I care about the environment and appreciate a classic, natural style. The problem is my weight fluctuates quite a bit, and I no sooner invest in something lovely then it doesn’t fit. Sure, I can keep items around but they’re haunting reminders of weight gain. Are there good, natural, eco-friendly brands that also shrink and grow? What’s the best way to proceed with my next purchase? — Erin, Providence
Changes in weight and body shape — bits going in or out whether from illness, age, lifestyle changes, pregnancy, mental health or financial circumstances (the list goes on) — are simply a part of life. Feet and hips spread when you are carrying a baby. Poochy bits migrate over time. Sickness melts padding.
That designers often don’t consider these changes has to do with fashion’s planned obsolescence since it’s in the industry’s interest to get people to buy more stuff; with our cultural and social attachment to physical ideals rooted in youth and skinniness; and, to a certain extent, with a failure of imagination. But the fact is, clothes should not create problems. (There are more than enough variables in life that can do that.) They should solve them.
In this case, there are some that will.
One of the positive developments to come out of our months of Covid isolation is a greater appreciation for the components of comfort clothing, including stretchy material and elastic waists, which also accommodate fluctuations in size. They aren’t just for house dresses and workout wear any more.
And though the default position for most of us when buying clothes because of weight changes is to go as cheap as possible because hey! the change may only be temporary, the smarter approach involves a combination of acceptance and investment.
After all, the most basic weapon in the fight to ameliorate fashion’s role in climate change is simply to keep your clothes and wear them longer. So focus first on choosing clothes that you love and that have the potential to evolve with you. Literally.
Forget the schmatta (and the trends) and consider trousers and skirts with a certain amount of give. Karla Welch, a stylist who has her own brand and who has worked with Tracee Ellis Ross and Amy Poehler, said: “Go for volume. You can’t beat a men’s shirt with a long stretchy black skirt underneath or even leggings.”
Check out the boot-cut black ponte trousers from Universal Standard (it also does a good ribbed jersey skirt) and Roucha’s trouser selection. Both are designed to span multiple sizes. Or look for nice linen or gauze trousers with a drawstring or elastic waist and legs that can be rolled up or left longer, such as the kind Eileen Fisher made her signature.
Issey Miyake’s Pleats Please line, which offers a panoply of shirts, jackets, pants, skirts and dresses in gorgeous colors and prints, is both chic and endlessly stretchy. And thanks to the heat-press technology used to make the garments, the pleats never lose their shape even as the garment itself adapts to different forms. It’s pricey, but the pieces will never go out of style, and a little sleuthing can uncover sales on sites like TheOutnet.
And think of it this way: You are not just investing in your wardrobe; you are also investing in your future peace of mind.
Your Style Questions, Answered
Every week on Open Thread, Vanessa will answer a reader’s fashion-related question, which you can send to her anytime via email or Twitter. Questions are edited and condensed.