New Name and a Dress: your most important relationship…?

I’m at the stage in my life when all my friends seem to be having kids and/or getting married. I’ve been to three weddings in the last month.

Watching these celebrations of relationships,  I’ve become aware of my own relationship… with my body. Are we destined for a happy life together? Let’s see… In preparation for these recent weddings, I have:

  1. stopped eating bread
  2. drunk Puritee every night for a month in an attempt to trick my metabolism
  3. eaten meals off a side plate to cut down my portion sizes
  4. lived off Special K for a week
  5. Eaten nothing but protein for a four day stretch

Is that nice? I think not. In fact, if my bod was a child, I’d be in trouble for maltreatment. Seeing my dieting attempts in black and white makes me think it’s all a bit, you know, crazy. And why have I bullied my body this way? I think you can guess: so I wouldn’t feel upset when I saw the wedding photos.

When I first heard about one wedding, I was feeling brave and bought a lovely outfit: champagne pleated skirt, red silk t-shirt, knockout gold wedges. I want to look fabulous, I said to myself in an encouraging fashion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

So why did I end up in a floor-length dress and cardigan? Because I couldn’t face catching a glimpse of my upper arms in a mirror. I punished my body for not losing weight, and hid it in fine knits.

I was bridesmaid at another, and bought a very slinky purple number – my derrière got some attention, let me tell you.

 Your curves look great in this, I told myself. But even after the Special K and the waist cincher, the day of the wedding found me sobbing about my side view. What’s wrong with this picture…?!

This sounds terribly self-absorbed. Weddings are about other people, after all; I know it ain’t all about me! But there’s something about weddings – including the sheer amount of photographs – that ups the ante. We women put more pressure on our bodies to be thinner or more tanned. Ever burst into tears trying to pick an outfit for a night out? Blamed your body because a dress wouldn’t fit right? Well, chuck in a bride, a groom, and a four-tier cake and that feeling is magnified ten-fold.

As someone who blogs about fashion, I feel I should be positive about my body – show it off and big it up. I just find that really hard. Pearl W was teasing me the other day about the fact I used to leave my head off blog photos:

Baby steps! I’m not saying it’s right to feel this way – it strikes me as really sad – but I know I’m not alone. A lot of us have complex relationships with our bodies, often starving them, depriving them, resenting them and hating them. Would we ever treat someone else like that? I doubt it.

Of course, it doesn’t help that we can’t move for media-proffered diet tips. Even Kate Middleton was rumoured to be on the Dukan Diet in the run-up to her wedding, and not a day goes by without someone somewhere commenting on her weight. (It’s that she’s “too thin”, but the emphasis is still on her size, no? All she’s done is pre-empt criticism that she needed to drop a few pounds.) I see the whole Kate phenomenon as emblematic of what many of us women feel – that eyes are on our bodies, judging. And that losing weight for a wedding should a given, whatever it takes.

 

I wanted this to be a chipper post, I really did, but it’s been on my mind lately and I’d love your feedback. Last night, Claire tweeted something in response to a convo about weight loss that gave me a slap round the face:

 

She’s dead right, as I’m sure you know: forcing your body to change isn’t always the answer – accepting yourself should be.

Christopher Hitchens said, “We don’t have bodies; we are bodies”, and I can’t help thinking that sentence holds the key to it all:  if I started thinking of my body as my self, rather than something that I own, I might be a little kinder and more forgiving – impending nuptials or no.

So, where does that leave me? Weddings are lovely, of course, but to quote Samantha Jones:

“I’ve been in a relationship with myself for…years and that’s the one I need to work on”.

After all, we’re together now, for better or for worse…

 

What kind of relationship do you have with your body?

What tips have you got for those who need to work on it?

 

This post is one of a series of monthly posts by the Feminist Fashion Bloggers.
Read the rest of the ‘Dating and Relationships’ roundup here.
Join the discussion in the Google group here.

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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?


What Have the Feminist Fashion Bloggers Been up to?

The Circus, 1870-1950 by TASCHEN

Edited by Franca from Oranges and Apples.

In a new series on Feminist Fashion Bloggers, we are compiling posts that weren’t produced as part of the FFB themes/topic prompts, but sit along the intersection of fashion, body image and feminism. Some but not all the posts were written by FFB members, and some were put forward by the authors, while some were nominated by others.

