+ Work Wednesdays

How to Dress for Work While Losing Weight

In my early twenties, the scale was judge, jury and executioner.  Staying thin was my obsession.  Then, I got a real job.  Thirty-plus pounds later, I realized that I was not a number on a scale.

I lost the “lazy sit-on-the-couch, eat-cheeseburgers-at-every-meal weight,” and kept ten pounds because that was my comfortable weight.  A weight that allowed me to eat, workout and live my life without thinking about my weight.  I succeeded at mostly forgetting my weight for almost eight years.

Recently, I gained twelve pounds.  It’s not a lot.  I look good.  But that weight was enough to push me out of my daily wardrobe.

I’ve gained weight because I’m over-scheduled and eating easy, unhealthy food.  I only feel bad about my body when I put on small, uncomfortable clothes.  I will lose this weight, but how do I dress for work for the next two months while I’m losing it?  Here’s how.

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1. Image found here. // 2. Dress, Top, Jacket. // 3. Spanx. // 4. Shoes, Necklace, Cuff.

Step One: Know Your Body Type.  It’s not just about shape; it’s about knowing how and where you gain weight.  If I gain five pounds, it all goes to my hips.  After that, stomach and arms pick up the slack.  Once you know where the extra weight lives, you can figure out how to dress for concealment.

Step Two: Camouflage.  To cover a little extra weight (and stay comfortable) loosen up the fit in your problem areas.  When I gain weight, I wear more wrap dresses, more a-line skirts, and more wide leg pants.  A bit of extra room is good for my look, and good for my psyche.  When clothes are tight and uncomfortable, no one feels their most confident.

If you gain weight in the torso, try a draped or gathered blouse.  Another great option is a flowy peasant blouse.  A straight-fitting blazer trims your figure by creating a new, slim silhouette.  And don’t forget the shift dress for providing a bit of extra room.

Step Three: Slim and Shape.  I hate wearing Spanx.  They’re uncomfortable.  They have to be adjusted and readjusted.  And wearing them can be hard on my emotions when I don’t feel great about my body.

All that being said, if I need a little help, Spanx can provide that.  There are a variety of styles from tummy-tucking, to high-waisted, to booty-boosting.  I prefer the slip-style shapers because I don’t like when my thighs are bound.  They just give my figure a smoother, sleeker look.

Step Four: Accessorize.  When concealing a bit of weight gain, one of the easiest tricks is to draw the eye to something else–a cool pair of shoes, a statement necklace, or a bold cuff.  You can also try a new hair style, wear a bold lipstick, or break out the colorful scarves.  Just create a new focal point that emphasizes your personal style and distracts the eye.

Gaining weight is inevitable.  We all have times when the scale isn’t kind.  It’s a struggle to dress for work when your clothes aren’t fitting like usual.  But until wearing leggings and a tunic tee to the office is an option, we have to make it work.  Knowing how to dress your body for comfort and camouflage is essential to feeling and looking your best.

LEAVE A COMMENT

    33 comments

  1. Anna says:

    Ugh, I slowly pushed myself to the brink of my daily wardrobe. All of my clothes felt uncomfortable and tight. I felt like an inflated version of myself and just wasn’t comfortable in my own skin. Over the last few months, I’ve dropped 15 pounds and toned up considerably, but the best part is not having to worry if I’ll fit into what I want to wear. Well, really the best part is fitting into clothes that I haven’t fit into in years, but feeling comfortable in suits with no give or worrying about what lumps and bumps are showing is a close second. When I was at my higher weight, ponte dresses were my best friend. They look structured but have enough give so that they’re comfortable, and I don’t feel like ripping off my clothes the second I get home.

    March 2, 2016/Reply
  2. Sara says:

    I’ve just realized myself that turning 34 in three weeks means my metabolism is not 24 anymore either. Even though I work out constantly and am usually always training for races, I cannot get the scale to budge. Right now I am wearing a dress where VPL wasn’t a problem as recently as 3 months ago, but today, I am realizing that I need to do some shopping because somehow, 34 has caught up fast. It’s not the end of the world and I know that I’m doing what I can to stay active and fit, but it’s nonetheless defeatist to pretend like nothing has changed. Hopefully I’ll get back where I used to be. Until then, wrap dresses, Spanx, and accessories it is.

