Posts Tagged: fashion

The Value of Dressing Your Today Body

Hi again! Re-posting here in case you’d like to comment, leaving previous version because I’ve tried a dozen things and can’t get the comments open, but several folks have linked back already. Thanks for your understanding!

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A girlfriend of mine has been unhappy with her body for … well, for as long as I’ve known her. She is one of the most naturally beautiful women I’ve ever known, and her generous, open, loving personality just serves to amplify the startling physical beauty that shines out from her silky hair, and ladylike hands, and creamy skin, and perfect-pout lips, and dive-into-me eyes. But she battles her body, and loses.

Constantly.

She adjusts her food intake, and then adjusts it some more. She tries meal schedules and diets and avoidance of certain foods. She counts calories. She exercises twice as much as me and twice as hard. She varies her workout routine, and monitors her heart rate to optimize her efforts, and pushes herself to her physical limits. And she stays the same shape and size, and she stays unhappy.

And while it doesn’t matter a whit to me if she gains weight steadily for the rest of her natural days, it drives her wild with frustration. And seeing that hurts my heart.

My girl constantly compliments me on my taste and style while simultaneously lamenting her own unsatisfying wardrobe. I’ve offered to shop with her countless times, but she always declines, saying she doesn’t want to invest in new clothes until she’s in a better place with her body. And for a while, I understood that. I’ve been there. I’ve shopped for a transitional body and been frustrated when I had to cast off newish duds after just a few wearings because they no longer fit.

But recently, I began to push harder and encourage her to get some outfits into rotation that work for her right now, at this weight and in this shape. And here’s why: Even if she finally hits on the magic combination of diet and exercise that allows her to smallen, why should she feel uncomfortable, uninspired, and unhappy with her appearance in the meantime? Wouldn’t it be possible to bring in a few key pieces – just a few – to make the rest of her wardrobe more flattering, functional, and fun? And what if she doesn’t change her waist size for another year or more? For five years? For ten? Will it have been worth it to feel frumpy and grumpy that whole time?

My weight and body configuration have shifted more times than I can count. (Or anyway more times than I can recount without boring you all into a stupor.) And the most important lesson I’ve learned from all those body shifts is this: Dressing for your today-body is a positive, empowering, and beneficial practice. Buying too-small clothes that you plan to fit into “someday” is ill-advised and seldom serves as the motivator you hope it will be. Wearing shoddily made or ancient or stopgap clothes until you’ve reached a different/better physical place just makes you impatient and uneasy while you’re working toward your goal. Dressing for a body you no longer have or don’t yet have encourages you to live in the past or future, and prevents you from enjoying the present. If your clothes do not fit the woman you are right now, maybe you should get rid of them and get some different ones.

Note that I did not say “new” ones. I recognize that anyone in the throes of a physical transition won’t want to max out her credit card on items that might get worn a single time. Exploring thrift, vintage, swap, and hand-me-down options for these purposes is a fantastic way to keep yourself looking and feeling great – even in transition – on a budget. If you don’t want to get new, get different.

I believe that part of learning to love yourself is learning to see yourself. And that means seeing yourself as you are right now, not as you hope to be in six months or as you used to be six months ago. And that can be so hard: Facing down the numbers on the scale, or the sizes on a rack of skirts at the Gap, or even just the mirror. The emotional effort it takes to see ourselves in our today-bodies can be tremendously draining,

I know. But there is real benefit to be gleaned from dressing your transitional body well. Looking good now can get you hooked on looking good: It can establish a habitual desire to feel awesome when confronted with a mirror, and can even fuel style and body-related goals. Even if your body is changing shape, you are likely to maintain the same basic proportions: The process of learning to dress your transitional body will provide knowledge about your figure that will carry over even if you shift again someday. But more than any of that, dressing in a way that flatters your figure right now will make you feel good RIGHT NOW. And you deserve that.

So what are you waiting for? Why are you dressing for a body you don’t have, and neglecting the beautiful one you’ve already got? Start dressing for your today-body, and worry about your tomorrow body … well, tomorrow.