The range of the various posts is wide ranging and thought provoking as usual! There’s posts about the socially accepted rules of dressing, including dressing to hide one’s perceived flaws, dressing sexily, dressing modestly, dressing at costuming events, dressing while pregnant, the perennial problem with the phrase ‘real women’, perceptions of fat people and tattoos and Niqabs, and girls’ desire for Barbies.

Enjoy!

The Alt Librarian“You Were So Pretty Before”: Gender and its Implications within Modern American Tattoo Culture (submitted by Millie of Interrobangs Anonymous)

Beauty SchooledEnough with the fat hate (submitted by Autumn at the Beheld)

The BeheldMy First Barbie (submitted by Mrs Bossa)

Decoding DressFiguring out Sexy Part 1 and Part 2 (nominated by Autumn at the Beheld)

Hugo Schwyzer“Your body is not so powerful it can drive others to distraction”: a letter to a teenage girl about clothing, modesty, and Slutwalk (submitted by the Beheld – and again by Franca)

Knitting up the ravelled sleeve of careImperfections

Mrs. Bossa Does the DoDressing for your shape part 1, part 2 and part 3 (submitted by finder extraordinaire of many great reads Autumn at the Beheld)

Tea and FeathersAll together now: we are all real (submitted by Sadie at Knitting up the ravelled sleeve of care)

One Techies Search for Something Resembling StyleFollow Up: Feminism and the Slave Leia Costume

Oranges and ApplesDressing Pregnant Bodies

Lids, Sewn ShutNiqab: Just a piece of cloth (submitted by Millie of Interrobangs Anonymous)

Dressing for Your Shape #3

Fancy a bit of shameless and infectious inspiration? Well you’ve come to the right place today!

One thing struck me when I read the comments on Dressing for Your Shape #1: everyone was aware of ‘guidelines’, even if they chose not to stick to them. Let’s face it, for every few days when you feel like flaunting your waist, there are others when you torch the rulebook and wear whatever the hell you feel like. It’s as it should be.

Hourglasses don’t have the monopoly on feeling happy!

"So if I squeeze myself into these babies, I'll have untold happiness...?"

 

The response to that post was amazing – lots of people chipped in, not everyone agreed…but all of them had valid points to make. So for the final part of ‘Dressing for Your Shape’ – and as part of our journey of self-acceptance – I want to introduce you to some of the the lovely folks who had something inspiring to say. Some thought you should “follow the rules”, some said “f*** ’em!”, and for some it’s merely an ongoing flirtation, but they all had one thing in common – these, their  favourite outfits, made them feel fun, free…and sometimes even fabulous.

Whose opinions do you agree with?

What is your go-to ‘feel fabulous’ outfit?

 

Let me (and them) know in the comments – and click the images to visit their blogs…

 

 

Read Dressing for Your Shape #1

Read Dressing for Your Shape #2

Dressing for Your Shape #2

So…do you dress by the rules?

I do – most of the time. I don’t always know I’m doing it, but by god they’ve gotten under my skin.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll put thought into your outfits: whether you’re going for comfort, sex appeal, professionalism or kookiness, you’ll have an idea about heel height, silhouette or accessories. On the other hand, you’ll just be drawn to certain types of items: you simply can’t resist the drape of a pleated skirt or an animal print harem pant – and if you have to stick two fingers up at the rulebook, then so be it.

"Rules?! What rules?!"

I for one thought there was no rhyme or reason to my more daring outfits (and I use ‘daring’ in the loosest possible terms – I ain’t no Agyness Deyn), but was intrigued to learn otherwise. Being a total geek (and a narcissist, apparently) I asked Steph from the Dashing Eccentric to give her opinion on my fave outfits using her outfit analysis checklist, which she tends to use in the following way:

“I analyze a look of mine that I really like, and come up with my ‘rule’ from the results. Then I use this ‘recipe’ to shop my closet for new looks that have a similar underlying structure… looking at my wardrobe in a new way often results in new, great looks which have nothing to do with my ‘recipe’ – this process sparks creativity.”

Riding on the success of my jumpsuit experiment, I emailed her my post on how Marni helped me find my fashion formula. You can read her full post on my outfit here: Mrs Bossa Gets it Done – let her know what you think!

