My Ever-Evolving Relationship With My Clothes
I have a hectic relationship with clothing. In my 20s and early 30s, I worshipped it. I stuffed the closets of our various rental apartments with beaded slip-on loafers I bought at an outdoor market in Strasbourg, France; a vintage bubblegum-pink stewardess dress I liberated from a Goodwill in rural Kansas; a red Banana Republic raincoat I found (with tags on) at a consignment store in Boston.
Recently, a number of readers–mostly also young (am I still young?) moms–have asked me what I wear and how I approach my relationship with clothing these days. Longtime readers will recall my three-year-long all-out ban on buying clothing. I successfully went three years without buying anything because I desperately needed a re-set. I bought clothes at thrift stores and yard sales constantly. I had enough to clothe an entire soccer team. Several teams.
I’ve only recently realized how intertwined my clothing obsession was with my previously undiagnosed depression and anxiety. I’m starting to unravel the emotions I carried in my clothes and my appearance. It”ll probably take me the rest of my life, but I’m happy to take you along with me. So this post isn’t about money, but it is about how material things can take on too much importance in our lives. How we can define ourselves by what we own–by what we buy. This is the first in a new series on clothes; the next post will be a practical run-down of what I wear these days. But today, enjoy a journey through the recesses of my brain.
My Clothing Obsession
I loved my clothes. They were my souvenirs, my way of tracking where I’d lived, what I’d worn when I was 22, how I felt about myself. These clothes had memories woven through them. I’d lugged them from Kansas to Europe to Brooklyn to Washington, DC to Boston. And finally, to Vermont. In Vermont, they sat in my basement tucked into plastic tubs lined up on metal shelves. They had masking tape labels with things like, “Cloaks,” written on them, which sounded preposterous until you slid the tub off the shelf, pried open the lid and saw that there were, in fact, five woolen cloaks inside. Never mind that I’m allergic to wool. These were bitching cloaks.
You might think I only wore these clothes in college. In grad school at the latest. You would be wrong. I wore them until I got pregnant with our first child. I was 31. For work, I had what I considered a toned-down approach that included blazers. But I still wore my floor-length, vintage ’70s floral sleeveless gown on the weekends. In public. I liked how I looked.
What Happens When You Birth Two Babies (not at the same time)
Having a baby changed my body. We all know this happens, it’s a cliche to even tell you. But I hadn’t realized it would mean I’d never fit into these costumes again. I gained weight; but more relevant is the fact that things moved around. My rib cage is somehow a different shape. As are my hips. After I had a second baby, things migrated further and it became clear my body was settling into a contented, pre-middle-aged arrangement.
I began to slowly peel off the clothes I’d never wear again and donate them to the thrift store. I no longer worked in an office; I lived on a farm in rural Vermont. I wasn’t ever going to wear a strapless polka-dot dress with a black and red tulle skirt again. At first, I mourned every piece that left my house. I felt like I was losing part of who I was. So I slowed my give-away project, I let myself forgot about it. I let everything sit in the basement, kept the “Cloaks” label in place and moved on with my life upstairs, which mostly involved potty training and trying to bake cookies with two children under the age of three.
I was diagnosed with postpartum depression when the second baby was five months old. I started seeing a therapist. I started taking Zoloft. Everything lifted. Everything was lighter. I realized I’d been facing the wrong way for three years. I’d been squinting to look backwards at the person I used to be. It was easy to do because I met my husband when we were 18 and I still loved him. And so, there we were together at 21, at 25, completely different people. Easy people without responsibilities. Without stability. Now, with a c-section and a VBAC carved onto me, I was trying to lose weight and whittle myself back down to the person I used to be. Thanks to my therapist, I realized that person wasn’t a happy one. That person standing there at a work party, in a vintage ’50s rhinestone-collared cocktail dress, was depressed. Anxious. A perfectionist unable to be content. That person was always reaching for the next external validation–a promotion, a more advanced yoga pose, a new dress.
It Was Depression All Along
Realizing that it had been depression and anxiety all along is the best thing that’s ever happened to me.
Once I knew that, I understood I had nothing to prove. I realized no one cared if I was hitting the next milestone for external validation. I’d been this anxious, manic little creature throwing myself into whatever I thought would be “the next thing” to bring me happiness. Peace. Stillness. But, of course, none of that comes from accomplishments or other people. Or clothes.
The clothes weren’t the cause of my depression and anxiety. They were a symptom. A manifestation of my need to be complemented, perfect, attractive, interesting, good. A good person wearing good clothes. If I could define myself by my outward appearance, I could fool myself into thinking I was ok. Totally worked for 10 years, if you count sweat puddling on your laptop keyboard while you work as ok. It was ok until I had two small people looking to me for guidance on how they should learn to define themselves.
Therapy And Medication
Both worked for me. They don’t work for everyone. Zoloft saved my life and I continue to take it. I’ll probably take it for the rest of my life and that’s fine with me. I’ll do anything to not be swallowed by depression and anxiety again.
I went to therapy in the pre-online-therapy boom, so I went in person. That means I drove 45 minutes each way to see my therapist. I did so because I had to. I also paid $150 out-of-pocket for every session because my insurance didn’t cover a single therapist who had availability. When I called the hospital where I delivered our second baby and told them I was pretty sure I had postpartum depression, their response was, “well, our PPD therapist is fully booked. We can get you an appointment in about six months.” To this day I cannot believe that was their response. But I’m fortunate. I had the time and the money to find a private therapist who had availability that week. Because I needed to see someone ASAP.
This was pre-pandemic and it’s my understanding this has only gotten worse. That therapists’ availability and prices have only become more constrained due to the mental health crisis resulting from the horror that is Covid. Enter online therapy. Like I said, I haven’t done this, so I’m not vouching for it personally; but, TalkSpace is an online therapy provider that works really well for some folks (affiliate link). There’s been backlash against some of these online therapy companies–which I totally get–but I also get that for some people, finding a local therapist is cost or time prohibitive. Or impossible. For some folks, online therapy is the best (or only) option. If you feel like talking with someone might be helpful, TalkSpace is an option available to you (affiliate link). I would not be the person I am today without therapy and medication. Acknowledging my long-term depression and anxiety and getting treatment is what allows me to now sleep through the night, not snap at my children constantly, not feel exhausted all the time, not dread getting out of bed, and to feel like I have things to look forward to. To feel like my life is worthwhile.
Four Years Straight
After getting treatment for my depression and letting go of defining myself by my clothes, I fell into a pit of hand-me-down maternity and nursing outfits. Since my kids are 27 months apart, I was pregnant or breastfeeding for four years straight. For four years straight I wore stretched-out high-rise pants, sloping and stained nursing tops, sad cardigans that used to be a color? Maybe?
This was practical; every part of my life was filthy. I worked from home, no one saw me in a professional context. I had a headshot I’d plaster up anytime someone felt the need to see what I looked like. Although I did not, and do not, look like that headshot. I was always behind a computer or under a child. The baby never wanted to get out of the carrier and the toddler found a way to adhere to my legs anytime we were in public, so no one could see my clothes anyway.
Emerging from The Fog of Infant-hood
Then things changed again. The baby stopped nursing. The toddler went to school. I worked more and didn’t always have someone stuck to my chest. I decided to buy new clothes. Before buying anything, I went through everything I owned. Most of it didn’t fit. Trying on 12 pairs of jeans and finding that you can’t pull any of them up past your hips is not my favorite way to spend ten minutes. After that, I didn’t bother trying on the rest. None of it felt like my clothing anymore. This decluttering stopped being sad. It turned into liberation. I was excising the unneeded.
For the first time, I didn’t want to be 22 again.
I didn’t want to suffer crippling anxiety and sweat through a suit jacket during a job interview. I didn’t want to go back to a time when I wouldn’t eat enough for lunch so that I could button the high-waisted camel-colored, size 2 J Crew skirt I found for $1 at a yard sale. I didn’t want to feel desperation for approval again. I didn’t want to feel defined and limited by my clothes. I wanted to be comfortable and content. I wanted to get older, to move on, to become someone different.
I don’t know how much clothing I gave away because it didn’t happen all at once. I remember I filled an entire large cardboard moving box. I also remember taking six full trash bags to Goodwill. I know I gave my niece at least three suitcases of clothes that look fantastic on a 15-year-old and ridiculous on a 38-year-old. I know that my entire wardrobe–all four seasons–now fits into my side of the closet. Without cramming. I don’t even tuck stuff over on my husband’s side anymore, hiding it behind the blue bathrobe he never wears. I kept one plastic garment rack in the basement that’s one-quarter full of the gems I can’t give up.
After I got rid of all the clothes that were trying to squeeze me into a definition I don’t fit anymore, I needed to figure out what I did want to wear. I gave away all the stretched-out, stained maternity and nursing clothes and I thought about what I like to wear. Not what I’m supposed to wear, not what I wear to impress other people, not what’s in style. What I like to wear. I’ll tell you what that is next time.
How do you approach clothing? What’s changed for you over the years?
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The timing of this series is spot on for me. I recently had our second (and last) baby and for the past 4 years I’ve barely bought any clothing as I was in a mindset of “I’m about to get pregnant/I’m pregnant/I’m breastfeeding”. I have in my head that in a few months when my body has settled further into its new normal I’m finally going to do something about my wardrobe. Can’t wait to read more!
Thank you so, so much for this. You have so clearly articulated many of the feelings that I have been having about my wardrobe and aging and my postpartum body and this is the most validating writing that I’ve ever read on the topic. I really look forward to reading your other posts. Thanks for sharing your truth.
Thank you, Jen. I am really glad to hear this resonates. I never know if it’s just me who feels this way or if it’s a more universal truth. I’m happy to hear it is helpful.
This is beautifully written and so clear. It resonates with so many of us!!
It’s universal!! Exactly (exactly) how I have felt/feel, and I’ve tried my best to avoid getting back on meds because of anxiety and depression but this makes a very good case for trying it out just to see! (I quit my job instead, tomorrow is my last day…! I am going to go into hibernation mode for a while, to give myself a rest and see more clearly who I’ve become on the other side of things….). I breasted for four years, too, and have organs falling out because of a complicated vaginal birth, and sometimes I have to wear special underwear to keep it all in, hah, and it makes me feel like I’m thirty-seven going on ninety. This is a wonderful piece, in short. Thanks for putting all the at times extremely alarming transformations into words!!
Very relatable post Liz, even for those of us without kids but are moving into middle aged territory. Thanks 🙏
Save the vintage clothes for your daughters! They’re fabulous!
I’ve saved the best items, but I also don’t want to keep things in the hopes that my daughters will be interested in them. If they’re into vintage stuff, I’ll take them thrift shopping. But I don’t want to force my interests onto them, if that makes sense. I used to save everything, but it started to feel overwhelming to steward all this stuff, so I’m increasingly giving away the things we no longer need or want.
