That looks so good on you! I could never carry that off with my body.
Everything looks good on you! That would look awful on me.
How often do you say this or hear this being said? My guess is, very often. Let’s talk a bit about this today.
At a time when there is a lot being spoken about inclusivity in fashion with fresh brands moving away from constrictive ‘fits’ to focus on clothes that breathe, live and forgive, I had to pop in and offer my two bits.
Before we talk about clothes that forgive, let us take a quick look at the famous ‘summer ready swimsuit body’ that stares down at us from literally everywhere.
Here is how you achieve that elusive swimsuit body. You plonk the body you have in front of a full length mirror, take a long look at it, say ‘hello there, gorgeous’ and put it in a swimsuit. There you go. Swimsuit body. Right?
What then messes everything up and wrecks up our body confidence?
From ever since anyone can remember, the physical beauty of human beings in general and women in particular have been evaluated along certain standards or norms. These norms have been subject to periodic change but what has stayed constant is the presence of these evaluating norms. The norms themselves have been getting more rigid, exclusive and aspirational in an unreal / unsafe way over time.
These notions have been dictated and governed by somebody that is not your average woman. I don’t think any average woman in her right mind would have woken up one morning and said ‘oh, I think squeezing myself into a pair of faux leather pants on a hot summer day is fun’. No, ma’am. She probably said ‘can I just go to work in my night pyjamas today?’.
These standards have been around for so long that we seldom think to pause and question them. Every age has its own definition of beauty. Who defines it? Who decides what is beautiful? Who is to judge what this ‘swimsuit body’ or ‘perfect face’ is?
You see a female model in a pair of skin-tight jeans thrusting her hips out in a representation of female sexuality in popular culture while a male model watches her approvingly on the side. These jeans make you attractive to the opposite sex. Buy them. So, you do just that. You buy those jeans. They do not look the way they do on the model because a) airbrushing on the go in real life is not yet a possibility b) you are a real life person whose job does not require you to be the same size or shape the model is expected to be for her job. Your body looks different. c) Your partner, unlike the male model, finds you spending half an hour too wriggle into an uncomfortable pair of jeans alarming and a tiny bit hilarious.
On the other hand, you have somebody else spring up to talk about beautiful at any size. Any size under a 16, that is. If you need a size large than that, we have plus size clothing. What on earth is plus sized clothing, anyway? Plus what, exactly?
The slim model is still the standard. The rest of us are beautiful despite being other sizes. Not because of those differences but despite.
Truth is, beautiful and size have no business being used in the same sentence unless you are talking about a giant ice cream sundae or a birthday cake.
Beautiful is how you feel inside out. That ability to feel beautiful has been appropriated from us and we have been told what to think. Once we have managed to knock ourselves down and feel utterly depressed about our bodies, along comes somebody else and offers us what was ours to begin with. The knowledge that beauty is much more complex than a dress size, a skin colour or how shiny ones hair and skin are. Why let somebody take away what is anyway ours and then wait for somebody else to give it back to us?
This brings me back to where I started – bodies. The only thing to look for in a piece of clothing is how it makes you feel. If it gives you joy and let’s you go about your day without feeling like you will burst if you take a deep breath. An outfit that makes you feel fabulous.
When I feel good I look good to myself. How I look to other people is not my problem. I have learnt it the hard way. It is exhausting to keep evaluating yourself on these fickle changing notions of beauty. It is not worth that much energy or thought, honestly.
Ask yourself this. Does what the women staring at you on the street thinks of your body weight or clothes really matter? You are fabulous because you are you. That is enough. You don’t need any more validation. Maybe, she is looking at you and thinking ‘Wow! That is a gorgeous and confident woman!’.
The only requisite you need to ‘fit’ into a dress and look good in it is perspective. You don’t need to buy a dress that a fashion website tells you will look flattering on your size 14 body or your size 2 body. Instead, buy the dress that you like the best without wondering how it is going to look on you. If you love it, it is bound to look good on you.
Fashion should make you happy. Not make you want to chop up body parts so you can ‘fit’ into a dress the way somebody else does. Anyway, if a dress doesn’t fit, it is the designer or brand’s problem. Not yours. Clothes are meant to be made for the wearer. Not the other way around.
As for the Pear shaped body and the Apple shaped body and the Zucchini shaped body and the grape shaped body and the whatever else fruit shaped body type that you are supposed to be dressing for, those are fruit. Delicious fruit. Eat them. Don’t compare your butt to a fruit. That is a recipe for disaster. You don’t need to ‘stay away from white pants if you have a pear shaped body’. It is too much effort to be keeping up with the latest trend in fruit based fashion.
As I see it, the only reason to stay away from white pants is if you are like me and will never wear them for fear of dropping your whole bowl of red pasta all over them or if you have a toddler who uses your trousers as a wipe.
Coming back to forgiving clothes, this move away from rigid silhouettes towards a more free flowing aesthetic is something I find very powerful. I love the way these clothes make me feel. Un-restrained and happy. I love they way they look on me.
Women have been told that loose and ‘boxy’ clothes are unattractive and they make us look ‘dumpy’. What is this looking dumpy or frumpy or boxy all about anyway? Why should one have to wear a dress which popular culture thinks is attractive to look or feel beautiful? Where does all the inclusivity talk go now?
Apparently, everything is fine till you challenge what this notion of beautiful is. How will they manage to sell you spandex clothes that cost a small fortune, restrict basic bodily functions like respiration and promise to hold your truant tummy in? Now that you have decided to buy clothes that won’t make you feel guilty about eating cake. Take it from me, ladies. Fashion is fleeting. Cake is forever.
The next time you are in a trial room try to not focus on what you think you should look like in a dress. Instead, focus on how the dress makes you feel. You can look stunning in a paper bag if you choose to wear one and you don’t need airbrushing to look it either.
Whatever you do, don’t say ‘this looks so much better on you because you are skinny / have smaller breasts / have larger hips / are shorter / are taller’. Don’t even think it to yourself. You are what you are and you are beautiful BECAUSE of just that.
All you need to do is be yourself and forgive those people who make clothes that make real women who comes in all sizes and shapes feel judged. Instead, focus on people who make clothes that are inclusive and have heart. We do not need anybody else to tell us how we should be looking at ourselves!
We are all beautiful not despite our differences but because of those very differences.