Posts Categorized: body image

Lessons From the Dressing Room: Try On EVERYTHING

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I’ve been thrifting since I was 13. Back then, I didn’t have a defined style and didn’t know much about my body so if I saw something that looked cool, I’d try it on. And I learned over time that clothing sizes are totally arbitrary, and sometimes a piece that says it’s three sizes too small or big will fit perfectly.

I’ve been shopping mall stores since high school. Early on I just went for the styles I saw my friends and peers wearing, but eventually I branched out. I played it safe for a while, but eventually started hauling unusual styles and cuts into the fitting room with me. Which yielded lots of duds and the occasional gem. I learned that some things look funky on the rack, and others may be designed far outside my comfort zone, but I’ll never really know how they look until I get them onto my actual body.

I’ve been shopping online since about six seconds after Zappos launched. The arbitrary sizing issue actually worked against me in this realm, especially initially when online clothing vendors were working out the kinks and didn’t always list garment measurements. But through gobs of trial and error, I learned how certain brands cut and fit, which materials felt best, which shapes and style suited me.

And now? Now I can look at a dress online and tell if the Designated Boob Room is too big, if the collar is gonna bug me, if the waistline is too low. (Usually.) Now I can grab a blouse from a thrift store rack and gauge whether or not it will fit, even if I can’t be 100% certain it will look good. Now I know which styles work for my figure, so when I’m out shopping I reach for styles that I’m not sure will work for my figure. And I learn.

The surface lesson here is simple: Try it on. Whatever it is, if you like it try it on. Trying on is free and you will occasionally find a brand or style that is unexpectedly amazing. When it comes to online shopping, stick to vendors that offer free shipping and returns at first so you can play around with sizing and cuts at low risk and with relatively little hassle. Be bold, make educated guesses, try on EVERYTHING. Because when you stick to what you know forever, you run the risk of stagnation. And because an understanding of your figure and its specific shape will help you make more informed shopping choices. And because every so often, you’ll unearth a style that you thought would look horrendous on you, but ends up making you feel like a goddess.

The deeper lesson here is this: You can learn some things about your body by looking at it in the mirror, using it for exercise or sex, listening to its needs and wants. But you can learn other things about your body by seeing how it interacts with clothes. You can learn about how your specific curves work and relate to each other, and which garments show them off or tone them down. You can learn where your waist is, whether you want to highlight it, and how to create illusions that move it up or down on your torso. You can learn what feels comfortable to you in fibers, structures, and designs and please your body by wearing comfortable clothes as often as you can. You can learn about your unique proportions, your distinct scale, you can learn about your body as it relates to itself instead of as it relates to the bodies of others. You can move away from generalities like big, petite, and curvy to hone in on a set of highly specific facts that apply to your body only.

Try on everything. See what you learn.

Image courtesy Orin Zebest

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for alreadypretty.com. See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details.

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Already Prettypoll: Makeup Preferences

For most of my life, I wore zero makeup and felt great. I never even bothered with tinted lip balm, though I did occasionally dab some cover-up on my zits. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve added more and more cosmetics to my daily routine. On a super casual day I’ll just fill my eyebrows a bit and use a bit of under-eye concealer. But most days I also do BB cream, blush, and some light lip color. And despite railing against daily eye makeup for ages, I’m doing a bit of mascara more days than not.

As happens to many people, I’ve come to feel more polished and pulled-together with a bit of makeup on. But I don’t really love wearing it. It makes me feel delicate and smear-able, especially since I have a habit of rubbing my eyes without thinking. If I’m home alone all day, I’ll skip the stuff altogether. But if I’m going out, I’ve started to feel obliged.

Where do you fall on the makeup-wearing gradient? Never wear it at all, wear it but grudgingly, wear it with neutral feelings, or love wearing it? If you are a makeup lover, did you start playing with cosmetics fairly early? (My impression is that most devotees were fascinated by makeup since childhood.) If you avoid it altogether, do you do so for health, political, ease, or other reasons?

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Age-appropriateness and Trusting Your Gut

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I don’t believe in hard and fast rules when it comes to age-appropriateness. I’ve written about how I believe it’s up to each individual woman to assess her situation, preferences, and comfort levels and make her own determinations.

But I’ll tell you something I’m starting to puzzle out for myself: In many cases, if you look at something and feel like it might be age-inappropriate, it probably is. For you as an individual anyway. Those gut feelings bubble to the surface for a reason, and you should feel free to trust them if age-appropriate dressing is a priority for you. Arbitrary rules laid down by style experts and magazine writers only apply if they resonate with you, and the opinions of friends and peers are worth considering but they are never gospel. How you feel about what you do and don’t want to wear is important and valid at all times. Including times when you’re sussing out which styles feel right for you to wear at a specific age or stage of life.

Now, following your instincts and jettisoning items that feel wrong for age-related reasons doesn’t mean that you can never wear anything fun again! It just means that if fit-and-flare dresses suddenly feel too young (like this one, which has bold pattern, bright colored accents, a short hem, and pronounced pleats), you can consider seeking out a variation on the shape/look that feels more toned-down and sophisticated (like this one, which is solid colored, in a dusty shade, has a longer hem, and has the same nipped shaping minus the pleats). When you come across an item that makes you wonder about age-appropriateness, try to identify the traits or features of a particular item that read as young* (pleats, stripes, etc.) and set your sights on a variation that lacks those traits.

I remember very clearly the day I opened up a drawer, looked at my blazing pink tights and thought, “I think I’m too old for those now.” No one had made fun of me for wearing them, and I would never have said or thought, “Everyone over the age of X is tool old for blazing pink tights.” But I knew in my gut it was true for me. And I haven’t longed to wear them since.

Are you pondering the age-appropriateness of any items in your wardrobe? Care to share which ones and why you feel they’re toeing the line?

*Or old. Age-appropriateness can swing both ways.

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for alreadypretty.com. See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details.

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