Oh my gosh that is amazing thinking.
My Mom kept a few things (one is a cool dress from the late 50s). Would I have wanted them 10, 20, 40 years ago? – nope. But I do now. So keep in mind that your daughters interest may not peek until they are much, much older.
And another bad news item – menopause will change your body yet again. Upside is I’ve never been a clotheshorse. Did the corporate dress code for years (business casual pants on Friday didn’t start until the 90s). I dislike shopping, much less shopping for clothes. So yes, I have articles of clothing I’ve worn for decades. Got bummed out today when I realized a class type white shirt has small tear. Soon I have to go on a “must buy” shopping trip – ugh.
Your comment about being interested in your mother’s clothing much later in your life resonates with me, but I don’t think it’s a great idea for us to save and save our stuff with the thought that perhaps one of our kids *might* want in decades later. My in laws have done this, and soon we are going to have to deal with the outcome of this kind of mindset. It will be very difficult, as my husband has an emotional attachment to anything from his childhood, even if it’s something that’s clearly no longer useful or something our kids don’t even want.
On another note, I totally understand the “must buy” shopping trip–made all the worse by the resurgence of 90s fashion…which definitely does not suit my middle aged body!!
I am in no way advocating saving tons of stuff. At least your in-laws (I hope) don’t have stuff saved from one (or both) of their parents. Suffice it to say sibling and I have been helping Dad downsize since he’s open to it.
I do ask my kids if they think they’d want an item in the future – I was going to sell a few items if they didn’t. Answer was not now but likely later. If they don’t want an item and it is worth money, I will likely sell it. Otherwise donate.
It’s just very liberating to give something away knowing that hopefully someone can use it right now versus holding on to it 20 years for the hypothetical hope that someone will want it.
YES!!! That’s 100% how I feel. If I can donate it today and someone else can start enjoying it tomorrow, that feels much better to me than hoarding it in my basement.
I agree! I take clothes and other to items to “blessing boxes” or “giving boxes”. They are usually located outside of libraries, churches, sometimes parks. Anyone can take what they need for free. I like this because someone may not have a few dollars for a thrift store today.
I appreciate you recognizing this! I’ve dealt with some guilt trips over the years because I did not want clothes, furniture, etc. from family members/relatives. I actually like vintage stuff, but I want the experience of finding it for myself.
I am diagnosed with both anxiety and depression. There was a time things were so bad I was unable to work. With a good therapist and medication I am much better, but am more like surviving than thriving due to major stressors this year. But I have hope, and a treatment team. Thank you for giving me hope and being so transparent!
That was really helpful. Thank you.
Some privacy issues with the online therapy. https://www.npr.org/2022/07/18/1110699297/betterhelp-talkspace-privacy-data-tips-online-therapy
Very, very good to know, Devon’s!
THANK YOU. I’m in a different place in life (mid-50s, menopause) and so much of what you describe here is relevant to the changes I’ve been going through. The hardest part has been trying to figure out WHY it’s been so hard on me to suddenly live in this much different body. Am I that vain? That shallow? I don’t look at other middle aged women and judge their appearance, yet even though I remain strong and healthy, I’ve been so unaccepting of myself. Many thanks for doing us all the favor of being public about your process. So validating and helpful.
You took the words right out of my brain. “Am I that vain?”–I ask myself that all the time!! I hate how focused I am on my appearance after all this time. And so true about the judgment piece–I don’t judge other people–who cares!?–but myself? Judgement City.
Like your commenter above, I am older and know the struggle is real. I’ve decided that we, as women, are truly conditioned to be defined by our looks. Once we realize it, we can begin to declare independence from it…give up the uncomfortable shoes and no longer allow our pants to have an opinion of our size. There are
More important things than what size we are – or used to be. Decluttering and dressing for this stage of my life has been one of the healthiest things I’ve ever done for myself.
It’s about vanity but it feels that way right? It was trying to look the part, through the lens of depression and anxiety. I see shades of this in past me. Very driven and likely anxious to look the part in a full on position in advertising. Now aged 56 (I call myself middle aged because I FULLY expect to live to 112 yeah!) I am a new me in a new healthy body. It is so liberating! I have a few tops and bottoms that really are me – comfortable and classic and totally appropriate for a new job in a health setting. Thank you for telling your story, you will help so many xxx
Oh, typo it’s NOT about vanity!
I am in the same position you are ColoradoFIRE! I’ve really struggled with accepting my middle-aged body and then I struggle with struggling with it because I like to think I’m not that superficial. It’s a battle I’m determined to win. This article is really helpful with that.
I agree with Sharon that we are still too heavily defined by “the external gaze” – of men, of women who judge (or we imagine they do – but plenty do judge). But I think it’s important to recognise that how we look is a key part of ourselves. We are not just a mind travelling as a passenger in this body. It is an integral part of our personality. Capable of having our perspective on our body changed and adapted. But I believe that to get to a position where our bodies, our faces, our hair mean nothing to our sense of selfhood would be maladaptive in its own way too. Great piece of writing, Liz, as always.
It also has to do with how one feels about transitions to the next stage of life. I’m 35 and I know that clothes in the junior’s department look ridiculous on me (even though I have a petite-ish frame and a 5’7 body). It also wasn’t until recently that clothes in the women’s department looked “normal” on me (hip area was too big). I do look young for my age but it is a relief that I can wear clothes that make me look my age (even though they’re often in between petite and regular sizes). I am a bit apprehensive about what will happen with childbirth (if I have kids) and menopause. I always remember that this is my response to the new phases of life.
I can so much relate to your feelings. I am a healthy, active 57 year old. I am thankful for my health, but have been shocked lately seeing myself in the mirror.I am not used to see myself at this age! I think my dissatisfaction has to do with the media portrayal of beauty, Women are not suppose to age any more,
Thank you for this post, it is so important and helpful to hear that other moms are going through the same thing. I also have 2 girls 27 months apart and the past 5 years have been a whirlwind of intense IVF, 2 pregnancies and c-sections and nursing (in my 40s).
My pre-baby body carried me through triathlons, horseback riding, power lifting and lots of weekend hikes with girlfriends. My postpartum body is a dramatic change and I struggle with that (STRUGGLE, a lot). I don’t feel safe working out in a gym due to COVID and carving out time to go for a run or yoga with 2 little ones is hard. I am trying to be kind to myself, aware that how I treat myself is noticed by my little girls and I am an example to them for being healthy (body and mind). I’ve stopped beating myself up about buying new clothes, I’ve had to sell and donate most of my pre-baby wardrobe because my chest and ribcage is forever changed and my feet will never go back to pre-baby size. I have bought new bras and clothes that make me feel good. If it’s not on sale, that’s fine – I buy select pieces that make me feel better in my new body and purging my closet of the clothes that would never fit again was essential for my well being. I’m not who I was in my 20s, 30s or pre-baby and it’s taking me time to appreciate that and appreciate my 40-something version that has birthed 2 incredible girls.
YES!! Preach, Judith. You articulated it so well. And I am right there with you on two little girls looking up at me, watching every single thing I say and do. I am so glad to hear you’ve found new clothing that works well for you! And yes indeed, sales be damned at times. Also, yes to the ribcage thing–what is with that?! Glad I’m not the only one!
Yes!!! I initially was back to my original sized clothes (not anymore lol), but rib cage was markedly bigger. It is because during pregnancy as your organs get displaced by the uterus it compresses your lungs and the ligaments of the rib cage expand to make more space. So now any pre-baby clothes that are very fitted and non-stretchy will never fit again. No matter how much weight you lose.
Anne, that makes total sense and is yet another reason why we should stop beating ourselves up! Thank you for sharing this.
Okay ladies, I also thought this about my ribcage. Figured that was the cost of pregnancy and that maybe some day it might correct itself? But this year, after my youngest turned 5, I finally started pelvic floor PT. It’s all related! Your breathing (how much your ribs flare or move when breathing) effects how your pelvic floor works too. I totally recommend finding a good PT to help. My diaphragm was also stuck, so I hadn’t really been able to take a deep breath for 7yrs! For me, it’s SO been worth the out of pocket $$ to get my body back in this most basic way. Good luck!
My last (of 4) babies was 11 pounds. I don’t even know where my ribcage is anymore…lol.
I’ve been going through something similar. It seems like motherhood is a catalyst that makes you re-examine how you dress and how you *be* more quickly than other women who stay child free. Post kids and post pandemic I am now figuring out how I want to dress for work and for looking presentable in the world. And I am now much more focused on what looks flattering and feels good, vs the huge variety of clothes I used to wear for fun or to show off my style. I did a couple of big clothing purges but have now stopped, because one of my daughters is already asking about taking my clothes and is likely to fit into them in about 7 years anyway! She tried on a dress at 6 that I wore at 26, and I’ve got to say that she wore it better
Most little girls are in love with their moms clothing. I wouldn’t continue keeping them for the unlikely moment in 7 years when she may fit into them because a 14 year old will definitely have her own different style and interests.
Oh I certainly didn’t keep most of it and I expect she will have her own style! I have a few fabulous or formal dresses left, and I have 2 daughters, so I figure between the two of them they may like some of the dresses when they are in the several-proms-or-formals-a-year stage of life. I also have a friend who is 27 and often wears fabulous hand me downs from her stylish mother, so that also influenced me to stay open to that possibility.
Don’t get me started on prom attire. Daughter is tiny, so what was available and fit was limited. The best purchase we ever made was after she went shopping with friends (but didn’t buy) for homecoming. I went back with her and looked at what the other girls had picked for her, which neither of us liked. Found the iconic little-black-dress on sale someplace, and she wore it for years with various accessories, for all kinds of occasions.
We did spend some dollars on her senior prom dress, one of those you order from overseas by sending measurements. It looked great for prom but was not spectacularly well put together. Glad we didn’t spend more.
Excellent post; I hope it is widely read. As an older woman (61), I wish we and the world would be nicer and kinder about our bodies. Why is it that after a woman reaches a certain age (45? 60?) her arms are never seen again? Watched Grace and Frankie, living in a beach house, in a show set in San Diego, and Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin always wore long sleeves! Are old arms really that offensive? We need to change our inner talk about our bodies and maybe then the outer world will change.
Accepting yourself as you age is not an easy job in our culture.
Love this! My relationship with clothes has been a slow burning doubt for years. I honestly think the frugal mindset has reinforced insecurities about clothes that I should not indulge. It’s my body, yes, but it’s also how women who age take up space in this messed up culture. I know clothing won’t fix anything but damn if it can’t be a source of joy, creativity and self expression that I want for myself again. Happy to see someone else out there share their thoughts on it.
