Ask Allie: Starting from Scratch

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Dear Allie,
Within the past six months or so, I've lost over twenty pounds. My weight and size are now stable, but I went from a size 12 to a size 6. Most of my closet staples no longer even remotely fit, and doing a clean-out of my closet this weekend made me realize just how little items I have that I can wear comfortably. I realized that I am starting over from scratch – a fresh chance to put together a wardrobe of clothes for my adult life, instead of relying on the old, not-working staples or worn-out college clothes. Do you have any advice for someone like me who needs to start over from scratch? What items are must-have-firsts in your mind?
– Beth

First and foremost, congrats on the weight loss and lifestyle change! It’s wonderful to take charge of your health and body and to see the results. However, it does take its toll on the wardrobe. I am at a point where I am having to get rid of some of my wardrobe staples because they are now too large, and it’s upsetting to lose those items I have relied on for years.

Most women find it financially impossible to go on a shopping spree and replace an entire wardrobe once arriving at goal weight. It is best to prioritize your needs and shop slow, shop quality, and know that even though most of your closet is too big, it’s better to build in this manner than waste your money on items not deserving of wardrobe real estate.

Each woman’s priorities will be different; I will share my priority list as that we are both working women who need a collection of clothes that can multi-task and go from work to weekend.



Straight Jeans by LOFT


1. Dark Straight Jeans. Nothing looks worse oversized than a pair of jeans. An extra size or inch can make you look as though you have saddlebags, thick thighs, and a saggy belly. A pair of dark simply-cut jeans can add inches to your legs, whittle your figure, and be extremely versatile. They are great for weekends with tees and boots or jeans, for a night out with a sparkly top and heels, and even for work (at least Casual Friday) with a blazer and cami or sweater.

A straight fit is classic – it won’t be out of style by next fall. If you have large hips, a slight bootcut can balance out your figure without looking passé; if you love your legs you can go for a more narrow cut but don’t verge into jeggings territory as that is just too trendy of a look. A dark even wash is also classic and far more versatile than a trendy finish that only looks good with certain colors or styles of tops.

Keep with a very clean look, no fancy pocket embroidery or bling. This way the look is classic, but also you can get away with finding any brand that fits and flatters at any pricepoint.



Dress by Ann Taylor


2. A Not-so Little Black Dress. A simple black dress can be the most versatile item in your wardrobe. It can go from work to wedding to weekend with ease. I am partial to two styles – either a matte jersey wrap style with ¾ sleeves, or a simple sheath style that hits around the knees.

Pair with pumps and pearls for a work meeting or day wedding, with strappy heels and glitzy earrings for an evening affair. With tall boots and a scarf it’s a great look for brunch with the girls. Change up the look by adding accessories – a sheath can have its silhouette adjusted with a belt, or makes a completely different look by wearing a shirt underneath; a wrap dress looks great with a cami offering a pop of color, or can be made comfy casual with leggings and ballet flats.



Pants by Classiques Entier


3. Black Trousers. A very simple style, straight leg, quality fabrication, few details. Get them tailored for a really perfect fit. Pair with most anything – a sparkly top and heels for a night out, a blazer and shell for an interview, a sweater or crisp shirt for every event in between.



Top by Arden B


4. A Glitzy Top. I am not saying you need to get a lame blouse or a sequined tube top, just a top that has a bit more shine, is a bit more special than your simple knit tops. This is a piece you can pair with the dark jeans or black pants for a night out, or wear with a simple black skirt for a more formal occasion.

Lately I have seen wrap-style blouses in silk and satin at many retailers – sleeveless or with decorative short sleeves, this is a wonderful choice that flatters the figure and can be as formal or as fun as you wish with the addition of accessories. I suggest a color that makes you happy and flatters your complexion – choose your signature color for real impact.



Skirt by The Limited


5. A Black Pencil Skirt. Same as with the trousers, choose quality and simplicity. A seasonless fabric, lined skirt will work year-round. Nothing looks more chic than a crisp white shirt and black pencil skirt – add your personal touch with accessories like belts, colorful shoes, and scarves. The skirt can be dressed up with a glitzy top, made interview-appropriate with a blazer or blouse and cardigan, and can even be weekend-ready with a fitted scoop-neck tee and a pair of casual wedges.



Top by Ann Taylor


6. Flattering Knits. It’s easy to justify the tees and tanks in your current wardrobe – they still kind of fit, they are still in good shape, you like the colors. However nothing will add pounds to you more than ill-fitting pieces. Knits are wallet-friendly, so it’s an easy item to update in your wardrobe. A great fitting tee can work as a shell with a suit, with a skirt or jeans and a necklace for a complete ensemble, and can make the most mundane pieces in your wardrobe suddenly look chic. While solids are a given, this season consider purchasing a striped top to add a bit of trend and variety to your wardrobe, while still maintaining a classic look.

Quality knits can be found at any pricepoint, I love scouring the racks at discount stores like TJ Maxx and Ross for great tees and tanks and even better prices. Some of my favorite tees come from Target, and I find that popular brands like J. Crew and Ann Taylor LOFT always have their knits on sale.



Bra by Wacoal


7. New Bras. When you gain and lose weight, your breasts change. It is a smart idea to visit a bra specialist and be fitted every year and with any change in weight. One in a skin tone, one in black, and one that makes you feel like a sex kitten.

Of course, woman cannot live by six garments (and a couple bras) alone. However these pieces will give you a simple foundation upon which to build. Depending on your personal style, body shape and lifestyle, you may want to consider a jacket out of the same fabric as the pants and/or skirt, a casual blazer, a print or colorful skirt, another pair of trousers in a different color. Showcase your personal style with accessories and be proud of this major accomplishment!

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  1. Wow! Thank you so much for this great response. It’s well thought out and well explained, as always – I can’t wait to get started on it. I live quite close to a TJ Maxx, so I think that will be my starting place.

    Thanks for helping me narrow down my priorities! This list is amazing.


  2. Agree so hard re: bras. I need to replace mine so badly, but the new size is so dreppressingly small I’ve been putting it off. Good reminder!


  3. Agree so hard re: bras. I need to replace mine so badly, but the new size is so dreppressingly small I’ve been putting it off. Good reminder!


  4. Wow! Thank you so much for this great response. It’s well thought out and well explained, as always – I can’t wait to get started on it. I live quite close to a TJ Maxx, so I think that will be my starting place.

    Thanks for helping me narrow down my priorities! This list is amazing.


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