Posts Categorized: body image

Clothing Commentary

I’ve begun updating some of my greatest hits posts so they’re more current. This is one of them!

tiedye_outfit

This is my Audra Jean underbust harness. (That link is prolly not quite safe for work viewing …) I’ve had it for years, worn it in a variety of ways, and loved it all the while. It’s funky, badass, the perfect piece for bringing in a floaty A-line dress like this one, and a pleasure to wear. It is also a piece that some say has a design influenced by BDSM, and although I respect the BDSM community it’s not my scene and not why I like this harness belt.*

And no one has ever said anything nasty about it. Not directly to me, anyway. And I’m able to field whatever questions and opinions get thrown at me, no problem, because I’ve had years of practice and given it loads of thought.

But many readers and friends have mentioned that they love the idea of dressing smartly and stylishly – or even edgily and unusually – but worry about how peers will react. Specifically how often peers may comment upon or question any noticeable changes in personal style. So I thought I’d offer up a few suggestions for dealing with clothing and style commentary from your peer group.

Mentally prepare

If you’ve gone barefaced for 15 years and suddenly start wearing full makeup every day, people will likely notice and comment. If you’ve worn jeans or pants for ages and start bringing skirts and dresses into the mix, you might get a few questions. One reason why these inquiries feel difficult to handle is that they surprise us. Just knowing that your changes may prompt a few curious questions can help you feel more prepared to react and respond.

Role play

If you’re very anxious about how you might handle potential comments and questions, have a friend or loved one do some role playing with you. You can probably imagine most of the stuff that’ll come at you: “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you in slacks, Jane!” “Wow, new hair. Big change.” “You look so different!” “So dressed up. Going for an interview, or something?” Jot them down, and do a quick dialogue. You’ll be amazed by how this exercise will prime your mental/emotional pump for the real deal.

Have short and long responses

Even if the role playing thing seems a bit too in-depth, consider mapping out some potential replies to questions and comments. Different questions require different levels of response. You needn’t launch into your personal style journey or the decision-making process that led you to switch from heels to flats or long hair to short. Not with everyone. “Wow, new hair. Big change,” can get a simple, “Yeah, it is. I’m loving it!” On the other hand, “So dressed up. Going for an interview, or something?” might necessitate a bit more background. Something like, “Nope, just felt like it was time to mix up my personal style a bit. I’m having such fun with these changes!” Judge for yourself who merits a quick reply and who needs a deeper explanation.**

Give it two weeks

This nugget comes from the ever-wise Husband Mike. Several years ago, he decided to wear suits to his SUPER casual office. Every day. He wanted to make it his personal uniform. And, as you might expect, he got a stream of “job interview” jokes and curious comments. But they lasted for two weeks, then tapered, then stopped completely. Now, this will only help you if you’ve made a relatively drastic change and plan to stick with it consistently from here on out. If you wear the occasional foofy tulle skirt but generally stick to pencils and A-lines, that’s a different deal. But if you get a makeover, switch styles drastically overnight, dye or cut your hair, or do something similarly permanent, count on about two weeks of inquiries. Your peer group should acclimate by then. (Hopefully.)

Stay positive

I try so hard to assume the best about everyone, but I do feel that this kind of question/comment behavior requires some guardedness. If a coworker points out that you’ve changed your appearance and you shrink back in dismay or alarm, you’ve revealed a chink in your armor. If instincts kick in, your coworker may start asking more questions, or teasing, or prodding for more information. You made these changes because you wanted to, because doing so boosted your self-confidence, because you want to look and feel fabulous. Make sure to say so! If a fellow student saunters up to you and says, “Whoa. Why on EARTH are you wearing high heels to class?” say, “Because they make me feel gorgeous!” If your aunt says, “I wish you hadn’t cut off all your beautiful hair,” respond with, “Well, I did. And I think this new ‘do suits me perfectly!”

Of course, if someone is being rude to you, butting into your business, and commenting on your body, appearance, weight, or anything about your physical self, you always have the option to tell them to butt out and eff off. Your body, your business, PERIOD. However, you may reclaim some of your power by acknowledging their observation, owning it, and putting your own positive spin on it. When a person offers a negative or teasing comment on your appearance, they are likely trying to get a rise out of you. It’s classic bullying. Swearing, silent treatments, and rants can feel awesome. Denying a bully the satisfaction of an outraged or hurt response can feel even better.

Clothing, grooming, and appearance-related commentary is such a mixed bag. Compliments are like tiny little blessings, and can inspire unexpected joy. Comments and questions can cut both ways, and might make us feel scrutinized, judged, or targeted. But I hope that the possibility of generating curious queries won’t keep you from tweaking, finessing, or even completely changing your style or appearance. With a little bit of knowledge and foresight, you can field those questions with grace and aplomb.

*Think this is unusual or dishonest? Consider how many people own motorcycle jackets but not motorcycles, or how many wear cowboy boots but have never been near a ranch. Lots of task-specific or community-specific pieces end up in the fashion mainstream, and since Taylor Swift is a fan of harnesses, who knows? They might be next!

**If anyone. You have no obligation to explain yourself to anyone at all. But in terms of diplomacy, it’s often more advantageous to offer truthful information than withhold everything and let people make their own assumptions.

