It is 2008. I am 20. I am in a dance class at my university.
For the class, we had to buy a large piece of traditional fabric and wrap it around ourselves in order to produce a semblance of a traditional garment. They only had one size. It cost $30 (in addition to the fees for the class). Mine is too small. Too small! After only one class wearing the sarong-like thing, I have big red marks all over my hips and waist from the fabric digging into my skin. It was barely staying on anyway, because I almost couldn’t tie it. At one point in the final part of class, it burst off and fluttered to the ground. I am distraught.
I am six feet, one inch tall. I am easily six inches (but probably more like eight) taller than each and every other woman in that class. I have a frame that is just larger than most. Even my bones wouldn’t fit into a size 0. I figure that there must be some way to make it right, to talk to the teacher, to adjust. I summon what little courage I have and walk up to the instructor after most other students have cleared out.
“Excuse me, is there any chance I could have a bigger size?” I gesture to my “garment.”
What happened next shocked me and has made me self-conscious of my belly and my size ever since. The instructor leans forward, shakes his head, presses two fingers into my stomach just above my navel. He says, “Diet.”
I started working through Thirty Pretty Projects last week, in the midst of a major style transition. I outlined some of my reasons for this undertaking on that post, and this week tried to dress with more care and record my efforts with a camera. It isn’t going superbly well. This semi-fail has nothing to do with Already Pretty! It has everything to do with me not realizing just how far my body and style issues have gotten out of hand.
Style is a direct reflection of how one sees oneself. I try to generally dress with care and to choose things that will look great on my body, whatever form within seven or so inches its currently deciding to take. I’ve struggled this week, quite a bit. On the very first day I realized that I feel incredibly insecure in front of a camera in my current body, much less sharing anything that camera produces with all you who follow this blog. I look uncomfortable in the photos. It’s very different from two years ago when I began this blog and posted once weekly about fashion. It’s been more than a few tears, and my wonderful boyfriend has been so supportive. I must really need this body and style overhaul!
Part of the Thirty Pretty Projects’ first week is to explore aspects of the body that I want to highlight and show off, and ones that I would like to downplay. A problem that I discovered is that generally all of my outfits do both at once. I’m not sure how to remedy this other than to experiment more. I’m not particularly good at dressing for summer heat. Two years without a summer in my early twenties saw to that. I prefer cool weather, covered up styles, and layering to make my lumps and bumps less apparent. Few of those are available to me when it’s 95 degrees outside.
I do have some things that I want to emphasize in my outfits. I found that it was harder to admit to having things I didn’t like, perhaps because I feel as though I’m failing somehow if I don’t have perfect body acceptance.
I swing between extremes in my self talk and thought processes about my own body. I think “Fat! Disgusting!” one moment and then “Oooh! Pretty, shiny eyes!” the next. I snark at my hips in the mirror at the yoga and then marvel at my waist two minutes later. It’s a bit like a body image personality disorder.
But I came out of this week trying to balance myself out and find the actual parts of my body that I want to emphasize, flaunt, and flatter! I also tried to pin down the actual aspects that I want to downplay, instead of just feeling “fat” or uncomfortable overall. Voilà!
Celebrate: Butt, ankles, wrists, waist to hip ratio, décolletage, neck, eyes, nose ring
Downplay: Belly, upper arms, boobs (size), thighs
One of my favourite intersections of my body/style is my nose ring. I’ve had it all of my adult life. It is unique, edgy. I like to use other silver-coloured jewelry to make it “pop” on my face. It feels like me, and when I had to remove it for work in Korea I felt like my face was naked. I love my big round butt. My hips and waist are an excellent .7 ratio, which some have argued is excellent for both attractiveness and fertility.
My neck is long and slender. My wrists and ankles are thin and taper nicely, perfect for emphasizing. There are so many good things to celebrate about my body. I need to make a list of them and keep them on my person for when I feel negativity creeping in.
I look a lot better in the pictures than I imagine myself looking. My perceptions about my style and my body are clearly out of whack, since the photos look fine! I need to work on my reactions to photography and the thoughts that come up for me each time. Why not celebrate how great my butt looks instead of how my arms look or how wide my boobs make my ribcage appear?
To my dismay, I found that my favourite garment of all, a dress from Modcloth that I bought for a friend’s wedding…no longer fits.
I can’t zip it up. My boobs and my waist have expanded past the point that the non-stretch fabric can take. I cried. I’m not certain that I’ll be able to get rid of the dress or replace it with a new one, especially because my body may readjust and thin down next year while I live in London. For now, the dress did me a favour. It made me realise that many of my clothes actually *can* be purged. I have a lot of clothing, but little that reflects my current style and less that fits my current body. I’m gaining weight still, but I can’t put my finger on why or how. I’m doing hot yoga three times a week. I’m getting acupuncture. I’ve even been dieting. It seems like my body just wants to be bigger right now, and no amount of effort is going to change it. I can still do all of this for my health and my sanity, but I have to stop trying to force my body to be smaller.
I need more clothes that emphasise the right things about my chest, not just the size. I need bras that support and push the girls together, not apart. I need ways to make my waist look smaller but camoflague my tummy. I need more polished-looking clothes, with structure. I need more matchable things. I may need a new nose ring, as mine is a little misshapen from seven years of wear. I need to either mend or get rid of the many garments I have and wear that have large holes in them.
At the end of the first week, I feel frustrated but like I may be slowly wandering toward a better me. Check back next week for more updates and photos!
And a special thank you to Sally McGraw at Already Pretty for creating these projects! You can get our own copy here for only $5!