I’ve been reflecting on the notion of clothes making us look fat. And it’s my conclusion that, when we see “flaws” in the mirror, it’s a lot more likely to be an issue of poorly-fitting clothes than anything else. Think about it: it’s only when garments are too small, for example in the waist, that our bodies appear to be distorted. But that’s because of the garments, not our bodies!
I’m a big fan of the TLC show What Not To Wear, for a number of reasons. First, it’s not just a makeover in the sense that Stacy and Clinton simply swoop in and re-outfit the makeover-ee (is that a word?); lessons that frequently amount to more than just sartorial therapy are taught so that the contributor (as they’re referred to on the show) goes home with much more than a new wardrobe— they depart with more confidence, better shopping skills, and a positive view of themselves. Second, the show rarely has a contributor who has a supposedly perfect body; these are real women (sometimes men) with real bodies, real fit issues, and real shopping dilemmas, who for the most part don’t feel good about their bodies and the way they look overall. Yet every one of these women that I’ve seen ends up really believing that they are beautiful, sexy, successful, and powerful. Why is this? Primarily because they learn to buy clothes that actually fit!
Take a look at my mannequin (Lola), which is probably a size 2 (if that), and clearly not an ounce of fat on her. But this dress is just a little too tight on her; do you see what that does to your perception of her body? The way the fabric bunches up around her hips almost makes her look like she bulging a bit around the middle (sorry, Lola).
We’ve all seen girls who aren’t any bigger than Lola, but whose too-tight clothes actually created bumps or rolls that gave the impression of superfluous flesh on their tiny bodies. I shudder to think of the possible depression, or worse, an eating disorder, that starts with one of these girls looking in the mirror and thinking she’s too fat, when going up one size with her clothes could make all the difference.
What’s that I’m hearing? “Go up a size???” Okay, I admit it, that’s a psychological problem for me too. I’ve had to steel myself to pick out, say, pants in one size bigger than I’ve worn in my entire life— pretty tough for me. However, once I tried them on, I felt so much more comfortable— the pants were skimming smoothly over me rather than cutting into me. And —surprise!— I have to say I actually felt better about myself too, because I liked the way I looked much more than when I was trying to convince my body it was still a smaller size. (I’ve seen this same moment of enlightenment happen many times on What Not To Wear.)
Here’s Lola again, looking rather sad on the left, but on the right, her dress now floats elegantly over her body, rather than threatening to cut off her circulation; much more flattering, not too mention easier to wear. (I’m sure Lola concurs.)
About clothing sizes: every manufacturer has their own set of “standard” sizes (varying wildly from other manufacturers), which is why, in my own closet at this moment, I have clothes in sizes ranging from 8 to 14— and they all fit! So what size am I, really? Not to sound too touchy-feely-good, but… I am my own perfect size! And may I encourage all of you to believe that about yourselves?
Suggestion: the next time you look in the mirror after getting dressed, and don’t like what you see, please, please ask yourself: do my clothes actually fit my body? Are they too tight anywhere? Too short anywhere? Too anything? (Clothes should never be “too” anything.) Let’s face it: if we’re not dressing to make ourselves feel good, then we might as well say the heck with it, and throw on potato sacks.
How liberating (and encouraging)— it’s not me, or something “wrong” with my body. It’s my clothes! And while I’m working on feeling better about the body I have, I always have the power — right now — to change my clothes.