that will help you on your way.  Click on the book image below to buy online.

Comments 23

  1. Been swapping clothes with a bunch or friends who are on the same journey got me through. None of us the same size or style or shape but it worked and we felt and thus looked fabulous during what can be a lonely time.

  2. My black modal pants are the most forgiving. I drooled over them for about 2 years before I decided to bite the bullet and just spend the good cash on decent pants.

  3. I have recently lost some weight but have still another 10 kg to go. When my work pants started getting baggy I went to the ‘designer recycle’ store and got some Veronica Maine pants and a pair of jeans for $50 to get me through winter. Still have ponti skirt that have updated with new accessories and or a bit of wardrobe shopping to keep it fresh.

  4. All amazing tips.
    Leona Edmiston do some lovely frocks that forgive fluctuations in weight. I always get compliments on them and feel a million bucks.
    I agree re accessories and shoes.
    Makeup too.

  5. I can relate to this. Luckily it is cold here in Melbourne and I find my Karen Millen and Cue knitted dresses with a stylish cardi or jacket ideal to wear with my tights and boots while I try to loose some kg’s. I bought styles this season
    with particular cuts and fabrics that I know once I loose the weight this
    winter I can still possibly wear some of them next winter and look and feel good
    in them. Because these pieces are a bit of money upfront to buy, I make sure to keep the tags and receipts to them on ebay if I feel like I need to be reimbursed back some money which will allow me to go out and buy new smaller clothes once the weight has come off. I tend to spend more upfront with clothes so even if I feel a bit heavy I look amazing and find that these high priced pieces are so easy to sell on ebay. I usually get back 60% – 80% back of its value meaning I only spent 20% of the total price to wear them for the season.

  6. I’m also in the weight loss camp at the moment and I’m so glad you did this wardrobe boot camp. I’ve pulled out all my Metalicus and stretchy clothes whilst I’m loosing weight. I have a pair of size 12 jeans hanging on a hook on my wall and it’s my motivation to get into them by August. They’re old but classic and one of the few things I stored when I did my last wardrobe edit. I refuse to buy any clothes until I’ve lost and least half of my goal weight so labels like Metalicus, messop and some of the stretchy Seed dresses come in really handy because you can be a size 8 or a size 14 and they still great! Now off to grab one of those Seed Ponte jackets before they all sell out 😉

    1. Sounds like a good plan there Miriam. With a plan you can make your wardrobe work and not spend a lot of money. Good luck with the jacket. I have a green one from last year that was comfortable enough to wear on a long-haul flight!

  7. Hi Nikki, great ideas here. I really think the leggings are the key to a weight loss wardrobe. I have another challenge for you which I stole from Gwyenth Paltrow. 1 week NO Jeans -or maybe a month to make it interesting. As a SAHM I wear my jeans uniform nearly everyday…time to step it up x

    1. The maxi skirt post got a few people thinking same today. I’ll be doing Frocktober again this year. It raises money for the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation and you wear a frock every day. It’s harder than you think!

  8. Grey article Nikki. I have just lost 7kg which resulted in lots of my clothes being a little on the big side. While I was never “overweight” I am just fitter and more toned now. The thing I notice most that didn’t fit was my beloved jeans but to get me through I had darts put in 3 pairs opposed to buying three new pairs- $30 and I have pants that fit! I’m a WA girl to, Mrs Lammys on 7th ave in Maylands is a great cheap and quick alterations place to have stuff done! Also would reccomend metalicus – so comfy and look good whatever size. 🙂 thanks Nikki, I read every morning and as a 22 year old med student many of your tips apply to me like all of your readers of all ages. 🙂 have a great weekend! Xxx

  9. Thanks Nikki for the great advice and support! I must admit I have only just done wardrobe edits, and now I’m starting to do them each week. It’s so hard giving away some beloved clothes though (one skirt I’ve had for over 10 years).

  10. Because of my leg problems I am not allowed to put on weight but like you Nikki I have thyroid problems especially before I had it removed and I lost a lot of weight to the point of looking very skinny,but I didn’t buy new clothes.I found a lot of things looked fine,like leggings ponte pants and knits,and wrap dresses are a great idea. Yes it is important to look good for now.I love the items you have picked Nikki and scarves ,shoes and accessories lift a wardrobe at any size,they are the one thing that never changes.Good on you Danae for taking you health in hand ,enjoy your new shape and rock those new clothes.

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