The Safety Net of the Just-In-Case Wardrobe


These were the only items of clothing I kept as I lost weight.

If you were to invite me into your home and I took a peek into your closet, how many sets of clothing would I find?

Do you have “fits now” clothing, “may fit someday”,” and “used to fit before I lost weight” clothing items? If you do have three sets of clothing in your closet I can think of a few reasons why right off the top of my head.

1. You hate to give away or throw clothes away

2. You are a saver.

I was a saver. As my weight increased after I got married I understandably outgrew most of my clothes. After I had been married a few years, I sadly realized that I couldn’t zip up my suit skirts, button my jeans, or even tug on some of my dresses.

Interestingly, although the space I had in my closet did not change, but my closet got more and more full. You see, as my weight increased dramatically, I found myself unwilling to give up my smaller sizes clothes. So as I bought new clothes that fit my larger frame, I just moved the small pants and skirts over to the side. Then as I gained more weight I continued to repeat the process.

It was getting really crowded in that small closet. Does this scenario sound familiar to you?

After being obese for about 5 years , from about 1987 to 1992, even I had to admit to myself that even if I could ever squeeze into that size 10 suit again, it was so out of date and out of fashion that I probably wouldn’t wear it ever again.

It took me until about 1995 to weed through my closet. I know this sounds crazy, but I still wasn’t quite able to part with all of those smaller sized clothes. There were some that I just had an emotional attachment to and could not seem to get rid of. Well, I reasoned, at least I had pared down the number of clothes that did not fit me, even if I did not get rid of all of them.

When my weight loss strategy finally started being successful, I made a difficult decision. I committed to myself that as I outgrew clothes I was going to ditch them. I understood that as I lost weight, if I knew there were still bigger clothes in the closet my “just in case,” wardrobe, I might be tempted to not pay attention to my weight as closely because I knew I still had clothes that would fit even if I gained weight.

It was hard for me to get rid of that safety net.

When I had lost weight in the past, and had some success, I never got rid of any item of clothing, and sadly, when I inevitably gained back those pounds I had lost, there my size 28 dresses were hanging – just waiting for me.

As I went from a size 28 to 24, I gave away the bigger clothes, and bought a few things (second hand) in the new size. I continued this practice as I lost weight. There were times when my clothes were so loose that John was begging me to buy just a few outfits to “tide me over.” It was both a freeing and a frightening feeling to take the bigger clothes to Goodwill. It was freeing that I was releasing myself from that size, and frightening to know I didn’t have a safety net anymore.

Psychologically; however, it was invaluable. I was not only shedding physical weight, but I was moving forward emotionally. By shedding myself of the “fat Diane” clothes, I was helping shed my internal self-image of myself as an obese woman. When I reached my goal weight and size, I was able to look in the closet and see clothes that fit, clothes I liked, and clothes that didn’t carry any negative stigmas.

I want to encourage you to look in your closet today. Do you have old clothes that you need to pass on? Have you lost weight and are afraid to get rid of the bigger clothes? Is your closet just plain overfull? If so, use this weekend to shed some clothing pounds and move forward with your goals.

How are you at getting rid of old clothes that no longer fit? Can you see the benefits? Diane

28 thoughts on “The Safety Net of the Just-In-Case Wardrobe

  1. blackhuff says:

    A month ago, I got rid of my last big sized clothes. It was the last of them all and it felt scary yet satisfying. I so get what you say about the safety net – for the “just in case”. But I made the decision to let it go, let go of the “just in case.” I never want to go back, so I thought: “Why keep the big clothes then?”
    So now I only have my new size clothes in my closet. Feels great.

  2. Miranda @ Biting Life says:

    This is a great post! I never really thought about it before, but I think you’re so completely right about it. I’d be interested in hearing what you have to say about the benefits/consequences to leaving the skinnier clothes in the closet as well. Do you think that affects weight loss? I know that sometimes when I look at those skinny clothes, I lose a little bit of self-esteem. But I’m not sure that it’s impacted my ability to lose weight at all.

    • C says:

      In the last year I have lost 70lbs and have moved to a smaller size than my small clothes. The small clothes I did have just did not fit the way I would have wanted at any point. I see the only problem with smaller clothes is that they may be a goal and then when you are technically that size they still may not fit right. So I would say do not buy smaller size clothes hoping to get there, just celebrate and buy them when you do. If you already have them just don’t try them on too often in hopes that they will fit. Thats one thing that would get me down.

