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.  

Today’s post:  “IF YOU WERE TOTALLY COMFORTABLE WITH YOUR BODY, OR YOUR BODY WAS A BIT CLOSER TO WHAT YOU WISH IT WAS LIKE, WHAT WOULD YOU WEAR?”

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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.

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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

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This Woman In Clothes

women-in-clothes-cover-usI’m reading the mesmerizing book Women in Clothes, and it’s making my brain dance.

The book is based on this survey about women’s thoughts on clothing, fashion, style and beauty.  The survey includes such questions as “DO YOU NOTICE WOMEN ON THE STREET? IF SO, WHAT SORT OF WOMEN DO YOU TEND TO NOTICE OR ADMIRE?” and “IS THERE ANYTHING POLITICAL ABOUT THE WAY YOU DRESS?”  The survey was sent to many women, both famous (Lena Dunham, Miranda July, Tavi Gevinson, Molly Ringwald…) and non-famous.  The editors then compiled the surveyees’ responses and interspersed them with photos of “collections” (one woman’s clogs; one woman’s white pants; one woman’s week’s worth of false eyelashes); with poems; and with “compliments,” mini-plays in which a woman tells a stranger that she likes something she’s wearing.

I can’t stop reading it.  Every page makes me think about some aspect of my “style” (or lack thereof), my history with clothes, my relationship to “fashion,” in a completely new way, a way that I want to write about.  And so I thought maybe I would.

Over the next while, I’m going to publish a series of posts responding to some of the questions on the “Women in Clothes” survey, and I would love it if you would respond with comments or even posts of your own.  In fact, given that this book is a pretty big deal, some of you may already be doing this on your own blogs, so I hope you’ll point me there!

And if you haven’t yet picked up Women in Clothes, please do.  You may think you don’t care about fashion, but this book will probably convince you otherwise.

Tomorrow’s post: “ARE THERE ANY CLOTHING (OR RELATED) ITEMS THAT YOU HAVE IN MULTIPLE? WHY DO YOU THINK YOU KEEP BUYING THIS THING?”