    March 2, 2016/Reply
    • Anna says:

      It’s actually pretty common for people to gain weight when training for marathons. All the running makes you super hungry and you end up eating more calories than you burn. I’ve been following a book called State of Slim that claims to reboot your metabolism. It isn’t really anything revolutionary, but at the very least, it helps you rebuild your diet while you increase physical activity (which you may not need to do). The first two weeks are super strict, then you slowly start adding more foods until you’re back to a balanced diet with regular physical activity. It’s really helped me cut out all the little things I was adding to my meals or snacking on that weren’t necessarily unhealthy but really added up.

      March 2, 2016/Reply
      • Belle says:

        I think I posted this a while ago, but it talks about distance running and weight gain: https://nymag.com/scienceofus/2015/10/on-the-mysteries-of-marathon-weight-gain.html

        March 2, 2016/Reply
      • H says:

        Anna, I looked up State of Slim after reading your comment and skimmed it online. It sounds interesting! How successful have you been thus far? Do you find it challenging to stick with?

        March 3, 2016/Reply
        • Anna says:

          It’s been great! I think it can be tough if you go out a lot or don’t like to cook, but they have recipes and sample menus in the book and post a lot of recipes on their facebook and pinterest pages. The first two weeks are tough, then after you can eat more foods and you’re allowed one indulgence meal a week where you can eat whatever you want, so I’d plan that for the weekend or a special event (that goes up to two in phase 3). What I like most about it is that it gives you a framework that’s easy to follow, so now I know what to do if my weight creeps up beyond the vague, “eat healthy.” Even though I’m not following the diet part as strictly, I still plan out my meals in the same way (eat 6 times a day, protein+carb). The physical activity part is helpful too, because you start really modestly and increase slowly. Before, I was taking on too much too quickly and basically setting myself up to fail when I’d get discouraged that I wasn’t as fit I used to be. It’s not so hard when you just tell yourself you have to move for 20 minutes. Now I work out 6 days a week and actually crave more. I don’t know if it actually resets your metabolism or whatever they claim, but I finished phase 2 right before the holidays and basically did very little exercise and ate a lot over three weeks and didn’t put on a pound.

          March 4, 2016/Reply
  3. K says:

    I feel this veryyyyyy much. My weight has slowly crept up and I’m noticing that clothes that fit 2 months ago don’t look as great or create an unflattering muffin top or make me feel dumpy.
    I also want to commend you on making this about how *the clothes* look, not how you feel bad about gaining weight. I really appreciate that.

    March 2, 2016/Reply
  4. Erika says:

    You are the BEST! We have all been there. And now firmly in my 40’s with slowed metabolism, I really feel this problem. Thanks for the pointers…they are spot on and a great reminder of how to deal with this chronic problem.

    March 2, 2016/Reply
  5. AW says:

    Seriously a life saver. My weight fluctuated massively during law school, +/- 30 lbs, working on getting back to where I feel comfortable and aren’t limited to my two or three suits from 1L when I was about this weight. Wrap dresses on days I can get away with them have been a godsend. I agree with ponte dresses, and I’ve found some ponte pencil skirts that work with blazers that are super forgiving too.

    March 2, 2016/Reply
  6. Denise says:

    I had my second son 1 year ago and since returning to work full time I have had a huge battle with my closet. I found that the closet battle I was having each morning was actually negatively impacting me throughout the day….and that’s something I needed to change. So I did a closet sweep and got rid of everything that didn’t fit. By ‘fit’, I wanted a garment to look good and fit properly, not just be able to squeeze myself into it. Most of my blouses and silk shirts went to donation, because the girls are just not the same after 2 babies 😉 I wear far more dresses now and have kept only a few pair of well fitting slacks that I need for customer visits. I also increased my stock of high quality heels (to make the dresses and skirts look better) and wear a lot more scarves, to draw the eye up and away from my problem areas. I don’t know when this weight is going to come off, but I want to feel and look good in the meantime! A good and well timed post!

    March 2, 2016/Reply
  7. Frannie says:

    I agree with Denise. When I put on some relationship weight, I took all the clothes that didn’t fit me at that weight and put them in a box so I would stop torturing myself with trying on outfits that didn’t fit. I pared down my closet so it was only clothes that fit me where I was and the box with “skinny clothes” went in the closet where I will rediscover them one day when I’m back to that weight. It’s not worth the daily struggle.

    March 2, 2016/Reply
  8. Monica says:

    I recommend lifting weights to anyone who is feeling the mid-30s metabolism slide. It will protect you from injury and muscle burns more than fat even when you aren’t exercising. I’ve found I also don’t feel the need to eat more (see above comment about marathoners) since I can get a great strength workout done in 30 minutes and then go on with my day. I always hated slogging through endless cardio, so I love that I don’t get bored when lifting weights.

