How to Shop for Clothes When You’re Losing Weight

I recently received an email from a reader, praising the section in How to Win at Shopping on how to dress ten pounds lighter. She shared that she was dieting at present and asked if I had other shopping advice. I happened to be interviewed by Angela Haupt for the New York Daily News on the very subject. Check out the full article below:


You were a size 16, and now you’re on your way to a 6.

It’s a grueling process — and a great one. But how can you possibly shop for clothes, and show off your new physique, when your body is changing every day?

“Losing weight is a really hard thing to do,” says Emmy Award-winning stylist David Zyla, author of “Color Your Style” and costume designer for shows including “All My Children” and “General Hospital.” “Don’t complicate it by having the clothes in your wardrobe frustrate you further. This is a time to be good to yourself — you want to feel attractive throughout this process.”

Zyla, who’s dressed Hillary Clinton, Tom Hanks, Neil Patrick Harris and Kelsey Grammer, among other big names, shared his go-to advice on shopping for clothes while you’re losing weight:

Think wraps — skirts, blouses, dresses. Anything that wraps is “brilliant,” Zyla says, because there’s leeway where you tie it. “You might go through a period where you gain a few pounds back, and you shouldn’t feel bad about yourself,” he says. “You should still have a beautiful dress or blouse to wear. And this way, there’s going to be that ease there.”

Invest in some new accessories. Go ahead: Splurge on that Michael Kors handbag or glitzy necklace you’ve been eyeing. Jewelry, shoes and bags aren’t size-specific, and they help you feel more attractive. They’re an ideal way to embrace fashion trends while your weight is fluctuating, Zyla says.

Belt it out. There are different holes on a belt: You can go smaller if you meet your weight loss goals, or larger if you’ve had a tough week. Bonus: It’s a pretty accessory. “If your blouse is a little too big on you, you can add a skinny little belt, and it’ll show off the waist you’ve been working on making smaller,” Zyla says. It’s better to invest in a belt than, say, a pair of pants, since they’re typically more difficult to alter as you’re losing weight.

Don’t feel like you need to do something different. Examine your closet for your best fit. If every neckline in your closet is oval, and you know that cut looks good on you, stick with it. You don’t have to own every variety of every neckline. “If the best one is out there, honor those hits you’ve had, that you know just work,” Zyla says. In other words, if strangers on the street hoot at you when you wear your bright purple shirt, replicate that color in sweater and dress form.

Find your personal color. Not every color flatters every person. “We each have a unique palate of colors that are completely individual that look great on us,” Zyla says. “And they’re not going to change when we lose or gain weight.” Opting for a formal neutral is a great way to slenderize—but keep in mind that it’s not necessarily black. Other options include navy, charcoal, olive and espresso. “It’s going to go with everything in your wardrobe, and most importantly, it goes with you,” Zyla says. “You should really only wear the colors that look fantastic. Why would you settle for B- when you could have A+?”

Pay attention to your undergarments. As your body changes, they may not fit so well — and this is an area you shouldn’t neglect. Sure, you’ve always worn a certain bra size, but don’t assume it’s still doing what it used to do. How you feel underneath your clothes makes a big difference in how you feel overall each day, Zyla says.

Go for slimming cuts. “The fewer times you chop up your body, the better,” Zyla says. Imagine, for example, that you’re wearing a skirt, a blouse and a short jacket over it, along with a belt around the skirt. You’re breaking up your body quite a bit, and that’s typically not flattering. “Dresses are great, or wearing a skirt and top that are the same color or tones of the same color,” he says, as opposed to, say, a white shirt and black skirt, “which literally cut the body in half.” “The idea is to make a longer and more fluid line, head to toe.” If you want to add a belt to a dress, make sure it’s either the same color as the dress or, ideally, a tad darker to create the most slimming look.

Dress that bump the right way. Your weight is changing because a baby’s on the way? Invest in some tank tops pronto, Zyla says. “All of a sudden, you’re more ample, and maternity tanks help save that blouse for a little longer—and make it appropriate to wear outside the night club,” he says. Make sure you have a belly band, too, and a pair of flats, since they’ll fit you throughout your pregnancy and will stretch if your feet swell. It’s also a smart time to treat yourself to handbags and other accessories. “The clothes in your wardrobe right now are short-term friends,” Zyla says. “They’re going to last a trimester and then they’re done.”

Men, think knits. If you’re wearing dark jeans and a blazer, and you’ve recently dropped 20 or 30 pounds, your outfit is going to hang on you. All of a sudden, it’ll look like you’re wearing your “dad’s jacket,” Zyla says. Knits tend to provide a better fit. He also recommends “tab trousers,” which have small buckles on the side—giving you about an inch-and-a-half leeway without needing to alter your pants.

Clean out your closet. When you hit your goal weight, head into the closet, turn on your favorite music and make sure it’s a distraction-free zone. You’re in for a style check-up. “Whenever we’re in transition, it’s a great time to see what our clothes say. Are they you? Who does that closet belong to?” Zyla says. Your closet ought to reflect who you are. Maybe a friend suggested you buy that orange blouse, but it never felt right. Toss it. “This is the perfect time to make room for the things that make you feel absolutely fantastic. When you jump into the game again and go out shopping, you should do it in an educated way, because your body is different,” he says.

Don’t deny yourself. A client recently called Zyla and told him she wanted to meet — but not until June. Why? She’s in the process of losing weight. “It actually makes me sad, because we should all look the best version of ourselves no matter what weight we are,” he says. “To get caught up in this idea that we only deserve to look good when we’re at such and such a weight? I really don’t feel that’s correct.”