Already Prettypoll: Dressing to Highlight

When I work with style consult clients, one of the first questions I ask them is, “What do you love about your body? What do you want to show off when you get dressed?” And I’m sad to say that many of them struggle to name even one characteristic, body part, or aspect of their physical form that pleases them. Once I remind them that this can be hair or eye color, posture, bone structure, or any of the less weight- and figure-centric concepts that rest within the realm of “body,” they can usually name a few. We’re trained that naming the things we love about our own figures makes us conceited and vain, that declaring our busts or legs or hair or skin to be fabulous is a marker of self-absorption. But if we don’t know what we love about our bodies, how can we determine what we want to highlight? It becomes a game of  downplaying “flaws,” and that often leads to diminished self-confidence.

So let’s talk positives: When you dress, which aspects of your physical form do you seek to highlight? What about your body do you love and wish to show off?

  • Heather

    I love my clavicle — it’s a dancer’s clavicle no matter my size (has varied from 0 – 16 in my adult life) and so I hate to wear high neck shirts that cover it up. I also love how womanly and hourglass my shape is (specifically how defined my waist is, but my big boobs and big butt are notable themselves). I’ve always looked for things that show how teeny tiny my waist is in comparison to how big they are. I like my legs, too — it’s why I like leggings and skirts with tights to show them off. The one time I thought about plastic surgery for a minor medical deformity not noticeable with clothes on, the surgeon told me my curves were problem areas and that we should fix them with a tummy tuck while I was under anesthesia, as long as insurance was paying! I was 27 years old, had never had children and was a size 4! I ended up not fixing the medical deformity either and just loving myself as I am after that experience. I couldn’t believe he saw my voluptuous body that I LOVE as a “problem” and tried to make me believe I should cut it up.

    • Viktoria

      How horrid! Something like it happened to me, too, as I went in to do a checkup on my birthmarks and moles. The doctor kept going on about removing my tattoo (a smallish thing that´s been on my upper arm forever) and I had to firmly say that no, I like my tattoo, thank you very much. Twice.

      I am delighted to read that your doctor´s attitude made you change your mind about having to do anything about your body at all, and that this incident only strengthened your confidence.

      Personally, I´m fond of my waist and my nose. Femininity and character is what they give me, I think.

    • Dee

      Wow, I think I would have RUN from that plastic surgeon! I have had a tummy tuck but I was a size 16, had had 2 children, and really wanted my protuding tummy gone! (and never regreted it…)

      • Aging fashionista

        Its the health care system we have here. Pay for volume not health outcomes. They wouldnt have recommended it if you were uninsured, I sure.

  • Sonja

    Actually I’m now at a point in my life, where I like and like to accentuate many parts of my parts of my body. I like the colour of my hair and eyes, I like my broad, muscular shoulders and I like my calves. These are things I really love and love to show. I had more problems with my big boobs and bottom, but although I do not love everything about them, especially when I’m naked, I’ve started to appreciate how well they can look in clothes, so I love to show them off from time to time, too.
    The “funny” thing about that – I feel a bit like an annoying show-off while writing this. It’s pretty sad that I feel I have to justify my feeling good about myself. Another thing to work at…

  • Stephanie D

    I, also, love my clavicle and neck/shoulders in general. I try to wear scoopy shirts and off the shoulder tops. I also like my wrists and forearms and so I try to stay away from long sleeves. I also am pretty busty and it makes me feel like a woman…so I try to find tops that are more fitted around the bust and a tad baggier around the mid section.

    You know…I do feel somehow that talking about all this is…bragging almost. Like somehow my mind is turning it into a competition of sorts. My mind is thinking, “Well what if someone else isn’t busty and now you made them feel bad?”, kinda thing.
    I still have a ways to go I guess…you inspire me every day to think through my thoughts and actions regarding my body and how my friends see their bodies. So for now, on some level, I am ok with my odd thoughts because I trust that one day, if I keep on keeping on, they will turn into beautiful thoughts.

