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Last month, I wrote about being more ethical and sustainable with my wardrobe choices and ultimately buying less. But now I’m faced with a dilemma. What happens when my clothes no longer fit?
This is an issue I encounter pretty much every year. Because of fluctuations in mental health, lifestyle habits, and an undeniable entrenchment in diet culture and compensatory exercise, my body is constantly changing. Only recently have I begun to accept that that’s okay.
(Side note: Universal Standard, which sells clothes for women sizes 10-28, has a program called Universal Fit Liberty* where they allow free exchanges due to size fluctuation for clothing from their core collection up to a one-year period. And that’s pretty awesome.)
I won’t talk about the temptations to hold on to your smaller clothes “for when you lose weight” or “to motivate you to lose weight,” because the problems with that are well-documented. Admittedly, I’m overdue for a closet cleanse myself.
But I’m torn between my need to protect my body image and my commitment to maintaining a sustainable wardrobe.
What am I supposed to do with the clothes that don’t fit me right now? Do they immediately go in the donation pile? What if they fit me again next year? Am I supposed to spend more money and throw away more clothes every year when this happens? These are the thoughts cycling through my mind as I try on clothes that are now too small for me.
It’s important to me that I’m comfortable in my clothes. That’s why I’m usually wearing tank tops and leggings. When a pair of jeans gets tight, it falls to the bottom of the pile in my closet, untouched. But it’s a stain in my wardrobe, a reminder that my body has gone through a change that I’ve been socially trained to dislike. And it adds a weight to my mind and my body image that I’d rather not have. So naturally, I want to get rid of it.
But I’m never ready to. I hold on to my old clothes for far too long. Part of it is because of the money it represents, the desire to consume less. Another part of it is the “what if” factor. What if I can fit into it next year and I’m throwing away a beautiful dress for nothing?
I realized it’s time to become more systematic about cleansing out my wardrobe. Starting with time limits for how long I keep something that doesn’t serve me anymore.
I’m not going to toss a dress that fit me a few months ago but doesn’t fully zip up right now. It’s too soon. Realizing that I’m coming out of diet-influenced eating and exercise habits, my body isn’t at the most stable place right now. It’s bound to keep changing for the next several months, maybe longer. So I have to manage my wardrobe in the meantime.
I’m giving clothes that no longer fit a one-year expiration date. That’s when I’ll finally take them out and sell, donate, or repurpose them.
I don’t know if this is considered too long of a waiting period, but it’s the one I’m comfortable with. If by next summer that beautiful dress still won’t zip up, it can’t take up space in my closet anymore. Since I’m trying to generate less waste with my wardrobe, I’ll look for ways to upcycle and repurpose old clothing. But if that’s not doable, then it’ll have to find a new home.
If possible, I’m going to alter these smaller clothes and make them fit my body as it is.
Admittedly, I haven’t touched a sewing machine since my home economics class in the 9th grade. Nor do I currently own one. But I’m pretty sure I can figure out these DIY guides. There are some pretty cool resources out there that I’m excited to try out:
- How to alter the back of a dress that won’t zip up
- Adding lace side panels to a shirt that’s too small
- Three different ideas for upsizing a dress
- Removing the waistband from jeans
There’s also the option of going to a tailor, but I have no idea how much that costs. Besides, the idea of altering my own clothes sounds pretty fun, especially since I have time.
And if I can’t make them fit, I might repurpose them into something else altogether.
I’m pretty into the t-shirt quilt idea. Here are some other ways to upcycle/repurpose old clothes, if there’s something you love too much to give away:
- Turning an old t-shirt into a produce bag
- Making a pillowcase out of an old t-shirt
- Turning an old t-shirt into underwear
- Turning a pair of shorts into a bag
- 6 ways to repurpose leftover socks
- Using denim scraps to make corner heart bookmarks
- Making denim coasters
- Making a denim/flannel quilt
- One sweater upcycled into 8 different projects
And of course, there are the old standbys: clothing swaps, consignment stores, donations. Not to mention, maybe you have something that your family and friends might want.
I’m allowing myself one year to hold on to clothing that no longer serves me right now. After that, it has to stop taking up space—in my closet and in my mind. I got rid of half my wardrobe moving back from DC so I know “out of sight, out of mind” is true. Those long-gone sentimental pieces don’t cross my mind at all, though I thought they would. It’s easier than we think to move on from old clothes.
What do you do with old clothes, or clothes that no longer fit? What about the items in your closet you never wear? Let me know your favorite DIY projects, upcycling tips, and favorite consignment stores to work with!