Yes! The frugality/no new clothes thing has been a real problem for me. I found (honestly, still find) myself keeping things I do not like/are no longer flattering because new clothes feel wasteful. And honestly, my youngest child is seven, – I need to give up hope of my chest or hips shrinking at this point, but I always tell myself, “if I just work a little harder . . .”
I don’t think living frugally is mutually exclusive with buying new things. To me, living frugally means that the funds are there if/when I need to purchase something new. Though I’ve never had a huge wardrobe, now I’m even more focused on buying high quality items, as ethically made as possible, that will last for years. It probably helps that I dislike shopping!
Cathy, agree, but it’s a tough balance! I love seeing my savings/investment go up! And I HATE shopping for clothes already, doesn’t help that there are so many low end, high priced clothes out there. I’d just rather be doing other things even though I need the clothes! 🙂
This is beautiful and really resonates with me. I’m on a slow path of recognizing that I have way way way too much clothing, even though I already got rid of bags and bags of dresses and office-wear that didn’t fit my body, my 98% remote job, or my late 30s self. And there’s still so much. I’m trying not to focus on how much I spent on something, or the “what if” game, or the “well it sort of fits but would really fit if I lose x pounds” (which really is just another version of “what if” for me), but it’s a rough road. I so appreciate your candor and sharing your journey!!!
Thank you for your honesty and openness about anxiety, depression, therapy and medication. We still don’t talk about mental health enough, but there’s a lot of us out there.
I’m so glad that you have found therapy and medication helpful!
Side note: betterhelp and talkspace do not pay their clinicians very well. The reimbursement rate is not great for us. There are a few others with better reimbursement rates so online therapy is still a great resource for those with insurance!
I don’t have children but my body has changed over the years. As Liz says, I gained some weight but also, my body is just different than it was. I am trying, slowly, to figure out my new style and to accept this new body and to resist the lure of diet culture (as liz says, I am done skipping lunches to fit into clothing…), but it is tough! So glad to hear this will be a new series and can’t wait to read the next instalment. V x
I also haven’t had children but have noticed a big change in my body as I age (46) and have often wondered how much of these changes are part of aging, not just giving birth. I’m also looking forward to this series; I couldn’t have kids but I still also struggle with these issues.
I’m in the same boat. I’ll be 45 soon, no kids and entrenched in diet culture since I was born. I am now learning intuitive eating and buying clothes that fit me. It is so hard not to look at that size number but I know I feel better in proper fitting clothes. I am finally being honest with myself what styles of clothes I don’t like. While I’m still being frugal, it’s different. I still browse the clearance racks at Lane Bryant but I will pay more for something that fits comfortably. Right now I am still shopping at my local church thrift shop for pants because they have a range of sizes/brands for $1 each. This way I am finding out what works for me without breaking the bank or getting upset trying pants on in the store.
Thank you Liz for this post. I hope this helps your journey as much as it is helping mine.
Love your more personal posts! Thank you for sharing your experiences and your journey. I’d love to hear about if you think anxiety relates to your interest/ability to get to FI. I’ve questioned that myself: is the appeal of FI for me actually about needing security, a plan, quelling my anxiety? And will it be quelled when I get there?!
Oooo Emily, going deep girl!!!! Yes, I’ve often wondered about the relationship between my anxiety and my FI…. I should probably write more about it. What’s helped me is my husband’s extremely non-anxious personality. He is very data-driven, calm and practical (so… the opposite of me in many ways). He’s the one to tell me, “please go spend some money!” and to keep me from spiraling. Clearly I should write more about this :)! Thank you for posing the question.
Ha! Sounds like a good match (and similar to my truly laid back spouse)! If you write it, I’m going to read it, Ms. FW. Thank you for your work!
Ditto! I found the time I was most interested in FI was when I was really miserable and anxious trying to break into a highly stressful field. Once that got sorted, I stopped finding it so appealing, though, ironically, I’m probably more interested in reducing waste and consumption now.
I actually wonder if you’d ever consider writing a follow up book on life after FIRE and what it can and cannot bring you. It feels like the movement is generally at a moment of reckoning with the fact that just quitting work won’t be enough to solve your problems. I bet it would be interesting.
I’d also love to hear more about this topic.
A great question that actually put words to how I have been feeling lately. I would love to read a blog post on this topic.
Thank you for this post! I’ve had some similar struggles and also have 2 younger kids. Your vulnerability is so helpful! Hoping to learn from you as I start a no buy journey of my own so we can adjust to a one income lifestyle, decrease clutter and increase balance in our lives.
Am so thankful for you and your honesty and your willingness to be open about your journey. It all resonates and speaks to me, and in so many ways has been inspiring and life changing for me. Thank you for being you. And thank you for sharing.
Like ColoradoFIRE I found this article relevant as a woman in her mid-50s.
I stayed home for over twenty years caring for a disabled child (so, changing diapers for over two decades) and my wardrobe consisted of jeans and t-shirts. No one cared what I looked like and I was usually puked on at least once a day.
My caregiving days abruptly ended during the pandemic and I eventually returned to work for personal and professional (vs financial ) reasons (my husband and are FI but find our work meaningful and enjoyable). All of sudden jeans and t-shirts didn’t cut it anymore. And now that we’re moving off Zoom and returning to the office, well, I need to really re-jig my relationship with my wardrobe, body, and clothing. Toss in ageism and sexism in the workplace (just look at LaFlamme if you’re Canadian) and how I present myself matters, even though it’s wrong and I wish it didn’t.
Thanks for sharing your experiences. I think this is a more timely conversation than many of us want to admit.
I remember reading one of your (I believe) earlier blogs and you mentioned that it felt amazing to be almost 30 and the same size you were in high school. It made me feel terrible about myself (my issue not yours). This blog made me choked up in a good way. Thank you for writing it.
Oh gosh, I am sorry that made you feel terrible. It’s an interesting thing to write this blog for so many years. I started Frugalwoods eight years ago (in 2014) when I was 30, living in the city, had no kids, no body fat and raging undiagnosed anxiety/depression. It’s embarrassing to look back at some of the things I wrote, but I keep it on here because I see it as an evolution of who I am. I really want to grow, learn and do better—although sometimes it’s super embarrassing that everyone can see that growth alongside me. Fear not, I’m nowhere near the size I was in high school and more to the point, I don’t want to be. Thank you for going on this journey with me.
Early on I decided to not be embarrassed by former “me”. After all, that person made some good choices to get me to This person!
I always feel supported when reading your work – thank you!
I have no talent for dressing myself nor much interest in shopping – the result is huge insecurity about what to wear, what I’m wearing and what I wore. Hoping your next article helps me with this.
I try to focus on what my body does for me rather than it’s appearance – it can kick butt on a Pickleball court, get me to beautiful mountain lakes and is pretty proficient on a mountain bike. I feel strongest when dressed for one of these activities – (like an almost 60 year old athlete!).
I’ve decided it’s ok to carry a few extra pounds because I don’t want to limit myself too much. I enjoy my food, tequila and beer. Those who look perfect often don’t seem to be having as much fun as those of us who don’t.
I’m a little younger than you – but also worry about what to wear that I don’t have to think of too much, that’s vaguely stylish or at least not ghastly, and most importantly, is comfortable and somewhat flattering.
First of all, nothing too tight. Go a size up, it’ll change your life. I don’t mean that none of your current clothes fit you, they probably do, but if they’re a bit tight or draggy or you feel insecure / have to keep tugging, 1 size up is the answer. Not that I’m suggesting wearing massive clothes that are too big, I mean a small change.
Find clothes that are genuinely comfortable and that look suitable for your normal life, whatever that is, then designate that your uniform and ”experiment” with cool colours / fabric patterns / any accessories you happen to enjoy using, such as scarves. If you’re clever, you may not need to think of what you’re wearing from one week to the next, at least until the seasons change, when you then wheel out the applicable uniform and off you go!
This way, you can forget completely about ”what am I going to wear / what the hell was I think when I wore X” and just live your life, looking good, looking comfortable, not fretting, AKA winning!
Execellent post! Definitely there are a lot I can relate to. I still keep some of my clothes that are over 30 years ago, and wear them once in a while. Why? I miss the time when I was young and was full of dreams. Wearing the old clothes is like keeping a fragile lifeline, and I don’t want it go. Last summer I tried hard and lost 10 lbs. Part of the reason was that, some old clothes (very pretty ones) were sort of tight to me. I thought, I got to lose some weight. Anyway, great article. Thanks a lot for sharing about clothes, and depression. Wish you the best.
Love this article, cannot wait for the next one!! It resonates so much for me, all of it.
Thank you Liz for bringing this issue to light. I’ll be turning 64 and a few years ago “all the things” started to hit my body at once. So the effects of two kids, complications from pregnancy and a hysterectomy are creating a “belly” as I’ll call it. It means I can’t fit into the size 10 skinny jeans any more, not even as I’ve tried to alter them. And should I be trying? My weight is good, my health is good, my body is moving things around. And so, yeah, I do have to get some new pants. Still working on not feeling bad about that (both the cost and just that I have to). It’s silly to think a decade and childbirth will not rearrange your body, and yes, it does quite a thing to our mental health. Looking forward to your next blog
Man. I see myself in so much of your story. the C-Section, the VBAC, the PPD, the relationship with clothes. I haven’t managed to get rid of them yet, but it’s something I know I need to do. That regardless of whether I like them or not, they don’t serve me well right now. And if one day I can fit in them again, I don’t need to hold onto them just in case I like them if and when that happens.
Thanks for your perspective on how our bodies and lives change and just leave the stuff behind for us to deal with later, whether we are prepared for it or not. I hope you stay well 🙂
I’m 43 years old and have had one pregnancy (at age 24). My weight has fluctuated 50 pounds during the last 20 years. I heard years ago on the show “Clean House” (miss that show!) that a good rule to follow regarding clothes is to keep one size up and one size down because weight, especially for women, fluctuates. Another rule I have instituted for myself not only for clothes but for items in general that I bring into my home is “one in, one out.” For example, this week I bought a new pair of leggings for fall and a summer dress and a short-sleeved top at a local outlet store. So I decided to put a dress that still fits but that I’m kind of tired of plus a pajama top and a pair of pajama bottoms that I never really liked (but that are still in excellent condition) into my consignment bag. This really me helps control clutter. Another trick I have learned is once a year I will turn all of my hangers in my closet around backward. After I’ve worn an item and it’s been washed and ready to hang back up, I turn the hanger around the other way. This is a simple way to track what I’ve worn and what I haven’t. If I haven’t worn something in a year, it goes in the consignment bag. I’ve also learned with clothes that I really have to try things on. I have every size from a small to an extra large in my closet.
Very smart!!! This summer I’ve been trying to do “wear it or give it away” with all my summer clothes. Mixed results so far… Maybe I should try the hanger trick!