  • Tracey Jennings

    First off, my entire life I have loved my eyes and cheekbones…. The best part of losing weight has been the redefinition of my cheekbones! I am looking forward to my goal weight when I get back the body I recognize and know. At this stage I have to say, I love my curves and waist…

  • Practical Paralegalism Career Dressing

    I’ve actually been thinking about this question a lot lately, mostly inspired by you and Allison at Wardrobe Oxygen. Taking outfit pics regularly has been enlightening, and with a slow weight loss over the last year and a half (not intended), I’ve realized for my petite boyish figure, skirt lengths just above the knee emphasize what I still think of as pretty great legs for a 49 year old, and I actually like my broader shoulders. I’m getting out the sewing machine to take in and up some skirts, and being more careful when I shop to buy clothes that don’t overwhelm me. You guys have been a huge help!

  • Sara

    I love my shoulders, neck and clavicle area. I’ve never had a car and carrying groceries home 1-2 times a week really keeps my shoulders toned.

  • Anne

    I’m 47 and I am finally, pretty much at peace with my body. I love my arms, my torso, my coloring. There are areas of my body that are less firm and taut than I’d like but when I get discouraged I think about where my body has brought me and the places those less than sculpted legs have carried me. All in all I’m pretty happy. Ask me in another 10 years, hopefully I’ll be able to say the same thing.

  • Aziraphale

    Lips, hair, legs, shoulders, collarbones, arms, overall petite-ness. :-)

  • AB

    That’s the thing, there’s not a part of me that I love any more. And that’s truly sad. I’ve seen something floating around the internet that says something like “Love your body, how can you take care of something you hate” but I’m just not there.

  • LinB

    I’ve always liked my hair. It’s thick, coarse and curly. It’s white when I don’t dye it, and it’s a pretty white. I like my legs. I like my chestal area — and I used to like my waist. I no longer have a waist. I miss it, but at least I still have my mind. I’d miss my mind more — or would I?

    • katie

      “I no longer have a waist. I miss it, but at least I still have my mind. I’d miss my mind more — or would I?” HA! Love that — thank you!

      • Aging fashionista

        Very existential comment. I miss my waist too. It left me post menopause .hope it has moved to someone else’s body, so there is some good from of it. How’s that for existential?

      • LinB

        There are those of my acquaintance who would argue that my mind is already gone wandering most of the time, lol. I try not to stay around those acquaintances for any length of time. Jane & Michael Stern quoted from an old cookbook, in their book Square Meals: “Happiness is even more youth-inducing than slimness, so have another cookie.” Works for me.

  • Mistie

    The first place my husband ever kissed me was on my clavicle. I’m so glad you mentioned clavicles, Heather!

    I really like my butt. And my breasts. My breasts became much larger during my pregnancy, and I really had a hard time with them. A lot of people congratulated me on my larger bust, which I found degrading.

    I also really love my freckles. Whenever they start fading in the winter, it makes me a little depressed. I have freckles all over–my face, arms, legs, a few on my stomach and chest, and one on my lip. I love them all.

  • Moira

    I’ve been working out this year, and for the first time in my life, I have a fairly trim and firm waistline and a butt that no longer sags. So I find myself gravitating to tailored skirts and body-conscious pants. Unfortunately I have VERY short legs for my height (I’m 5’8″ but need petites for trousers and skirts), so it’s a challenge to play up the waist and butt without also highlighting how stumpy my legs can be even when I’m more fit.

    • Aging fashionista


      • AB

        Or just buy pants that fit. Not everyone likes or can wear heels. I’m one of those people.

  • Katja

    I love my arms and shoulders. I work out with weights, and it shows. Now that it’s cold, I’m missing the opportunity to show them off :-}.

  • Sarah

    I am working on loving my body, but it’s definitely a process. Some days I could list a hundred things about my body I love, other days I can’t list one. But generally, I feel most confident about my boobs! They are large and sometimes I have shoulder pain, but I like the way they look and even though I am 31, they still haven’t started sagging. I invest in quality bras and get professionally fitted once a year, so they look great under clothes. I don’t wear too much low-cut or revealing clothing, and if a shirt is a little low cut, I will layer a tank underneath for modesty. But I like the shape of them and how they compliment my figure. Yay for boobies!

  • Bree Bronson

    I like my hair quality – it’s always been strong and healthy. Another thing I (surprisingly) like are my rather wide shoulders. With my high cheeks they give me a sort of strong and sporty look which I think goes together well with my personality.

    Wow, it felt good to compliment myself! Up here it’s not very common; if one compliments herself it’s considered to be cheeky and nosy, and complimenting others is just not a habit. It should be!