**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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Compassion for and Acceptance of Others

be kind

Buy this print from the artist here

The version of this quote I see most often is “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Truth, friends, truth. But this variant resonates with me even more because it speaks directly to the rift between observation and knowledge, underscores the fact that seeing a stranger’s outsides gives you virtually no information about that person’s inner life.

In this iteration, kindness for all is encouraged in the face of their unique unknowns.

I want you to feel good about yourself. If you’ve been reading this blog for more than five minutes, you probably knew that. Depending on how you’re wired, building confidence in and compassion for yourself may be an essential first step toward other personal growth. It’s complex and challenging for most humans to feel good about ourselves, and cultivating self-love, body acceptance, and inner confidence are worthwhile endeavors.

Recently, a few of you lovely readers have pointed out something else you’ve learned from visiting and reading here: To be less judgmental and more accepting of other women. By reading a variety of perspectives, seeing a variety of body shapes and sizes, considering commonalities and differences, you’ve seen how counterproductive it is to work on loving yourself while you continue snarking about everyone else. And this makes my little feminist soul brim with unadulterated joy.

Because it may seem like you’ve got to learn to love yourself first and worry about opening your mind to the diversity of the world later, but it needn’t be so. Compassion breeds compassion, and training yourself to eschew assumption in favor of acceptance will serve you well in all aspects of your life. Remembering that how other people look offers only a smidgen of information, remembering that how other people look is driven by forces you cannot see, remembering that how other people look has virtually no effect on you … these things help you foster empathy, open-mindedness, and humility. For yourself and everyone. We know nothing about the battles others fight, but we also know – deep down at gut-level – that ridiculing and scorning them is both unhelpful and unnecessary. Even if it’s something we do silently or out of earshot, what purpose does it serve? And wouldn’t cultivating kindness and graciousness toward everyone we see spill over into our feelings about ourselves?

Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe the work of learning to love and accept yourself, to treat your own body with respect and tenderness is exhausting and all-consuming. Maybe you’re hanging out at rock bottom just now and need to focus solely on yourself. And, of course, that is legitimate and important and a call that only you can make.

But if you’re a little further along in your body image journey, I’d encourage you to let your compassion spread its wings a bit. To look at other women and acknowledge that – no matter who they are or what they look like – they are embroiled in battles you know nothing about. To be accepting and welcoming and open and kind. Doing so cannot possibly hold you back in your own evolution, and may even accelerate your growth. Look at others with curiosity, neutrality, benevolence. Because doing battle is hard enough as it is.

**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. Sustainable options are either used, handmade, made in the U.S., artisan made in non-sweatshop conditions, or made using sustainable/fair trade practices.

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Body Stewardship

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The first time I heard anyone talk about stewardship it was in a discussion about the environment, and in this context it meant making careful decisions that would cause no further harm to our planet. The next time was at the university foundation where I worked, and in this context it meant strengthening relationships with donors by keeping them updated on projects they’d funded. Both of those are fairly big picture, and involve other people. But I’ve started to think about my relationship with my body as being a kind of stewardship, too.

At its root, the word means the activity of protecting, nurturing, and taking responsibility for something. I remember moving to Minneapolis and suddenly realizing that if I didn’t make a dentist appointment for myself, my teeth would never be cleaned again. My mom was no longer the steward of my health and body, so I had to step up. I had to take responsibility for my eating choices, my mental health, my skincare routine. I had to make sure I got enough sleep, got enough exercise, got enough water. And those nuts-and-bolts things have been easy to take care of ever since.

But when I think about body image, the meaning of stewardship shifts. Personally, I don’t find the the body love movement to be invasive or overreaching, but I know many do. And as a friend recently pointed out, asking someone – or many someones – to move directly from loathing and misery to love and celebration isn’t terribly reasonable. Asking someone to move from loathing and misery to neutrality and acceptance? A little less daunting. And I feel like adding the concept of stewardship to the neutrality/acceptance mix can be very beneficial.

Your body is you, so thinking of it as a thing that you care for is a little odd. But aside from instincts and reflexes, your mind does a lot of the driving when it comes to your body. And how you conceptualize your relationship with your body can have a huge impact on your overall well-being. Many people are apt to make demands of their bodies, express wishes or disappointment about their bodies, try to mould and shape and change their bodies. Many of us think of our bodies in terms of the things they aren’t and the things they can’t do. What if we focused on these ideas instead:

  • This is the only body you’ll get to inhabit. No trade-ins, no backs.
  • You’re in charge of your body. If you don’t care for it, no one will.
  • Protecting and nurturing your body benefits both physical and emotional health.

Your body is not a mass of flaws to be disguised, or a list of failures. Your body is not a burdensome receptacle for your brain and soul. Your body is not a lifelong improvement project. Your body is you. And even if you’re not ready to lavish yourself with love and affection, perhaps you could think about protecting, nurturing, and taking responsibility for the well-being of your body. Because even when it is frustrating, or confusing, or filled with aches and pains, it is still yours. You are the one and only person tasked with the stewardship of your body. It’s a lot of responsibility, but the payoff is worth it.

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This is a refreshed and revived post from the archive

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