Repost: Clothing vs. Body

I’ll be taking the week off regular programming to spend time with my family and relax a bit. Hope many of you can do the same, and enjoy these tidbits from the archive!

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In college, I wore what my peers wore. I had a limited budget, limited resources, and limited interest in style so I just imitated what I saw. And what I saw was jeans, jeans, flannel, Doc Martens, jeans, oversized sweaters, jeans, long-sleeve tees and, jeans. Also jeans. And the jeans that were in style at the time were flares, which balanced my hips relatively well, and I wore them without thinking and assumed I looked as good as I  possibly could.

After graduation I moved to San Francisco where I traded my flare jeans for wide-leg black dress slacks. And, again, I wore them without thinking and assumed I looked as good as I  possibly could.

It wasn’t until I moved to Minneapolis in 2000 and began exploring my personal style in earnest that I realized I didn’t look as good as I possibly could because I was wearing clothing that fought my body. Since I carry some squish right where mid-rise pants hit, their waistbands were cutting into me even when they fit properly, and some muffinage was inevitable. I was wearing blocks of color that bisected me and drew attention to my butt and hips. I never, ever layered, instead opting for heavy, bulky single-ply tops and sweaters.

Skirts were a revelation: They sat at my natural waist where there was extremely limited waistband dig, they flowed gracefully over my naturally lush hips, they FELT AMAZING. Learning to layer allowed me a far more artful way to stay warm than just throwing on the thickest, heaviest sweater I owned and disguising everything about my body in the process. Once I started wearing clothing that worked with my figure instead of against it, once I stopped pitting my clothing against my body, I looked like a completely different woman. And my confidence skyrocketed.

Sometimes, wearing clothing that fights your body is unavoidable: If you must wear a uniform, if you dress for dirty or dangerous tasks you may end up in garments that work against your figure. But it’s also possible to simply default to clothing that fights your body, to wear it because you don’t know what else to do, to follow the crowd. And you may not even realize you’re doing it. Here are some sure-fire signs that you’re pitting your clothing against your body:

Pinching, pulling, and subdivision: This is one of the most obvious signs of clothing fighting a bod, but it merits mentioning. Clothing that works with your form will sit flat and quiet against you without cutting into you, dividing up your torso, or otherwise hurting your physical form.

Unexpected results: You see a garment on someone else, like the look, purchase the item, wear it, realize immediately that it looks utterly different on you than it did on your inspirational model, silently admit that it might not be a good style for you, yet continue to wear it. Now, there’s no “right” way to wear certain garments, but in this situation you can see that something is “off.” The look or looks you’re creating displease your own eye, but you’re stuck on the vision of how they look on others.

Wardrobe malaise: If you either loathe everything in your closet or feel utterly indifferent to everything you own, it’s possible that you’re buying body-fighting garments. Exclusively. Nearly all people own a handful of items that make them look and feel utterly amazing. Everyone has the occasional, “I’ve got nothing to wear” moment, but if you suffer from a perpetual wardrobe malaise, you might want to reconsider some of your dressing choices.

If you feel like you might be in a clothing vs. body situation and don’t know where to begin making changes, try going drastic. If you’ve been wearing nothing but skirts for 10 years, try pants. Skinny pants, wide legged pants, flares, straight legs, any pants. If you’ve been doing loads of layers, pare down to a single layer of garments for a while. If you’ve been wearing low rise bottoms, try high waisted ones instead. Whatever you’re doing now, try the opposite. You’ll probably end up meandering back to a middle ground eventually, but starting out extreme will allow you to explore the gamut.

Finding clothing that caresses your body, flows with its natural curves and accents its natural angles can be extremely challenging. I don’t mean to imply that it’s a snap for anyone and everyone. But questing for garments that work with – instead of against – your body is a worthwhile project. Because once you find them, your confidence will skyrocket, too.

Image courtesy Gap.

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  • Joules

    This is advice I wish I’d have had five years ago. I was constantly wearing ill fitting clothes and thought that it was just because I had a horrible body type. My pants, I’m taller than average, were always too baggy (I sized for length instead of fit), my shirts were from the boy’s section (longer arms) and I didn’t wear dresses because they never fit. Now, when I buy clothes, I grab the size I think I wear, one smaller and one larger. I’ve noticed that some fabrics I just can’t wear regardless of size, some cuts I can’t wear, my “average” dress size is an 8 but some things look better in a 10 and once every third blue moon, something looks better in a 6.

    I gave up on pants. It was just too exhausting to find pairs that sat at my waist, covered my, er, motherly assets properly, and still ran the full length of my legs. You know what I replaced them with? Skirts. Because they sit at my waist and I don’t have to worry about length once my backside is covered.

    So yes, properly sizing clothes has allowed me expand my closet. Experimenting with my sewing machine has allowed me to personalize clothes and alter those little things that made me say, “It would fit perfectly if only…”

  • Kathy Derengowski

    Enjoy your time off, and here is a little advice for the New Year: A New Year’s Suggestion

    You’re not defined by diet.
    You’re not defined by weight.
    Yet industries have been designed
    to foster your self-hate.

    They want you to buy meal plans.
    They want to sell you pills.
    They say a loss of 20 pounds
    is sure to cure your ills.

    They want you to join health clubs,
    to keep yourself denied.
    They make their money on the things
    That steal away your pride.

    It’s all a ploy of marketing-
    the shame, the pain, the diet.
    It’s all a money-making scheme-
    So this year—just don’t buy it!

    Kathy Lundy Derengowski

  • Angel

    I am petite 5’1 and tiny like 103 lbs but I have a rather full rear ( not hips just the tush ) so that is some of my ” problem” also think at my height one would assume that tunics and longer tops would make me look shorter but the shorter tops seem to look odd…I must be short wasted ? ugg I fight with clothing alot

  • Kate

    You forgot the one where you have that moment of madness where you forget you’re not 25 anymore, and buy (or make) some garment that you would have totally rocked way-back-when, but makes your post-baby body look like an overstuffed teddy bear.
    Or does that only happen to me?