Back in June, I grabbed coffee with a friend I hadn’t spoken to in nearly ten years. We’d known each other since the third grade, and I was simply elated to have found her again after such a long separation. We caught each other up as best we could, and much of that catching-up involved me jawing extensively about this blog. Since she’d known me looooooong before I gave a hoot about color mixing or proportion or figure flattery, she asked, “How did you become interested in style, anyway?” And I found myself articulating something important that I’m not sure I’ve ever shared.
How did I become interested in clothes and fashion and style? Well, basically, I got tired of feeling like crap all the time.
I am, by nature, a person who seeks happiness. I prefer to cultivate positivity and live proactively than allow myself to wallow and atrophy. I’m a thinker AND a do-er, and most days I am the pilot of my own destiny. But in my early twenties, it dawned on me that I was pretty well satisfied with everything in my life except for my looks. The me that looked back from the mirror wasn’t the me I wanted or expected … but I had no clue how to change that. And it made me feel like crap.
I had fought with my weight since age ten, and eventually accepted that the more I dieted, the crappier I felt. So I embraced exercise and started actually being healthy instead of simply forcing my body into temporary slenderness. But even healthier, I STILL didn’t feel beautiful and powerful and positive about my looks. And I still had no clue how to change it, and this new level of powerlessness made me feel like crap with a side order of crap.
Quite by accident, I found myself leafing through a Boden catalog at a friend’s house one September evening. I’d never seen their stuff before, and was simply enchanted by the embellished skirts and retro-inspired dresses and punchy cardigans. As I drooled and flipped pages, I realized that the clothing designs I was admiring looked like a version of my own style that had grown up. The models looked like me, but sleeker, funkier, more pulled-together, more stylish. I was staring, slack-jawed, at images of how I wanted to look, now that I was an adult. And it didn’t look THAT hard to pull off. So I plunked down $80 for a skirt – the most I’d ever paid to date for an article of clothing – and entered a new phase of life.
I was on a mission, then. Officially. I began to amass wardrobe items that fit with my newly identified goal-image, and slowly discard my dour duds of years past. The cycle of compliments spurred me on: I wore something I liked, I received compliments and positive feedback, I felt good about my looks, and I wanted to look and feel that way EVERY day. I was well used to receiving compliments on my actions – my intelligence, writing, singing voice, problem-solving ability – but compliments on my physical appearance were brand spanking new. And it felt good to have my body recognized. It felt like a homecoming.
Once I’d figured out what types of clothing I liked, I naturally progressed to investigating which types of clothing liked me. No matter how big or small my butt became, it generally stayed in the same proportion to my waist and thighs, and I finally started to catalog which styles flattered my figure and which styles did not. And this! This was like slaying the nine-headed dragon and making it to the next level of the video game. Upgrading my clothes had been fun and was definitely an important first step, but it wasn’t until I began examining the interplay between my specific body and the clothes I wore that I began to feel beautiful and powerful and positive about my looks.
And I still feel like crap sometimes, as you all know. I still have my days, oh, do I ever. I still curse the mirror, and lament the fact that my favorite pants are too tight in the waist, and pout and whine and grumble. But now that I’ve found a balance between fitness and figure flattery, now that I’ve learned that clothes aren’t meant to “hide a multitude of sins” but instead “accentuate a multitude of glories,” now that I pay attention to my body and my clothes, I feel like crap WAY less.
And that’s what it’s all about. I don’t actually give a flying rat’s ankle about how I look. I JUST WANT TO FEEL GOOD. Not just sometimes, but the vast, vast majority of times. I like feeling good! I like it a lot. More than I like French fries and badgers and Eddie Izzard, even. And once I realized that it’s pretty damned difficult for me to look bad and feel good, and equally difficult for me to look good and feel bad … well, there was just no turning back.
Image courtesy Boden
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Originally posted 2009-07-21 05:51:00.