  3. KCLAnderson (Karen) says:

    I began to understand the value of getting rid of clothes that don’t fit (either too big or too small) or are out of style several years ago. About 20 years ago I bought a top through a mailorder catalog (well before internet shopping) and it was too small. but I never returned it because I loved it and, of course, was going to lose weight “some day.” I hung on to that top for YEARS and finally I got it together in 2005 and started losing weight. One day I remembered that top and tried it on. Not only was it too big, but it didn’t suit me. I tried to wear it once and that it was it. Lesson learned!

  4. Mairi Brown says:

    I have no problem getting rid of the clothes that are too big but I just can’t seem to part with the clothes that are too small. I find that they motivate me to get back into them. I don’t have a lot but I must admit I’ve held on to a suit and a couple of pairs of pants.

  5. Leah says:

    I’ve recently gotten rid of clothes that no longer fit. I wasn’t worried about doing it, because they are just getting too big and baggy, and while I get nervous if I’ll keep losing more weight I’m not nervous that I’ll gain those 60 pounds back.

    I have kept one thing to measure by as I get smaller.

  6. KarenJ says:

    I’m a big believer in having just one size in my closet (the one I fit in). When I first lost my weight in 1986 I kept one “fat” dress hanging in my closet for about a year before I was ready to part with it. When I gained the weight back in 2007, I put all my smaller sizes away. After trying to lose weight for more than a year, I started getting rid of a lot of things I thought I’d never wear again. I was wrong. I’m still grieving over a favorite dress I brought to the consignment store because it didn’t fit. It would have fit me now. I have 7 pounds to go (which for me is the next size) and I have some clothing put away I hope to get into.

  7. Meg (@LadyMegSoprano) says:

    At least twice a year, I do big purging adventures in my house, going through every cupboard, closet, nook and cranny judging what has to go. I’m brutally unsentimental about it. Therefore, I have a TINY wardrobe right now of things that fit or are getting slightly too big because I’m almost down another size. I have some hoodies that are too big but I kind of like my hoodies to be roomy. But everything else reflects my current size. A few things are getting too baggy so I’m itching to do a big cull again, but will wait ’til I’ve got the budget to replace things in my wardrobe (can’t go naked!!).

    The one item I kept from my size 18 days is a pair of Old Navy Sweetheart jeans. Throughout my journey, I have replaced them every time I lost a size with the same exact style/color jeans, so I’ve worn the same light blue Sweethearts in 18, 16, 14, 12, 10, 8, 6 and now 4. I bought the 2s last week. They button and zip but I’m not quite there yet. I kept the 18s as a reminder that I never want them to fit again. But I don’t keep them in my closet, I keep them in a memory box–because they are a memory of what I was, and a memory of my journey to become what I am now.

  8. Caron says:

    I used to have three sizes in my closet which were 10, 12, and 14. I only bought one size 16 pair of pants because I was still stuffing myself into the 14’s and pretending I didn’t need a bigger size. I did invest in 2XX blouses and shirts though. It might have been a year after I lost weight that I finally got rid of everything but the clothes that fit. Somewhere that size 16 pair of pants is stored away as a reminder.

  9. Michelle says:

    I’m not much of a clothes horse, but I have done the same. In my closet are jeans ranging from 16 (from a diet almost 10 years ago) to 20 that I’m currently wearing (and they’re getting loose!). I had a pair or two of larger sizes, but I recently donated them and told my husband that I’m never going back there. All my shirts are size XL, which I figure I’ll be in for a while, but I’ve been weeding out the more stretched out ones. My plan is to celebrate with a trip to a higher quality clothes store as soon as I get out of the plus size department, which I know I can do. I will fit back into those size 16 jeans. I will. and the only way I’m leaving size 16 when I get there is for a size 14. As each size between here and there becomes too large, I’m determined to get rid of them and not look back. In the past I haven’t gotten rid of the larger sizes, but I’ve read somewhere before about the benefits of getting rid of the “fat” clothes and I’m going to do it. I am determined never to go back.

  10. Tim Mosier says:

    When I started losing weight, I had over 16 boxes of smaller clothes. It has been a great reward to fit into and shrink out of 15 of those boxes so far. This post came as a great reminder to me that it is time to go through the everything and weed out the clothes that are too big again.

  11. Jody - Fit at 54 says:

    I never have had many clothes so I have older ones BUT once I lost the weight, the old clothes were gone – I knew I was not going back! I know many gain back but I was never going back there! 🙂

  12. Elizabeth says:

    I have done two of the things you mentioned in the post: 1) I kept a few small sizes as I grew bigger. I did get rid of most of my small clothing from college but kept a few favorite pieces. I was hoping to one day be able to weat the items. But like you mentioned, they are now out of fashion 🙂 2) I am giving away my “fat” clothes. I struggled when I took the first bags and totes to our church’s clothing center. I was so scared that I might need them again some day but also scared to allow myself to return to those sizes. So.. my sister came over and did a closet makeover with me 🙂 Then, the next time was easier to shed those large sizes and sent them up to the church’s clothing center.

