Saturday, March 31, 2007

dressing for success

Frances's last post on Angry Fat Girlz has made me think about my own attitudes about clothes. I loved playing with clothes when I was in high school and in college. But when I found myself 60-or-so pounds overweight and was feeling the worst about the way I looked, my fashion goals could be summed up in one sentence: "Cover up the belly!"

I know that in a recent post, I talked about having an hourglass shape, which would suggest a smaller waist. That is true up until a point. When I gain weight, I tend to fill in that middle part, though of course the top and bottom of the hourglass get bigger too.

In the late 90s, I went along with the grunge fashion trend and spent most of my time in my standard uniform of jeans, a size XL men's t-shirt, and a flannel shirt unbuttoned over the top as a sort of a jacket. For summer, I switched to men's shorts, a tank top, and a short-sleeved shirt instead of the flannel. I thought this uniform cleverly hid the weight I had gained since graduating from college. I was so unhappy about this weight that I really couldn't do anything productive about it. I had never heard some of the advice that Frances wrote about, but even if I had, I don't think I would have worn big jewelry in the hopes that it would make the rest of me look smaller. I wasn't that ambitious and I probably wouldn't have believed it would work.

I can trace my fashion reawakening to the day I was watching some B-level talk show and heard about Mode, a new magazine that was coming out for plus-sized women. I went to the local drugstore and thumbed through that first issue, and unlike BBW, it was a magazine that I could buy without dying of embarassment. The title didn't refer to size and the clothes looked stylish and the cover models were gorgeous. Wikipedia doesn't have an entry about Mode, but in the entry on plus-sized modeling, I found this mini-history:
With strong cooperation from Wilhelmina 10/20, Curves and Ford 12+, the premiere issue of Mode magazine was launched in the spring of 1997 to immediate success. No other fashion magazine specifically targeted the plus-size consumer with a Vogue-like fashion philosophy, nor with sophisticated imagery and clothing everyone wanted to buy. As a result, a booking with the magazine was viewed as the ultimate level of plus-modeling success. Mode's practice of including the models' names and quotations on self-esteem to make them more approachable greatly aided the popularity of the women featured and gave them a form of celebrity. Mode also ran model search competitions in association with the Wilhelmina modelling agency, drawing entries from thousands of hopefuls from the US and Canada. The circulation of Mode magazine was around 600,000 at the time of its demise in the aftermath of the events of September 11, 2001.
That magazine gave me the permission to actually put some effort into how I dressed. The models in its pages wore my size and they looked gorgeous. I started actually spending money on clothes, and even ventured into Lane Bryant for the first time, since they were an advertiser in the magazine.

Oddly enough, when I started buying fashionable clothes in my size instead of wearing oversized men's clothes, I started feeling better about myself and actually started to lose some weight. That gave me the confidence to exercise and start making more conscious weight loss efforts.

When "What Not to Wear" came to U.S. television, I was near my goal weight and trying to figure out how to dress my new body without looking like I was trying to pass as a teenager. So I appreciated the advice that Wayne and Stacy (and later Stacy and Clinton) had to offer. I didn't find "The Rules" to be overly oppressive, because I was free to ignore them if I wanted. And as I felt better about my body, I started to pay less attention to clothes again, because it seemed like whatever I wore was fine.

Now that I'm back on the way down again, I appreciate the advice on how to look thinner and make the most of my body shape. I follow a lot of Stacy and Clinton's advice on a daily basis. I love wearing a good structured jacket and I have at least 5 of them. I always wear a good bra and I buy mid-rise jeans and wear them with a wide belt. I don't feel pressured to do these things, but they do make me feel a little more confident when I'm leaving the house. But I still don't think that wearing big earrings will make my butt look smaller.


  1. Big earrings only work when you still have 50 pounds to lose. Heh.

    When I was at goal and living and working in Ohio, I loved buying clothes. Now that my job consists of taking care of a house, a yard, two dogs and a husband, my wardrobe requirements aren't nearly as much fun as they used to be.

    But I note that my daughter and her friends, all of them stay-at-home moms, wear skirts or khakis with nice tees, apply make-up every morning and touch up their lipstick throughout the day, and put on earrings or a little necklace every day.

    I guess I figure the dogs don't care what I wear. But you've given me something to think about. As always!

  2. I'll always advocate that we both need our uniforms -- the T-shirt/flannel thing -- & the very best we can find/afford in whatever size we are. Living in self-loathing isn't conducive to weight loss OR maintaining, & if, for some of us, we can't quite tame the icky feelings, we can present a good outside front in the hopes it will infect the yuckies.

    So buy more jackets!

  3. I adore WNTW and watch it with virtual friends so we can offer real time opinions about advice, shopping choices, and what might work for us.

    I, too, have learned a lot from them in little ways about why things flatter or don't, and that fitting the largest part and having the rest tailored is a reasonable option. One that I'd never in my life done before.

    When we're on the really plus side, though, finding clothes that fit and flatter (either a cas uniform or something dressy) is harder because fewer places sell them. I'd like to see Stacy and Clinton take that on!

    You look fabu in your structured jackets. Wearing things that make you more confident and less self-conscious is a wonderful thing - big earrings or not.

  4. You always do look great and your descriptions of your clothes sound so fun.

    I am trying to do better but right now, I'm kind of stuck. I need big floppy pants to cover my knee brace so I'm hoping for a smaller brace soon.

    I love WNTW and I've started watching the new season of the British version of WNTW -- they did one for women with mastectomies which was awesome.

  5. I love WNTW, both the British and American versions. I first started watching the U.S. WNTW when it was Stacy and Wayne. I also faithfully purchased Mode, and am sad that they did not last. I wish there was something similar available now. I'm now a size 14 on the bottom and size 10/12 on top, but I can still be clueless when it comes to fashion. My problem is, I have huge thighs and calves, and a flat butt, and a (relatively) smaller waist. So when I find pants that fit in the thigh area, the seat portion sags, and the waist gapes. I know I could get things tailored, but I never seem to get around to taking my clothes there. I also have issues with my huge feet feet. Can anyone recommend where I can get stylish, fashionable shoes in larger sizes? I'm a 10W or 10WW, depending on the shoes. However, it seems now that I've started losing weight, my shoe size is decreasing in wee increments as well. I've been to the usual places online (Zappos, etc.), and even websites that specialize in larger sizes. However, I find most of the offerings incredibly dull. Gals with big feet want to be fashionable too!

  6. I have the same problem with clothes and waistbands. The mid-rise jeans are better for that than the ones that come up higher. Can't recommend any shoe places -- I hate shopping for shoes most of the time because I wear a 9 1/2, and stores really don't stock them.


"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07