Image courtesy Sodanie Chea

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The Value of Dressing Your Today Body

7084758597_964c44cf6f_z

A girlfriend of mine has been unhappy with her body for … well, for as long as I’ve known her. She is one of the most naturally beautiful women I’ve ever known, and her generous, open, loving personality just serves to amplify the startling physical beauty that shines out from her silky hair, and ladylike hands, and creamy skin, and perfect-pout lips, and dive-into-me eyes. But she battles her body, and loses.

Constantly.

She adjusts her food intake, and then adjusts it some more. She tries meal schedules and diets and avoidance of certain foods. She counts calories. She exercises twice as much as me and twice as hard. She varies her workout routine, and monitors her heart rate to optimize her efforts, and pushes herself to her physical limits. And she stays the same shape and size, and she stays unhappy.

And while it doesn’t matter a whit to me if she gains weight steadily for the rest of her natural days, it drives her wild with frustration. And seeing that hurts my heart.

My girl constantly compliments me on my taste and style while simultaneously lamenting her own unsatisfying wardrobe. I’ve offered to shop with her countless times, but she always declines, saying she doesn’t want to invest in new clothes until she’s in a better place with her body. And for a while, I understood that. I’ve been there. I’ve shopped for a transitional body and been frustrated when I had to cast off newish duds after just a few wearings because they no longer fit.

But recently, I began to push harder and encourage her to get some outfits into rotation that work for her right now, at this weight and in this shape. And here’s why: Even if she finally hits on the magic combination of diet and exercise that allows her to smallen, why should she feel uncomfortable, uninspired, and unhappy with her appearance in the meantime? Wouldn’t it be possible to bring in a few key pieces – just a few – to make the rest of her wardrobe more flattering, functional, and fun? And what if she doesn’t change her waist size for another year or more? For five years? For ten? Will it have been worth it to feel frumpy and grumpy that whole time?

My weight and body configuration have shifted more times than I can count. (Or anyway more times than I can recount without boring you all into a stupor.) And the most important lesson I’ve learned from all those body shifts is this: Dressing for your today-body is a positive, empowering, and beneficial practice. Buying too-small clothes that you plan to fit into “someday” is ill-advised and seldom serves as the motivator you hope it will be. Wearing shoddily made or ancient or stopgap clothes until you’ve reached a different/better physical place just makes you impatient and uneasy while you’re working toward your goal. Dressing for a body you no longer have or don’t yet have encourages you to live in the past or future, and prevents you from enjoying the present. If your clothes do not fit the woman you are right now, maybe you should get rid of them and get some different ones.

Note that I did not say “new” ones. I recognize that anyone in the throes of a physical transition won’t want to max out her credit card on items that might get worn a single time. Exploring thrift, vintage, swap, and hand-me-down options for these purposes is a fantastic way to keep yourself looking and feeling great – even in transition – on a budget. If you don’t want to get new, get different.

I believe that part of learning to love yourself is learning to see yourself. And that means seeing yourself as you are right now, not as you hope to be in six months or as you used to be six months ago. And that can be so hard: Facing down the numbers on the scale, or the sizes on a rack of skirts at the Gap, or even just the mirror. The emotional effort it takes to see ourselves in our today-bodies can be tremendously draining,

I know. But there is real benefit to be gleaned from dressing your transitional body well. Looking good now can get you hooked on looking good: It can establish a habitual desire to feel awesome when confronted with a mirror, and can even fuel style and body-related goals. Even if your body is changing shape, you are likely to maintain the same basic proportions: The process of learning to dress your transitional body will provide knowledge about your figure that will carry over even if you shift again someday. But more than any of that, dressing in a way that flatters your figure right now will make you feel good RIGHT NOW. And you deserve that.

So what are you waiting for? Why are you dressing for a body you don’t have, and neglecting the beautiful one you’ve already got? Start dressing for your today-body, and worry about your tomorrow body … well, tomorrow.