  13. Joy says:

    As stated by someone else I tend to go through my closet a couple of times a year. I did get ride of all of my shirts which were sizes 2x to 3x and most of my pants when I was a size 24. I did however keep two pairs of jeans and an old brides maid dress ( it was a size 18 but I had to add extra material to the dress right before the wedding because I gained so much weight so it was problaby a size 22 or bigger). When I am feeling down about myself about not losing weight fast enought I like to try them on to see how far I have come. In my closet now I have mostly size 16 or 18 and I have one pair of size 12 pants that I will hopefuly fit into soon!

  14. Taryl says:

    Oh yes. I definitely chucked my bigger sized clothes and saved my smallers. And I’m glad I did, as I have fit back into all my old clothes and had to actually buy a new, smaller ‘goal’-ish top as my litmus. It felt so great to fit in those clothes again and even moreso that the old ones weren’t there for me to fall back on. I have one or two pieces from my highest weight I am saving as a reminder, but that’s IT.

  15. Cindy says:

    I’ve been on my weight loss journey for a year now and it has been a combination of losing, maintaining and gaining a little back. I still have about 40 lbs to go but FINALLY this summer I spent 2 days going through all my clothes and dividing them up into the 3 famous piles you mentioned. You have made me realize the importance of keeping just a few pieces as a reminder so I just went back to my ‘fattest’ pile that I planned to give away. I pulled out a pair of jeans to keep but everything else goes. I also kept a few small piles of the next size down as motivation.

  16. Libby says:

    I read your book during my vacation and I LOVED every word of it! I highlighted so much of it and I keep going back and rereading parts of it!! I have only saved 1 pair of my huge pants (the one pair that fit, that I wore to church every Sunday) I wish I had saved a shirt.

  17. Blessedmama says:

    I can totally relate! However, every three months I get rid of a large bag of clothes out of my closet and drawers. This forces me to keep moving ahead.

  18. Julie says:

    I have clothes ranging from size 8 to 22, I wear 14-16 now. I don’t have a lot of the skinny clothes left, just a few favorite things like jeans that don’t really go out of style (they’re not acid-washed or pleated in front). I gave most of my small business clothes away. And I have a few things in the 10-14 range that I expect to wear as I continue losing weight. I gained weight from 8 to 18 fairly rapidly because of thyroid disease, so I don’t actually have too many things in the in-between sizes.

    The 20s and 22s I could get rid of with no qualms, though I am still a little nervous about getting rid of the 18s. Mostly though, I’m just too lazy to sort through all that stuff and pack it up for Goodwill;). I know a lot of it I would never wear again whether it fit me or not.

  19. Megan Davis says:

    I go through my clothes every six months, basically the major seasons here in Australia, and put the things I am not going to wear for the next 6 months away or throw them out, and bring out the other half of my wardrobe. Since starting to lose weight I have three sets of sizes, the majority that are in my wardrobe = my size now, and then I have 2 items that were from my biggest. I don’t keep them in case I will get to that size again, I keep them as a memento to remind myself that I never want to get that big again. Of my smaller sized clothes I only have a few things left, I have thrown most of them out. The ones I have kept were my favourites and I try them on every time I go through my wardrobe as a motivator and a reminder- I was smaller once and I will get there again!
    Thanks for such a great post, really hits home!

  20. RedPanda says:

    I’m sure the “safety net” of larger clothes would make it far too easy to regain.

    When I was losing, I was always racing off to my tailor to get clothes taken in, and I had a few expensive suits in good fabrics completely remodelled.

    These days, I have very few clothes – they are all fitted, and there’s only room for a five-pound gain at most.

  21. beerab says:

    I only keep one size up, we all have our fat days (Darn TOM)! That way if I ever “slip up” I don’t slip up more than a few pounds, when I first started I was pushing a size 20 in jeans and wearing XL tops, now I linger around a size 14/16 jean and medium/large tops. I don’t have any size 18s, I don’t have any XL tops, and when i get into some darn size 12s I will be getting rid of those 16s! 🙂

    I watched your videos- you are an inspiration! I’ll definitely be checking out your book 🙂 Thanks for posting on my blog 🙂

  22. Lisa says:

    I got rid of my “fat clothes” as soon as I lost weight. I spent way too much money on smaller clothes as I was losing, too. I didn’t want to keep my big clothes around because I was NOT going to wear them again!! I was determined to lose the weight.

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