A Lifetime Of Style Rules…
Style, to me, has always been about more than just putting on clothes. It’s a way to express who I want to be on any given day, and a way to understand myself better. But it hasn’t always been a straightforward path. Even at my thinnest, I’ve always had a body that felt hard to dress. I’m quite short, broad-shouldered, big-busted, short-waisted, and softer-contoured. I’ve often joked that if I only wore what “works for my body,” I’d have a wardrobe full of fit-and-flare dresses with sleeves.
Between family, friends, and media I learned early on that there was only one “right” type of body: a very thin and angular one. I also learned early that the goal of dressing was making my short, round body look more thin and angular, less…wrong. “Slimming” was the main criteria when it came to selecting clothing. There were many other style rules, but that was always the overriding one.
I’m guessing I’m not alone in this. I think many of us have absorbed the message that “clothes look better on tall, thin women.” Part of the problem is that for years, those were the only bodies we’ve seen clothing displayed on. Another is that modern, mass-produced clothing often isn’t designed well for bodies with contours. (For a deeper dive into cultural imperatives about women’s bodies from a feminist perspective, check out Susan Bordo’s Unbearable Weight or Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth.)
Perhaps it was the same for you, or you learned other style rules that have made you hesitate to wear something you love or try a new color or silhouette. We are bombarded with “rules” about how to dress for our body shape or coloring or age. It can be hard to remember that they’re just suggestions, not laws.
Challenging Old Beliefs
You’d think after all of these years of rumination and declaration, I’d have let go of this by now. On a purely intellectual level, I have. But it’s been hard to purge those old enemy outposts in my head that slam the gates shut on any style that doesn’t meet the standard of “slimming.” That vestigial belief was keeping me stuck and often holding me back from wearing or even trying clothes that I otherwise loved.
In recent months, I’ve made a concerted effort to challenge that thinking. My body is not wrong, I remind myself. Sometimes it works. And I focus more on how a garment makes me feel when I’m wearing it. Color, the way something moves, how it reflects the personality of the wearer…all of these factor into whether something is “flattering” or not, and I’ve been trying to focus on these aspects more. I’m still paying attention to proportion and fit, however, maybe even more so now. I’ve been investing the time and money to get things altered if needed, and finding that it can make all the difference.
I’ve been saying for years that I want to have more FUN with style, and to do so I’ve needed to loosen the reins a little bit. If something doesn’t make me look taller and thinner, so be it. That’s no longer automatically disqualifying.
Top photo: this pink haori isn’t a particularly figure-flattering piece, but I feel fabulous wearing it. Outfit details HERE.
What old rules or beliefs have you learned to let go of in order to more fully express your style?