Faux pas #1: rolled-up trousers on a short person: rather than an unflattering decision for my legs, Steph reads it as a way of toying with silhouette:

"Just a little to the side of a 'classic' fit/silhouette, with certain unexpected details in where hems hit... trousers are rolled into cuffs, even though they're being worn with socks."

This would also explain my love of ankle boots with dresses, and of long long gloves with cropped sleeves.

And on the subject of socks: Faux pas #2: socks with sandals: whereas Trinny and Susannah would screech in horror at such a thing, it can actually make a more positive statement:

"The accessories all have a geometric feel...The pointy triangles on the sandals are made emphatic by wearing a contrasting sock underneath."

Yay me! And the sock success – should that be socksess?! – continues with Faux pas #3: knee socks on a 30 year-old:

"Wearing nubby socks instead of hose, leaving a gap between hem and sock - these are the touches that set these looks apart from the ordinary."

Who knew that a flash of shin could tip the balance?!

Faux pas #4: Chunky necklace and high neck on a top-heavy lady: Those two would rip off the jewellery and have me in a v-neck tout de suite. However, Steph thinks it’s quirky…

"Joanna uses another quirky strategy for creating the 'background' in her skirt look, by 'backgrounding' pieces which are generally highlighted in outfits, ie black necklace on black sweater."

My silhouette may be more ‘classic’ or rules aware, but my accessorising has made just that tiny bit of difference.

As I’ve said, my ‘rule-breaking’ is very gentle – there are far wilder dressers out there – but the crucial element to any outfit is comfort. I don’t mean pyjamas win hands down, but I do mean you can only wear what you love and feel good in. Some people’s rule-breaking will involve neon or spray-on leather, but I feel my own little touches – a rolled hem, a pair of knee socks, a carefully-chosen necklace – inject that essential sense of ‘me’ into what I wear.

So what’s my point? My point is: pick and choose your rules. If you’re going to use them, make them work for you.

How do you ‘break’ the rules?

What are the little touches that make a outfit ‘you’?

 

Look out for part 3 – fabulous outfits from fabulous ladies…and what they think of ‘dressing for your shape’…

Recommended blog posts:

Mrs Bossa Does the Do: Dressing for Your Shape #1 and Dressing for Your Shape #3

The Styling Dutchman: You Can’t Argue with Taste

Arash Mazinani: My Beef with Body Shapes

By Anika: Who Gets to Label Me and my Worth? I Do!

Dressing for Your Shape #1

Check out my latest charity shop bargain. It ain’t silk, but it looks like it, and I love the pattern. Isn’t it lovely?

When I first saw this pretty thing on the rail, I assumed it was vintage. Turns out it is one of the dresses designed by Trinny and Susannah. For those of you who aren’t aware of this bossy pair of stylists, T+S have have produced several books and TV programmes, all with the focus on dressing ‘real women’. Programmes usually began with them making a woman stand in front of a mirror in her underwear, pointing out her flaws but getting her to admit if she has “great tits” or a “good arse”. Brutal, yet popular.  Their key message was to ‘dress for your shape’, highlighting your best features and de-emphasising the less attractive ones. They went on to design a range of dresses:

A selection of their range - it's all about the curves, ladies!

Their most recent book, The Body Shape Bible, categorises women into 12 shapes; going beyond hourglass/pear/apple etc. (though they feature) to include ‘column’, ‘lollipop’, ‘goblet’…and the flatteringly-named ‘brick’. They then tell you how to dress for that shape, with emphasis on creating curves where there aren’t any, or enhancing the ones that are hidden under baggy clothing.

I've yet to decide which shape I am...

Dissecting 'The Brick'...

Dressing 'The Brick'...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking at the dress, it was definitely designed to emphasise the waist, widen the hips and display the breasts (when I tried it on my mum rolled her eyes and said, “your boobs…”). I’d love to know which of their shapes it was intended for – I suspect someone a little straighter than me…

Excuse the picture - I couldn't find the tripod...

Hm. I suspect fake tan would play a part in my makeover.


I’m always ambivalent about the idea of  ‘dressing for your shape’ – on the one hand I want to feel good in what I wear, and on the other hand I resent being limited by a neckline or sleeve length. Watching some of their programmes, though – rightly or wrongly – I realise I have absorbed quite a few of their ‘rules’, eg:

1. v-neck/wrap tops minimise big breasts – avoid polonecks and crew necks at all costs!

