Your body is a set of shapes that form a unique silhouette
I have something to tell you that you probably won’t believe. In fact, I know you won’t believe it. Because (unless you are Heidi Klum), you don’t believe it.
This is what I want to tell you: There is nothing wrong with your body.
You don’t believe it, do you? I can practically hear you rolling your eyes. You’re already dialing up the mental list you carry around with you of your faults and flaws, the myriad ways you don’t live up to your perceived idea of perfection. Your hips are too (wide/narrow). Your hair is too (curly/straight). Your bust is too (big/small). You need to lose (5/15/25) pounds.
If you could only wave your magic wand and make these changes, then your body would be perfect and then you would be beautiful and then your clothes would look good on you.
Perfect doesn’t exist (and it’s not required anyway)
My (possibly) radical message is this: there is nothing wrong with your body as it is. You don’t need a perfect body to look good in clothes. You only need to select clothes that flatter the body that you have.
It almost sounds too simple, doesn’t it? But your body is nothing more than a series of shapes–think how obvious it is to say that we come “in all shapes and sizes.” Dressing to flatter your body means selecting clothes that work with your particular silhouette and your particular proportions, whatever they may be.
You’re not trying to cover up your shape or change your shape; your goal is to work in harmony with it.
Your silhouette, yourself
Think of it this way: when you go to choose makeup, you look for shades that work best with your skin tone or eye color, right? If you have green eyes, you choose flattering and complementary colors. You don’t spend a lot of time wishing your eyes were blue or brown or gray.
So it is with clothing. If you have wide shoulders, you can wish they were narrower and complain about having such a flaw–or you can choose tops that look better on wide shoulders.
The first step is to take a step back. Be clear-eyed and honest with yourself. Don’t judge. It doesn’t matter whether you could lose weight, or you’ve always wished you had longer legs, or you have Aunt Betty’s hips. You are who you are right now, the way you are right now, and it’s OK.
So what is that shape? Do you have a long torso or short? Wider on top or wider on the bottom? Tall? Petite? Big busted or small chested? Marilyn curvaceous or Twiggy narrow? Note the unique aspects of your figure; these are the building blocks of your silhouette that will guide the clothing choices you make. [This book will help you get started.]
(Slipping into the negative anyway? Pause for a moment and note all of your best features. What nice things would your best friend say about you?]
I know it’s not easy
It’s amazing how difficult this can be. I won’t pretend it’s easy. I won’t pretend I’m successful at it all the time, myself.
I have slender legs, but I focus on the little broken veins that have come with age. I am small around the torso, but I wish I had a bigger bust. I have spent far too much time obsessing over the soft belly that is a proven badge of motherhood.
So I look for shorts that are a little longer to cover the imperfections, yet also show off my calves. I look for detailing in my tops, but take pride in wearing belts to highlight where I’m narrowest. And I’m perfectly happy in the realization that I will not be sporting a bikini at the beach.
Look, I’m not a self-help guru. I can’t change your body image in a single post. (And if you’re really, truly overweight, then your health is far more important than what you look like, and your guidance should come from health professionals, not style bloggers.)
But I can want for you what I want for myself: to honor the body we have, to flatter it with appropriate clothing, and enjoy who we are, where we are now in all our beautiful imperfection.
[Photo credit: Misteraitch, Flickr Creative Commons]