NOTE: This post was originally published on my previous blog, Body Image Rehab.
Today’s post is dedicated to a topic which some may consider to be frivolous… fashion. I have always enjoyed clothes and shopping, but it has only been in recent years that I’ve come to learn the power of what we wear to help improve our body image.
I’m not talking about being a “fashionista” or a slave to trends (although there’s nothing wrong with that and it can be fun); rather, I’m referring to the way that clothing can help to enhance our positive points and encourage body acceptance.
“What Not to Wear”
About five years ago, I discovered a show on The Learning Channel (TLC) called “What Not to Wear.” The premise of the show is that a woman (they used to make over men, but now it’s just women…) gets nominated for a makeover by a friend or family member because she dresses in a way that’s either frumpy, age inappropriate, or just plain over the top. That person gets “ambushed” by the show’s hosts, Stacy and Clinton, and is shown secret footage of her “crimes against fashion.”
The hosts then throw away virtually all of her clothes (actually, the clothes are donated to charity) and give her rules for shopping for new clothes that will best suit her body and lifestyle. She is given $5,000 to shop for a new wardrobe and is also treated to a make-up consultation and a new hairstyle. In the end, all of the women look infinitely better than they did at the time of the ambush, and many of them also appear ten years younger and fifteen pounds thinner, all through the magic of clothing.
An Added Benefit…
The fact that the women look better is no big surprise. It stands to reason that a new wardrobe, flattering hairstyle, and professional make-up would make anyone shine. What’s not so obvious is the transformation which takes place in terms of the women’s confidence and body image. They all stand up straighter, smile more, and reflect a genuine glow and sense of pride in themselves.
Many of them actually seem like different people in terms of their attitude and demeanor, as well as their appearance. It is a joy to watch the metamorphosis that takes place in the makeover contestants, and I don’t doubt that they end up experiencing a higher degree of self-esteem and happiness once they return to their everyday lives.
Time for a Personal Change
At first I just watched “What Not to Wear” because I found it inspiring and entertaining, but eventually I started to wonder how I might apply the things I’ve learned from watching to make some powerful changes in my own life. When I assessed my appearance and attitude, I realized that I wasn’t dressing in the most flattering way possible and I didn’t feel all that attractive or confident in social settings.
Due to my many years of struggling with eating disorders and a negative body image, I had adopted a kind of “quirky and bohemian” style of dress that primarily consisted of loose-fitting garments in which I could hide my body. I always did my best to look nice and paid special attention to my grooming and accessorizing, yet my clothes didn’t flatter me nearly as well as they could. Upon reflection, it was definitely time for a change!
A Gradual Transformation, Inside and Out!
Over the past few years, I have transformed the way I dress and I now wear clothing that is more form-fitting and that showcases the positive aspects of my figure. Since I didn’t have professional stylists assisting me in my makeover, I’ve had to learn gradually through the help of books, online forums, and basic trial and error.
I found that as I learned to dress in a way that is flattering, I started to feel more confident and attractive when I am out and about. I also feel better about my body when I am wearing clothing that is more fashionable and eye-catching (in a good way…).
I still struggle with body image issues, as my readers know, but clothing does help me to take more pride in my appearance and my body. On the days when I make a concerted effort to dress well (which sadly is still not every day, but I’m getting there), I find myself feeling slimmer and more proportionate, as well as younger and more vibrant. When I have those days of feeling fat and down on myself, I find that if I take the time to dress in clothing I know looks attractive, I get a boost of energy and a shot of extra self-esteem. What I wear really does make a difference!
The Power of Clothing
Some will still say that fashion is frivolous, but I have become a true believer. Clothing has the power to help us look and feel better, and it doesn’t have to be expensive or especially time-consuming. Once you determine what looks good on you, you can apply the same basic formula to a variety of outfits and occasions, and you can find beautiful pieces at all price points. While I love to shop at Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s, I have found some fabulous pieces at Target and JC Penney as well. I’m enjoying the process of creating outfits and incorporating the new trends which excite and intrigue me.
At age 44 (I just had a birthday last Sunday), I feel that I look better than I’ve ever looked! Even though my weight is probably still five pounds over what I feel is optimal, I can see that I look good in what I wear. I am gradually learning to accept my body as it is and to stop striving to reach unrealistic ideals. If I wear clothing that fits but doesn’t pinch or bind anywhere, I feel slimmer and more readily accept my present weight and size.
When I shop, I buy items that fit me now, not after a crash diet or the stomach flu, and that I can’t wait to wear. The size number is becoming less important to me as I focus more on fit and style. After all, who sees your size tag besides you? If it bothers you too much, you can always cut it off! I used to do that, but now I am more able to let it go and enjoy having clothes that fit, regardless of the number. Now I just need to become equally as accepting of the number on the scale! Baby steps…
Some Useful Resources
If I’ve convinced you of the power of fashion through this post, here are a few links to television shows, online forums and books that you might enjoy: