Reader Request: Before

LPC popped this question into the suggestion box:

I’d love to know how you dressed beFORE you started looking at style the way you do now. Or as a teen. You have a very distinct style now. Was it always that way? I know you’ve talked about it here and there, but I haven’t seen a full post, I don’t think, on this topic.

I expected to cringe and groan as I sifted through old photographs of myself, embarrassed by my obliviousness and ashamed of my formerly messy style. But you know what I learned? High school wasn’t much fun and I could barely scrape up a single photo from it, but MAN, I loved college. Loved it. I looked radiantly happy in every photo, even the hilariously weird ones. Which I will now proceed to share with you.

But first a little exposition:

From the day I hit puberty, I felt ashamed of my jiggly, seemingly-unruly body. I had no idea what to do with myself, or how to dress my shape. A potent cocktail of media messages and peer pressure convinced me that my body was unacceptable and unworthy of showcasing. So I cultivated a wardrobe of huge, formless clothes in which to hide myself: Osh-Kosh-B’Gosh overalls, enormous flannel shirts stolen from my dad, 90-pound Peruvian sweaters that hung on me like vibrantly colored burlap sacks. And I hid.

OK, so this is a prom photo and I’m not wearing anything sacklike. But it’s literally the only high school photo I could find. As you can see, I had no idea what to do with my hair either. I washed it every day and brushed it out, for optimum bushiness. Though, to my credit, there weren’t many hair products marketed to curly girls back in the day. It was Depp gel, mousse (which was used for spiking purposes only at the time), and hairspray. I truly had no idea that putting some gunk in my hair would make it form actual curls.

P.S. My mom made that pink dress. Does she rock, or what?

This is a college photo in which I’m wearing what I considered, at the time, to be my most stylish outfit. And it was definitely the most form-fitting combo I had in my arsenal. I wore that leather strap as a choker for ages, loved those pants and that shirt, and wore my hair in that style nearly every day.

(No making fun of the friend-clinging-to-legs photo. Everyone was goofy in college, for crying out loud.)

But this is what I looked like most of the time. Yes, I realize this is an exaggeratedly unflattering photo, but I want you to note some things: I am wearing overalls, still wearing the choker, still bushy in the hairs.

Here’s some flannel for yas. It was the 90s, after all. I’m pretty sure I thrifted that one, but I did have a very similar shirt that once belonged to my dad. He’s 6’1″ and weighs half again as much as me so you can imagine how it fit.

More overalls. In fact, overall solidarity with my second year housemates! That’s a Tigger shirt under the overalls.

With the exception of the mustard jeans and rose tee anomaly, all, all, AAAALLLLL of these outfits were designed for total comfort and total hiding. I wanted my figure masked as much and as often as possible. I spent a lot of time wishing I could be a brain in a jar.

My last year of college I chopped my waist-length hair. This is how it looked initially. I made my housemate take a bunch of photos of me in my fanciest duds to commemorate the occasion. At the time, I thought that dress was SCANDALOUSLY short. In fact, I’m not sure I ever wore it for anything besides this series of photos.

The hair just kept getting shorter for a while. Notice the choker and the formless sweater. Also the radiant happiness. Having short hair was fun. I didn’t have to do a damned thing to it!

Although I mainly stuck to jeans, flannel, overalls, and oversized tees, I accumulated a couple of dresses, most of them similar to this batik dealy. Worn with Birkenstocks, which were my ONLY pair of sandals at the time. This photo was taken the summer after I graduated from college on the day we started our cross-country drive from upstate New York to San Francisco. Me and the tall guy, that is. He’s my college ex.

Kept the hair short in San Francisco, and continued with a relatively androgynous look. I was miserable in SF and don’t have many photos from that time period, but this is a pretty representative outfit. I worked in a very casual office and did jeans nearly every day.

Once I moved to Minneapolis, I decided to grow the hair out. I know you can’t see what I’m wearing here, but just wanted to prove that there was a painful in-between phase for the Mane. I am wearing lippy because this is at my birthday party, but I swear I’m not wearing rouge. I was just warm. And possibly tipsy.

By now I’m in my mid-twenties and finally beginning to accept my physicality. I realized yo-yo dieting wasn’t making me any healthier, and grudgingly joined a gym. But simultaneously, I took a real interest in clothing and style. Although my weight continued to fluctuate, I recognized that I was maintaining the same basic body shape. I noted which cuts of clothing suited my curvy little figure, and accumulated flattering, interesting pieces while steadily ditching the formless ones.

This is approximately what I looked like when I met Husband Mike in 2001. I spent several years in the flare jeans and bulky sweaters phase.

I also spent some time as Wonder Woman during my mid-twenties.

OK, not really, but I HAD to throw this Halloween photo in. I made that costume myself from thrifted goods and craft store finds, and cannot believe I got rid of it.

This is a few months before we got married. We’re in the South Padre Islands shooting someone else’s wedding. So it’s not my fault I’m frizzy. That place is like a sauna. I’ve got on a top that fits in a color that flatters with a good neckline. Definite progress.

This is right around the time that my girlier style began to take shape. This was the tightest, sexiest top I owned and I felt amazing in it. Also, that’s a skirt I’m wearing. Among my first. Seriously.
Then I spent several years looking more or less like this: Cute and stylish, but super matchy and lacking creativity. I relied on the clothes to be interesting for me instead of creating interesting mixtures myself or playing with accessories.

This is pretty well into the blog and I’ve started to hone. By this time, I’ve described my personal style as “arty-eclectic with a broad streak of retro influence.” I think this simple outfit with marvelous details encapsulates the beginnings of that style.

Another pretty typical mid-blog outfit – matchy and retro-esque.

Already Pretty outfit featuring olive raincoat, marled turtleneck sweater, combat boots

And y’all know what I look like NOW. (More on how my style arrived at this point here and here.)

The most significant result of my personal fashion evolution was that I began to view clothes as tools. I came to accept that I would always be shaped the same way, but that, if I wanted to, I could use clothes to subtly change how my shape was perceived. I started buying clothes that drew the eye to my small waist, my shapely shoulders, my delicate ankles. I learned that I was a total knockout even if I wasn’t built like a lingerie model. I fell in love with fashion, and I’ve never looked back.

Hope you enjoyed this stroll down my personal branch of Stylistic Memory Lane! Thanks to LPC for a really fascinating suggestion.

Originally posted 2010-07-23 05:20:00.

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87 Responses to “Reader Request: Before”

  1. Lauren

    I had a lot of fun reading this post! Perhaps I'll do a photographic history of my personal style in a few years. You're very lovely by the way. πŸ™‚

  2. lopi

    Wow, I can't even begin to describe how much I appreciated and enjoyed that post! So honest and inspirational… Hope you don't mind if I do one myself in the near future!

  3. La Historiadora de Moda

    Wow! Sal, thanks so much for sharing these photos with us. It was so interesting to read about your style evolution and to see you wearing jeans in so many of the photos.

    That wonder woman costume is seriously bad ass!

  4. Euphman

    Oh my. Those pictures made me even more nostalgic than I was already feeling this morning. For what it's worth, I never thought of you as "un-stylish." Of course, using the "college me" as a basis of comparison maybe isn't the way to go!

  5. Anonymous

    a totally fascinating post, Sal; thanks for taking time to share your past with us.
    I'd love to know now what your style will be like in another ten years' time! I'm certain it is still unfolding…

  6. annie

    Looks like we shared a closet in college! I wore overalls constantly, or thrifted flannels, or that big ol tan cable knit sweater (I think mine was J crew, back when it was affordable).

    I think our body shapes are similar, too. I also struggled with the yo-yo dieting and have found much more comfort with my body since getting into exercise and running.

    Thanks for being such an inspriration, I look forward to reading your posts, daily.

  7. Mae

    What a style evolution! I am going to look through some of my old photos and see if I can document my changes as well. I know that for YEARS, I dressed in baggy and dumpy clothes in order to hide my curves. Only now, in my 30's, am I beginning to really appreciate my body for what it is…thanks for sharing; as always, you are inspiring and motivating!

  8. Almost 40

    Sweet Sal…this is quite an evolution! WOWZA. What a great post! It's amazing how the stages of our lives effect just about everything, including how we dress and feel about our bodies and self.

    I like you just the way you are!

  9. Emma at Daily Clothes Fix

    What a fascinating insight. Thanks for sharing. I love following how people's style evolves.

  10. EvaNadine

    love this post, sal!
    i always love a trip in the way-back machine, but i especially love to see the evolution of how people became who they are today.
    thanks for sharing, lady!

  11. Kim

    This was truly a treat. I have to say though, it brought me right back to the early 90's when I too liked to hide under flannel and big sweaters. I felt myself start to get excited recently as the magazines started proclaiming "Grunge is back!" but I promise I'll fight the urge with every fiber of my being.
    Your sartorial coming-of-age is nothing short of inspiring.

  12. E.

    Sal, this is an amazing post! Thank you sososo much for posting it. I've just recently started following your blog and have read through all your archives, etc. because I love it so much. This article really gives me hope, as I'm in my early 20's now and body-conscious. I do want to love the skin I'm in and most of the time, I do. I want to become healthier though and start dressing more for ME and my figure. You give me such inspiration to do so! Thanks again.

  13. Kimberly

    I loved this post! I am such a sucker for lots of pictures and seeing people "back in the day". Thanks for sharing! You have come a long way, baby!!

  14. Cynthia

    Oh, these are awesome. I was just thinking the other day I ought to document some of my grad school style. I was looking back at some old pictures the other day and it appears I managed to do quite a lot with TJ Maxx finds.

  15. Leah

    I don't think I'd be brave enough to submit old pictures of myself to the Internets. You're very brave!

    And don't be so hard on yourself about the 90s flannel. It was the 90s! Nobody was wearing fitted clothes, everybody was wearing giant sweaters. Really.

    My fiance is a tall thin man, and during the 90s, he says he couldn't find a single thing that didn't look like a burlap sack on him.

  16. WendyB

    I LOVE posts like this! You're too cute. Oh, how I remember those formless sweaters.

  17. Leitadala

    Very cool post. One thing though – you didn't say what you finally did to solve the frizzy/wavy hair problem! As someone with that problem now I'd love to know how to get my hair tamed like yours looks now!

  18. Future Lint

    Yay! I LOVED this post – it was so fun to see your evolving style and hair! You are one brave lady, I would be scared to unleash my fashion past on the internet!

  19. Ekatherina

    Oh gosh! Thank you so much for sharing. I think that you have always been a pretty girl πŸ™‚ And your college pictures are great! I love the one of your friend holding your legs. You looked like you were just having so much fun.
    This whole set was so inspirational. It was interesting to see how someone so stylish has cultivated it over a long time. I'm in the process of slowly cultivating mine (went from skater punk early teen to goth mid teen to librarian teen to trying too hard to be trendy 20-something to now transitioning into something sensible 20-something) so this is so encouraging!! πŸ™‚

  20. Steph

    Thanks for sharing, Sal! Wow…time warp…I'm having flash backs to my own high school and college days spent in baggy jeans, body suits or henleys and flannel button-downs. I think most of us had to grow into acceptance of our bodies as they are, and that really opens the door to the fashion possibilities. I know that once out of my post-college years, I had a better idea of who I am as an individual, and every year I've gained more insight into my own character and preferences and am increasingly better able to look at myself a bit more objectively and dress myself in a way that is comfortable, flattering, attractive, fun, and truly expresses me. Well, most of the time!
    Thanks again for sharing your style evolution!

  21. Sal

    Leitadala: Oh gosh, lady, it depends on a lot of factors … but here are some things I do that might help:

    Wash maybe twice per week. If my hair is worn down more than that, I rinse and use conditioner.

    I use light mousse most of the time to form curls. The Garnier Fructis line is great and cheap. They have a spritz gel that works, too.

    I air-dry my hair. Takes forever, but works best for me.

    Hope that helps!

  22. thelady

    So AMAZING!! This year (my 42nd) I have spent a lot of time going through old photos, wondering why I have hated my body since I was 16. I have had wild fluctuations in my weight, but I felt the same about myself whether I was up or down-Always too big. This is the first year of my adult life I have worn 4" shorts, tank tops, cleavage revealing dresses. What took me so long? I feel so good about myself and my body now. I should put together my own little fashion/body slideshow for myself so I can remind myself to never waste another day worrying about my body and other people's reactions to it!

  23. Kirsten

    I know this took time drudging up old photos but I so appreciate it! I had that same close-crop hairstyle for many years and wore many formless sweaters. Oh and the coveralls. I had every kind: jumper, shorts and long.

    You've come a long way, baby. And you're only in your 30s!!

  24. madam0wl, a.k.a Sandra

    Fun! I've been thinking a bit about my style evolution. How and why exactly did I end up pretty much wearing dresses everyday?

    We must have been in college around the same time because I totally recognize the choker and the bagginess and the birks with socks.

    I love your hair in those band shots!

  25. Michael McGraw Photography

    You current boyfriend seems much cooler than your college bf; the most surprising thing about the photos is that you are wearing a watch in the Padre Island pics.


  26. Tina Z

    I enjoyed reading this post a lot! I went through a similar style evolution and was always envious of my peers that looked so well put together. Instead I hid in oversize clothes or went outside my boundaries with poorly fitting trendy outfits. It took me about as long as you, if not until my early 30s, to hone my own style.

    I wonder, why do you think it takes some women longer? I look at my mom now and see that she's always been a strictly dress-for-comfort woman. Maybe it was her influence? Not sure, but others seems to "get it" much earlier than I did.

  27. Peter

    Wow! How exciting to see your style evolve, Sal. Those overall's are just too much! I wore those too in the early 90s and I can't say they looked much more at home on me than they did on you. Great post — and courageous!

  28. Anonymous

    Favorite post ever! It's so comforting to know I am not the only one who looked like a frizzy haired weirdo when I was younger (not that you look bad, but ya know, curly hair is hard to work with at the age of 16 (or 17, or 18… or…well you get it!) πŸ™‚ It's so neat how much we change and evolve. I love it!! We're never really the same, yet we are always the same. Weird how that works.

  29. Lauren

    Great post, thanks so much for sharing! I've looked back on HS and college photos when I felt so insecure and thought "gosh, I was cute! why did I waste so much of my life being insecure?" It sounds like you have similar feelings about your style/confidence development.

  30. Frances Joy

    This was so wonderful! Thank you so much for sharing it. I'm always fascinated to see how people's styles evolve over the years.

  31. Alli

    Sal, this is fantastic. I've read your blog since 2008, and I took the time back then to read from the VERY beginning, so I've had some idea of what your style evolution has been over the past three years, but seeing the before-blogging Sal has been wonderfully eye opening. It gives me hope! Thank you so much for sharing!

  32. Maggiethecat

    Ah, 90's formless flannel… what memories! πŸ˜€ I'm sure I have a pic somewhere that's nearly identical to your flannel pic: jawline, hair and all – my hair is stick straight, but I used to pull it back like that in middle and high school (and I'm ashamed to admit I hung onto those flannels till well into 2001). In college I used to wear three quarter sleeves and pants all the time too, or huge shapeless shirts. This in S FL, mind you, but I just hated my non-twiggy upper arms so much (and the funny thing is, I've always weighed more or less the same 110 pounds since about age 20), was none too happy with most of my body either, and most of all, I absolutely hated drawing unwanted attention. Boy, is it great to be where I am now – thank you very much for the trip down memory lane!

  33. tinyjunco

    really amazing post! it's made me curious for more details – what made you realize that yo-yo dieting wouldn't work? what/who got you to start exercising? how was it that you got focused on clothes as a path to self-love – a particularly inspiring colleague, a stylish and encouraging friend? or did you get trapped in a dentist's office for twelve hours with nothing to read but Vogue and W?

    more details – or at least links to more details! steph

  34. Trinity

    I liked this post a lot! It is fun to know where in the process I met you (red sweater and flare jeans!). No matter what you look like or what you wear, you are the same great Sal.

  35. Sheila

    This is just wonderful, Sal, to look back at your history. It seems like such a big jump from your old style to your new, but when you see the small baby steps, it all makes sense.

    You're truly inspirational. πŸ™‚

  36. orchidsinbuttonholes

    I cannot even begin to express how much I LOVE this post. Love it! Thank you so much for going through your photos and sharing them with us. I love seeing your style evolution, and you've inspired me to think about doing the same.

    Sal, you're such an inspiration – I've said it before but it must be repeated. Thank you!

  37. Anonymous

    Love the Wonder Woman outfit! Aren't we all 'wonder women'?

  38. The Raisin Girl

    Awww! You were so cute in overalls! And hey, there's no time like college for overalls. If you ever want to revisit them, there's an overall dress at GAP that's adorable. I've had my eye on it for awhile now as an alternative style of dress that I haven't tried. πŸ˜›

    And I would KILL for your curly hair. When I was in elementary school or at the beginning of middle school, Disney's version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame came out on video. I wanted SO BADLY to be Esmerelda, and have big bushy curls and bright green eyes. I don't think I ever grew out of that desire, although I've since read the real Hunchback, and wouldn't be poor Esmerelda for the world. Alas, my hair is thick and wavy, but never bushy. πŸ™

    I would be so interested to see how you would incorporate things like flannel and overalls, and other comfy grunge-like details into a well-crafted, flattering outfit. It might defeat the point of grunge, but I'd still like to see it.

