by  Alexandra Acosta

When I was 15, I was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa. I think I was Anorexic for two years before anyone noticed, but soon enough they did, and my dad wouldn’t leave me alone about my constant colds and constant weight loss every time I went to the doctor. When I left treatment, I told myself that I was going to dedicate some part of my life to helping women and girls with eating disorders, because of the amazing people I met and help I got at my treatment center.

I’d like to consider myself an anti-eating disorder (ED) and body positivity activist. As a huge supporter of the National Eating Disorders Association and proponent of not bullying yourself, I wanted to (and still do) work for a non-profit or found my own organization that did ED activism in a unique, innovative way that no one’s ever seen before.

I found out about The Garment Project only recently, but I instantly fell in love with this organization. Their website states, “The Garment Project is a non-profit that aims to empower women recovering from an eating disorder by providing them with new, size-less clothing, individualized for their healthy bodies and lifestyles.”

They’re a local, Pittsburgh-based organization with an idea so good I wish I thought of it myself. They create an inventory of new, never-worn clothing from retailers that average American women already shop at. All tag and size information is removed from the articles of clothing, so a “good size” or “bad size” no longer exists for the patient. Instead, they wear clothes that fit their healthy bodies, no label needed.

Clothing sizes are often the first and most persistent trigger that a woman will face when suffering or recovering from an eating disorder. Garment’s co-owner, Erin Drischler, had an idea to start this organization after she left treatment for an ED.  In The Garment Project’s “Our Story” video, Drischler talks about how hard it is to leave treatment and be expected to be a different person when our society and surroundings are pretty much the same. Without knowing it, a clothing size can trigger an ED survivor into questioning their self-worth based on the letter or number on the tag.

Garment works closely with inpatient treatment centers throughout the country to provide patients in recovery with tools they need to make their transition from treatment to real-life as easy as possible. The patient will receive a basics package first with a few clothing items to get them started, and then the treatment team sends information to Garment that allows them to curate an individualized shopping page for this person.

Through this organization, women who suffer from eating disorders can make their most recent treatment their last treatment. When we remove the value behind things like size tags and implant it into things like our brains, we begin to care less about our sizes and more about our actions, ambitions, and accomplishments. Fighting the obsession with letters and numbers and allowing women to engage in, wear, listen to, and eat what makes them feel good is a type of activism I want to participate in for the rest of my life.