    Also, boxing. My husband installed a boxing gym in our garage and he showed me how to do it. I use the speed bag, heavy bag and a double-ended speed bag for 6 rounds and I totally love it. No boredom, awesome workout and I get to release all my pent up aggression on inanimate objects instead of people. Workout is done in 20-30 minutes depending on how much rope jumping I add and the workout is intense. Gives you beautiful shoulders. ;c)

    I throw in a few interval walks and stretching while I’m at work for some cardio and flexibility and I’m done. It’s tough balancing a career, a family and our health all while trying to look good in our clothes, but we can do it right?!

    March 2, 2016/Reply
  9. CC says:

    Belle, I really appreciate this piece of content. So much of the blogosphere these days seems dedicated to perfect, really produced photographs (which, don’t get me wrong, I like – but they can take their toll). Not to mention New Year’s resolutions, green smoothies, and the best salad recipes. Health is great and important, but it can be so difficult to disassociate that from body image and fashion. Thanks for the tactical approach to an issue that we all face and an honest approach towards self care.

    March 2, 2016/Reply
    • Monica says:

      Yes! ‘Lifestyle” blogs are the worst…it’s the most sad when it used to be a genuine blog and is now a sales platform for their perfect life (oh yes, tell me more about that super expensive toddler snack delivery service, perfectly dressed and coiffed person). Belle is like a breath of fresh air in the blogosphere.

      March 2, 2016/Reply
    • Belle says:

      I always ask myself: Is this chick really eating all these perfectly prepared smoothies and quinoa bowls?

      I like the content on a lot of produced blogs, I’d like to sparingly add some here, but sometimes I’m just like, yeah, this is not real life.

      March 2, 2016/Reply
  10. Leila says:

    Thanks Belle for another honest, helpful and candid post! Who hasn’t been there? And with the quality (or lack thereof) in clothing, even if I decide to lift more weights, the extra muscle could pop a seam in a shirt. My hips and thighs are my problem, and pants and skirts aren’t as forgiving.

    Nearly every piece of clothing in my closet has some sort of stretch to it. I find this helps. In addition to pants, skirts and more forgiving blouses, don’t forget about blazers. From moto jackets, to simple draped blazers, to the styles now that don’t even button in the middle, these help add proportion and length. Obviously this varies on body type but I always feel better when I have a blazer on.

    March 2, 2016/Reply
    • Leila says:

      oh wait you mentioned blazers. my bad. well, SOLIDARITY, ladies!

      March 2, 2016/Reply
  11. Mary says:

    Adding my appreciation for this post. I had lost a lot of weight, kept it off for a couple years and slowly regained it all over a period of 4 years or so. My weight has been stable for some time and I only have clothes that fit me. But I realized that I don’t have many clothes that I love. Why? Because for some reason I convinced myself that I shouldn’t spend the money on good clothes when I wasn’t at a good weight. I love working on my own style. Why should I not do that because of my weight? So I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of the UPS driver a few times this week. 🙂

    March 2, 2016/Reply
  12. Anna says:

    Love seeing this type of post, and well done. Such a nice deviation from what I normally see in the blosophere. A couple years ago I found myself gravitating significantly more towards dresses at work as pants just become harder and harder to fit. While sure, I may like to lose a bit of weight, I’m relatively active and am healthy and it’s important to be able to dress well at any weight.

    March 2, 2016/Reply
    • Belle says:

      I’ve essentially given up on pants that aren’t jeans. The dresses and skirts are more forgiving and flattering.

      March 2, 2016/Reply
      • Anna says:

        Also skirts can move up and down your waist as you lose or gain weight. With pants you lose five pounds and get saggy butt; gain five pounds and you get a muffin top.

        March 2, 2016/Reply
  13. MCW says:

    Thanks for sharing this. I gained weight during 1L year because I accepted that grades were going to be more important than working out for a period of time. Like you said, I didn’t hate myself for it.. but it did make dressing professionally the following summer a bit tough. Bookmarking this because I’m sure this most recent round of weight gain won’t be my last.

    March 2, 2016/Reply
  14. Lauren says:

    Love this and so needed! I put on over ten pounds last year (job stress, death of sibling, etc) and am struggling to get it together to lose the weight. You write so truthfully and genuinely about what women experience, I appreciate it! There is one beautiful dress I have that I’m dying to get back into, but I also need to stop shaming myself with clothes I can’t fit into right now. The struggle is REAL! This is up there with some of my all-time favorite posts you’ve done. Thanks for sharing, Belle!

    March 2, 2016/Reply
    • Belle says:

      I’m sorry for your loss.

      March 2, 2016/Reply
  15. B says:

    This is a great timing for me, thanks for being so real with us, Belle. Recently I noticed I was stress eating, which is new for me. I did Whole30 in October/November, lost the 15lbs I had gained, and thankfully have kept them off so far. Now I’m training for a 150-mile bike ride, and while my legs and core are toning up, my weight is also distributing itself differently – not bad but it makes clothes fit differently.

    I’m a single, 28-year-old condo dweller and one thing that has worked for me: Costco. At some point I realized it wasn’t necessarily just how I was eating, but also all of my actions preceding. One of my downfalls was that I would go into Target for toilet paper and walk out with 12 things I didn’t need, maybe gelato, and probably a box of mac and cheese (just one box can’t hurt, right!?). Bonuses with buying in bulk are that I save time by rarely having to make trips to the store for sundries, I don’t go to Target and buy junk I don’t need, and I won’t give into a mac and cheese craving if I have to buy like, 24 boxes. Now I buy my toilet paper/ paper towels/make up remover wipes/vitamins/lotion/dishwasher and laundry soap/etc at Costco and keep the extra stock in my storage space in the basement. Every two weeks, I meal plan and make a trip to buy my meat, produce, greens, and almond milk. I make sure I’m stocked up on snacks with a giant thing of apples, a bag of oranges/cuties, and a box of Larabars. I throw together ziplocks of serving-size smoothie packets and keep them in the freezer. Lastly, Whole30 taught me that I can usually divert my cravings – I keep Larabars and nuts in my glove compartment for the times when the drive-thru calls my name. If I get the sugar monster at night, I have a favorite tea that I save for just that craving, and instead of a cookie, I make a cup of it and pretty quickly forget I wanted something sweet. Oh – and I’ve taken my nightly glass (or two) of wine down to weekends and events only, replacing the nightly routine of having a glass with LaCroix and tea.

    March 2, 2016/Reply
    • Belle says:

      Interesting. I’d probably never buy junk food if I had to buy a case of it.

      March 2, 2016/Reply
      • Crystal says:

        I actually do something similar — shop roughly every other week at Costco for all my protein, dairy, frozen, and produce staples, then supplement very occasionally and sparingly with a few items from the regular grocery store. I live in DC, so don’t even have gratuitous storage space, so I have to make my food purchases matter. 🙂 That means instead of succumbing to cookies and ice cream at the store, my biggest challenges are traveling for work and high-stress/hours days where I eat out at work. All in all, manageable.

        March 2, 2016/Reply
  16. Erica says:

    What a great post – thank you so much! Not only did you give great options and practical advice but you reminded me that I’m not the only one going through the added stress weight. No one really talks about that and the fact that it is inevitable when you work in high-stress jobs. Just having you mention it feels like a weight off my shoulders this morning.

    March 3, 2016/Reply
  17. Annie W. says:

    Thank you for this post. It couldn’t be more timely as in the last week, I’ve had to face some minor weight gain like you discuss here. It’s discouraging to get dressed for work each day, and I appreciate these tips!

    https://www.successonstilettos.wordpress.com

    March 3, 2016/Reply
  18. Kate says:

    Timely post! I actually just bought some emergency spanx just in case I have an interview and need to wear one of my less-flattering suits.

    It’s been really hard to eat well in grad school. One change I made this year is to commit to eating a certain number of fruits/vegetables using the Pact app. It’s not perfect, but just keeping track of my healthy food intake has made a huge difference.

    Also, buying used clothing on ThredUp. While it’s really not financially worth it to sell clothes on there, I’ve found it’s great for buying a few pieces to get my through a larger/transition size. For instance, I know my sizes in BR suiting, and they have tons of skirts that are like new for under $20. Still not ideal—you have to pay shipping, and you don’t know exactly what you’re buying—but a cheap black skirt is a cheap black skirt.

    March 3, 2016/Reply
  19. Jo says:

    Love, love this post. I have never seen this topic covered and as I professional woman who weighed recently, it is helpful.

    March 3, 2016/Reply
  20. Brenda says:

    I was pretty excited to see the clothing – right up until I discovered the dress was $650. Didn’t make it any further than that.

    March 4, 2016/Reply
  21. Kate B says:

    Thanks Belle- I recently gained weight due to some medication and now much of my work wardrobe is unflattering. I’ve been relying on ponte dresses with blazers over, and a great full leather skirt that defines my waist and skims the rest. I’ll have to try some of your tips 🙂

    March 6, 2016/Reply