  39. Julia

    I REALLY enjoyed reading this and looking at the pictures. Thanks for sharing!

  40. The Raisin Girl

    Oh…and I'm soooo jealous of how cute you look with short hair. You look just like a pixie. Every time I've ever tried to do my hair that short, I end up looking like a man with boobs. Must be my broad shoulders.

  41. Sal

    tinyjunco: This post tells a bit more. A friend I met in San Francisco who was fantastically stylish herself got me interested in style. I talk about her a bit here though that post is ancient and pretty rambly. Here, too.

    I stopped dieting because it just never worked long-term. I never kept the weight off, and never actually FELT BETTER about my body at all. It finally dawned on me that it never would cure me of hating my body, and since I'd never exercised at all, I gave that a whirl instead!

  42. Corrine/Frock And Roll

    Your style has undertaken a slew of changes, but one thing has remained consistent: you've always been super cute!

  43. Stephanie Vincent

    love the evolution…

    you forgot to mention the socks and sandals in one of the pictures!! πŸ™‚

    You have always been beautiful but your beauty has clearly has become epic as you have grown inside. πŸ™‚

  44. Anne

    Wow, I know you said that we had similar styles during college, but you weren't kidding! I have way too many pictures of me in overalls, flannel, an equally unflattering choker and my then-frizzy hair (ah, the days before I discovered a flat iron) pulled back. Anyway, it's really cool to see how you've evolved! πŸ™‚

  45. fleur_delicious

    awesome; I have to say, I'm tickled to see you in the same 90s ensembles that I hid in (though I also dabbled in goth, an experimentation that thankfully at least got me into some fitted clothes) and a similar style evolution through boring matchy-matchy (but fitting) clothes to something more idiosyncratic and unique. Your reality check about the state of curly hair products has made me take back years of longing for curly locks – yikes, I never thought about it, but you're right!

    Off to mourn the loss of that badass wonder woman costume!!

  46. Natalie

    I love this post! I feel like we just flipped through your old photo albums with you.

  47. Sarah

    Great post! Thank you for sharing. You're brave and honest and beautiful.

  48. Couture Allure Vintage Fashion

    I loved this post. Thanks for sharing your evolution.

  49. Rebekah

    Fascinating post! I should grab popcorn + 3D glasses and watch you grow up all over again.

    My hair's a lot like yours, and I spent YEARS thinking that if I just brushed it hard enough, I could fix it. Poor hair!

  50. Anonymous

    This post took you from amazing and wonderful, to AWESOME.

  51. Rebekah

    Also, those pink satin prom flats would still sell. I'd buy them myself.

  52. Kasmira

    Thank you for taking the time to pull all those photos and illustrate your style journey. This has been most interesting!

  53. kellyroy68

    Sally,I've been reading your blog for sometime now because you make me feel good about myself with every post.I like your honesty and this post was not any different.You have made quite a journey and I can absolutely relate to that.Keep doing what you do.

  54. Margaret

    A post like this puts the "oomph" behind all those trite sayings about how youth is over rated. I mean, I know there are people who constantly harken back to their high school years, or maybe college years, but just LOOK at how amazing it is to come into your own, in a visual way! In high school, I was totally into vintage clothes and Indian block print skirts (it was the 70's) which likely fell to my ankles. College was a women's college and pretty much anything went. My bad years were the early career years judging by photos. My mom was someone who always wore clothes 2 sizes too large (and she was a small person) and I seemed to have been influenced. I drowned in my career wear. 20 years and 3 children later, at 51, I am far more body conscious in my dressing and am grateful for a work environment which permits creativity in dressing even if we are a bunch of lawyers! This was an excellent post and really brings back memories and makes me feel like I know you better…just by seeing you be all those ages!!

  55. gingerr

    Looking at those pictures I think your hair really makes the most difference.

    I know many college students today and but for low-rise jeans and slightly different tops they look a lot the same as you.

    But I think the smart haircut is what makes the difference.

    Not to say that clothing isn't important, but personal grooming is really at the heart of it all.

