For years, I would find myself skipping over the sections in magazines that explained your body shape and how to dress for it. Are you an Apple? Pear? Or Diamond? What if you were a little bit of apple and pear with a hint of diamond? I have never able to relate. But this bothered me because I really wanted the tips.
I revisited this idea recently to see if my perspective or body has changed. I still don’t fall neatly into a category. But something did change. There was a comfort in knowing I wasn’t boxed into a style or color category. Instead, I gained confidence knowing how to choose what is right for me, regardless of what the guides say.
Let’s be clear: I don’t have anything against these guides because that’s just what they are; guides. I don’t think they are meant to be taken literally and often times some of the tips are actually very helpful if you are able to translate it properly to your own body. Sometimes I’m like “hell yeah, chart, you were so right,” and other times they completely miss the mark. For example, I don’t think women should follow the rule of loose fitting clothing to “hide their fullness” and completely agree with the charts that tell you to embrace prints, wear fitted clothing and gasp! accentuate your full body with a wrap dress.
I think the key is not to put ourselves in a specific category all the time. It’s important to try not to completely eliminate a style because these guides or Pinterest tells us so.
The thing is, I’m wearing the biggest size since college. I’m not at my thinnest and have a good 30 pounds to lose before I’m actually healthy again. So I’m certainly not completely at peace with my body. Through trial and some terrifying errors though, I’ve been able to gain the confidence and comfort in knowing how to choose what’s right for me.
If I had to strip it all down to the basics, it came down to this:
Trying things and not being afraid to fail at them:
First I made a conscious effort to note what I’ve personally found works and doesn’t work for my body. This meant being totally honest with myself about my comfort level and build. I’m short, curvy in some places, small boned in other areas, and my weight has fluctuated pretty drastically over the last decade. Being honest with myself eliminated the stress of trying to squeeze into a junior’s top when I really wasn’t a junior’s size.
Practice, Practice, Practice
How do you get good at anything? You practice till you get it right. Comfort and style don’t just happen, it takes a little effort. This meant spending a lot of time trying on clothes and returning things at the store and being okay with that. Wouldn’t it be nice if we were all stylists and this all came naturally to us? Instead, I sought inspiration everywhere and spent time in my closet putting things together.
Evaluate your progress.
I took pictures of my outfits and evaluate them (and still do). I send pictures to my sisters and ask questions. And even more effectively, I actually write down what I liked and didn’t like after a long day in an outfit so I can remember how and why I felt about something. The days I found myself physically uncomfortable in something even though it was trendy or cute, I made note so the next time I cleaned out my closet or re-evaluated my wardrobe, I remembered how I felt in that outfit.
And most importantly, I stopped feeling pressured to wear something I really didn’t want to wear deep down inside.
For example, I realized that ankle pants make me look more streamlined, rolling up my sleeves makes me feel comfortable because the sleeves are always way too long. Though I’m not supposed to emphasize my mid-section and bottom half, I actually love printed skirts and adore fitted midi dresses. I feel beautiful in off-the-shoulder clothing and cropped jackets seem to work for me. I’m also not supposed to wear wide-leg jeans but will never get rid of my $5 find. I don’t feel comfortable in fitted tops and prefer flowy ones for practical reasons. And the list goes on…
However, With all that said, it’s also very important to keep an open mind to branch out, at least once. I always tell my clients at our Goodwill personal thrift style sessions to be open to at least one new thing. If you feel awful in it, then you can at least say you tried it on and gave it a shot. You’d be surprised at what you find. I used to always skip over fitted dresses because style guides say I shouldn’t dare wear dresses that hug my body because of my not-so-flat midsection. But I feel confident as ever in a fitted dress.
How has this helped me?
I’ve been able to save money knowing that a certain style doesn’t work for me and I stopped forcing things to work. Shopping and getting dressed has gotten so much easier over the last ten years.
I’ve spent a lot of time and money on trends (ex. faux leather leggings) because I really liked the idea of them and loved the way they looked on other people. But the reality was they didn’t work for me – and not because these charts told me they weren’t for me, but because I felt uncomfortable and unproductive in them. I don’t feel comfortable in shorts because they just ride up and I get tired of pulling them down all day. I think stilettos are classic and timeless but find them extremely impractical and uncomfortable and would rather rock a stacked heel or wedge all day.
To me, style and dressing for your body boils down to two things: comfort and confidence. If you don’t feel comfortable in your clothes, it’s going to show. And if you feel good in your clothes, it’s also going to show. And confidence is contagious as hell so let’s all start spreading it around.