**TW: this post discusses sensitive topics such as weight gain and diet culture.
When I pitched the idea for this post, I wanted to talk about clothes and sustainability but I also hoped the process would force me to come up with to some grand proclamation about body positivity and self-love. No pressure, right? But the truth is, I still struggle with my body image. I struggle with the fact that my body is not the size that society deems the most desirable. I struggle with letting go of the pile of clothes that haven’t fit me in years. I struggle with looking at my body as it is, as it is meant to be, and accepting it as worthy or even beautiful. As I continue to mourn and compare myself to my old self–my younger self sans cellulite and rolls and curves–the despair and shame I sometimes feel is much louder than any body positive mantra or quote I can come up with.
Even as I am writing this, many things are coming up that feel almost too shameful and vulnerable to admit. I want to try and convince you that my weight gain was not a moral failing. That it wasn’t from laziness or lack of trying to be thin as if thinness is the golden standard for every body. It’s what I’ve been trained to think, so I feel a bizarre pressure to tell you “I try to diet and work out” or “I think it’s actually my antidepressants that made me gain weight” because that is what I like to tell myself. Radical self-acceptance of my body seems too much, so an excuse feels a lot safer than proclaiming “This is my body and it is good and worthy and beautiful”.
When I think about my body and what it once was versus how it is now, I worry that people will think I let myself go. That is my deepest fear, although when I think about that phrase on its own, it’s a positive and freeing idea. “Letting go” is cathartic. It can even be therapeutic.
This post is about letting go in ways that are good for the soul and the earth. It’s about letting go of shame, fear, and expectations. It’s about mentally cleansing, physically shedding things I’ve outgrown, and wholly rejecting the idea that my body needs to be anything other than what it is. I have to let go of shame and fear and also, more tangibly speaking, I have to let go of my clothes that no longer serve me. This process is emotional because my wardrobe is and has always been a curated, highly personal reflection of me. Just as a snake sheds its skin, I am shedding the clothes I no longer need, and to make it a little less painful, I’ve discovered steps that help me do so both kindly and sustainably. If you are in a similar place, I hope they can help you too.
HOW TO RESPONSIBLY GIVE AWAY YOUR CLOTHES
For years I hoarded clothes that were several sizes too small. Every once in a while I’d come across them stuffed in the farthest corner of my bottom drawer or in a shopping bag in the back of my closet, hidden like a terrible secret. The presence of them in my wardrobe was more often than not, an awful reminder that I could or should be doing more to lose weight.
Getting rid of these clothes opened up a door for me to actively accept myself and my body. I knew I held on to them for so long because I thought it might motivate me to lose weight. If I gave them away, it would be like accepting defeat. But actually, the true defeat would be allowing this idea of a perfect body get in the way of my happiness. True defeat would be letting CLOTHES that are too small dictate my self-love. As Erika Hart once brilliantly put it, “It’s not you, it’s the pants.”
So here’s to getting rid of clothes that are just too damn small, and starting to heal in the process. Here’s how I do it:
GIFT THEM TO SOMEONE CLOSE TO YOU WHO WILL APPRECIATE THEM AS MUCH AS YOU DID.
I am going to reiterate this one more time. Holding on to clothes hoping that you will lose weight and fit into them again does nothing for no one. Those clothes are just taking up space and will become a roadblock in self-acceptance. After a certain point, and I think it varies person to person as to what that point is, it becomes time to let them go and make room emotionally and physically for something new.
If you are anything like me, parting with clothes can be like severing a limb. Even when I misplace clothes that I love I feel a loss akin to when a beloved fictional character dies. If this sounds anything like you, you might find it cleansing to give your favorite pieces to people closest to you who will love and appreciate them just as you did. Just the other week I was visiting with one of my best friends and she was wearing an old pair of jeans of mine. When I say “old” I mean, my actual favorite pair of jeans that I still cherish and love from afar but have come to accept will never fit me again. It turns out they fit her perfectly and it makes me very happy seeing them be loved and worn by someone I love.
You might think it would be hard or triggering to see your beloved clothes donned by someone else, but it’s surprisingly healing. I would be sad not knowing where my clothes ended up, especially ones I was once emotionally attached to–and giving them to my dear friends brings me a ton of joy.
SELL THEM ONLINE OR ORGANIZE A CLOTHING SWAP
I hate waste and sometimes giving away bags of clothes to Goodwill can feel wasteful. They might end up on the rack and be purchased, or they might never see the light of day again and end up in a landfill.
Clothes have a longer life if they are sold or gifted directly to someone. In the past, I’ve used Depop and Poshmark and it is definitely worth it to try and get some money back from your purchases, but honestly, gifting or swapping clothes with close friends is the most fun and rewarding. Best practice is to do so with a glass of wine (or several) while listening to Beyoncé.
REPURPOSE OLD CLOTHES INTO CLEANING TOWELS
Don’t destroy your old favorites but this is great to do with old t-shirts or leggings. Not every piece of clothing has a lot of resale value, so to avoid them ending up in a landfill, I like to cut them into squares to use for cleaning which reduces the need for paper towels, too.
