Do I Look Fat in This?

Fashion Is King

Even when I was a little girl, I knew exactly how I felt about clothes: I loved them! I had my favorite T-shirt (cowgirl riding a horse), and I wasn't afraid to tell whoever was in charge of dressing me exactly what I wanted to wear. I knew instinctively as I grew older what I wanted to put on my body, and it was usually determined by what felt good. Cotton, good. Polyester, bad. And for a while it was that simple... comfort was king. Then I hit those invariably rough preteen years, and my attitude toward clothing changed completely.

I had already started to dislike my body at 11 and was dieting regularly by 12, and so by the time the fashion-conscious years of 13 and 14 came around, I identified clothes as a dire necessity that impacted my everyday existence as a teenager. I saw clothes in two shades: those that fit and those that didn't. And so I began my love affair with sizing and numbers before I had even mastered long division.

I became attached to the sizes of clothing that other people wore; studying their shapes, guessing what size was printed on their jeans labels. I became a pop culture connoisseur of fashion trends, running out to buy gummy bracelets, jelly shoes, neon prints, and mesh tops.

Even in all of my body consciousness I was realistically aware that I didn't possess the long, lean legs that made the hottest jeans look so good on the models. I knew that though other girls could get away with not wearing bras under their shirts, I had to find clothing that was made for a girl with boobs. I knew how to dress my young curves, and I would spend hours in front of the mirror at night trying on different combinations. I lived for my friends' declarations each morning at school. "Cute outfit!" It was almost as addictive as hearing "You've lost weight!"

But no matter how creative I got and no matter how hard I tried to stay current, it seemed like I could never stay on top of the trends for long. There would always be some girl who had a cuter purse, or some fad that started just as I was stockpiling last season's look. I didn't understand that the fashion for my youth was being driven by a larger industry, one that made a boatload of money on girls like me trying so hard to keep up with the times.

The deeper I got into my love of fashion and the more curves I developed, the harder it became to shop for "girly" clothes. I found myself at the larger end of the junior section before I faced the fact that I had to look in the "misses" department. Then a miracle would happen (well, a diet miracle, anyway) and I would shed a few pounds and find myself back in juniors. The bouncing I did between the world of juniors and misses was actually a larger metaphor for my entire relationship with being a woman. I was in constant flux about where I wanted to be in life—a little girl or a growing woman.

Clothing Is an Emotional Costume

Clothing projects how you feel about yourself, your body, your relationships, your dreams and desires. You dress for success, for love, for friendship, to impress, to alienate, to rebel, to intimidate, to seduce, to fool, to bond, and to make a statement.

And yet how many of you are afraid to go into your closets? Do you behave as if the small sliver of space where you hang your clothes is the ultimate keeper of your demons? For some it is. For others, it chronicles all of the breakups and breakthroughs of life.

Here is the truth: Our bodies change! For good or bad, they do. Your body won't look exactly the way it did at 18, and while it doesn't mean that you aren't allowed to be concerned if you think you've gotten out of shape or something, it does mean that you can stop trying to step back into seven-year-old wardrobe options and expect the same results. Would you want to go back and date the boyfriend you had at 18? (Not me!) Try to look at your clothing the same way: It's served its purpose, but for you to still try to hold on to it tells me you are not focusing on who you are today. You can't go back to old clothing to try to relive some past experience. None of us can be physically frozen in time. We are living, evolving beings.

You're Already in Your Real Body

The attachment to needing to wear a certain size is similar to the attachment to being a certain weight. It is limiting and random and pointless. Everyone's body is different and unique. The twists, turns, dimples, dents, and wrinkles vary for everyone. Yet on some strange level you are all striving to be the same size—and that size is whatever you deem to be "skinny" enough. For some it is a 0. For others a 14. And there is incredible pressure on women to buy into this sliding scale of self-worth. No one's life ended because they couldn't fit into last year's jeans. But many people's lives have ended in the pursuit of that perfect elusive weight and size, the number that seems like it would solve all of our problems.

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