In my very first conversation with Carly, we talked about how some people scoff when we tell them what we do for a living. Writing about style, working with women on their wardrobes, and hiring yourself out for personal shopping strike many people as a shallow, frivolous, even extravagant group of activities. But just like me, Carly said she has gotten a hug from EVERY client she’s worked with because at the end of the session, that woman feels more confident, more stylish, and more like herself. That woman feels braver and more empowered. She has spent time and energy tackling an aspect of her self-presentation that she felt wasn’t quite right, and having done so has learned about her body and her self. We both agreed that we love our jobs because we help women feel like better, stronger versions of themselves. The fashion and style aspect is loads of fun, sure, but at the heart of the matter are self-esteem, pride, self-awareness, and security.
For me, doing this work has reinforced my belief that body knowledge gained through explorations of personal style can foster self-love and self-respect. I want to continue to have conversations about how style impacts body image, and how dressing well expresses self-respect and self-understanding. Because over the years, my own experiences and the input I’ve gotten from readers, clients, and students has shown me that style can be an important and valuable tool for cultivating self-love. A surprising and unexpected tool, in many cases, but often a remarkably effective one.
That said, I don’t think style is the magical body image cure-all for every woman currently walking the planet. I know that some women prefer to address their own body-related struggles through writing, discussion, reading, therapy, or more physical endeavors like yoga, strength training, or sports. Or through work and contemplation and activities that are so specific and personal that I couldn’t even begin to imagine or describe them. We are all unique individuals with unique needs and perspectives, and every one of us who battles with body image must choose her own path. The reason why I write about style is because my own journey involved using clothing to gain a better understanding of my body, and because changing how I dressed was the only thing I’d ever discovered that alleviated some of my own self-loathing. Dieting didn’t do it. Exercise didn’t do it. Ignoring my body and hiding it in big, oversized garments didn’t do it. Waiting to get older and hoping it would matter less didn’t do it. For me, it was style. And having had countless conversations with the women in my life about their own body image hangups, I determined that the more options we have for understanding, accepting, and feeling positively about our bodies, the better. The more tools we have in our self-love toolboxes, the better our chances of learning to love ourselves. Style is my chosen tool, and one that I like to encourage other women to consider using because it can have very quick, very tangible results. Because we have to get dressed anyway if we want to go out in public, and learning to do it in ways that bolster our confidence is a wise and valuable practice. Because you can change how you dress and shift your feelings about your body without actually changing anything about your body.
Style is the means through which I aim to help women heal their body images. Style is my chosen tool for confidence, empowerment, and understanding. I am fully aware that it is just one tool of many. But the way I see it, the fuller the toolbox, the more prepared the woman.