Guest Post: A Year Without Mirrors

With thanks to Kjerstin (A Year Without Mirrors) for sharing this intriguing and very brave idea…!
* * *

Thanks, Mrs. Bossa, for this wonderful opportunity to write a guest post!

I’m a feminist fashionistette who once worked in corporate fashion, but was lured to graduate school by a passion for women’s issues.  These days I’m writing my dissertation about clothing size standards. Several months ago I decided to avoid mirrors for a year (while planning my October 1st wedding!), and I’ve been blogging about the experience at www.ayearwithoutmirrors.com.

My no-mirrors experiment was actually motivated by a fashion emergency: my growing anxiety over wedding dresses. I put a lot of pressure on myself to both (1) find the impossibly perfect wedding dress (ideally… modern-yet-traditional, flattering-yet-brave, luxuriously-yet-inexpensive, unique-yet-classic, etc. etc.), and (2) to look insanely gorgeous in said dress, once found.

At some point the search stopped being fun. I hated feeling vain, insecure, and indecisive.  Never one for subtle life-changes, I rejected these obsessions by rejecting my reflection.

I’ve always found pleasure in expressing myself through clothes. You may have noted above, my style is all about combining opposites. I revel in mixing bright colors with neutrals, feminine with masculine, flowing fabric with sleek lines, old with new, preppy with bohemian…. sometimes all at once!  Thus, it scared me to wonder if shunning mirrors might make life boring.

Thankfully, this hasn’t happened, but it’s taken careful strategizing and a few attitude adjustments.  Here they are.  (Note – you DO NOT need to abandon mirrors to try these things out, though it could be fun!)

1: Feel your fashion.

How many pretty-but-painful items line your closet? Instead of focusing on how good something looks on you, first figure out whether it feels good.  In the beginning, not being able to see myself felt like cruel sensory depravation.  Then I started focusing on senses other than just sight. This led me to try new styles, and to abandon trends that hurt.  My walking commute demanded solid, supportive (preppy!) boat-loafers instead of delicate uber-feminine flats.  High-rise, high-stretch (high-comfort) jeans now softly hug my tummy and hips instead of cutting off circulation at “muffin-top”.

2: Buddy system.

Focusing on feel does NOT mean abandoning style or flattering clothes.  (Hey, snuggies are comfy but lack that pleasing je ne sais quoi!) Once you find fashion that feels good, check with a trusted friend to make sure you look as good as you feel. It’s a simple as that.  (If you shop alone, consider staging a fashion show at home…or starting your own blog featuring your favorites!).

3: When in doubt, copy yourself!

Once you find something you love, get one in every color.  When faced with buying a new outfit for my wedding shower, I bought the EXACT same Rachel Roy dress that I’d worn for my engagement photos, but in a new fabrication (and at a steep discount!).

Since I’d purchased the first dress before my no-mirrors experiment, I knew it was flattering, and had fabulous photos as proof.

4: Abandon control.

Back to weddings…  I found my dress.  I bought it the day before I stopped looking in mirrors, and – to be honest – I really wasn’t sure about it.  It has ruching (I hate ruching), has uber-girly flower appliqués, (including one in the back that looks, to me, like a bunny-tail!), and it wasn’t made in a famous design house (I’d always fantasized about name-dropping a bit, if only to myself…).  But it felt comfortable, was clearly flattering, the price was right, and my mom got goose-bumps.

Buying my dress was a first step letting go of wedding style perfectionism and it felt great.  And now I’ll be completely reliant on others to help me navigate dress fittings, choose a veil, jewelry, lacy underthings, and shoes (not to mention the all-important old/new/borrowed/blue items). Others may disagree, but sometimes good enough has to be good enough.  Even on your wedding day (well, as long as we’re not talking about the groom!).

How would your life change if you avoided mirrors?

What tricks would you use to get you through?


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22 thoughts on “Guest Post: A Year Without Mirrors

  1. What a brave endeavor! I love the first tip on relying on your senses and not (only) your sight. You never really think of what impact living life without mirrors would be. I guess I would feel vulnerable at first, but quickly adapt. Then again it is just a guess. Hope you have a wonderful wedding day too.

  2. What an inspiring challenge. I know I put too much pressure on myself, and worry a lot about the way i look, i’m not happy with it, but i think that’s more me than to do with the actual way i look. If that makes sense. If I could do a challenge like this, maybe it would help me to take the pressure off.

  3. So brave, I dont think I could do a whole year with out mirrors! I love the concept though! It really should be about what you feel good in and not what you think you look good in, it should be both!!

  4. Nother fascinating post! I would definitely get ready much quicker in the morning if I didn’t have mirrors, but I would not feel 100% confident in case I had tucked my skirt in my knickers or something (I am completely paranoid about doing this). I agree it would take the pressure off though in some ways. Perhaps I should just spend less time looking in the mirror. I love the idea of copying yourself. When I find a colour that suits me I tend to buy more clothes in that colour.

  5. LOVE THIS POST! I like that there is a certain and different kind of honesty in your discovery.

    There is definitely a lot of focus on mirrors and image, especially from shows like “What Not to Wear”. Relying totally on how an outfit feels and understanding your body seems more complicated that it is. But sometimes when you have to go to those sample/warehouse sales, you are doing exactly that. And talk about exposed! Sometimes you are in a room with 20 other girls trying on a pile of clothing with no mirrors and only your friends and yourself to tell you if something fits well or not.

    xoxo
    Cyrillynn

    PS – Best Wishes on your upcoming nuptuals! 🙂

  6. Funny— I can totally get stuck in the mirror. Actually for me it is more like photos…. i will see a photo of myself and obsess over the things I don’t like. Not necessarily about me (I am okay with how I look!) but more so about the outfit I *thought* looked good…. these day I am much more intentional about the looks I choose and I stick with them!

    As far as my wedding dress was concerned. I am one of those people who found it on the first day. Yes, I had my doubts…. but in the end I couldn’t have been happier. And I went off a gut feeling of just feel self assured, easy, and dare I say, beautiful.

    • Alexis – thanks so much for your specific advice on wedding-day attire. With bridal magazines telling me that this is “the most important day of my life….” etc. etc. it’s great to hear from real women who have had more sane but still positive experiences!

      • I’ve been married for 20 very happy years, and I have to say, the wedding day is one of many important days, but not THE most important day. It’s a fun day, it’s a significant day, it’s a memorable day, but every day you spend with your loved one making a life together is really so much more important than that one day when you become married. So don’t let those magazines stress you out! I hope it’s a beautiful day for you and your beloved, the first of many beautiful, happy days together. Good luck with your no-mirror project.

  7. How wonderful to find you here. I would think that living without mirrors would cause us to change our relationships with other human beings–our true mirrors.

  8. Hey Terri! Long time no talk, eh? 🙂 Yes, living without mirrors has definitely shaped how I relate to people. I’ve developed more trust, and prioritize how I’m being treated over how I think I look!

  9. I’ve read that Jackie Onassis applied this same practice…buy it in every color. I would have to agree….when you find something that fits well and you really like it; make sure you have plenty of it!!! ~Serene

  10. Pingback: Lovely Links: July 15, 2011

  11. I guess if it has helped you stop obsessing so much it has really helped you. I dont have a full length mirror so I never actually know exactly what I look like – well I do have a full length mirror but some idiot put a desk in front of it. I have to do a kind of tribal dance to see my feet. I do have a few things the same but different colours, but I have to admit I find it takes some of the ‘special’ away from the original, I prefer my things to be unique. So, yes with regards to seeing my full outfit it is usually only after the blog photo is taken!

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