Shape (This Woman in Clothes)

Over the coming weeks, I’ll be responding to questions on the Women In Clothes survey.  For more on the book Women in Clothes, go here.  



miKy4SSI’ve resisted my own body most of my life.  One of my goals for my middle age is to stop doing that.

I’m just under five feet five inches tall.  I have large breasts and hips, and a smallish waist even though my belly has always protruded.  I have a sharp curve in my lower back (and almost none in my neck; this is due, apparently, to many years lying on my back with my head propped up on a stuffed animal to read, and more years bent over a notebook scribbling.)  In the last five years, I’ve gone from almost 170 pounds down to just over 120, and now I’m back at 140.

Even when I weighed 125 pounds, there were things I couldn’t wear.  I thought I could finally buy some of those nice little triangular-cupped yoga bras, instead of the Ace-bandage family of sports bras I’ve worn all my life.  I went to that yoga clothes store – you know the one – and tried on a couple that pleased me.  I bought them.   I wore one to a yoga class the next morning; it became clear within minutes that I must NOT wear such bras to yoga class, because after every contortion, I had to pause to tuck myself back into my bra.  So that afternoon, I wore the other bra around the house, doing nothing more active than typing and walking to the kitchen.  Every fifteen minutes, I had to stuff myself back into the cups.  No matter how thin I got, those bras would never be for me; I brought them back to the store the next morning.

I could, when I was at my thinnest, wear button-up shirts without them popping open on me.  I love the look of a crisp buttoned shirt with jeans and a blazer, but as I put pounds back on, all three of those items become more and more difficult.  Pants are always an issue, especially pants for work – I have big hips and short legs, and have a horror of pants without back pockets, or with small back pockets, or, especially, with those little non-pocket slits that sit at the top of the butt, making your rear end look endless. Pants that fit my hips tend to gape at my waist and, unless I’m buying from a retailer that offers “petites,” they’re usually too long.

Even now, I’m an average-sized person.  Despite the fact that I’ve put on 15 pounds since my wedding day, I’m not overweight by any definition, not even the retail fashion world’s; I wear a size 8-10 in most shops.  So it doesn’t really make sense that it’s difficult for me to find, say, well-fitting pants or a shirt that will close.  It’s my shape, not my size, that causes issues.

This fall, I decided to stock up on cropped leggings and short tunics and dresses.  This, I thought, would be an easy, comfortable look suitable for both work and play.  The shalwar kameez – the tunic over loose pants worn in South Asia – has always been my favourite outfit, but, not being South Asian, I don’t feel I’m in a position to pull that off.  The tunic-and-leggings combo is a good substitute, and it is indeed both comfy and pretty.

However, I still long for the look of the chic tomboy.  I wish I could go out braless in a tank top and Daisy Dukes, or line up men’s-style Oxford shirts and tailored pants in my closet.  I’m trying to accept that certain clothes will never feel comfortable or look polished on me.  I’m trying to believe that choosing what works, as opposed to what I want to work, is an important element of one’s personal “style.”

I haven’t entirely given in.  Those permanent-press shirts I bought three years ago are still in my closet, and every so often, I button one up halfway over a camisole because I can’t let go of my fantasy of myself as Katharine Hepburn.  Each time I do so, though, I come home at the end of the day freshly reminded that pretending to be something you’re not is uncomfortable on all levels.  I peel the shirt and camisole off with a sigh of relief.  I pull on a worn linen dress and knit pullover.  Even pyjama pants are pants, and pants are really meant for someone else.


Is there are type of clothing you wish you could wear but don’t feel works for you? Please leave your own answers in the comments, or link to a response on your own blog.

Image by Dan Shirley


11 thoughts on “Shape (This Woman in Clothes)

    • I, too, am intrigued by cropped pants/leggings but never can quite imagine the sock/shoe combo that would work. What is the author’s solution? And yes, I have plenty of button-up shirts in my closet that just gape where they shouldn’t, but I can’t get rid of them because I keep hoping I’ll be that tailored creature who can wear blouses. And if I didn’t have bunions and a bum knee, I’d probably wear modest heels and funky boots more often.

  1. Ahh, ballet flats-type-things are tough on my feet. I’ll work something out. Meanwhile, I was admiring a woman in a long dress today and thought I’d wear that if I were different…

  2. There are any number of outfits I wish I could wear. Frankly, clothes are the thing I can quickly identify as my way to hide. I wear cardigans because I love them, but also because they hide some of the things I think are awful about myself. I rarely wear bright colors because I don’t want to call attention to how fat I’ve gotten.

    So what do I wish I could wear? Sleeveless shirts. My arms have gotten so large they now embarrass me. I refuse to wear anything without sleeves. In addition, I wish I could wear button front shirts. I’ve always had a large chest and getting those things to button correctly is a nightmare. I love how they look on other people, though.

    I also wish I could find pants more easily. None of me is small, but my bottom half is certainly the larger part. Even when I lost 50 lbs (which I found later), I only lost 1 pant size (allll-most two pant sizes, but not quite). My hips and thighs changed very little during that time. (Frustrating!) Frankly, the size of my lower half also makes me rethink shoes. I refuse to wear tiny, dainty looking shoes because I think they make my thighs look BIGGER–and they don’t need any help.

    Wow, now that I’ve typed all that, I think I have issues :I

    • CH: I don’t think you have issues at all! I think anyone who isn’t totally skinny can identify with everything you write here. I felt great about my arms after I lost all that weight (and did a LOT of yoga; part of my motivation was that I was getting married and wanted to look nice in a sleeveless gown.) I am a lot less pleased w/ my arms these days but defiantly keep wearing sleeveless stuff, although I don’t always feel good about it. I’ve also always been aware that little shoes make the rest of me look large; a friend once long ago made a comment about my “tiny feet,” to which I replied, “I wear a size 8 shoe! My feet aren’t tiny; the rest of me is big.” I’ve used clothes as camouflage for most of my life. It’s tiresome.

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