    And it really wasn’t so easy to come up with something I like about my body. That’s weird beause I actually used to model in my twenties. After having kids I seem to have lost my confidence.

    • Mariale

      Hi Bree, while writing my comment I was just thinking the same: how good it feels to compliment myself! gives a boost of auto confidence than most of the time is lost between kids, work, house chores.
      It’s a good exercise! we should do it more often :-)

      • Bree Bronson

        Hi Mariale!

        That’s so true! We should compliment ourselves more, and others too! It’s free and just think how good our friends would feel too if we’d come up with a personal compliment to start the conversation with.

        Sonja mentioned a thing I noticed se well when complimenting myself: I too felt like a complete show off and even a bit…b*tchy!

  • Angela

    I like my bust line too, nothing revealing but it offsets my bum, I’m a curvy hourglass and after years of disguising it and making myself look bigger, I show my shape off.

    I like my eyes, my feet in sandals and I have nice calves and wrists. Yesterday I was at a jewelry party and another guest said I should model the rings as I had lovely hands :)

  • Rachel

    I have fantastic can’t-get-that-color-if-you-tried strawberry blonde hair. I love it. I also really love my legs, though more for what they do (carry me around all day) and their strength than for their looks. Still love ’em.

  • katie

    complete strangers — in libraries, airports, walking down the street — ask me if i’m a dancer (which i am). something in the way i carry myself, i suppose. i never had the typical dancer build and especially don’t now, but i LOVE that it’s visible in me still.

    i’m also coming around and appreciating my figure — curvier than i’m “used” to being (see above: dancer), but graceful, and feminine, and the mister likes. =)

  • Vicky


    I honestly don’t like anything.

  • Natalie

    I guess I like to highlight my legs which are long and lovely. I often wear short skirts with leggings, shorts or skinny jeans. That and my figure overall, everything is figure fitting because it helps show off my waist and therefore balance my hips and shoulders.

  • Mariale

    I’m just reading your book Sally, and obviously have been thinking about this. I definitely loved more my body now, or should I say I appreciated it more now at 32 than back in my 20s. I love the “athletic” figure I’ve created through better eating and working out consistently.
    I love my neck/shoulders/arms so I like to wear short/no sleeves tops. I have a good size 36D breasts and also like to show them off. Before I got pregnant (I’m 18 weeks now) I had good abs, so all my tops were well fitted to show how “fit” I feel. Now being pregnant I’ve realised I still like to use tops well fitted to show now my fit pregnant belly :-)
    My legs have become very well defined and I’ve transitioning for the last year to wear only trousers to wear dresses several times/week. One of the things I’ve learned for your blog is that I actually love dresses, because they make me feel so good and girly and feminine and those are qualities I’d never put on me before. It’s pretty good to feel like something you never thought you were! Thanks!.

  • Catrina

    I like my eyes. They are multi colored and my lashes are dark and kind of long. My feet are pretty cute also. And I like my overall shape (even if some days I curse it for not being smaller). And my boobs. They aren’t huge or small but a nice C cup. And I think sleeping in a bra all my life has paid off because they don’t sag too much yet though I will say I’m only almost 29. So yeah I guess I am pretty awesome even if some days it’s hard to see.

  • Rose

    I like my chubby round baby cheeks. I like how dark my eyes are compared to my hair and skin tone. Actually, I’m pretty fond of my face altogether. I get compliments from strangers on my smile, but maybe that’s just because I walk around smiling a lot – a habit which, in New York City is somewhat unusual.

    My figure is neither athletic nor waifish nor curvalicious – not much going on in the boobs and butt, and a bit of extra padding in the tummy and hips. But I am increasingly okay with that!

    Oh, and I like my long legs.

  • Kirsten

    I used to hate everything about my body – too fat, too awkward, too tall and gawky. I considered it a crappy, fleshy case for my mind, which took me to Caltech. High school was hell.

