It’s taken me a long time to learn about my body. Both in terms of appreciating its lovely form as-is, and in terms of helping it look amazing as often as possible by wearing clothes that work WITH it instead of AGAINST it. And before I learned these things, I hid inside my clothes. Husband Mike and I even called a certain segment of my wardrobe my “hide-inside” clothes. They were oversized, bulky, thick, formless, and dark. They masked every lump and bump and I felt secure knowing that no one could see my supposed “flaws” through all that billowing cloth.
But a turning point came when Husband Mike pointed out that I didn’t actually look better, prettier, slimmer, or cooler in these clothes. They masked everything about my figure, including the aspects that I liked and wanted to show off. They made me look big and formless, messy and careless. They were hindering, not helping.
And so I coined a personal mantra: It is better to show the world an “imperfect” form than a formless mass.* I started looking for clothes that showed off my assets, even if it meant exposing some of my non-assets. And the more I saw my body, the more aware of it I became. The more engaged I felt, and the more inclined to care for myself, the more able to nurture my body and cultivate my style. Yes, it’s a giant cliché, but I felt like I was emerging from a cocoon and stretching my wings for the very first time.
And, for me, that mantra still holds true. I feel and look better in clothes that show my body’s form – lumps, bumps, and all. So I gravitate toward fitted items, dresses that nip in at the waist, tailored blazers, slim pants. Sure I play around with proportion and dabble in the oversized sometimes, but I’ve learned to balance those garments with closely fitted ones. And I feel that a style based on clothes that SHOW me works better than a style based on clothes that HIDE me.
But I don’t think this mantra can be applied across the board. The underlying sentiment is that you can and should show your body’s form, no matter how short, tall, bumpy, smooth, big, or small that form may be – proudly, happily, and without shame or fear. The basic theory is that wearing nothing but oversized tops and voluminous pants will create the optical illusion of more body, larger body, out-of-proportion body. And although I stand by both sentiment and theory, that look good/feel good connection swings both ways: Some women will never be comfortable in fitted clothing. Ever. No matter how many compliments roll in. And that could be because of abuse, or anxiety, or plain old personal preference. No woman will ever look good if she doesn’t feel good, and part of feeling good is feeling comfortable as well as confident, beautiful, and powerful. So, in the end, I can only say this:
Your body should be seen. Do not let anyone make you feel like your body is not good enough to show off. Showing your figure is a right, not a privilege. If you are timid about or unhappy with your figure, bear in mind that hiding inside oversized clothes may cause the observing eye to fill in what it cannot discern with “body” that isn’t really there. Although going fitted may feel scary, it may do your body more favors in the end. But, as always, the choice is yours. Wear what makes you look as you want to look, feel confident, tap into your unique aesthetic self.
Dress to feel good, whatever that means to you as an individual. The rest will fall into place.
*Imperfect, in this context, means “contrary to the dominant beauty paradigm.” I don’t believe body shapes that fall outside the norm are flawed, hence the quote marks. There is no such thing as a perfect human form and all features deemed “flaws” are no more than simple physical traits.
Images courtesy J.Jill.