I first heard of the hanger test on Joshua Becker’s blog. Good grief, it was a shock to see how few of my (seasonally appropriate) clothes I wore. But it definitely made me determined – even when I didn’t “quite” want to let go – to get rid of items. My internal debate was overruled by the empirical evidence. I hadn’t worn it, so I have to let it go. Never regretted letting go of anything once it was gone. P
Go, go Liz:) Amazing to hear you share your struggles. “Maternity fog” is my favourite expression.Last autumn I had this revelation that I don’t want another child and that maybe it is OK to “skip” it, and not be the perfect woman trying to have a career, do good and also be the best mom to two kids (I already have one that is almost 10:) It is very hard to realize what we actually want and need and to ignore all the expectations and norms that we’re accustomed to.
Thank you for your honesty and amazing writing skills! Always a pleasure to read your thoughts!
So beautifully written. Thank you for always sharing wholly. You clearly write from the heart. I know your honesty is helping people to get the help they need. And I feel this after 4 babies, a miscarriage and an ectopic pregnancy – nothing quite fits and I’m trying to be ok with that. Take care of myself and be healthy because that’s best for my family. Again, thank you for sharing
Thank you. This is so important. Looking forward to reading more. This is exactly where I am right now.
I recently just had our second child (6 months ago) and I am shocked at how much my body has changed. I’m a plus size woman so I’ve always had a sorted relationship with clothes. My closet and my dresser are full and I’ve dreamed of a capsule wardrobe for years. I still work in the office on a hybrid rotation, so I’m still trying to figure out what will work.
Thank you for sharing this and I look forward to your next post!
Give yourself at least another six months, especially if you’re breastfeeding. The hormone fluctuations that first year do a lot. And your body doesn’t quite know what to do with itself (or finish healing) until at least a month or two after you wean the baby.
I commend you for being so open and sharing so much about yourself. This entry was really beautifully done and you handled so many difficult subjects in a sensitive, thoughtful way. I love your finance advice but this entry really hit hard in a good way. Bravo to you and can’t wait to read the next!
Thank you for sharing your journey. I know it resonates with so many people.
I am experiencing something slightly different with similar themes. I never was particularly into clothes. When I moved in with my husband ten years ago, I’d been living in my truck. He cleared for me a drawer and a half in his dresser, and that was good for the first five years of our marriage through two babies and years of nursing. When we built our house I built myself a wardrobe, and I now have two full drawers and about 12″ of hanging space.
My body isn’t quite the same, but my 10th grade prom dress still fits. Actually, it’s a little saggy. I have had a neurological problem for 22 years, and it looks like it’s spread to my gut, and I can’t get my BMI back up to 18. I also have something new and so far undiagnosed that has robbed my life of most of the fun stuff. I can’t go on a walk with my 7 and 9 yo. I can’t go on a family vacation. I can’t physically drive us to the lake.
And I’m feeling the urge to purge my couple drawers of clothes. Surely I don’t need all that, when I hardly get out of bed. Surely I would be happier if I just edited down to what I can handle, like I’ve done in the past when my physical abilities fell again. But I know I’m just reaching for control, in one of the few realms I could still exercise some. It might look a little more tidy, but it will not address the root causes here. Nothing I can do will address them. Better to admit that than get delusional.
I’m sorry you’re going through those health issues. That’s so hard. I don’t have any advice, just sympathy and understanding for how hard it is when your body won’t let you do the things you’d like to. You’re not alone. Best of luck in trying to figure out what’s going on and anything you can do to help it.
This series might just be the motivation I need to move into the phase of decluttering that I have had on the edges of my mind since my last baby was about 6 months. Why am I still hanging on to the clothes of my 20’s? I turn 40 in November and I think I’m ready to enter that new decade with a closet full of clothes that make me feel good; and nothing else!
I can relate to some of this even though I am 63 and never had children. I also love clothes and fashion and have gone through periods of not knowing who I am at a new stage of life (like retirement) and being stumped about what clothes to wear in the new/next stage. I think we need to continue evolving and can even reinvent ourselves at various stages of life (and also accept growing older and try not to look back with regret). Clothing, for me, has been an important reflection of my identity, and I still care about the clothes I wear – one of the hard things about these pandemic years is feeling like I rarely dress up much anymore. I look forward to reading the rest of your series. I love thrift store shopping, too, and also am a fan of vintage clothing. Getting older doesn’t have to mean giving up on fashion and looking good – look at Diane Keaton who everyone is copying now with the coastal grandmother look or someone like Iris Apfel.
Thank you so much for this. I’ve been an avid reader of your blog for years—I too am a writer and am self-employee; I too love budgeting and cutting out the excess and trying to find simplicity in life. You’ve always spoken so eloquently and confidently on those topics, and I really admire your work. This blog post is so important, too. I identify with nearly part of this story, but I haven’t yet gotten to the point of acceptance of my new stage of life and donation of my old clothes. However, I want to, and your words have given me strength to try again. Thank you!
Thank you for sharing this personal story. So relevant to women of all ages / stages. I’m in a different stage of life than you, but about 3 years ago I finally decided I was going to dress for ME, not the job, the occasion, etc. and it’s been liberating! I dress for comfort and it feels so good.
It was so fun to see the pics of you & Mr. FW from your earlier years 🙂
Thank you Liz for this beautiful post. It is so relevant I have printed it out and put it on my refrigerator I don’t want to forget this or your words.
External validation. That is the key. It doesn’t have to be clothes or appearance it can be finances, striving for promotions, professional achievement, the key is the danger of external validation.
Thank you Liz from the bottom of my heart
Seventy five here and gravity is still very much in effect. Know what? Don’t care. Forever in blue jeans. “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”
Love this:) I am learning to accept the fact I will wear a sweatshirt in preference to anything else and that’s ok. I also remind myself it’s far more important what my body allows me to do than what it looks like to others. It’s a journey.
Yes Marion! I am 63 and things have been slowly moving south since my mid 40s. Forever in blue jeans (and sweatshirt and t-shirts) works for me too. So glad to still be here as many of my contemporaries are not as lucky. Puts things, such as fashion and weight, in perspective.
Thank you so much for writing this, Liz. I needed to read this today.
As a woman who just turned 40 a few months ago, I have been doing a lot of reflecting lately. Not only is it physically difficult to grow older, it is emotionally difficult as well. As you pointed out, clothing is a symptom – not the root. I no longer can or feel comfortable wearing certain clothing because my body has shifted over the recent decade. I am learning to accept this, acknowledge it, and move forward. It’s definitely a work-in-progress.
On a similar note… I think that can be the downfall of thrifting for clothes. I’ve found beautiful, expensive, high quality items secondhand, but maybe don’t quite fit… maybe I’ll give it to a relative or friend (turns out they don’t want it…), or maybe I’ll lose weight (probably not going to happen, and if it did, will this even look good on me then?). So they sit in my closet, just waiting for that right time….
I’ve started buying *gasp* new clothes at full price again. Ones that fit, look nice, are not faded, stained, or a tiny hole in them. I’ll browse Poshmark for brands that I know fit, but every once in awhile I get burned and end up getting the wrong size/cut. It’s been so hard not to stay in the clearance rack section at the store… but I have to remind myself that I small closet of items I enjoy is the same cost as a stuffed closet and tubs of bargain items that I “made work”.
Also, I think you can treasure the fact that you have so many wonderful photos of your outfits. I think you can look back and enjoy that 70s dress, but you don’t necessarily need to wear it again.
100% this resonates so much. I’m an avid thrifter so have to be careful lately of overbuying for the exact same reasons you point out. Buying new clothes when they fit and you wear them is much better then the aspirational pieces in the wardrobe, and I have quite a few of those lurking in my closet.
I usually skip the articles and only read the case studies but today I decided to read it. Omg. So glad I did. It really spoke to me as I suffered from anxiety and depression and perfectionism for most of my life. I’m 65 and my body continues to change! Harder to lose weight and stay fit. So the issue of changing body shape and being comfortable in your own skin never really gets resolved. I’m glad you are bringing this issue to light and looking forward to next article.
Just turned 44 over here and going through a lot of those emotions myself even without kids. I know its tough to express a lot of these thoughts out loud but I’m thankful you did 🙂
It’s only been the last few years that I’ve been making a concentrated effort to dress better. The best thing I ever did was spend $400 on a personal stylist who walked me through everything related to dressing myself. What body type I have, where my waist is, what colors look good on me, when to buy pants, jewelry colors and sizes… The list goes on. I spent so long not spending money on my wardrobe to save money for FI that I didn’t even know what I liked. Now I conscientiously add in a few quality pieces here and there so I can look as good as I feel.
Thank you for sharing. I just wanted to say I think you’re really hard on yourself about the “age-appropriateness” of your old clothes. If you liked how they looked, who cares what age they were “for”?
This was an excellent piece. Thank you for sharing your story!
I love your style and clothes so much….. but if it is not healthy or serving you, then out they go! This is such a journey for so many of us…. and I now I’m using poshmark to sell all that old stuff 🙂
I relate so much to this. I have felt in a strange place lately with clothing, trying to figure out who I am and what to wear. I finished breastfeeding right as the pandemic started. I couldn’t find stuff that fit – as you say, rib cages change, boobs change, shapes change. Suddenly, you’re a different person on the inside as much as the outside. As a work from home mom, I settled into a steady flow of the same tee in multiple colors and jeans or shorts. Great for working from home and heading to the park. Not good for the dinners and events I’ve found myself invited to as the country emerges from the pandemic. I find myself mourning my former self, while celebrating my current self and being proud of who I am – body, mind, and spirit. “This body made a whole human and fed her for a year after that”, I tell myself in the mirror when I feel frumpy. I am good with my current body. It’s just a weird spot to find yourself in, ridding your closets of the pre-pregnancy clothes that no longer fit your life (regardless if they fit your ever changing body). It’s odd to go shopping, combing through rows of clothes and not finding anything that you like, that looks like the “working mom” you are, and feels good on your body. I’m really looking forward to your next post as I think about adding a few staple pieces back to my wardrobe for (hooray?) the dinners and events that will now be back in our lives.
Long time readers like me have heard some of your story over the years. I admire you for sharing it again and look forward to the next installment! True beauty and happiness comes with a relationship with God and not outward appearance. You are a beautiful lady, inside and out. Treasure those photos of your younger self and move ahead with confidence!
This is such a good post. I came to the realization that a wardrobe needs to fit who we ARE and not who we wish we were a few years ago, when my chronic pain became more of a thing. I used to be a jeans-and-t-shirt kind of a gal; with my lower back and right hip (and stupid SI joints) hurting all the time, jeans are often too painful to wear, and I ended up giving away most of my pairs. I’ve since become mostly a skirts/dresses-and-tights kind of a gal (with a fabulous collection of cardigans!), with a few pair of stretchy yoga pants thrown in. Clothing that moves with me and stretches and isn’t painful to wear. It all fits who I am now, and looking nice most of the time is a lovely side-effect. 😉 (And most of this was purchased cheaply secondhand, with a few items purchased new with gift cards given to me for holiday gifts. A win all around!)
I have joined you Stephanie in the skirts, tights and cardigan wardrobe transitions. I am 68 and the skinny jeans and t-shirts just started to feel restrictive so bought a soft, flowing skirts, tunics and unstructured pants. It is bliss and I’ll never go back to snug fitting clothes.
I have been reading your posts for years now–I subscribed to your emails for the financial advice/guidance, but honestly, what keeps me reading them is your writing style–candid, humorous, eloquent. I don’t have kids, and I am considerably older (50), but much of this post resonated with me. I grapple with clinical depression. My body is no longer the same size (or shape) than it was in my 30s. I realize how much importance I placed on approval based on appearance when I was younger. And I loved (still do, really) the quirky vintage finds: the “pod” dress, the “Judy Jetson” dress, the 1930s gown I found in a Nashville vintage store and wore on New Year’s Eve in 1995(?)–all donated now (except the pod might still be floating around somewhere…). It gives me pleasure to think a younger person could come across these and give them the outings they deserve. And it is liberating not to be tied to the younger version of yourself that you think you’re “supposed” to be. We change; the earlier definitions no longer apply, become irrelevant.
Anyway, THANK YOU.
This is so interesting to read, and all the comments too. This seems to be a really common thing post-parenthood, and i wonder if there is an age/maturity component too… despite not yet being a parent i am a similar age to you and have been experiencing something very similar with clothing and my sense of identity. Having spent my teens and 20s being fashion obsessed (not conventional fashion, but still) and my late 20s/early 30s pouring time and energy into crafting the ‘perfect’ (for me/us) environment through home decor, my partner and i then sold our home and most of our stuff and packed everything left into storage to travel for nearly 3 years. Now we have our own house again, a huge suitcase of clothes has been returned to me, and friends/family are asking questions the old me would have relished about home design, colour schemes etc. I just don’t care about any of it in the way i used to. Thank you for articulating, as always, so clearly and eloquently what it is to transition to a new phase of life and learn to let go of a past self – or at least, the parts that are no longer serving us.
It’s fantastic that you were able to get the support you needed, and I really appreciate you sharing this aspect of your journey. But as a therapist myself, I am very disappointed anytime I see people advertising these large online therapy sites, as they are highly exploitative to therapists, and are engaged in a variety of unethical practices that impact clients negatively as well. I do understand that there are often financial barriers to accessing therapy, and I would highly recommend to anyone to try Open Path Collective (openpathcollective.org) for low cost therapy before considering the platform you mentioned.
I work for a counseling agency in Washington state. Nearly 70% of our clinical staff left during the pandemic and chose (for a multitude of reasons) not to return to their positions once restrictions began to lift. We are still experiencing difficulties in hiring qualified candidates at a time when the community is looking for mental health services more then ever. I know we are not the only practice nor state experiencing these shortages. Waiting lists of 9 months or more is not helpful. Some of these online therapy sites are the only alternatives when someone is needing one-on-one counseling sooner than later.
The counseling agency I work for in Washington state lost 70% of its staff during the pandemic and has continued to have difficulties finding qualified candidates to hire. I know that we are not the only office or state that has suffered these losses when they are most needed by the community.
Please disregard the second paragraph! Sorry!
Another trick I have learned when shopping for clothes: when I try them on in the dressing room, at first I turn away from the mirror and first evaluate how they fit/feel. If the item is comfortable and fits well, then I will look in the mirror to see how it looks. I have bought many items over the years that looked good but weren’t the most comfortable….so guess what…..they rarely if ever got worn. I tried a top on yesterday that I dearly loved the look of, but getting it on without dislocating my shoulder in the process was a challenge (!), so it went in the “not for me” pile.
This is such a good idea!
Such a simple, but ingenious trick. THANK YOU!
You’re welcome! I got the hanger tip from a magazine. 🙂🙂
Sorry, this comment was in reference to an earlier comment I made! Lol. But I’m glad you found this helpful.
I love this how does the clothing item feel tip! I have talked myself into clothes through the years that I regret. Great tip! Thank you!
This speaks to me… trying to get my 15 year old appropriate CBT that is both within my insurance network and available in the next year… and ideally in person because they hated online counseling and didn’t find it useful… thankfully I have an amazing stay at home husband who can work with them when there are literally no available professional resources…
And by the way, since Covid, in healthcare, I have had to get used to… we don’t have it, we won’t have it, and we won’t be giving the previous standard of care because we can’t. 😢
Laura, I have a conversation multiple times a week about how healthcare is just collapsing. It’s so hard, I’m so burned out, and I just am too worn out to be frugal at this point in my life. I work in mental health which increasingly feels like a war zone. I’m dressing in sneakers and jeans most of the time because I feel like I need to be able to run either to or from a crisis at any moment. Just … solidarity to you.
Thank you for sharing Liz. It is so helpful and validating to hear others have struggled with similar things. We did a study a couple of years ago and a lot has changed but a main realization was that my obsession with frugality probably stemmed from my anxiety/depression. I always felt super anxious and being able to obsessively control our finances gave me some relief and made me feel accomplished. Not saying it’s all bad but obsessing and being super anxious about anything long term is hard to keep up without getting exhausted after a while. I’ve been taking Lexapro for almost a year now and it still makes me uncomfortable to see how I no longer obsess as much about our finances. I’m still a work in progress finding a “healthy” balance (whatever that means) and finding time with two kids to go therapy consistently is a feat on its own lol but reading your story is encouraging to keep trying to get to a better place.
Thank you, Holly and George
Bravo, Liz, for one of your most significant articles ever! Though I’m 73 and retired for the last six years, your experiences speak to me, since I’ve long struggled with anxiety and that awful need for validation that never comes from what I wear. I got pretty depressed and felt like a failure because I had to quit my job due to anxiety attacks. But with therapy and a husband who loves me, I got through the rough spots. Your journey truly inspires me, and I hope to emulate your success with clothing, since I have way too many “meh” items in my closet and drawers! Thanks for being a beacon of hope for so many of your readers!
Another option to a service like Talkspace is that many therapists with a private practice offer remote counseling as well. I first saw my therapist years ago, in person, and when the pandemic hit, started online sessions with her. This summer when my kids were out of school, we met almost exclusively online. Worth asking when looking for a therapist, especially when they are not conveniently located. You could meet in person a few times, then move to online. I thought it would be weird at first, but it’s been great!
Perfect timing on this article, Liz. Thank you. You are never too old to discover why you click like you do. I don’t like shopping or clutter, but I like looking good. I, too, think for me it was attention seeking behavior. So I often bought new clothes for each season and got rid of the rest. I hung on to my favorites only, for years. Those favorites that brought my most beloved memories back to me. I am only starting at age 65 with my journey of anxiety, depression and ADHD. I feel hopeful for the first time in my life! Thank you for putting this out in front of so many women. Women never give themselves enough accolades for what they do even single day of their life. We need to support one another. We would have not lasted so long on this earth if we didn’t have women. AND ALL OF YOU are stronger than you realize!
On a side note, I thought you were dressed and dazzled in the blue sequined dress (which was gorgeous) for a party at Hogwart’s.
I appreciate how you speak about antidepressants. I’ve been on one for probably 20 years or more. I think of it almost like taking a vitamin. It’s not a huge deal to take it forever because it helps a lot. So often when one reads about someone taking an antidepressant it’s about how to ‘get off’ it.
Meanwhile, wait until you get to menopause — more body changes. But it’s fine. Some definite advantages.
Thank you, Rory! Yeah, I too have no intention of ever going off my Zoloft. I have a conversation with my doctor every year about the safety of staying on it and she says it is completely fine. I agree that I really dislike all the conversations around “successfully going off” anti-depressants. For me, that’s not a goal! The goal for me is to remember to take it every single morning! When we were switching over our health insurance last year, our #1 priority was to make sure I had a refill of Zoloft before the switch and to make sure our new insurance would cover it. It’s that important.
I so relate with this! I have been struggling with anxiety and depression since I’m 10 years old. Been on antidepressants on and off for the last 23 years. I was able to spend many years without, but started struggling again about 3 years ago and went on a new one for me : Wellbutrin. This is my life saver! I will NEVER stop it. I call it my “”happy pill”” and have no shame about taking it. It might bring long terms problems. Might. But without it I don’t know that I would GET to long term (meaning : suicidal). So… yeah….. Life saver.
Hubby also started taking low dose of it for anxiety last year , after many many (many!) years of resistance and it changed him. I no longer want to leave the house to get away from his tantrums. Best thing (for him)
Hubby is taking Zoloft too, not Wellbutrin. Oops
This resonates to a 50-something post menopausal / post Covid workplace woman…ME.
Pre-Covid, I kept my office wardrobe up to date (on a budget through thrifting and yard sales), and had many choices – -after a year and a half working from home in yoga pants and sports bras — I have RE-THUNK (is that a word? LOL) my office wardrobe. WHO was I dressing for? My co workers didn’t seem to care what I wore. As long as it was clean, and fit the dress code – what does it matter?
I slimmed it waayyyy down, to a few bottoms I like, and some tops that match all of the bottoms so I can mix and match and be super minimal. And a pair of TOMS shoes in a neutral color (Florida, so no need for boots, etc) — sooo much more comfortable and very versatile — I can wear them with slacks, capris, and leggings! I’m so much happier with only a few choices of “what am I going to wear today”……
And, new rule – if something new comes in, something has to go out!
Anything that left my closet was given away or donated. And I hope to go through this again when I retire – thus retiring the “office attire” section of my closet!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! THAT will be a fun day! 🙂
I really need this. I need to read and re-read as I go through my closet. I may need this in audio form, ha. I retired 4 years ago and need to get rid of the “professional” clothing. That should be a celebration, not something I drag my feet about – I frustrate myself.
This. I have not been a professional in an office for over 5 years now. But there are the nice blazers, wool pencil skirts, cashmere, hanging in my closet. Every now and then I wear some of it. I have deaccessioned some of it, but I have a ways to go. I have a hard time giving up anything made of natural fibers– all the newer stuff is mostly blends.
The title summed up my life with clothes “and ever-evolving relationship”.
I have always LOVED clothes. The fabrics, the lines, the designs. I learned to sew early and made my own clothes – it was much more common in the 1970s!
And I began my work life as the book “Dress for Success for Women” hit the bestseller list. It was the 80s, I was just starting my career and took on the mantle of “Working Woman”. The suits, the shoulder pads, the heels. And I loved it. And I continued the professional path until a few years ago, when I started to feel like the “woman in the suit” was no longer me.
