How To Dress When You’re Carrying Excess Skin

You can make the best of dressing when you have loose abdominal skin!

There’s no shortage of content floating around online about the myriad of things involved in weight loss, how to go about it and how to keep the kilos off. However, something little mentioned is the difficulty encountered after the fact. You’ve probably been left with excess skin, perhaps a lot of it. It can cause difficulty for you in dressing the way you want to, because it sticks out and can play havoc with the way clothes drape on your body. How do I know this? I dealt with it myself.

Access to the skin removal surgery is rarely available straight away, and sometimes not for a long time, meaning there’s a transition period for every successful undertaking of extreme weight loss where you’re going to be dealing with this loose skin for a period of time. With the right knowledge, you can minimise the impact the loose skin has on your silhouette. As someone who has been from over 150kg to a low of 74kg (then settling in the low 90s), I’ve noted a few tips and tricks along the way. My main issue to combat has been the presence of loose abdominal skin, which is what I’ll focus on. I found that this excess skin made a notable bump below my belly button, also exacerbating the perceived presence of love handles. Because there’s a fair bit of this loose skin, it also moves around, which initially made it quite difficult to find pants that would stay up. The skin would move around, and the trousers would sag; however, going tight in the waist made it impossible to sit down as the shape of my body would change entirely when I sat down.

Below are some principles I’ve made note of for dealing with excess skin:

The cut of your trousers is important.

The way you wear your pants can make or break your figure, and it’s what I primarily use to mask all my abdominal loose skin. I used to wear flat front pants with a mid-to-low rise, as that was the fashion readily available on the shelves, and it was really unflattering. It absolutely didn’t work for me, and I always encountered the issue described just above. One day I decided to try pants with a higher rise (around 13″ for me), having the waistband sit above my problem area.

The higher waist means the excess skin becomes part of your pants rather than part of your stomach area. Because of this, it isn’t so noticeable. As a higher waist tends to sit near the tightest taper of your body (the natural waist) it avoids letting the shirt show off the area where love handles may be present, which a lower rise trouser will show.
Shirts tend to be the least flattering of garments when it comes to drape, and they’ll highlight irregularities of fit much more unforgivingly.

Pleats are also a handy addition for this situation, as they allow for more fabric to make up the thigh area; giving more comfort and room to move with better drape to boot. The presence of the pleats in the same region as the skin draws the eye away from any irregularities in the silhouette by putting some vertical lines over the top, and causing the pant fabric to push out a little from the waistband in a natural way. It also tends to eliminate the ‘pocket pop’ caused by having a bump in the region. The combination of high rise and pleats results in a good mask for excess skin, but note that you can simply go for a high rise; flat front pants will show some of the bump, but it’ll still be better than with a low or mid rise.

Try different shirts, and tuck them in.

If you carry excess skin in the chest area, you’ll find that T-shirts and polos may not look so great. Button front shirts, on the other hand, will be a lot more flattering for your physique, especially if made custom. A button front short sleeve casual shirt like an aloha shirt is a good alternative if you don’t like your torso in a pullover shirt. I’m lucky to have a developed chest, without much looseness in the area, so I can happily wear tees and polos. However, I found that wearing them untucked was unflattering – especially with lighter coloured tops – as they emphasise the abdominal loose skin and give me what I characterise as an hourglass figure. To get around this, I simply tuck them in.

Shapewear or compression clothing.

There are all sorts of options for shapewear/compression clothing on the market, and these can be seriously useful. One man on YouTube credits compression wear with being able to do any sort of exercise as it holds his skin in place. Personally, I don’t use compression wear other than during sports; I’m lucky enough to be able to manage my silhouette without needing to use it. However if it’s something that will benefit you, get your hands on some.

Layer up: wear a jacket where you can.

A well fitted jacket can help your silhouette appear more natural. This applies to casual wear too; I like lumber jackets in the winter and a linen overshirt in the warmer months. Sport coats are a great choice for elevated casual, as I’ll detail in the next section.

Good tailoring sharpens up your silhouette.

If you want to look really sharp, get yourself into sport jackets and suits. The nature of tailoring is to flatter the figure as best as possible, so you’ll look your best in tailored clothes. Fit preferences for these styles can vary widely; what I wear may not work for you, however the general principle of high rise pants and a jacket which fully covers your buttocks in length are good to keep in mind. It’ll take some experimentation to reach a happy medium between what works best on your body and what best suits your personal taste/aesthetic.

Get to know your alterationist.

Carrying excess skin means your body shape becomes abnormal. This means that most ready to wear clothing isn’t going to look quite right on you straight out of the box. Thankfully, a good alterationist can make the best of your off the rack purchases. It’s important to buy something that fits well on the largest parts of your body, because your alterationist should be able to bring in the loose bits to create a good fit. It will likely be impossible to achieve a ‘perfect’ fit even with an altered off the rack garment, so don’t worry about chasing perfection. Just aim for a blend of comfort and your preferred silhouette.

Don’t write off the double breasted jacket.

Despite the popularly recited hash that double breasted jackets tend to make a man appear pudgy and boxy, I find that a DB with an appropriate button stance can actually look better than a single breasted jacket if you’re carrying loose abdominal skin. For me, my problem area is the section between the natural waistline and the crotch, as this is where the majority of my loose skin is situated. The advantage of wearing a double breasted jacket here lies in the overlapping fabric which covers this area. Where a single breasted jacket’s quarters will open up as they get towards the bottom, a double breasted jacket covers that whole section, effectively eliminating the loose skin from being visible.

How to dress when you have loose abdominal skin from weight loss

Get to know your custom clothing options.

The relevance of this section for you will depend largely on your purchasing power and how much you want to pursue clothing as an interest. Cheap custom clothing is generally a pursuit best avoided, as the best fitters and artisans generally know their worth. It’s best to play around with ready-to-wear options for a little while before delving into custom, thus developing a taste for the kind of fit and styling you’re interested in, before delving into custom options. Once you’ve done that, it’s all about finding a maker who gets you, a pursuit that can take much time but will pay dividends.

Sweaters can really bring out imperfections.

I’ve found that wearing a sweater/jumper as a top layer is usually a bad idea, unless it’s a trim fitting one made from yarns of thin to medium thickness, cut short to end at the natural waist. The majority of sweaters nowadays are cut long and/or with a fairly boxy structure, to ‘fit’ a greater number of potential buyers. Long sweater length is a must-avoid for excess abdominal skin as it’ll hug the very area you want to draw attention away from, however if you tuck the sweater into your trousers – particularly useful in the case of a thin merino turtleneck worn under a jacket – this becomes a non-issue.

Make peace with always having an odd shape while sitting.

This is a tough one, but I’ve never found a way around it. Whenever I sit down, I feel like I look as overweight as I really used to be; the excess skin is pushed up over the waistline and sits unflatteringly. I find the same with my legs. The thighs strain at the seams whenever I sit, even when wearing loose fits, as I carry a decent amount of loose skin on the thighs. All bodies look better in some poses compared to others, and the only way to avoid worrying about the way you look when sitting is simply to accept that nobody looks perfect all the time.

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With content features ranging from appearances on popular menswear hubs (The Rake, StyleForum, Put This On) to French perfume newsletters and university course readings, Sam is a writer, designer and enthusiast in the fields of menswear and fragrance.

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