There’s this idea that we have to stick to rules around fashion. If you’re over a certain age you can’t wear a short skirt (don’t be a “mutton dressed as lamb!”), if you’re over a certain size you can’t show too much shape (“she’s brave showing her tummy!”), if you’re a mum you should wear a “mum uniform” etc. Well I say balls to that.
One of the things I get asked sometimes on Instagram and at events is how to have “the guts” to wear exactly what I want. For some this might seem like a really simple thing – you walk into a shop, buy the outfit, and walk out again. But for others, the whole issue of clothes is one fraught with anxiety. What will people think if you wear something a bit more “out there” than the usual outfit? How will people judge you if you dare to bare more in the summer but you’re not a size 10? What if the shop doesn’t even stock your size?
Shopping for clothes can be stressful and disheartening and do terrible things for the way we feel about our body. I get it.
Get rid of the clothes that don’t fit
We often keep stuff in our wardrobe that no longer fits, thinking that having these once-beloved items of clothing will “motivate” us into “getting back into shape”. But the thing is, you’re already in shape, it’s just a different shape. We’re not meant to stay the same shape forever, and that’s totally normal and totally OK.
Keeping an old pair of jeans is pointless if they no longer fit because they’ll act as a constant reminder your shape has changed. And it’s very likely that even when they did fit you still had body hang-ups anyway.
So clear out your wardrobe with the old clothes (give to charity, or just store under your bed or in the loft if you can’t bear to lose them forever) and make room for some new ones. This isn’t to say you have to necessarily go on a fast-fashion spree – if you’re looking for ethical fashion tips then this post at Oh Wild is a good one to read.
Everyone is entitled to wear colour
I remember reading an article in a magazine once telling me that black is a flattering, “slimming” colour that never goes out of fashion. Some people love wearing black and that’s cool. But I am not one of those people.
The thing is, when I wasn’t feeling too great in my body I definitely veered towards darker outfits, thinking they’d help me blend into the background a bit more. I hoped they’d disguise my lumpy post-baby tummy and wobbly bum. So I wore black to be invisible, not because I found it an empowering shade that made me feel great.
I’m drawn to colour more now, and I truly believe that every person has the right to put whatever the hell they want on their body – regardless of size. You don’t have to stick to black if you’re in a bigger body. Everyone is allowed to be seen (if you want to be).
I know fashion isn’t truly inclusive (although there are brands out there starting to wake up to the need for more inclusive sizing which is great – I love the new Sofie Hagen range at Plus Equals) but if you’re able to find colourful clothes in your size and you want to wear them then you have just as much right as any other human on the planet to wear the damn colour.
I’m in a straight size body (generally a size 12 depending which shop I’m buying from) but I still believed my body wasn’t “right” for the bright clothes. Or that some clothes were too trendy or young or “out there” for me. I now know this simply isn’t the case. I choose not to follow those rules.
Give up the idea of “flattering”
Often, when we say something is “flattering” what we’re actually saying is something makes us look slim. This is inherently fatphobic, both to ourselves and anyone in a bigger body. WHY should we have to wear clothes that make us look slim? If we believe we should wear clothes that make us look slim then we’re saying we buy into the narrow beauty standard that says slim = better / more worthy / more beautiful and we know that’s JUST NOT TRUE.
If you want to wear loose clothes because they’re comfy then wear the loose clothes. Some days I just want to exist in joggers and an oversized jumper too. But equally, if I’m in the mood to wear something tighter, or more revealing – regardless of the parts of my body it hugs – I’ll wear it. There’s huge liberation to be gained from giving up those supposed “rules”. No one says you have to follow them – it’s YOUR CHOICE.
Skin is allowed to be seen
I used to think that once you got past the age of 30 you should automatically switch to a new, more “modest” wardrobe. In my early 20s I harboured this idea that once I reached a certain age I wouldn’t be able to show skin. And when I became a mum of two at the age of 31 I gravitated toward this idea, choosing midi skirts or long skirts – always avoiding showing a bit of leg (and NO WAY would I dare show any belly), giving up the bikinis.
But after my relationship to my body changed, and I started to love my body again – for ALL that it is – I realised that these rules, just like all the rest, are arbitrary. I hold no religious beliefs which prevent me from showing my skin. I don’t see skin as offensive. I think the sight of others enjoying wearing what they want regardless of their body shape is joyful, so why couldn’t I apply that rule to myself? So I did. And the world didn’t end. Turns out it’s just like anything else – once you do it once it gets a whole lot less scary.
How do the clothes actually feel?
I used to have a whole routine when I went into a shop changing room. I’d suck in my tummy, pull on the outfit and hope for the best. Before it was even over my head or over my bum I’d be checking to see what it looked like. If it was a smaller size then I’d contort my body into whatever shape I could to make it fit better. And only then, once I’d checked it out from all angles, would I actually stop to FEEL what it felt like on my skin.
Sometimes I’d even buy the thing, even if it wasn’t comfortable, because I thought it looked good. And then I’d squeeze myself into it, holding my tummy in all day, sitting at certain angles, feeling uncomfortable and then vowing to go on a diet the following day so the thing fit me. I thought I was meant to fit the clothes – but the opposite is true. WE wear the clothes, they don’t wear us.
So now, when I’m trying something new on, I like to close my eyes and feel what it’s like on my body before I even look in the mirror. If it pulls in an uncomfortable way, then it’s a no. That’s not to say I don’t care what the clothes look like, but how they feel is also really important.
Ultimately I guess we need to remember that we’re all allowed to wear what we want. What we wear and how we look is not a measure of our worth as humans on this planet. And if you want to wear the short skirt, colourful prints or bodycon dress then you are ALLOWED to wear the short skirt, colourful prints or bodycon dress.
Your body, your rules.