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10 Fashion Tips for Yo-Yo Dieters

Clothes to buy when your weight fluctuates and you need a little leeway

spinner image Women wearing various stylish clothes despite weight gain
Greg Doherty/Getty Images; Amanda Edwards/Getty Images; Presley Ann/Patrick McMullan via Getty

It’s totally normal for women 50-plus to experience a little weight fluctuation of about five pounds, thanks to hormonal changes, sluggish digestion and water retention. But some of us are truly delinquent when it comes to diet and exercise. We lose and gain weight so often our closet is filled with clothes in three sizes! Here’s the catch: Not only is a multisize wardrobe expensive, it takes up a lot of space, is stressful to look at and is unnecessary. If this is you, maybe it’s time to create one flexible wardrobe that looks great without having to size up or down. Here are 10 body-positive solutions:

1. Give your body and psyche a size break

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Instead of holding on to your old “I’m-not-skinny-enough-for-that” items and “I-might-gain-back-20-pounds-and-then-what?” clothes, aim for a single wardrobe with a little more built-in give-and-take. Opening your closet and getting dressed should not be a depressing part of your day.

2. Stick with your most consistent “middle” size

This will help you create a realistic wardrobe when choosing new pieces. Let go of squeezers and tents. Toss or donate anything extreme and any item that jams in or squashes your fleshy bits, sag  and  bloat (FY I we  all have issues with these) or requires holding your breath and two body shapers to wear. Also, include in that pile any oversize items that have no body definition at all.

3. First focus on where you gain and lose

This means taking a cold hard look at your body and determining where your weight shifts the most. Are you a below-the-waist gainer whose belly, booty and thighs show extra pounds? Or does extra weight go straight to your top half — breasts, midriff and waist? Are you a true belly gainer whose major concern is the  waist band ? Or is your weight gain an allover thing — curves stretching to the max, top  and  bottom? Now start a closet of body boosters to get you through thick and thin. 

spinner image Regina King and Carmen Madrid wearing clothes that have volume below the waist
Regina King in a full skirt and trim top; Carmen Madrid wearing loose leg pants.
Getty Images (2), Paras Griffin; Carlos Tischler

4. If you’re a bottom gainer you need volume below the waist

Start collecting fashionable pieces that will always take your side, like full A-line skirts, fit-and-flare dresses and wide-leg, ankle-cropped pants.

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spinner image Donna Karan and Patrika Darbo wearing tunics.
Designer Donna Karan and Patrika Darbo in asymmetric tunics over black pants.
Brian Ach/Getty Images for Urban Zen; Brandon Williams/Getty Images

5. If you’re a belly gainer, you need room at the waist and tummy


A bigger belly is a menopausal meddler. Shift dresses and tunics mean no worries about where your waist begins or whether it even exists! Stay away from belts, belted anything and tuck-in tops. Layer longer tanks under shorter wider tops for a fashionable solution. Keep pants slim but opt for those with total or partial elastic waistbands, or leggings (see tip No. 8). 

spinner image Kim Whitley and Bronwyn Berry's clothes create shape above the waist.
Kym Whitley in a pale lavender wrap top and canary yellow pants, Bronwyn Berry in a metallic wrap dress.
Greg Doherty/Getty Images; Presley Ann/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

6. If you’re a top gainer, you need shaping above the waist

Wrap-style shirts, blouses and dresses sculpt your body to an X for a more defined shape and balanced top and bottom proportions. Real wraps or their faux-wrap sisters deliver a strong V neckline that has a torso-lengthening, shoulder-strengthening visual effect. The tie waist (or in some cases an invisible elastic waist) is adjustable to expand and retract as your weight changes.

spinner image Effie T. Brown, Cybill Shepherd and Gabrielle Carteris wearing one color
Effie T. Brown wearing black head to toe; Cybill Shepherd in monochromatic red, with knee-length sheer tunic; Gabrielle Carteris in a white pantsuit.
Nicholas Hunt/WireImage/Getty Images; Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images; Michael Tran/FilmMagic/Getty Images

7. If you’re an all-over gainer you need one color head-to-toe

A monochromatic look is the simplest way to create the illusion of a sleeker silhouette. You can match black with black or white with white or do all red for that matter, but this keeps the eye moving vertically. Paring your wardrobe to a few colors rather than a random rainbow is a smart move. You get style bounce from combining textures and prints while keeping the color theme consistent. Look for knits and basics that have some structure and have a tailor add an elastic stretch panel to the waistband of pants or skirts when necessary.

8. Make leggings your new base


No matter where your weight goes, leggings make looser, longer tops and layering easy. Your legs will always be a relatively slim body part (even if they are muscular, full and curvy) so look for leggings in a thick opaque fabric. Now totally acceptable as “pants,” leggings look stylish with mid-thigh or longer-length tunics, crisp white shirts, jackets and sweaters. Add any boot style from bootie to knee-high toned to match your leggings and you have a “look.” Choose faux leather and faux suede leggings for a cool polished effect and, believe me, no one will mistake them for gym or workout wear. Best part? They stretch up and down with you.

spinner image Dawn McCoy and Bevy Smith in printed dresses
Dawn McCoy in a print wrap midi dress, Bevy Smith in a floral wrap dress.
Amanda Edwards/Getty Images; Leon Bennett/Getty Images for Essence

9. Learn to love prints

There is nothing like an all-over print dress to keep the eyes moving and away from specific body zones. For those yo-yo dieters who love the easy fit, comfort and chic look of a cozy bathrobe this is another easy solution, no matter where you gain or lose. No pulling, creasing or struggles to wear it, since the dress adapts to fit you. Look for knee-length and midi versions in floral, artsy or tropical prints that make you smile at the scale. 

10. Last word: Invest in bras

Yo-yo dieters do need bras in several sizes and a range of bras that deal with weight shifts — no way around it. Gain weight and you’ll have spillage, double boobs, tight bra bands and back fat. Lose pounds and you get sag, loose cups and bands that swivel even on the tightest hook. Bras make all the difference in your body shape and clothes fit, regardless of size. Just splurge when and as needed. You’ll thank me!

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