The Value of Dressing Your Today Body

Hi again! Re-posting here in case you’d like to comment, leaving previous version because I’ve tried a dozen things and can’t get the comments open, but several folks have linked back already. Thanks for your understanding!

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A girlfriend of mine has been unhappy with her body for … well, for as long as I’ve known her. She is one of the most naturally beautiful women I’ve ever known, and her generous, open, loving personality just serves to amplify the startling physical beauty that shines out from her silky hair, and ladylike hands, and creamy skin, and perfect-pout lips, and dive-into-me eyes. But she battles her body, and loses.

Constantly.

She adjusts her food intake, and then adjusts it some more. She tries meal schedules and diets and avoidance of certain foods. She counts calories. She exercises twice as much as me and twice as hard. She varies her workout routine, and monitors her heart rate to optimize her efforts, and pushes herself to her physical limits. And she stays the same shape and size, and she stays unhappy.

And while it doesn’t matter a whit to me if she gains weight steadily for the rest of her natural days, it drives her wild with frustration. And seeing that hurts my heart.

My girl constantly compliments me on my taste and style while simultaneously lamenting her own unsatisfying wardrobe. I’ve offered to shop with her countless times, but she always declines, saying she doesn’t want to invest in new clothes until she’s in a better place with her body. And for a while, I understood that. I’ve been there. I’ve shopped for a transitional body and been frustrated when I had to cast off newish duds after just a few wearings because they no longer fit.

But recently, I began to push harder and encourage her to get some outfits into rotation that work for her right now, at this weight and in this shape. And here’s why: Even if she finally hits on the magic combination of diet and exercise that allows her to smallen, why should she feel uncomfortable, uninspired, and unhappy with her appearance in the meantime? Wouldn’t it be possible to bring in a few key pieces – just a few – to make the rest of her wardrobe more flattering, functional, and fun? And what if she doesn’t change her waist size for another year or more? For five years? For ten? Will it have been worth it to feel frumpy and grumpy that whole time?

My weight and body configuration have shifted more times than I can count. (Or anyway more times than I can recount without boring you all into a stupor.) And the most important lesson I’ve learned from all those body shifts is this: Dressing for your today-body is a positive, empowering, and beneficial practice. Buying too-small clothes that you plan to fit into “someday” is ill-advised and seldom serves as the motivator you hope it will be. Wearing shoddily made or ancient or stopgap clothes until you’ve reached a different/better physical place just makes you impatient and uneasy while you’re working toward your goal. Dressing for a body you no longer have or don’t yet have encourages you to live in the past or future, and prevents you from enjoying the present. If your clothes do not fit the woman you are right now, maybe you should get rid of them and get some different ones.

Note that I did not say “new” ones. I recognize that anyone in the throes of a physical transition won’t want to max out her credit card on items that might get worn a single time. Exploring thrift, vintage, swap, and hand-me-down options for these purposes is a fantastic way to keep yourself looking and feeling great – even in transition – on a budget. If you don’t want to get new, get different.

I believe that part of learning to love yourself is learning to see yourself. And that means seeing yourself as you are right now, not as you hope to be in six months or as you used to be six months ago. And that can be so hard: Facing down the numbers on the scale, or the sizes on a rack of skirts at the Gap, or even just the mirror. The emotional effort it takes to see ourselves in our today-bodies can be tremendously draining,

I know. But there is real benefit to be gleaned from dressing your transitional body well. Looking good now can get you hooked on looking good: It can establish a habitual desire to feel awesome when confronted with a mirror, and can even fuel style and body-related goals. Even if your body is changing shape, you are likely to maintain the same basic proportions: The process of learning to dress your transitional body will provide knowledge about your figure that will carry over even if you shift again someday. But more than any of that, dressing in a way that flatters your figure right now will make you feel good RIGHT NOW. And you deserve that.

So what are you waiting for? Why are you dressing for a body you don’t have, and neglecting the beautiful one you’ve already got? Start dressing for your today-body, and worry about your tomorrow body … well, tomorrow.

Image courtesy Sodanie Chea

Originally posted 2014-04-17 10:45:14.

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15 Responses to “The Value of Dressing Your Today Body”

  1. Lauren @ Sassy Molassy

    Amen to this. I know that even after losing 15+ lbs after college, my new sized body (while fun to shop for) wasn’t all of a sudden my fix to being happy with myself. So dressing to make myself confident, no matter my size, has always been a high priority. It’s amazing what rocking a comfy, cute outfit can do to your self esteem.

