A new nonprofit is helping women tackle one of the most common but often overlooked challenges during eating disorder recovery: building a new wardrobe.
The Garment Project provides women in recovery with brand-new, tagless, sizeless clothing for free. The goal of the Pittsburgh-based organization, which launched in February, is to give clients a starter wardrobe of new clothing to get them through the first six months of the recovery process.
By removing sizing information, Garment helps women leaving recovery to focus on their health, rather than size labels that can be triggering and cause setbacks. It also removes the sizable financial burden that comes with completely replacing your closet.
“This is something that’s missing,” said Garment cofounder Erin Drischler. “No one else is providing this.”
Drischler knows these challenges firsthand. She lived with an eating disorder for 14 years, until she completed a recovery program in her early 20s that mended her relationship with her body and food.
Along with her business partner and fianc Jordan Tomb, Drischler launched Garment to help women like her address the wardrobe-related pressures after treatment and during recovery.
“I was still giving my clothing too much power over my ability to recover,” she said. “My closet ranged in sizes because my weight fluctuated severely throughout my struggle. Items that still fit led to panic and discomfort due to the number on the label. Going to the mall and trying on clothes was overwhelming and quickly revealed my new size or sizes depending on the store.”
Here’s how the program works: Garment partners with treatment facilities around the country to connect with women in recovery. When a woman nears the end of in-patient treatment, her treatment team sends her measurements which are usually logged for insurance purposes to Garment, leaving the woman out of the process.
“This is something that’s missing. No one else is providing this.”
Through partnerships with stores like ModCloth, Rue21, and local Pittsburgh brands, Garment has a stocked inventory with a detailed log of true measurements for every item. This ensures the items will fit a given client, so they can cut out all labels and sizing information in the process.
Once the nonprofit matches the measurements, each woman receives a package of basics, including T-shirts, bras, underwear, and jeans. They also receive a curated, individualized, and secure online shopping page to find additional items to fit their personal styles again, all for free.
Garment encourages clients to try their new items with a trusted treatment facility staff member, who can offer support if needed. Any unwanted items can be shipped back to the nonprofit for free in a pre-paid box.
“Our partnerships with the treatment centers give us a platform to find out about women who are at the right point in their recovery process to utilize Garment,” Tomb said. “It’s the foundation for making sure we are able to provide a service that is simple, secure, and most importantly keeps the focus on healthy recovery.”
About 20 million women in the U.S. will experience a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life. According to Garment, only one in 10 of those women will receive costly treatment, which can run up to $30,000 per month.
“I was still giving my clothing too much power over my ability to recover.”
This free service, then, is especially ideal for women who are already struggling to afford the high price-tag of treatment.
“To return home to a closet full of clothes that are too small or too big or that I used at one point as a tool to measure my own body wasn’t healthy,” Drischler said. “Not having the financial stability to replace a lot of those items so I could feel confident going back into work or going back to school there’s too many people going through that.”
So far, Garment is working with six treatment facilities around the country, but the team hopes to broaden its network as the project grows. They also plan to include men’s clothing in the future, hoping to serve the estimated 10 million men recovering from eating disorders in the U.S.
“Recovery is possible for everyone,” Drischler said. “A few years ago, I could not say that sentence out loud, let alone believe it true for myself … Although each person has a different story and struggle, it is truly possible to live a fully recovered life, free from your eating disorder.”
If you want to talk to someone about your experience with disordered eating, text the Crisis Text Line at 741-741. Organizations like the National Eating Disorder Association (U.S.), National Eating Disorder Information Centre (Canada), The Butterfly Foundation (Australia), the National Centre for Eating Disorders (UK) and We Bite Back can also offer support.