    Twelve years later, I am finally learning to love it as part of “me”, and dress to compliment it like I enjoy my mind through games and good books. Much credit for that goes to this blog! I’m somewhere between the hourglass/pear continuum, with a 36B chest, 30 in waist and 44ish low hip circumference. Until thd last few years, I lived in pants and despised my bum/thighs and how pants fit overall. I only recently discovered how amazing above-knee skirts look on me, and I’m now branching out into ‘mini-land’ with knee boots. :)

    The single greatest breakthrough for me? Going to a few nude spas on a recent trip to Germany, at the urging of my husband. There, no one seems ashamed of their bodies, even though they come in all shapes and sizes not seen in American magazines! It was very enlightening and liberating.

    • Anne

      I am from Germany and spend most of winter in nude saunas and just last weekend I had the same thought, that seeing so many different naked bodies, now and growing up, helped me being okay with my naked body at all times. It’s not within the current beauty ideal, and never has been except for 6 months when I had nothing to do but go to the gym every day, but I don’t remember a time when I felt fat, unlovable or ugly. Seeing happy naked people of all shapes (and stadiums of sagginess) who just don’t care makes me not care much either. Recently I started going with my boyfriend (most saunas in Germany are mixed gender, female-only or male-only is usually the exception or only on certain days) and it’s been interesting to walk around naked with him in a non-sexual context. Though walking around naked in a sexual context is also fine 😉

  • Sarah Heath

    I love that I am hourglass shaped, So I like to highlight the differences in size from bust to waist to hips. I also like to highlight my eyes and my hair.

  • shebolt

    It’s so sad to see a couple of people say they love absolutely nothing about their physical form. :(

    I’m an athlete, and work hard on my body. I don’t do this because I want to look good. I do this because I want to be strong and capable and competitive in my chosen sports. I love a lot about my body. My legs are muscular and fierce. My shoulders are broad. My torso is small. All of this I love. Are there things I am still working on? Sure! Are there things I can’t change that I don’t really love? Absolutely! But I am overall very happy with my physical form.

    When I’m not anonymous, like I am now, I try to keep quiet about it because women seem to hate other women who are happy with their appearance. But I also try not to fall into the habit of complaining about myself, which is such an easy thing to do around other women.

    But it’s so sad to see that there are people who can’t find anything to like about themselves. Everyone has beauty in some form or another.

  • BamaCarol

    Until recently I would have said nothing, not one thing. But I had a triple bypass this year at age 54, and I have started needing and wanting to take better care of myself. And now I can say that there are things I do like; my eyes, my hair (I’ve grown it out from a pixie to below my shoulders in the last year) and I am getting a waist back. Losing weight has helped my self esteem but mostly it has made me feel healthier and I have discovered that I love feeling healthy! I’m eating better and working out 5 days a week now. And I love my new arteries too, they are nice and clean and I want to keep them that way.

  • Maria

    It is interesting that many women can’t name one thing about their bodies that they like…

    I think I have nice, shapely legs, so I’ve been wearing alot of dresses and skirts lately. However, now that it’s getting cooler, I’m living in my leggings and skinny jeans.

  • Issyvoo

    Since I’ve gained weight (due to a life changing injury), I now have breasts and I love them. If anything, at 42 my breasts look younger than they ever did. I also like my waist and am learning to enjoy my new hourglass figure. I’m learning to like my very pale skin which is also quite young looking. My hair is still dark and curly, so I like that. And I really like my eyes; as I get older, they look really Jewish and also hold a lot of character now.

  • Yelena

    I love my collarbones, and my decolletage in general. I tend to wear low-cut tops to show it off, and to distract from my large boobs. I have a love-hate relationship with my boobs. They’re bigger than I’d like, but showing off my cleavage can be spectacular sometimes.

    I love my blue eyes, and wear blue frequently to emphasize them. It’s my favorite color, which helps. :)

    I love my hair. It’s very long – almost thigh-length – which isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it works for me. My hair is dark brown, and I have an awesome silver streak on one side. People have actually asked me if I dye that streak in, which makes me laugh.

    Until you mentioned it, I hadn’t even considered posture as something I could love about my body. I’ve worked hard on my posture, and I’m proud of it. But how does one dress to accentuate that? I tend to think of good posture as something that makes clothes look good, not the other way around.

  • Angela

    I love to play up my height. Especially on days when I don’t feel so good about my appearance, I can try to perk myself up by wearing things that best flatter tall gals. Skinny jeans, over-the-knee boots, skyscraper heels, short shift dresses, a big handbag–these kinds of things are my tall girl pride “go-to’s.”