This is a personal, and sometimes sensitive, topic for many people. So please read with care.
Let’s be honest: our bodies change. Whether it be due to pregnancy, a physical health condition, mental health, life changes, or just growing up — everyone has a different experience with bodily changes. And with this, our clothing sizes often fluctuate too.
While the ultimate slow fashion mantra is to keep your clothes for as long as possible — a lifetime, if possible — this is not always realistic when we consider our ever-changing bodies.
And there should be no guilt in that!
Luckily there are a few ways to mindfully update your wardrobe, even when your clothing sizes are fluctuating. Here are a few ideas:
Work With What You’ve Got
Having an understanding of what clothing makes you feel most comfortable and confident helps you to make conscious choices when updating your wardrobe and working with what you already own. Go through your wardrobe and consider silhouettes, shapes, colors, and design elements.
From here you can try:
- Altering or tailoring: If you’re going down sizes, you can try altering clothing you already have to fit. While often not as easy, it’s also possible to make clothing fit larger sizes by adding fabric, letting out seams, or adding elastic. You can support a local tailor or try altering yourself by looking up tutorials online.
- Swapping: Clothing swaps allow you to add garments to your wardrobe that suit your current life season while avoiding having to engage with the endless consumption cycles of the fashion industry. It’s usually affordable too — some swaps are free and others charge a small entry or maintenance fee. (Try searching on Eventbrite or checking out Conscious Fashion Collective’s events calendar to find swaps near you.)
Give Secondhand a Go
Thrifting, or buying secondhand, is often a more affordable — and sustainable — way to update your wardrobe and try out different styles. Seek out your local charity stores, and thrift stores, to see what gems you can find.
Or if you are looking for an online secondhand store, take a look at this guide. You can also check out this guide on places to find secondhand plus-size clothing online.
Keep Design Elements in Mind
There are a few design elements to look out for that are more accommodating of size fluctuations:
- Elastic waistbands often mean you can go up or down a size or two and still fit comfortably into the garment.
- Wrap dresses, skirts, or pants that close with ties provide extra grace when it comes to changing sizes, instead of zips and buttons.
- Smocked bodices provide some extra stretch.
- Garments designed with seam allowances make it easier to have the garments adjusted as needed.
For more tips, check out this YouTube video by sustainable fashion stylist, Alyssa Beltempo.
Invest in Sustainable Fashion for Changing Sizes
Editor’s note: We share vetted sustainable brands we love and that we think you’ll love too. Occasionally, these links may be affiliate links, meaning we may earn a commission, which helps us continue running this site.
If you are looking to invest in a new garment, try to find brands that create sustainable fashion for fluctuating sizes. Here are a few sustainable fashion brands to look out for.
Sotela believes that we should reach into our closets and have multiple pieces that will always fit and make us feel confident. Instead of the usual 1 inch grade between sizes, Sotela does 3 inches allowing the flexibility for your body to ebb and flow.
Lilabare is a Kenyan slow fashion brand that has created clothing that is adjustable by one size up or down.
Universal Standard has created sizing that reflects the true bell curve of the average person in the United States. And their FIT LIBERTY collection gives you the freedom to change sizes without fear, anxiety, or added expense. If you invest in a garment from their FIT LIBERTY collection, and your size changes within a year of purchase, they will exchange your pieces for your new size — for free.
Mary Benson and LP Mode, have both cleverly created clothing with extra seam allowances to ensure they can be altered if a customer changes size.
unspun is a bespoke jeans brand that creates sustainable denim — tailor-made for your body. They have no sizes. Instead, every pair of jeans is made custom-fit to your unique body.
You can also check out this guide on size-inclusive sustainable fashion brands.
Remember: Maximalism Can Be Sustainable Too
While slow fashion often conjures up images of capsule wardrobes and minimalist closets, maximalism can be sustainable too. It’s all about your mindset.
Especially for people with fluctuating sizes, having one or two pairs of jeans for all occasions may not be realistic. If having several pairs of jeans in different sizes is what works for you in terms of your changing body, or you need to store clothing away and save them for later — go for it! It’s not wasteful overconsumption, it’s realistic slow fashion.
Responsibly Rehome Clothing That No Longer Fits You
Mindfully updating your closet also means figuring out how to responsibly rehome the clothing that no longer fits you. Because holding onto garments with the hope of fitting into them in the future may not be the best for your mental health.
Here are a few ways to responsibly rehome your clothes:
- Try to give clothes away directly through Buy Nothing groups, clothing swaps, or passing on to family and friends who may get more wear out of the garments you no longer fit
- Listen to this Conscious Style Podcast episode on sustainable ideas for figuring out what to do with unwanted clothes.
- This Conscious Life & Style article shares how and where to recycle your old clothes responsibly.
Lastly, Let Go of Eco-Guilt
Eco-guilt is the feeling of guilt, shame, remorse, or regret that you experience when you feel you haven’t made the most ethical or sustainable choice possible.
Whether it be financial access, health conditions, location, lack of sizing, or fluctuating clothing sizes — there are many reasons why someone may not be able to make the “100% perfect” choice when it comes to sustainable fashion.
While we advocate for buying with intention and wearing clothing for as long as possible, we also need to embrace the fact that our bodies change and this is a normal part of a realistic slow fashion journey. We are all worthy of having a wardrobe that fits us, and that we feel comfortable and confident in.
More Conscious Questions:
How Can I Talk About Slow Fashion With My Friends?
Will Paying Garment Workers Living Wages Raise Clothing Prices?
Can Brand Resale Programs Really Make Fast Fashion Circular?
About the Author
Stella Hertantyo is a slow fashion and slow living enthusiast based in Cape Town, South Africa. Stella finds solace in words as a medium for sharing ideas and encouraging a cultural shift that welcomes systems change and deepens our collective connection to the world around us. She is passionate about encouraging an approach to sustainability, and social and environmental justice, that is inclusive, intersectional, accessible, and fun.
Stella holds a B.A. Multimedia Journalism from the University of Cape Town, and a PGDip in Sustainable Development from the Sustainability Institute. She currently works as a writer, editor, and social media manager. When she is not in front of her laptop, a dip in the ocean, or a walk in the mountains, are the two things that bring her the most peace.