Pandemic came and reset all my notions. I was laid off (Yay! I never would have left on my own, but best thing that could have happened), enjoyed the summer and took a new job January 2021, stepping down in responsibility and pay, easing to retirement in18 months…
And for the first time in 40 years, what I wear to work are my “real clothes” that I also wear in my non-work life; I no longer need the separate closet filled with my work suit “costumes” and heels.
Yet it is still really, really REALLY hard to let go of the final clothes that made up my professional life. The frugal, practical part of me says that these clothes are still good – the quality of the workmanship and the beautiful fabrics just don’t exist anymore. (I’ve saved some special pieces of my mother’s from the 50s and 60s!) And it’s the emotion of the letting go of who I was to completely move to the next version of me – more casual, more real, more authenticate, content and at peace. And even though I’m happy and looking forward to the next stage, I’ll never be that young college grad just starting out, or that experienced mid-life professional. Letting go of the past, both the emotion and the physical, is not easy.
This was such a great article, Liz, and I can’t wait for the next installment 🙂
I was first diagnosed with depression and anxiety over ten years ago – when I started taking medication/going to therapy and the fog began to lift, the first thing my brain seized upon was my finances. At that time, I was in a fairly careless place financially, and a lovely part of my recovery has been getting my financial house in order. But I can also see how micromanaging my finances is also a symptom of my desperate desire to control *something* in my life.
On the clothing front, my weight has fluctuated greatly over the past 20 years, and only since I had major surgery in March of this year have I been able to start feeling really comfortable in my body. I’m travelling to see family next week, and will be heading into an actual clothing store for the first time in 3 years (I was lucky for years to have a boss who regularly purged her wardrobe and bestowed her hand-me-downs). I will definitely try what Allison in KY suggested above (trying things on without looking in the mirror to start), and carefully considering what clothes I need for my current stage of life/work/residence.
Like so many others, this post resonates very much with me. I’m 55, with 2 kids, and I retired last year (except for a little consulting). I was so happy to retire that I purged my work clothes from my closet right away. For me, work style was very easy – there was a clear set of expectations (I was a maritime lawyer, a conservative occupation in an even more conservative industry) and it was simple to find tons of suitable clothes at thrift shops. But now that I can wear whatever I want – well, what do I want??? In my head, I still have the same body as I did at 30, but that’s definitely not the case. So, I find that I am exploring my style at the same time as my 14 year old daughter is exploring hers. We’ve become thrift shop buddies.
The only other time I’ve commented was when you wrote about your PPD, I’ve never read a more helpful interpretation of what is was like! And now this, as women our lifelong struggle with how to dress ourselves! I’ve never birthed a child but at 65 being raised to court the male gaze, to not look like I’ve given up bc all I want is comfort, to want to hear, wow, she looks good for her age as opposed to hmm, she hasn’t aged well, I mean does the pressure never cease? Still struggling with realizing it’s internal pressure and putting it away! Thank you for this message and to all the commenters who’ve made me aware of how universally hard it is to clothe an aging body!
Thank you for addressing the depression issue and how you dealt with it. I experienced the life threatening effects of depression. Without going into too much detail – I was in a dark place. I didn’t want to be here. Somehow I got myself to a therapist who, after many weeks, convinced me that I should consider medication. I resisted because I thought I could fix it myself. I finally agreed and went on Zoloft. The therapist said it wouldn’t happen overnight. It took six weeks before I woke up one morning and felt a quiet sense of hope. It was subtle and good. Therapy and medication go hand in hand. That was thirty years ago. Addressing the issue of depression gives others permission and hope to bring their stories to light and know that they are not alone. This is how you change the world. Thank you for sharing your story. I love your writing, your courage and willingness in sharing relatable subject matter, your humor(bitchin cloaks), and great photos. Your writing is important.
Like the sixty eleven commenters before me, I really relate to this post! Just had my second kid (two c sections) and after my first it was so hard feeling like I’d lost the sense of self I had before parenthood and that my body was a completely different “place” that didn’t feel like it fit in so many ways. PPD is terrible, and it is negligent that our healthcare system doesn’t do anything proactive about it for new parents.
Second time around (and five years and lots of therapy later) I’m realizing my body is just going to keep changing for the rest of my life, and that I’m also someone who loves clothes and expressing myself with fashion, so it’s okay to buy things (within a budget, yay ebay!) that make me feel good to wear. It’s freeing, and it’s something I really enjoy!
Thanks for this post, and I am so looking forward to the next ones in the series.
I deeply identified with this piece, thank you for sharing it. As someone who just limped along during my PPD because getting help just seemed so impossibly hard I think it’s really important to point out less-perfect but potentially more-accessible resources like Talk Space and Better Help. If one of those options works for you instead of calling a million places trying to find someone that takes your insurance and has availability, that’s totally fine. Our health care system is broken, not you. The same is true of ready-to-wear clothes. If something doesn’t fit, it’s not you, it’s the garment. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on these subjects!
really loved reading this perspective from so many women in different stages of life. i’m in my mid-30s, and childfree (for now). i’ve noticed that i’ve spent soo much more money the past few years on high-quality, slow fashion pieces. and i’ve also realized that i feel really good mentally when i’m able to take care of myself that way. growing up, we didn’t have access to much, so clothing was mostly from the salvation army and i remember just not feeling great– most of my clothing was outdated or too big. i’ve always gravitated toward dresses, “pretty” things and it feels good to give that to myself now– a gift of sorts for my inner child. i’m sure this relationship will change with time, but i’m ok with where i am now. 🙂
Thank you for writing about such a personal subject. I’m 35 and my youngest just turned 1. This is amazing, thanks for writing it so we can read it. We grew up in such a toxic time, diet and appearance mattered too much. It’s so hard to unwind from it. I am grateful for my kid son and daughter because they force me to reevaluate so much and this is definitely a huge part. I have followed you for a while, through work changes and lifestyle shifts, and it’s nice reading that people can evolve!! Thank you again, good tears were shed.
Whooboy, I so relate to the “finding external validation through clothes” trap! I have developed a uniform. I call it “elegant pajamas”, and I developed it in response to my work realities. I like it so much that I’ll wear it most of the time weekends as well. It’s interesting that I do still feel a tug when I see something else that is really lovely, but I have gotten such a nice fit with my EPs to my life, that now it’s my style, and I’m known for it. That little bit of external pressure of “but people don’t know you for that” helps me stay with what I really do want to wear.
Oooh Sarah, can you tell us more about your Elegant Pajamas? That sounds delightful …are they soft tunics and slacks and where do you find them?
Sarah, we require links and further description of your EPs. I believe we would all like some.
Love,love,love this article you wrote…..made me laugh when one of the comments said hang on to the vintage clothes…..that’s what I did on a few certain pcs….they were not really vintage, but I purchased them like about 15 yrs.ago maybe and my youngest Granddaughter was in for Christmas Break, and we were talking about old clothes , and my Daughter said Mom get that jacket you bought yrs. ago, and show Faith (her daughter, my GD) she was in from college 2nd yr. and she loved the Jacket….we all were shocked she liked it….when I purchased it I loved it, and would hardly wear it, didn’t want to get it dirty…lol so I just kept it in closet thinking I am going to wear that …..so anyways she took it back to school and she said all the girls loved her Jacket and wanted to know where she got it …lol….they were jealous they didn’t have one….. and I still have a pleated winter skirt pleated mid-waist down that I wore several yrs. ago , I loved it and just kept it…..thinking someone might like it….and she’s in plays at school and they are all the time needing older clothes…..so I have hung on to these 2 pcs…..pretty sure they must be more somewhere, because I am like most of you on here, I keep my clothes forever….I purchased 3 suits from Sears, and only wore the black one a lot and the other two are like brand new, with the short skirt that I would never wear that short now….yrs. ago it looked good….not now at all…..for Granny , that’s me…lol…. have enjoyed reading all these comments, finished about half , will go back and finish reading them…..later….. thank you for posting this and look forward for the next one…..
Thank you for sharing. While my experience hadn’t been yours, I’ve had ups and downs. But more than that, I have so many friends who I see these symptoms in. Thank you for making me aware of some small ways I can come alongside them and offer help.
This was such an important article and your candor about your emotional health and how it relates to your spending habits (clothing) is spot on… I am 53 and have been interested in fashion all my life. For the last 20 years (since my divorce) I had to develop frugal habits to survive, and that is how I discovered thrift shopping. But thrift shopping is also a double edge sword if you give yourself permission to spend because it’s “dirt cheap” right? You can easily still overspend. Long story short, I now have an arsenal of clothing, that I have amassed over the course of many years, and my fascination with fashion is still intact. Precisely because my kids are no longer living at home, I have rekindled the pleasure of reinventing my style, and although it’s something I enjoy, it takes a lot of my time and energy from activities that I’d like to cultivate more, like reading or playing with my dogs. So certainly, something’s got to give, and I think it’s my excessive amount of clothes and obsession with style. How can I be stylish and at the same time keep it simple? Thank you for your input.
What a poignant post, thank you for sharing Liz.
I’m 47, and I have learned what styles and colours I like and look good in. I now only buy when I try something on and it’s a ‘heck yes!’ I have a capsule wardrobe that suits the needs of the life I actually live, not when I worked a corporate job. I still like to look nice and put together but because I know what suits/what doesn’t shopping and thrifting is quick and easy. I love that clothing and how I look doesn’t take up so much bandwidth in my brain anymore.
This is so unfair …….I need part 2! I can’t wait to read the next stage! Brilliantly written and yes to all of it! Life is an evolution and we need to embrace that change. I feel like I look 1 level above homeless most of the time (I think I am being generous …….I’m not always probably 1 level above!) and have realized that isn’t good for my mental health and how I feel about me. I can work from home, be a Mom, wear comfy clothes but feel better when I make a teeny, tiny bit of effort! Can’t wait for the next installment!
There is nothing like exercise to make you like your body. Remember how many can’t fully use their body and would give anything to be able to walk or run or even pick up a toothbrush. As a child we never thought about looks because we were so busy playing…chasing a butterfly…exploring.
I vote that you check out Courtney Carver and her Project 333. She started from a different place, but the idea is along the same lines of finding clothing that feels comfortable that you look good in vs. being defined by clothes or feeling you have a bunch of clothes and nothing to wear. Her Instagram feed is beautiful too. Basic idea is have 33 items of clothing total for three months – that includes jewelry, handbags and coats. Things that aren’t included are things you wear all the time, like a wedding ring, or specific clothes like what you actually wear to yoga class.
Such a great read! As things at home and in the work force have changed, it is so hard to let go of the image of who we were, or thought we should be. I always felt like I was playing dress-up in my business suits and am so glad that the culture shift has move toward casual but, I am trying to figure out how to dress for the new, “be yourself” vs the “dress for success” ideal, all while accepting that I will never be a size 6 again.
I am also trying to live in the moment more instead of waiting for everything to be perfect to start enjoying life.
