I’ve written before about how a pair of gym leggings completely changed how I felt about my body – just a few months after having Rufus in 2016. The ability to cover and smooth some of my ‘imperfections’ was enough for me to step out with confidence that day and really start to accept – and love - the body that lay beneath. This started my journey to find comfortable and flattering clothes that made me feel good about myself – and didn’t cut me in half across the middle (and who wants to feel like that….?) It’s still a work in progress I’d say but living with a capsule wardrobe has helped to focus my mind on only buying flattering clothes that I love.
Clever dressing changes your body shape
I have always had a paranoia about my ‘broad shoulders’ (thanks to an unkind comment at University that has stayed with me since…why do people do that? 😡). And also a tendency to put weight on my stomach if I was going to put it on anywhere. This isn’t what the media portray as the ‘perfect’ body image (you know…the hourglass version that feels impossible for someone like me to achieve. Well, it is impossible as that’s not how I’m made). Anyway, I spent a lot of my 20s wanting to build up my bottom and hips to balance my shoulders and also to flatten my stomach. A lot of wasted time and energy – bursts at the gym, different ways of eating. Neither of which lasted very long as I loooove food and whilst I like to be active, give me the choice of a cup of tea and cake on the sofa and it’ll win out every time. So…the thing I discovered through clever dressing is that it can ‘change’ how your body shape appears. My shoulders have actually become really quite useful in acting as a frame to hang tops off that can then skim over my tummy. It creates an illusion that is rather clever. I have found that that paired with a pair of good (high waisted) stretchy jeans (just enough stretch…not too much) it creates my ‘go to’ outfit for giving me confidence in how I look. My tummy will never be the same after having Rufus but dressing a different way has really helped me to accept how I feel about that (as well as the fact that it’s an awesome trade off 😀)
Finding ‘your’ styles
Finding the styles that suit your body shape can be a bit of a challenge – mainly because we try an array of different shapes on and expect them all to suit us. That’s just not possible! It then feels like we’re at fault but really, we’re just choosing a style that doesn’t make the best of our features. This has a lot to do with how people can feel so cr*p on a shopping trip – we tend to have high expectations that everything should suit us and if it doesn’t, we blame our bodies and not the cut / style of the garment (or even the poor manufacture….). The cut out shoulder style for example – of course I could have worn that if I’d wanted to (anyone should be able to wear anything if they like it) but I knew it would not suit me at all and wouldn’t make me feel that great about myself. Learning what styles work well for you is key in how you see your body in clothes.
Going up a dress size
The label doesn’t matter. I no longer think about the dress size – it’s how something makes me look and feel. Manufacturers are notorious for cutting clothes to different measurements and labelling them standard high street sizes (again, an example of us believing we should be able to put on our ‘size’ and it fit us – if it doesn’t, we’re to ‘blame’). I generally range across 3 dress sizes depending on the brand. Once I’d got over my hang up on what the label says, it opened up a world of more comfortable and flattering dressing.
The better you feel, the better you look….the better you feel, the better you look. Finding clothes that are always going to make you feel good means that I don’t have many ‘bad’ days body-wise or clothes-wise anymore. I no longer have the dilemma of not knowing what to wear and nothing looking right. This is another reason why the capsule wardrobe works so well for me – I’ve been able to invest in clothing that costs more than I’d have previously spent and therefore they’re generally cut really well, made of good quality fabrics that hang nicely and don’t cling anywhere I don’t want them to! Sorting this has allowed me to enjoy life more – to get out the door quickly, to not be hung up on how I look / what others might be thinking of my appearance. And as for being seen in the same clothes over and over, I genuinely don’t think about this….
Find your ‘wingman’ outfits
This is linked to finding the styles that really suit you, your body and your lifestyle. But finding those things that are guaranteed to lift you despite how you might be feeling that day is the essence of clever dressing. It has broken the cycle of fixating on the negatives of my body and allowing that to bring me down. I still come back to a style that I wore for my sister’s 30th birthday celebration a few months after having Rufus. A ‘swing’ blouse from ASOS and high waisted stretchy jeans. The blouse sat on my shoulders and skimmed over my tummy, the high waisted nature of my jeans gave me coverage and support so I wasn’t uncomfortably spilling over the top. I stepped out with a spring in my step that evening! I’ve used this principle in choosing clothes for my capsule wardrobe (e.g. my white blouse from Zara).
Rediscovering (or even discovering) my sense of identity
This has been a journey – without wanting to sound like the opening of a cheesy film….. The gym leggings were the first flash of light, followed not long after by Marie Kondo’s Spark Joy and the realisation that very little in my wardrobe, as it was, sparked joy. Either because of poor quality fabrics, poor cut, not suiting my body shape etc. Jessica’s course was the final step to nailing my personal style and colour palate – and how I wanted to convey that. I remember travelling home on the train afterwards with my workbook in hand, planning out the different elements that I thought I needed and everything just made so much sense. It then felt so easy to put together my capsule wardrobe and find things that made my heart sing. I remember opening an order from John Lewis a few months later and realising when I opened the box to a pale pink poncho, striped jumper and grey chino shorts, that it all fell in to place and made me feel at peace just by looking at it!
Rules that I use when buying clothes
These aren’t rules that will work for everyone as it will depend on your body shape but here are some things I use when buying clothes….
Loose but short shorts (not toooo short) but enough that they don’t feel frumpy but importantly also don’t restrict my thighs / tummy when sat down.
High waisted trousers with enough stretch that when there’s overspill, it’s not uncomfortable (a bit of overspill is inevitable….)
Tops that fit around the shoulders / bust / arms but then ‘fall away’ or ‘swing’ at the waist – my ASOS example as case in point
Draping – in cardigans and dresses particularly – one of my dresses from All Saints has drapes attached to the front which can be zipped across if you want some more coverage (I am really sad that it’s developed a hole under one arm and AS have changed the material composition so that the replacement feels too clingy on the tummy for me (another example of it being a manufacturing ‘issue’ rather than one to do with my body)
Dresses that kick out at the waist are the most flattering – e.g. Skater dresses – or that drape from the shoulders
Skirts that are high waisted but loose enough to fall down to hips so that they don’t fit restrictively, this can take time to find….but the search is worth it
The perfect t-shirt – again, fitted around the shoulders but not around the tummy. For me, the material needs to have a softness and drape but not be too clingy. Also long enough to tuck in and pull out to give space for my tummy and hide that ‘ledge’ beneath.
So…there you go. I don’t profess to be an expert but I definitely feel more comfortable about my body than I ever have and think that’s down to clever dressing. What do you reckon? Have you found that clever dressing has changed how you view your body….or do you think it could?