Posts Categorized: body image

Already Prettypoll: Feel Good Clothes

Although I believe clothes that look good on your body will often make you feel good about yourself, I also know that some clothes that look smashing feel awful. Like strapless dresses. And elegant 4″ heels. And when I talk with women about style, I always emphasize that clothing can make you feel good in a thousand ways: It can be a color that lifts your spirits, a pattern that engages or awakens you, a garment that you bought while traveling and evokes fond memories. It can be slippery silk on your skin, nubby linen, or some other pleasing texture that heightens your senses. It can be warm or enveloping, soft or smooth, bright or dark. Our feel-good clothes can look like just about anything.

Tell us about yours. When you open your closet, which items jump out as your feel-good clothes? What makes them special? Why do they lift your spirits? Are the ones that feel great on your body different than the ones that look great in the mirror?

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Everyone Has Bad Hair Days

everyone has bad hair days

My hair is thick, wavy, curly, and extremely stubborn. It wasn’t until I shifted from a traditional, sleek pixie to my current, messier ‘do that I realized exactly how much my hair DID NOT want to be short, straight, and orderly. At least not all three at once. When I was doing the flat-ironed pixie thing, I had to go into the salon fairly frequently to get clean-ups or my hair would start puffing out and sticking up in odd places and at bizarre angles. This was time-consuming, and costly, and frustrating. When my hair did what I wanted it to do, I LOVED it. When it didn’t, I got grouchy.

At one point I was whinging to my amazing stylist,* airing my frustration that I couldn’t get my hair to look exactly the same every single day. And her response was simple, and something I’d heard many times before. But hearing it at that moment from the person who cut and styled my hair struck me. Hard.

She said, “Well, everyone has bad hair days.”

Obvious, right? Something we’ve all been told. Nothing groundbreaking. But I really heard her this time. And here’s what occurred to me as I mulled afterward:

It is not reasonable to expect my own hair to look exactly the same every day because hair is living, because weather changes, because sometimes I sleep really weird, because I run late. There are dozens of reasons why my hair will not look exactly the same every day, even if I become quite skilled at styling it. Furthermore, it is not reasonable to expect my own hair to look “perfect” every day because perfect is an impossibility. Expecting same, perfect hair on a daily basis amounts to setting myself up for failure and frustration. Remembering that everyone has bad hair days means remembering that it’s OK to look variable and even a little flat or disheveled once in a while.

It is not reasonable to expect anyone else’s hair to look the same every day, and it certainly is not reasonable to expect anyone else’s hair to look perfect every day. All people are subject to hair growth, weather, running late, and all the rest. Remembering that everyone has bad hair days means remembering that no one in this world looks her best every single day, and that judging others is a total waste of energy.

Furthermore, it is not reasonable to expect celebrities’ hair to look the same or perfect, either. Even those who are professionally pretty have “off” days. This is one of the reasons why paparazzi-snapped images of famous people in their sweats or in the midst of hair or makeup failure are a force of evil. They reinforce the fallacy that someone who is famous, extraordinarily beautiful, and wealthy enough to employ various stylists can and should look perfect. All the time. Everyone has bad hair days. Even models like Cara Delevingne and movie stars like Reese Witherspoon. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong or shameful about it.

Know what else? Everyone has bad outfit days, too. Me, you, strangers, famous people, all of us. No matter how skilled you are at outfit assembly or how well-versed you are in trends, figure-flattery, and color pairing, you will sometimes wear things that don’t work. Even stylists like Stacy London will occasionally pull a dud that looked great in the morning but felt like a mistake by 4 p.m. This, too, is totally normal and should not cause you shame or dismay. By all means analyze what went awry and consider how to change your next outfit for the better, but don’t beat yourself up over a day of frump or clash or over-accessorization. Bad outfits are as much a part of life as breathing, sleeping, changing seasons. And everyone in the world wears them occasionally.

I still strive for good hair and fabulous outfits, of course, but this mental and emotional shift has changed me. Now, when I glance in the mirror and see unfortunate things happening atop my head, I do my best to adjust my locks but I don’t freak out. When an outfit I thought was dynamite looks totally bizarre after a few hours’ wear, I make note of what’s wrong but I don’t berate myself. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone wears weird stuff. Everyone in this lovely world of ours has bad hair days. But luckily, the sun will rise again in the morning and we can have another go with the curling iron.

*Jaimie Juettner at TC2, by the way. Go see her. She’s completely amazing.

Image courtesy vagabondblogger | This piece first appeared on Huffington Post

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One Tool of Many

style collage

In my very first conversation with Carly, we talked about how some people scoff when we tell them what we do for a living. Writing about style, working with women on their wardrobes, and hiring yourself out for personal shopping strike many people as a shallow, frivolous, even extravagant group of activities. But just like me, Carly said she has gotten a hug from EVERY client she’s worked with because at the end of the session, that woman feels more confident, more stylish, and more like herself. That woman feels braver and more empowered. She has spent time and energy tackling an aspect of her self-presentation that she felt wasn’t quite right, and having done so has learned about her body and her self. We both agreed that we love our jobs because we help women feel like better, stronger versions of themselves. The fashion and style aspect is loads of fun, sure, but at the heart of the matter are self-esteem, pride, self-awareness, and security.

For me, doing this work has reinforced my belief that body knowledge gained through explorations of personal style can foster self-love and self-respect. I want to continue to have conversations about how style impacts body image, and how dressing well expresses self-respect and self-understanding. Because over the years, my own experiences and the input I’ve gotten from readers, clients, and students has shown me that style can be an important and valuable tool for cultivating self-love. A surprising and unexpected tool, in many cases, but often a remarkably effective one.

That said, I don’t think style is the magical body image cure-all for every woman currently walking the planet. I know that some women prefer to address their own body-related struggles through writing, discussion, reading, therapy, or more physical endeavors like yoga, strength training, or sports. Or through work and contemplation and activities that are so specific and personal that I couldn’t even begin to imagine or describe them. We are all unique individuals with unique needs and perspectives, and every one of us who battles with body image must choose her own path. The reason why I write about style is because my own journey involved using clothing to gain a better understanding of my body, and because changing how I dressed was the only thing I’d ever discovered that alleviated some of my own self-loathing. Dieting didn’t do it. Exercise didn’t do it. Ignoring my body and hiding it in big, oversized garments didn’t do it. Waiting to get older and hoping it would matter less didn’t do it. For me, it was style. And having had countless conversations with the women in my life about their own body image hangups, I determined that the more options we have for understanding, accepting, and feeling positively about our bodies, the better. The more tools we have in our self-love toolboxes, the better our chances of learning to love ourselves. Style is my chosen tool, and one that I like to encourage other women to consider using because it can have very quick, very tangible results. Because we have to get dressed anyway if we want to go out in public, and learning to do it in ways that bolster our confidence is a wise and valuable practice. Because you can change how you dress and shift your feelings about your body without actually changing anything about your body.

Style is the means through which I aim to help women heal their body images. Style is my chosen tool for confidence, empowerment, and understanding. I am fully aware that it is just one tool of many. But the way I see it, the fuller the toolbox, the more prepared the woman.

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