2. large rings make fingers appear more dainty

3. ankle straps truncate your legs

4. 3/4 length sleeves show off the wrist, the slimmest part of the arm

5. baggy clothes make curvy women look like sacks of potatoes

Contrary to popular belief, none of my oversized rings contain sleeping draught.

Some of us like dressing by the rules more than others, but prescriptive or not, T+S seem to have helped women rediscover a happiness with their bodies. Many of us feel horrified when we look at photographs of ourselves, but their philosophy takes this one step further; you may feel knocked down, but you then have to build yourself up again – and this is a crucial step that many body-conscious types miss out.

What do you think about this?

Should we dress to flatter our shapes?

What rules do you abide by?

 

Read Dressing for Your Shape #2

Read Dressing for Your Shape #3

 

Please note: my url is now: www.mrsbossadoesthedo.com
RSS feeds should have been updated, but remember to change your blogroll!

Just Seeing Me…

I’ve decided not to partake in the Friend Friday Blog Award Nominations (gee, I love a catchy opening sentence…). Not because I don’t want to give anyone credit – quite the opposite. I mulled over it for ages – and was certainly not short of ideas for nominations – but decided in the end that I wasn’t comfortable specifying names when the blogging world is an embarrassment of writing talent riches.

(Stop shouting “cop out”! I’m trying to be sincere here.)

Instead, I wanted to tip my hat to all of you who commented on last week’s body image post. Bizarrely (and rather naïvely), I expected to read a ton of light-hearted but earnest Friend Friday posts from self-conscious bloggers who found being photographed a chore – as I do. I couldn’t believe it when I read post after post that at best was body-loving, or at least body-accepting. It felt like turning up to a party in a sexy bunny outfit and discovering it wasn’t fancy dress. Or sliding down a fireman’s pole and showing my underwear. Either way, you get the Bridget Jones imagery.

“What do you mean, you don’t hate your bottom?!”
After reading 10 Friend Friday body image posts I started to feel very emotional; after 15 I had to make myself a strong cup of tea to sort myself out. I was amazed at how it stirred up all sorts of feelings and insecurities about my self-image.

A few hours later (armed with another strong brew) I read the comments on my own post. They varied from the comical response to me cropping off my head in all my photos:

PEARL
See, the redhead is for blogging. You should see the one I wear for reeling in the boys.
…to the reassurance of those who understood:

VESHOEVIUS

From the philosophical:

KATE @ MAKE DO STYLE

…to the encouraging:

FOREST CITY FASHIONISTA
…to the downright affecting:


I had a bit of an epiphany, if you like. I’ll be honest with you, comrades- and lord knows this ain’t easy to admit – but I went through the gamut of emotions that day. I felt like I got so much from my friends, from other posts, and the input on my own post. The whole thing shook me up, in a good way. The most surprising vibe I got was the idea of ‘facing my fear’, i.e., posting more pictures of myself, not less; I assumed that happiness would come from avoidance, rather than acceptance…but you all taught me a valuable lesson that day. Even hearing that bloggers tooks lots of photos to get the right one – that was a revelation!!

“I’ve either got body dismorphia, or a seriously warped mirror…”
In my original post, I quoted John Berger, who said that ‘women watch themselves being looked at‘, and there is a large amount of truth in that, particularly for me. I realised I’d stopped valuing myself for what I was doing, or who I was, and started judging myself on my looks, my wardrobe, how many times I wore high heels. Suddenly fifteen plus women were telling me to ‘let it go’, and it had a powerful effect. The truth is, it shouldn’t necessarily be our goal to love every bit of our bodies…but to not let it get in the way if we don’t.

So: a big thank you to all of you who commented on that post. Allow me a moment of sincerity to say I was a little overwhelmed. A small comment from you meant a lot to me. I’m on the up now, folks!

And so, inspired by you: an outfit post – complete with head (my very own). I didn’t even put any make-up on it, or nuffin’.

M&S coat, Topshop jumper, H&M skirt, Primark boots
It feels quite strange even posting that – one photo of me, today (in what could be considered an homage to Franca, the colour guru). You daily outfit-posters and photogenic types are just going to have to trust me when I say it’s a big deal for me.

I’ll leave you with part of Fashion for Giants’ comment, which I think puts it all in perspective:


Amen to that. So thanks, all. You’re real pals. 

And you’ll be sick of my face come June.