RETHINK THE NARRATIVE OF YOUR FAVORITE PIECES & SAVE THEM FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS
I don’t have any sisters so growing up I always raided my mom’s closet when my own wardrobe wasn’t inspiring me. She and I have very different styles, but photos of her from the 80s and 90s prove that she was indeed hip and I would have loved to be able to repurpose the outfits she wore in her 20s. So, even if just for nostalgia’s sake, I have a few very treasured pieces that I’ll hold onto, in hopes that my kids will one day raid my closet and say, “Wow, mom, I had no idea you were cool”. I think of them as strictly “collector’s items” that I do not expect to wear ever again, but hope my kids will be cool enough to want to :).
HOW TO BUY CLOTHES MINDFULLY WHEN YOUR WEIGHT FLUCTUATES…A LOT
So your clothes no longer fit and you can’t run around naked. Go figure. This is never fun, especially if you are trying to be sustainable and buy less. But buying less is only feasible if what you have still fits. Our bodies are not stagnant. Our bodies fluctuate, move, grow, age, and provide shelter to our very selves. They are the vessels in which we exist in the world, and they do inevitably change. Just this year, my body has outgrown several sizes and nothing is more triggering than trying to squeeze into clothes that simply WILL NOT FIT. So, to avoid spiraling into shame and self-loathing I must procure clothes that do fit, but I try to do so responsibly. Here’s how:
CREATE YOUR CAPSULE WARDROBE
A capsule wardrobe is sort of like a curated uniform. As someone who’s always viewed fashion as self-expression, it has taken me years to figure out what style is really “me”. Trends are fun and always enticing, but I find when I lose myself in what is trendy at the moment, my outfits feel inauthentic and unflattering which leads me into a spiral of blaming and hating my body. For me, a capsule wardrobe helps me to buy what I will actually wear so I don’t make regrettable purchases.
Having capsule pieces helps me stick to what feels good for me, so I don’t have buyer’s remorse. It DOES NOT have anything to do with dressing according to what would be considered flattering for my size, but rather, dressing myself in whatever makes me feel good.
BUY SECOND HAND WHEN POSSIBLE, BUT BE INTENTIONAL
When I enter a Goodwill or thrift store, I have to actively refrain from buying just to buy. A good deal is tempting. So if I am going to step foot into a thrift store, I make sure to have an idea of what I am looking for. Sometimes it’ll be oversized men’s button-ups for summer, or vintage Levi’s that I can cut into shorts. No matter what, I have my capsule wardrobe in mind so I can envision how a piece of clothing would fit in my wardrobe. If I can’t picture wearing it with two or more things, it’s probably not a smart or sustainable purchase–and chances are it’ll end up right back at the same Goodwill I got it from.
My motto is if you don’t absolutely LOVE it in the store, you’re not going to love it when you bring it home. Love it or leave it, my friends.
SHOP SUSTAINABLY & SUPPORT SMALL BUSINESSES (BUT RECOGNIZE THAT MONEY & ACCESSIBILITY IS A FACTOR)
Shopping small or buying vintage can be tough, especially if you are mid-size or plus-size. Unfortunately, the fashion industry still prioritizes a certain body type. Often the brands that are championing the shift towards more inclusive sizing are more expensive, and then there are the brands that don’t offer sizing beyond a size 12. Fast fashion is often the most accessible option for bigger bodies, which is failing of the industry, not the individual. I try to shop small and second-hand when I can, but because my body fluctuates a lot, I try to be kind to myself when fast fashion is the best option economically and emotionally speaking.
That said, I love vintage and one-of-a-kind pieces and am always searching for gems. When I buy second-hand or vintage online, I have the best luck when I shop at The Real Real and Etsy. The Real Real always lists the clothing measurements so you can be sure what your buying will fit, and Etsy shop owners are usually happy to send measurements if you ask. Especially when buying vintage online, you want to be extra careful that you are buying something that is right for you and your body.
Well, that is all I have for you my friends. If you are still here, thank you. If you also struggle with body image, I see you and I know it’s hard. Every day we exist in a society that promotes and praises an often unhealthy and toxic diet culture that can lead to eating disorders and even life-threatening habits. We deserve more than that. We deserve to exist in our bodies however they are meant to be.
I want to leave you with this powerful quote by poet and author Sonya Renee Taylor from her book The Body Is Not An Apology. She writes, “On some cellular level, we know our bodies are not something we should apologize for. After all, they are the only way we get to experience this ridiculous and radiant life.”
Even when it is not easy, I am grateful I get to experience this ridiculous and radiant life in this body and share parts of it here, with you all. xx
Some helpful resources:
The Body Is Not An Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor
More Than A Body: Your Body Is An Instrument Not An Ornament by Dr. Lexie Kite & Dr. Lindsay Kite
Opener Image Credit: Design and Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp | From: Sara’s Closet Reveal–The Bold Design Moment She’s Been Craving