I’ve noticed my friends who used to be tiny and got a lot of attention from men have a harder time accepting post baby bods. Sometimes I’m glad I never had a six pack lol
THANKS SO MUCH for this honest post. The post-kid ribcage thing is real, LOL, even without weight gain. Things shift around. I have so many clothes at this time that there is no space for hubby in the master bedroom closet for his sparse wardrobe; he had to go down the hall. I no longer need the dressy corporate outfits, but it is hard to let go of them. Much food for thought here and again, thanks for sharing!
I love EVERYTHING you wrote about and I have had none of what you have dealt with, I wanted to comment on how helpful AND real conversations like this are needed! How incredibly important it is to share and learn from each others lives
And remember that I like to say each part of our life is a season meaning that maybe spring is our season when we are marrying when we are having children raising our families and then we move through life or other seasons, each coming with challenges
I recently took early retirement at the age of 62 and the first task I did in my new life was purge my wardrobe of the clothes I wore to work. It was the most joyous feeling of freedom!
Thank you for sharing this. Though my experiences and feelings aren’t exactly the same. My (ever-failing) strive for perfection, post-partum mental health issues, and how that relates to my past accumulation of material thing are very similar. I feel seen when reading this. Thank you for being vulnerable and using your platform to help others feel less alone.
So, so happy that you got help and are sharing!😀😀😀
I have read your blog for years as well Liz, and I appreciate your openness and your style. I’ve had 6 c-sections and several miscarriages ( turned 40 this year) I’ve recently been feeling strong levels of anxiety and depression and have an appointment booked with my Dr. I’ve been speaking to a counsellor for several years already, but I believe it is time for some medication. Thank you for sharing your story. For making it a little less scary as I await my appointment.
There are some very concerning privacy issues with using online therapy that Liz is offering affiliate links for in her post…..please see below link for more info
Great writing as usual, Liz! I’m in my mid-60s but work in food service where most of the team is decades younger than I…..and we wear uniforms designed for their age group. That makes it difficult, but proper sizing is everything, and that carries over to non-work clothes too. I am a post-cancer survivor and take medication that makes me gain weight, so I struggle with this whole image thing. Menopause doesn’t help either. Bottom line….we have to learn to accept ourselves in the season of life we currently inhabit, and dress comfortably and appropriately for that season. I have trouble with letting go of clothing that isn’t worn out….the old depression mentality, probably. Nevertheless I will be running another closet purge this month, and am really looking forward to the next installments of this series. Thank you, Liz…..your candor and honesty are refreshing and have obviously touched a nerve with a lot of us today.
I was trying to get pregnant when you first posted about having PPD. I remember turning to my husband and having a conversation about us watching for the signs in each other. It seemed important, I felt I was at risk. Lo and behold, I was diagnosed with PPD a few months after my daughter was born in late March 2020 (not a stressful time at all). Looking back, I have suffered with depression and anxiety for a very long time. Hearing your story wasn’t the only reason I got treatment, but it was somehow reassuring to remember. I’m in a much better place on that front now and so thankful.
…but I could use some work on accepting the changes in my body. Maybe this will be the inspiration for another needed mental shift. 🙂
This was really helpful to read. I think we are the same age, and I also have had two pregnancies, including a twin pregnancy that was a VBAC, and let me tell you that nothing has been the same nor will it be! And frankly, after a lifetime of body dysmorphia, anxiety, disordered eating, and other issues, I have reached a point where I just don’t CARE. I think of Mary Oliver’s poem Wild Geese and the line “you only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves” and it brings me so much tenderness for this body. Now my goals are to be healthy and feel good, regardless of size or shape. The pandemic has done a number on my health, mental and physical. I just want to feel happy and healthy again.
When the show “What Not to Wear” was on, I remember one thing they always emphasized, buy a size up and have it altered. You can always take away fabric but can’t really add fabric.
Yes! Another favorite of mine! I miss Stacy and Clinton! I got a lot of good advice from their show.
I love you writing!,
A womans relationship with her body is complicated. The first thing to remember is that it is constantly changing. I am 50 and had my kid at 25. I quickly bounced back weightwise, but my hips had become wider and my feet half a size up.
Through my working years in education I wore mostly black and dark blue outfits, Now that I live rurally and se more animals than people, I gravitate towards color, and my minimalistic, Scandinavian outfits are unused in the closet
When we made the big move from the city, I also lost 30 lb, so my body is all of a sudden «new» again. I am still looking for a fitting lifestyle uniform, but have made a few decisions on clothes over the years; for me wireless bras and comfortable shoes is a must. If I find flattering pants or jackets, I usually buy two of the same items. If I buy something, I give away something. Recently, I found a charity called «Dress for success» in my state that I will donate to. They offer clothes and styling to anyone in need for a job or job interview.
Ladies, lets love our bodies and everything it can do for us. I am sure the softer skin and the rounder bellies are for the children to snuggle into and feel safe. We are loved for who we are, not what we look like.
Mid-60s here, and this so resonated with me! I’m sure I had PPD with at least one and maybe both my babies 30 years ago, and like you, I too have suffered from depression and anxiety and found medication to be extremely helpful. Thank you so much for your honesty; I know you are helping so many.
I am just so sick of clothes and patriarchy and consumerism. I’m trying one of those dress challenges where you more or less wear the same basic piece of clothing for several months, and I am so enjoying it. Who I am, essentially, has so little to do with what I’m wearing and with the fast fashion (and easily destroyed) products available in stores. Great post, great comments. I am a grateful woman!
Thank you for opening up this very interesting discussion, and for sharing your struggles!
My problem is finding stores (I don’t like online shopping) that support my older age and not-tiny body with good quality but not overly expensive clothing.
When I was 26, I finally agreed to try zoloft. At the time, I had shrunk to 115 pounds on a 5’8″ frame that was normally 145 lbs. I had tried therapy, 12 step, exercise, meditation etc. but zoloft changed my life. Three days after I started taking it, I remember the fog lifted. I am so grateful to live in a time where medication is available. I am even more grateful that 26 years later, it continues to work for me. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on how we function in dysfunctional ways until we figure out how to do better.
Kelly, I am so glad to hear this! I too remember it like a clear, bright line–as soon as the Zoloft kicked in, it was like a film was removed from my eyes. It is transformational. Thank you for sharing your experience.
As a working nurse of 21 years, I’ve never been on the clothes train. And yet I have an entire closet full and a tall dresser. As I became more interested in Shared Governance work at the hospital I had to go to more meetings. And business casual is a thing. I settled on skirt, nice tee, cardigan pretty quickly. I never want to be the boss, so I am okay with this uniform.
I received my BSN, went to grad school, finished my MSN in Spring 2020. While wearing this uniform.
And then a pandemic came. And all I wore was skirt and funny graphic tee shirt to the hospital to change into scrubs. And a mask, don’t forget the mask.
I’m still wearing the mask. But I’ve set my sites on a PhD program that I’ve started. I’ve decided that it is time to increase my professional wardrobe, just for this. And the increase in conferences and in person classes that I’m attending. They are not ready for my graphic tees, funny as they are. I want to write textbooks, and I will probably have to teach to fulfill my scholarship requirements that is paying for 85% of my PhD. I’m also writing for a new novice operating room nurse publication that is going live in February. I expect I will need professional clothes for that too.
But I’m still me, rocking the ‘I can’t because I’m on call’ tee shirt that my husband gave me for Christmas 6 years ago.
I disagree with the ‘Clothes make the man’ mantra that people spout; I think it is the person who creates the authority and the confidence to wear the clothes, whatever they may be.
Oh my gosh, this post resonated with me so much. I suffer (and have suffered) from depression and anxiety since I was a teenager – depression was diagnosed in my early 20’a, and the anxiety about 4 years ago. Add in severe shyness and introversion, and it amazes me that I ever got married and adopted our son. Clothes were my indulgence, my shield, my way of getting positive attention and affirmation. I have slowly parted ways with clothes that no longer fit my post- menopausal body. I take Celexa and Buspar, and as you mention, likely will for the rest of my life – I’m comfortable with that. I’ve had therapy that helped, and dome that didn’t….online therapy was not a good choice for me, but I hope others who need it do not hesitate to try it.
Thank you for being so open and honest with your struggles. I always read, enjoy, and appreciate your posts, but this one is special. Can’t wait to read more.
Liz- this might be one of the most important article series you have ever written. You will help hundreds, possibly thousands of women acknowledge and seek help for the that ubiquitous duo, anxiety and depression, that shadows our society. Well done.
PS- I counted ALL my clothing two months ago during the July No-Spend Challenge and wrote down how many I have of each category on my iPhone notes app. When I’m tempted to buy yet another black tank top I whip that baby out and read “Ridiculous Amounts of Clothing I Currently Own”, a list which starts with ’47 shirts hanging in closet,’ and goes on and on. Enough already.
I love this article and all the comments. Like you I’ve suffered from PPD and PPA. Even though so many of us go through it we always feel alone. I am currently in the phase of letting go of all the clothes that will never fit me again. Some of them are easy and some of them are hard. During the pandemic when we couldn’t try on in the store I would buy clothes in my OLD SIZE! I honestly thought they would fit me even though I haven’t been my pre-baby size in years. I’d bring them home, rip the tags off, and wash them. Only to put them on my body, cry at how they didn’t fit, and hang them back up. Like Liz said, I’ve pulled all the clothes that don’t fit me and put them in the garage sale pile and it feels so good. I walk into my closet and I can find something straight away that fits and is flattering and comfortable. Thank you for saying out loud what so many of us feel in silence. It is so liberating.
I have been depressed, for the past three years. I’ve recently been going back to my habits of buying things I don’t need and that’s lots of clothes and shoes. I never really thought about how I’m trying to hide who I am or pretend how I feel with clothes. What a great post. I’m getting older and I too am nostalgic for who I was and I feel like I am always looking back and never ahead.
Thank you for this post. I too, have been suffering through anxiety and depression which leads to an obsession with shopping. Trying to stop buying, thinking about clothes, getting my “fix” by buying something new to make me feel better about myself. After reading your article I thought about a buying freeze but it is terrifying to even contemplate it.
Long-time follower, (I think) first-time commenter.
I related to this so hard and I am SO grateful to you for posting. I am a now plus-size, double C-section mama and I had my last (second) baby in December 2021. I’ve been on antidepressants for 20 years. I still feel like I’m in the thick of the postpartum period even though I am not nursing. For some reason, I didn’t think it would happen after pregnancy #1 (surprise?) but my body changed more after the second pregnancy.
Being on the cusp of plus size before that really didn’t help my self-esteem or understanding of self-worth. It is helpful for me to hear that even smaller women are fighting the same inner battles.
