Cassandra Sethi: I Gained 15 Pounds. Here’s What That Taught Me About Style

October 20, 2023

For over 6 years, I’ve styled people of all sizes. I’ve helped my clients find a wardrobe that they love no matter the number on the scale or on their waistband. 

From those experiences, I know the complicated feelings a lot of people have about body changes. In particular, gaining weight. 

That’s why I wanted to share my story. I want everyone to see that they can have confidence and great style at any size. Oh – and that number on the garment…it doesn’t mean anything!

Why I Gained 15 Pounds

Strength training has been a huge part of my life for nearly 10 years now. I love the feeling of lifting heavy weights and hitting new benchmarks at every session. It makes me feel powerful.

With a big milestone birthday on the horizon, I decided to set myself a new goal. I wanted to prioritize strength and gain more muscle to go into my new decade strong.

My personal trainer re-educated me on the science behind getting stronger. And that meant incorporating a method behind not only training but what food I use to fuel myself too.

Generally, if you want to lift more, you need to eat more. Your body needs fuel to carry you through tougher workouts and to start building muscle.

So a few months ago, I decided to do a bulk. I was going to give my body extra calories so I could boost my strength.

But doing a bulk doesn’t mean that food instantly turns to finely-toned muscle. 

I gained weight everywhere. And that meant my sizing went up too. At first it took some getting used to. I was generally an xs-s for the past few years and now I was going up to a medium or large in some garments. 

I’ll never forget the day where this really hit me. I went to my closet to put on an outfit for the day and my pants were fitting way tighter than before. So tight that I couldn’t even get some of them past my hips. 

I moved onto the next pant- same issue. After 5 pants that didn’t fit, I realized that there had to be a method for my changing body. I had already accepted that things would be different for a while, now it was time to make it work for me day to day. 

What I Learned From Gaining Weight

With my fitness and nutrition on track, it was time to get my clothing onboard too. Here’s what I did to make sure I had a wardrobe that honored my new size, kept ‘The NLW Style System’ in place and kept things efficient.

1. If It Doesn’t Fit, Move It Out

If you know me or anything about Next Level Wardrobe, you know what I’m going to say next:

Great style begins and ends with your closet.

If your closet makes you feel bad about yourself, it’s time to change that. You should control your closet- it should not control you.

There’s nothing worse than trying to squeeze into a pair of pants that just doesn’t fit, so why would you subject yourself to a closet full of clothes like that?  

When I got to the point where my usual clothes were too snug, I took them out of my closet. I moved them to a spare closet so I had space in my day to day closet. 

My recommendation to anyone going through a body change is this:

Set aside a day to take everything out of your wardrobe. Go through every item and determine what fits and what doesn’t. If it doesn’t fit, say goodbye to it. Donate it, pack it away, whatever you have to do. 

If you have a plan to hit a certain body goal then move it to a temporary space and plan to revisit in 6 months. This takes being super honest with yourself about what your plans are around your body and it’s ok with whatever you decide! Just be honest with yourself so you can set up your closet accordingly.

2. Use The NLW Style System

I designed the Next Level Wardrobe Style System to work for anyone at any size and any life stage. 

So of course, when my weight change caused me to start from scratch with some of my closet go-to’s, I used the system on myself. 

For example, I needed new pants. Instead of going in blind and just randomly trying on and buying different pants to see what worked, I started with core colors:

Black, navy blue, white, and gray.

Why? Because these colors go with everything and I knew I’d get the most outfits out of them. Plus it made shopping a breeze. I was spending my money on the right items versus being distracted by sales, panic buying and filling up my closet with items I didn’t really like.

‘The NLW Style System’ also gave me two other guidelines to follow: prioritize fit and go for quality over quantity. 

I already knew I needed to find clothes that fit properly, but I also knew I needed to be intentional about what materials and brands I selected so that these new clothes would suit my body and still look great after multiple uses.

(I’m a big believer in capsule wardrobes so when I purchase something, I need to be able to wear it a thousand different ways, a thousand different times.)

3. Buy At A Lower Price Point…


If this is a temporary change then I’d advise that you purchase your items at a lower price point.

Usually, I encourage my clients to invest more in their clothing because they should have things that they can wear for years to come.

But if you are going through a temporary body change, it’s better to lower your price point. That way you’re not spending big on clothes you’ll only get to wear for a few months. 

What does this not mean? It doesn’t mean you should just buy a bunch of cheap, low-quality clothes until you’re at your goal size. 

Everyone deserves to have well-made, well-fitting clothes no matter where they are in their size journey. 

It just means knowing where to invest, and where to save. 

For my new body, I shopped at Reformation, The Real Real and a local second hand shop. If you aren’t sure of consignment stores in your area, then be sure to head over to google and you’d be surprised how prevalent they are now!

4. Sizing is Meaningless

For years I’ve been telling clients that the little number on the tag of their jeans means nothing.  

Every brand has its sizing system – there is no standardization! 

That’s because each company works off of its own fit model, aka, one person, on whom they base all of their clothing sizes. 

(That’s also why it’s so hard to find clothes that fit you perfectly straight off the rack.)

Now that my old clothes didn’t fit anymore, it was my turn to take my own advice.

Once I emptied my closet of clothing that no longer fit, I set aside time to shop for those missing essentials. During this, I tried on over 50 pairs of pants.

Yep. You read that right. 50.

50 pairs of pants, and my sizing was all over the place. At one store I was a 6, another an 8, and at another a 10. 

That’s why it’s so important to not let the number you see on clothing stop you. 

It’s completely meaningless. The only thing that matters is if it fits you and if you feel fantastic in it.

5. Try, Try, Try Again

Remember how I said I tried on 50 pairs of pants?

That’s because, in order to find your perfect fit, you have to be willing to do the work and try on all sorts of different styles, brands, and sizes. 

The only way to know if something’s right for you is to try it on.  

Just like I set aside time to clean out my closet, I set aside dedicated time to shop online and in person. 

We know it can be exhausting, but that moment when you find your perfect style makes it all worth it.

My tip? 

Start with any brands you already love. For example, my previous favorite pair of jeans came from Mother, so when I was ready to shop, I went to their online store first.

We do the same system for our clients. After they make all their final purchases, we’ll document all of it so they have their go-to brands to make shopping easier in the future. This includes brands, sizes, pictures– they’ll never have to start from scratch again.

About the Author - Cassandra Sethi
About the Author - Cassandra Sethi

Personal Stylist & Image Consultant

Cassandra Sethi is a Personal Stylist and Founder of Next Level Wardrobe, a luxury Personal Styling and Shopping Service that helps successful professionals of all ages and sizes. After working in the fashion industry for over 25 years, she used her expert knowledge to create a proprietary styling system called ‘The Next Level Wardrobe Style System' which guarantees clients more outfits with less items in their closet. NLW has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The Tamron Hall Show, NY Mag, Huffington Post and more.

*Disclosure: Next Level Wardrobe only recommends products that we’d suggest to our clients or personally wear ourselves. All opinions expressed here are our own. This post may contain affiliate links that at no additional cost to you, Next Level Wardrobe may earn a small commission. Read the full privacy policy here.

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Cassandra Sethi

is a NYC Personal Stylist and Image Consultant. She is the Founder of Next Level Wardrobe and 'The NLW Style System' that guarantees clients more outfits with less items.

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