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Pittsburgh-based Garment Project removes triggers for women with eating disorders

“I was still giving my clothing too much power over my ability to recover.”

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The Garment Project partners Jordan Tomb and Erin Drischler - PHOTO COURTESY OF BEN PERKINS
  • Photo courtesy of Ben Perkins
  • The Garment Project partners Jordan Tomb and Erin Drischler

According to the National Eating Disorders Association, an estimated 20 million women and 10 million men suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their life. But only one in 10 of those suffering from an eating disorder ever receive treatment.

Erin Drischler was one of the lucky ones who received professional treatment. But after several attempts and 14 years, she continued to struggle with her illness. 

During treatment, eating-disorder patients are not exposed to body measurements like their weight and clothing sizes. But once Drischler returned home, she was faced with a closet full of clothes with a size on every label. Her old clothes didn’t always fit her new body, and buying new clothes proved a difficult experience.

That’s the motivation behind Garment Project, a nonprofit organization Drischler created with her partner, Jordan Tomb, to help people with eating disorders. City Paper interviewed Drischler by email about the organization and the impact the couple hopes it will have.  

What does the Garment Project offer?

Garment empowers women in recovery from an eating disorder by providing them with new, never-worn clothing individualized for their healthy bodies and lifestyles. We receive clothing donations from the same stores where you already shop. Garment removes all sizing information as soon as the clothing gets to us. Our size-less inventory helps our clients remain focused on their recovery. Garment’s direct partnerships with eating-disorder treatment centers allow us to learn size and style information about each woman we serve. With that, the Garment team curates an individualized shopping website based off of each woman’s personal style and needs. She picks her favorite items, and a week later, they will show up on her doorstep. No need to sift through sizes on the racks or play guessing games with online retailers to see what will fit. Garment offers a one-of-a-kind service that hopes to bring confidence back into each woman’s daily life. 

What motivated you to start the Garment Project?

After about a decade into my eating disorder, I could start to pinpoint things that were keeping me sick. Every time I would go through treatment, I would lose all sense of self, since my core beliefs about food and life were being stripped away from me. After months of hard work, I would return home to a closet full of clothes that at one point filled me with such (false) confidence, I would find myself unconsciously striving to fit back into them. I was still giving my clothing too much power over my ability to recover. 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. I, like most other women in recovery, chose to keep my weight hidden from me throughout my treatment. In hindsight, my fear of gaining weight was only one small aspect of my eating disorder. Knowing your weight and size can create a mental block and leads the client to believe her success in recovery is based off another number. I only was able to see success for myself when I let go of that hold and found self-confidence in other areas. There are a lot of pressures a person faces within their first year of recovery. I had to maintain a weight, utilize brand-new coping skills, and be a new person in an environment that, for years, had kept me sick. I didn’t have a chance. I knew I could not be alone in this aspect of my struggle. We decided to launch Garment to beat this problem before it starts for other women.

What kind of impact do you think/hope the project will have?

Garment is not just giving clothing that fits, we are allowing our client to build confidence in other aspects of her life while tackling the worst part — body image. We want to provide an opportunity for success that is not currently available. Your favorite outfit has the power to make you feel strong and beautiful. Garment strives to create that feeling of empowerment for all women. Long term, we want to serve all struggling populations, not just females.

What has the response been so far?

Since our launch at the end of February, we have been very humbled by the generosity of individuals and prospective corporate partners. [These donations allow clients to use the service free of charge.] We are continuing conversations with our first class of corporate partners and are excited about the range of commitments we will be able to share soon. There are many ways for corporations to work with Garment. The first is to provide Garment with donations of new, never-worn clothing. The second way to contribute is with a monetary donation. Similarly, the third is to begin a donation-match program with your employees.

For more information or to donate, email thegarmentproject@gmail.com or visit www.thegarmentproject.org.





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