Image courtesy Sodanie Chea

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Picking Your Cold-weather Dressing Battles

Already Pretty outfit featuring striped dress, black cardigan, magenta tights, Rebecca Minkoff Logan, Gudrun Sjödén scarf

Lovely reader Mary e-mailed me lamenting the dearth of long-sleeved garments available today. I have DEFINITELY noticed that long sleeves are in short supply, especially when it comes to dresses but also among tops, many of which tend toward 3/4 instead of full sleeves. I know this irritates many of you readers, including plenty of folks who live in climates warmer than mine! I haven’t been able to find any research or confirmation, but my theory is that this shift to shorter or no sleeves is related to our country’s obsession with youth. Short-sleeved and sleeveless garments seem to be marketed to younger women who aren’t as self-conscious about their arms (supposedly). Older gals are left to either wear those same styles in hopes of emulating their younger counterparts, or scramble to find the limited sleeved options on the market. Mary pointed out that cost savings for the manufacturers may also factor in.

She went on to ask, “What do you suggest for a woman who wants to stay warm yet look good?”

Looking good is subjective and staying warm is relative, of course. In my experience, most women who lament winter dressing options do so because piling on loads of layers in order to keep your body warm adds bulk and volume to your outfits. Assuming this is the primary concern – balancing bodily warmth with visible bulk – I suggest you pick your cold-weather dressing battles.

Most humans have Cold Weather Weak Spots – body parts and areas that MUST be covered in order for the body to feel warm and comfortable. Common ones are hands, feet, and necks, but anything is fair game. In Mary’s case, she is hella warmer in actual long sleeves than 3/4 ones; She needs her arms covered to feel truly warm. In my case, it all comes down to my feet and neck. My legs don’t get terribly cold and my core is usually just fine so long as my extremities are covered. When my feet and neck are warm, most of the rest of me is just fine. So I’m totally willing to go out in a shortish skirt, 3/4-sleeve top, and tights so long as I’ve got warm boots and a scarf on. I will admit that I do frequently wear sleeveless dresses under my blazers and cardigans because they’re what I have on-hand, but also because my blazer sleeves fit better when I do. If I cover my neck and feet/ankles, I’m usually fine.

If, like Mary, your arms need to be covered to keep you truly warm, stick to full-sleeved blazers and sweaters and consider compromises elsewhere, like lower necklines or tights with skirts instead of pants. If your core needs to be covered and warm, go for warm, wooly sweaters but pair them with fitted bottoms like pencil skirts or slim-fitting jeans. If your lower half is the danger zone, wear longjohns and pants but try for a fitted blazer on top. The same principles apply here as do whenever you’re dealing with voluminous garments: If you do volume in one half of your body, do sleek in the other.

(An aside that has nothing to do with volume or proportion: Investing in fibers like silk and cashmere will definitely help. Both add minimal bulk and help you retain body heat better than cotton and poly blends, and are less itchy than wool. Possibly excepting merino, which can be pretty darned soft. But we’re mostly focused on coverage and balance, here, so you can read more about my fiber recommendations here.)

NOW. This is all fine and good so long as “cold weather” means “around 20 degrees or warmer,” at least in my case. My Cold Weather Weak Spots theory only holds true so long as it’s cold but not my-snot-has-frozen-inside-my-nostrils cold. If your climate regularly gets so cold that the weather gurus issue wind chill warnings OR if you are just plain freezing all winter long and being warm is your top priority, I suggest investing in a few Whatever Sweaters: Sweaters so big, thick, and warm that they can handle subzero temps. You can see mine here, here, and here. They are super bulky and super warm and I bust them out when temps hit the negative digits. (Most are foreign-born or handmade. Try Aran Sweater Market, Etsy, or Nordicstore if you can’t find anything locally.) You’ll notice that I still pair them with fitted bottoms – thick leggings, skinnies, and jeggings – and I definitely encourage you to do the same whenever possible. Whatever Sweaters can still work within the volume/sleekness balance principle. But if your legs need more coverage, go for it – jeans and silk longjohns make a great team.

Bottom line: If you’re miserable and freezing you won’t look your best no matter WHAT you’re wearing. If you can identify your Cold Weather Weak Spots and keep them covered while compromising elsewhere, do it. Pick your cold weather dressing battles. If it’s horrifyingly cold or you only feel comfortable when you’re encased in wool, silk, and loads of layers, that’s totally fine. Winter is hard enough to endure without suffering for fashion.

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How many of you can name your Cold Weather Weak Spots right off the bat? Does keeping them covered mean you can go with less coverage elsewhere? Or are you someone who needs loads of layers and coverage at all times? Other resources for truly warm winter sweaters or other garb? Do tell!

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