  2. Lisa

    This is so amazingly wise. Also, when you are 50, you will wish you loved your younger body no matter WHAT it is doing:).

  3. marshacwp

    This is a timely post for me, since I’m currently trying to figure out how to dress my menopausal body. I’m starting to accept that the changes over the last several years are most likely permanent, since my weight is the same and exercise hasn’t given me back my previous hourglass shape. My breasts have gotten smaller while my waist has gotten thicker.

  4. Lisa

    Love this and have been trying to take this to heart the last year or so. Thanks for writing this.

  5. Allison

    This is exactly how I found Sally – looking to finally feel good about how I dressed even though I was STILL overweight four years postpartum from my last kid. It felt amazingly good to get out of those ancient yoga pants and fleeces a couple of years ago. The internet is full of so many wonderful plus-size bloggers for inspiration.

    Also, be careful what you wish for. I’ve lost a lot of weight since then, due to a very strict diet I stay on because of a cancer diagnosis. My health is good now, but if it were up to me I’d trade the 30 pounds for no cancer.

  6. crtfly

    Sally,

    You are so wise. Your comments can be expanded to many areas of life. I’m sure that we’ve all heard or even said, “I’ll be happy when… .” What if when never comes. Even if it does, it often turns out to be disappointing. How about learning to be happy about life right here, right now with who you are and what you have? I know it’s so much easier said than done.

    Chris

  7. Jessica M.

    Yes yes yes yes yes. Even if you’re sure the changes are temporary, I think it’s worth it. I went out at 2 months postpartum and got 3 pairs of real pants that fit my current body, even though I knew I would probably lose the extra weight pretty easily. I bought them at the thrift store for around $15 total and they made a HUGE difference to how I felt about myself. Basically they made me feel like I could still look and dress like myself at a time when everything else was in flux. Plus, even though they became too big in a few months, it turned out that my wardrobe needs as a mom were different enough that those pants were a very useful trial run for the kinds of clothes (not just the size of clothes) I would want to balance my new practical needs and the self-image I wanted to present.

  8. Shawna McComber

    Well said and so true! I have been through this and I did find that getting the transitional clothes at the thrift shops helped to ease the guilt of buying things I was hoping to be too small for in another year. I filled in the gaps with some fast fashion. Now that I am back to my comfortable weight after a few difficult years, I still tend to shop mostly thrift and fast fashion, but I tend to give myself permission to buy something more expensive because I do not expect my body to change drastically so I feel certain I would have the item for a long time. On the other hand, I tend to invest more in boots/shoes and bags than I do in clothes.

    I do understand this chasing perfection attitude. I have to fight it regularly. I have to make the negative voices shut up! I hope your friend can get there someday.

  9. fashionforgiants

    This is a great post, Sal. I couldn’t agree more!

  10. kimberly hase

    I thought by reposting you were acknowledging that you originally posted this in October, 2008 and then again last month on Huff Post. Guess not. Is your friend still having this issue 5+ years later?

  11. Sandy B

    I totally agree. I learned this most valuable lesson about 10 yr ago. I too constantly fight the battle of the bulge; but I feel so much better when I look good NOW! (And thank goodness for local thrift shops.)

  12. Sally McGraw

    Indeed! A colleague recently pointed out that I have many posts languishing in the archive that newer readers haven’t seen. I’ve been refreshing and revisiting a few, including this one. It’s been a fascinating exercise to look back on past writing, and bringing them forward again always generates new discussion. And yes, as a matter of fact, my friend is still struggling with this issue – she’s since become a mom, which has added a new dimension to her life and body image.

  13. Jamie

    I’ve struggled with this due to not that my body has changed shape, but just my mental state and self esteem after a breakup and career change. I was just not feeling good about myself, so even though I had many beautiful clothes, I gravitated toward frumpy and old clothes, as an outward reflection of how I saw myself on the inside. I still struggle inside, but just making the conscious choice to wear something attractive I can tell makes me feel better about myself and probably makes others respond to be more positively.

  14. 33

    I think fear plays a big part of not dressing for today’s body. if one does, one fears that she’d feel too comfortable to want to further improving her body/weight, thus “settle” for the body of today. I know because i had never wanted to dress to fit during transitional period. Somehow, not dressing well (not liking what I see in the mirror) pushed me to stick to my diet/workout plan so that I could get the body that I wanted to dress well for.