Try this on for size

For some, it might be unexplainable holes, others suffer from pilling or fading, while some just need retail therapy. Whatever reason causes you the unenviable task of having to shop for new clothes, what do you do when you realize you are a size larger than you thought you were?

It’s easy to let the feeling of defeat wash over you in the dressing room. It’s even easier to leave the store and walk away with nothing, at least until you wake up the next morning and realize the simple task of getting dressed is made more challenging when you have only a few wearable pieces that are each looking shabbier by the wash.

I try to remember the experience of finding a bridesmaid dress for my brother’s wedding a few months ago. Sure, bridal sizing is enough to dent the most confident woman’s self esteem. I mean, who likes looking at the tag and seeing a number that’s three to six sizes larger than her usual pants size and then muster the confidence to walk out of the dressing room to an audience of ladies ready to share their opinions? I picked out my equivalent-in-bridal size and tried it on. It fit but was a little tight. I went up one size larger and came out of the dressing room to gasps of approval. Someone even asked if I went down a size because I looked so much slimmer.

In that moment, I dropped my ego and was reminded that it’s about feeling good in your clothes, regardless of the number sewn into the collar.

It’s more than not associating your personal worth with a number though; it’s also about living in the present.

I am guilty of hoarding favorite pieces of clothes that I swear I can almost fit into or that have sentimental value or even a few that I scrimped and saved for, spending more than I should on on a had-to-have-or-I-would-die-piece. These “almost” or “someday” garments take up precious closet space and every time I need more room, I look at the neatly folded piles of treasures, pause and instead jam another hanger onto an already bowing closet rod. It’s nice to dream that someday we might fit into a smaller size, and it’s OK to save a favorite pair of jeans for motivation or memories. But you’re officially the mayor of crazyville to stockpile the clothing equivalent of a hope chest. Give those pieces away to a friend who will appreciate the craftsmanship or to a charity that will give the garment a second life.

With this newfound enlightenment, I went to Freeport before the tourists arrived and got down to clothing-buying business. Here are some tricks I used to get over the hump of dealing with my body issues and size hangups to make some purchases:

Find some sales!

Hey, if you are grumbly about buying clothes, at least save some cash. You can’t be mad at a good bargain! Between online and in-store sales, I know your email is filled with e-newsletters and coupons you might usually delete. Using sites like or can save you money before you shop and help you find deals. And apps like Poshmark let you find other people selling designer clothes for a steal! (Let 2017’s technology work for you!)

Find a print you love.

I love preppy prints and bright colors, so when I found a skirt that was stretchy, comfy, soft AND looked like I belonged at a luau, I forgot all about the size and started thinking about how I could accessorize it.

Find big, bold, cheap jewelry.

There have never been more places to find some. A new pair of brightly colored tassel earrings in this season’s color du jour could go far in perking up some old standards.

When all else fails, buy a dress.

As I age, I realize how foolish I was in my younger years to not have a comfy summer dress in every color. You can dress it up with heels or make it casual with slip-ons or wedges and a cute hat. Plus, they look great and are the ultimate fashion comfort.

Chin up, we’ve all felt less-than-ideal about our bodies. But we all can’t be the emperor who shows up naked for work, so we might as well embrace what we’ve got and dress it in something that makes us feel fantastic.

Katie Bell is a Portland-based freelance writer who has contributed to publications throughout Maine, New England and London.

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