My biggest barrier to financial freedom and budgeting frugally has been clothes shopping. My mom was in fashion for her career and I think I’ve been bred to believe that style and high-quality, unique clothing are extremely important. (Add this to the plus-size, body-image issues and I really am a mess about it, emotionally!) I definitely use shopping as therapy and as a way to self-soothe.
I keep buying, thinking that the perfect dress or the most flattering pair of pants will *fix* something in me. I want so badly for it to stop. Truthfully, even without a FIRE goal, my budget needs it to stop now that I have two kids. I’m bookmarking this post. The next time I want to add-to-cart, I’ll come here first. Thank you.
I love this particular blog post. I’m not positive but I feel like I’ve read this before I don’t know if you’ve posted this previously. But your insights are wonderful. I am now 54 years old but when I was a young mother after having four children I was always very conscious of how I looked what I looked like what people thought about me. I’ve never been a fashionista never really cared about that so much but just always worried about what other people thought. It seemed like once I got into my fifties it finally clicked for me that I need to be happy in my own body in my own skin and not be concerned about what other people think about me or if I pick the right outfit or wearing the right clothing or anything like that. Finally at my age I am wearing clothing that I’m comfortable in that I love to wear that I frankly wanted to wear my entire adult life. So thank you so much for such a wonderful blog post and I hope it is helpful to many other people as well as it has been for me.
As a woman living in a larger body (size 18 US), clothes shopping is not fun for me. I tend to buy what is cheap and fits, and only when absolutely necessary. And this is depressing.
I used to love clothes shopping when I was younger and thinner. Now, I usually go to thrift stores and get what looks “”ok””. I don’t like to spend on clothes (spend on myself?). I’m always in the mindset of buying “for now, until I lose weight”, so nothing looks fabulous, and I don’t have a lot of clothes. I have some thinking to do about this.
Also, I work in healthcare, so I spend my days in basic t-shirts and yoga pants or scrubs, back to comfy clothes/pj once back home. BUT I’m going back to university full time in september and I would like to be more…. styled? The worst part is that I actually have an eye for it and I’m pretty creative. But it does not show in the way I dress. On a side note, having to pay 80$ for a pair of pants just because it’s on the Plus Size section is so insulting! So, yeah.. lots of rambling here, I’m thinking out loud. I have to get out there and go buy some nice (new!!) clothesm whatever the cost, and not just pick “”what fits””!
This post inspired a wardrobe binge for me! I took everything out of my closet and chest of drawers and every day I’m trying on a couple of things and sorting into 1. can wear and love 2. want to hold onto for a bit and try in a few months 3. ready to part with.
I was worried that when I actually looked at what I fit into and like I’d have nothing left but sweats, (and there isn’t actually a ton!) but I should have enough to wear to work and home because it turns out I don’t need THAT many outfits anymore. And now I won’t be totally depressed by the clothes I don’t like/that don’t fit that are staring at me from the closet every morning.
Thanks for sharing about your depression, I believe many people have undiagnosed depression and cope with it every day….I know I did! Talkspace seems interesting, I hadn’t ever heard of it. During Covid the Government relaxed the requirements for Telemedicine and allowed for it to be reimbursed., so I’m wondering if this is originated from that. Anyway we can get more treatment for folks seems like a good thing to me!
Beautifully written! Thank you for sharing the powerful messages that can be wrapped up in clothing and your path to get there. I am on the less is more train for sure and believe we a journey like this. Lots of great information here that can hopefully help so many. Also, I love the pics of you both through the years!
For all of you who thought no one cared about your pretty clothes, let me say that I’ve always enjoyed well dressed people – I admire the effort to put it all together! And feel a twinge of guilt that when you look at me you see sturdy work pants and a tailored shirt everyday. Or the One Dress that I wear to every event. You do bring a sense of joy and fun to (some) other people, and thank you for being the flashy birds in the flock!
Thank you SO much for this article. I have not been blessed with children but I have been blessed with an aging female body, and it is very interesting to realise just how conditioned we are to equate our worth with our threads. I’m very curious to hear more about your journey!
Just sitting here crying after reading this article. Thank you. I look forward to the next piece in the series. I finally hired a babysitter so that I can see a therapist. Next step is finding a therapist. <3
After 2 babies, the best feeling I ever got was when I donated all the clothes that no longer fit or suited me and bought a tiny capsule wardrobe that fit me perfectly. For the first time ever, I only picked out high-quality items for their fit and quality rather than for their discount or “perceived” value. They have proven the test of time. Since then, I’ve only bought 1 or 2 items per year outside of underwear or socks. I estimate that I now own about 10% of my former wardrobe volume, and I’ve never felt more free or attractive because everything is perfectly curated to my body and my taste.
Ironically, after accepting my body, I have slowly been losing more with intermittent fasting (which I started mainly for its health benefits) and now am closer to my pre-baby weight than I thought was possible.
Sending love to Liz and all the mamas who are piecing their lives back together after giving nonstop.
As a guy, reading this – I totally got it – ok, ok – as much as a 66 yr old guy can possibly get it. But we do have two kids – adults 25 and 31. It only took me 40 years to give away my beautiful 3-piece Lands End suits from 1980….shh…i kept the hangars they came on – most beautiful wooden hangers ever; my wife wants to use them – i’m not sure i should let her – omg. Anyway – beautifully written and thank you. I’m so glad you wrote about the depression – and treatment. I don’t suffer from this – but sooo many of my friends do – and I do wish they’d seek help. One important anxiety reducing step is simplifying and de-cluttering. This becomes so much easier once the kids are out of the house. The less stuff; the less anxiety – crazy but true. Not buying stuff is where it starts.
I LOVE this post. Not married. No kids. Probably 15 or 20 years older than you (56). BUT, I have gone through some major challenges which run parallel to what you have detailed here. Always overweight which segued into being morbidly obese. Clothes to me were nothing more than a necessity which was to cover up. Now 10 years late having undergone a significant weight loss and counting down what do I wear. I am trying to discover that. I don’t like the stuff I see in the stores. I’m not afraid of shopping in the thrift stores, they have been my constant during my weight loss journey because why spend money on clothes that I was no longer going to fit into. I’ll be interested in your next post and perhaps from others within the community. I’m curious to see how others have developed their clothing style.
Wow, wow, wow. Can’t wait for the next part! As a 10 months postpartum first time mom, I am following your words closely. Because of your openness about PPD, I sought help also at 5 months postpartum and Zoloft has been a huge, huge game changer in my life. Because of your openness about your relationship with clothing, I have also discovered I am in a phase of baggy and ill fitting clothes. Looking forward to the next part of my journey, as well as yours!
56 y.o. Mom of 2, both via c-section (one was 9lbs 15oz, the other just a 3 oz smaller – there’s no reason for it outside of, possibly, some odd recessive gene thing – hubby and I were both around 6-1/2 lbs at birth and are not big people, I was vegetarian for one, vegan with the other, no gestational diabetes, nothing strange). My goodness did those pregnancies change my body. I will NEVER be a size 6 again, at least not through my torso the middle. And it won’t go away; I’ve done everything short of have the excess surgically removed, it that’s even possible – which doesn’t matter as while I can afford it, I don’t want to spend $ like that – I have kids to put through college.
I miss pretty clothes. Miss being able to wear something that looks good on a model knowing it will look just as good on me, I was a 4 to 6 depending on the manufacturer. I see things that would have looked good on the old me, think ‘wow, that’s nice…’ and then snap back to the current reality that nothing looks good on me and the most I can hope to do is camouflage the oddity that is my torso. I have a few sets of camouflage already and don’t ‘need’ more – so I just ignore whatever I’ve seen and go on with life. On the up side, I only buy something new when something old requires replacement, so once every couple of years. I’d rather have my kids than my original torso, though, they’re good people.
Thank you for your transparency and vulnerability in sharing your experience. Such a relatable post. I don’t have children and am a bit older than you. But I went through a very similar internal experience, manifesting with makeup, hair, and clothes. Then I quit smoking after 20 years and realized THAT had been masking underlying depressive issues that I then had to face- and deal with. Quitting smoking and crossing the 40-year old threshold at the same time meant some body rearranging too. But if you can work through all those things, it is (so) much better on the other side.
Beautifully written! I am so glad you were able to get to the root of things and find what helped with your anxiety and depression.
I am almost the opposite when it comes to my approach to clothing. I would live in nerdy tee shirts and jeans if I could, and throw on a dress or skirt for the rare special occasion or for church now and then. I have to dress business casual for work and it feels so restrictive. I dislike shopping for clothes and trying 23,499,234,832 pairs of pants on to find one that fits. I also have a lot of clothes that don’t fit at the moment, and I keep waffling between giving them away and saving them in case I lose some weight and drop a few sizes. No kiddos, so my body hasn’t changed in that regard, but I went from relatively active jobs to something more sedentary 7 years ago and the pounds have packed on a bit. If someone could invent clothes that never wore out and adjusted automatically for size, that’d be great, kinda. Looking forward to the rest of the series.
For those clothing items that family members have indicated they will want at a later date, can I suggest handing them over now? Storage in their garage, basement, under bed is THEIR responsibility, not yours!This frequently means they decide they may not want it after all, and frees up your physical ( and mental) space!
Thank you for this on-time post. I, too, am medicated for depression and anxiety and have been many years. My real attachment is to the tiny size I’d always been until about 2 to 3 years ago. I’m 63 years old. My clothes are mostly casual, timeless staples of nice quality, BUT they are too small for my “mature” figure. I keep thinking I will wear them “when I lose weight” but, every part of me has shifted or changed shape. I’m disgusted with myself, hate my body & dieting causes feelings of deprivation which worsens depression. I need help.
My mom was, and still is at 92, a fabulously stylish woman. However, I am not lol. (I believe that gene got passed to my daughter & skipped me!) Anyway, it would feel totally weird to me to wear any of her clothing, after she passes. No matter how beautiful & well made they are, that was her identity, not mine. I kept one sweater of my dad’s when he passed on, it hangs in my closet but I don’t wear it because wool makes me itchy. Anyway, I say liberate unworn clothing from your closets & basements!
Thank you for talking openly about struggles with depression and anxiety. For those on a long waiting list or with limited resources, I highly recommend checking out Dr. David Burns book “Feeling Great,” and his podcast “Feeling Good.” I have found a lot of comfort from the cognitive behavioral therapy techniques in his writing. Additionally, his website has tons of free and awesome resources.
Somehow I missed this post the first time you shared it. Thank you, Liz, for having the courage to share your journey and what has worked for you. Now I’m off to read part 2.
The body changes have happened to me as well, and I never have been pregnant or had any babies! I find myself holding on to clothes and holding on to the idea that I will fit into them because I remember how good I looked 15 years ago. I need to let go, but I haven’t yet. Thank you for sharing your story. You seem so intelligent and confident; I never would guess you suffered from anxiety or depression. I am looking forward to the next article in the series.