In the past two years I've completely revamped my entire wardrobe. All my pants, shirts, and most of the dresses in my closet were bought in 2013 or 2014. Now I don't fret when I have a week of call coming up---I know I have at least 7 hospital-appropriate outfits ready to go. I don't have to "save" my more professional outfits for important meetings or lectures, because almost all of my work clothes fit that category now. I also have a selection of practical and comfortable weekend-wear and a couple of nicer things for the occasional evening out.
Having clothes that fit and flatter has been extremely helpful in coming to terms with my changed body. When my clothes were tight or clingy, I just felt so aware of my poochy belly. With more structured tops, and larger sizes, my clothes skim my body, hide the pooch and erase it from my memory. I even got higher waisted swim bottoms, that cover the whole situation up so I don't have to feel self-conscious when I accompany L to swim lessons. Everything fits. I don't have to deal with the frustration of pulling on my favorite skirt or dress and realizing it no longer zips or buttons. No more muffin tops or straining seams creating discomfort and distractions.
This is huge for me. I went through a long phase of really hating my body, grieving the body I used to have, and seriously contemplating saving up for plastic surgery. That loathing is completely gone. Maybe it was time that did the trick, but I really do think the clothes are part of it.
I rarely pay full price for anything. I like when the whole store has a sale (i.e. 50% of everything) rather than shopping the sales racks for leftovers (I wear a popular size that tends to be sold out); also when items are on sale, they may be "final sale" and thus non-returnable. No way. I made myself a budget this year and I've been adding every purchase to my spreadsheet. It was hard to figure out what to cap my budget at---what is a reasonable amount to spend on clothes?
Where do I shop?
- Ann Taylor Loft (though I've recently cut them out, the quality has recently become terrible. I had two sweaters get runs & holes after only 1-2 washes this winter. I ordered some summer clothes recently that ALL went back because the fabric was so thin/cheap/wrinkly). Also, their vanity sizing is the worst I've seen. Only when they have the 50% of everything sales.
- Boden (somewhat pricy, but generally good quality, and excellent return policy); one drawback is that their clothes run really long, so if they don't have a petite option (and they often don't) I have to skip it. And I'm not that short (I'm 5'3" and have a short torso but longer legs. I often can't do petite pants/skirts/dresses in certain stores, since they are too short). The only skirts that work from Boden are called "mini-skirts" and they hit right to my knees. The biggest sales they have are 30% off.
- Gap (their fitted button downs are awesome and I have a cute shirt-dress from there)
- J Crew Factory (I only order from them when I'm about to travel somewhere that has a store, since we do not have one in the city; I often have to return their stuff since I haven't quite got a handle on the sizing). Only with 50% of everything sales.
- I still have a lot of Old Navy, and H&M stuff, but I'm definitely steering away from the super-cheap side, unless its something trendy I want to try out (I have a few pairs of bright-colored Old Navy Rockstar jeans, and 2 pairs of the Diva pants, which fit pretty much like the J Crew Minnies for $15 vs. $90).
- Most of my pants are the Express Editor, though I own and like nothing else from that store. They are ridiculously long and only come in one length, but I get them hemmed.
- EShakti, an online-only store, has amazing dresses that all include POCKETS (I have a whole rant about pockets, and how the lack thereof in women's clothes is most certainly an oppressive tool of the patriarchy, but I'll leave that for another day...). There return policy isn't great, I was lucky I picked a size that seems to fit me perfectly. You can customize the dresses for an extra fee but I've never done that. Also awesome, you put your height in so it isn't too short/long and you can control the length of the dress (i.e. put a taller height in so you get a below the knee height in an "over the knee" dress)
- Surprisingly, I've found 2 amazing dresses from Land's End of all places (though please, for the love, stay away from the pants...while they are trying hard to make their line younger and more fashion-forward, the pants are still marketed to the 60+ set)
- I've tried to find something I liked at Anthropologie but I just...can't. Lots of things look cute from afar, and then you find some wacky detail that makes it completely unwearable (cute top, oh, its completely backless). I really do like some of their dresses, but they are WAY too pricey for something that is so unconventional you can't pull off wearing it every week.
- I have a big shopping cart full of dresses from ModCloth. My sister tells me they are good quality and flattering. I haven't pulled the trigger yet.