  56. K.Line

    I know everyone has already said everything but I want to add my 2 cents thank you. What a fascinating post. Great job!

  57. Vonnie

    This was really interesting and fun to read. I particularly love that pic of you singing with that lovely mauve top. Has anyone ever told you you sort of look like the young Judy Davis (who happens to be one of my favourite actresses ever?) πŸ™‚

  58. robin

    Sal, you are so courageous to share this with us. What you do here on this blog truly makes a difference. Thank you. I especially appreciated and identified with your description of your college years. I paid virtually no attention to my style in college, but I too can see my *radiant happiness* in the photos from those years. We should all be so lucky to experience that kind of happiness in our lives. The acceptance and love of my friends in college helped me build the confidence to later cultivate my personal style & show on the outside the person I am on the inside. Now in my 30's, I continue to seek out and cherish friends who embrace me exactly as I am. Thanks again for the amazing post! Oh, and I also went back to read your "This I Believe Essay", which I totally loved.

  59. lisa

    Oh wow, what a fun trip down memory lane on a Friday morning! Bravo for posting this Sal.

  60. Rebecca

    Thank you for sharing this. I've been feeling very body conscious lately, and it is helpful to read your positive words.

    I used to steal my Dad's flannel shirts too, which was probably a bad call since he wears a men's XL.

  61. Andie

    what a fun post- I went through similar fashion phases! I could have written that bit on overalls and such myself! πŸ™‚

    Thanks for sharing!

  62. jesse.anne.o

    Awww. You looked cute the entire time! We all dressed like that in the '90s. I had overall shorts, big t-shirts, babydoll dresses (liberty floral and batik!) I wore with combat boots and the whole 9 yards.

    I love your hair parted and pinned back when it's longer – so nice.

  63. Patricia

    In 6th grade I wore a down vest all year because it hid my developing breasts (this was in the SF Bay Area, so wearing a down vest in summer was . . . odd to say the least). But thank goodness for that vest – it got me through a difficult time of adjustment. Each of us has our own path to walk, and people shouldn't be judged for their relationship to their own body – whether it's a friendly relationship or a more difficult one.

    For this reason I echo what Robin said, and appreciate so much that you pointed out your happiness in college. That you were happy in part because you could ignore your body doesn't detract from that happiness. If you hadn't made that point in the beginning of the post it would have been easy to read the post as "look at my journey from un-stylish to stylish". Instead you've made me think more deeply about the way we use clothes in relation to our own body image (as tools, as you so cleverly put it), and decide that it's all good!

  64. Liz

    I think my dad had the same plaid shirt, which I stole from him and wore all the time.

  65. LPC

    Sal, wow, thank you SO MUCH for such a thoughtful and cute answer to my question! I love the way you evolved over time, and the way that you were, to an extent, always you. In other words, always wholesome and fresh-faced. The same smile. Fascinating. Again, thank you so much for such a great answer.

    Lisa (LPC)

  66. R.

    Mrs. Mcgraw, that was a beautiful post! I'm so happy for how far you have come! Your smile was consistently radiant and your beauty grew as your inner self did. Thanks for taking us all along that journey. Very confident and courageous of you! πŸ™‚

  67. Kelly

    Sal, I *loved* seeing all these old pictures of you! Thank you for sharing!

  68. Sharon

    Hi Sally –
    This is fellow alto 2 Sharon here. I loved this post (and loved the shot of Annie all blurred out!) You're looking great and I am an avid reader of your blog. You rock!
    Love ya,

  69. FirstTime

    Dear Sal,

    I enjoyed watching your style evolution but I feel compelled to comment today. I hope you will forgive any negativity that may come across in my comment. It is most probably a result of my lack of artfulness with words.

    While I support a positive self-image and appreciate the work that it takes most people to get to such a point, there is a lot to be said for humility as well. Quietly knowing that I have nice legs is one thing. Voicing it out loud to the world, and more importantly, overtly reminding oneself of one's gifts seems self-indulgent.

    Perhaps this is a function of being from an Eastern culture but to me, praising myself to myself is less than a virtue. In a twisted way, by emphasizing how much I love my waist or my hair – just the way they are – I am actually buying into the idea that my waist and my hair matter a lot.

    I know that in the real world looks do matter. I am not saying we should pretend they don't. But should they matter so much to us personally as well? We spend so much time digging ourselves out of the body image hole that we are pushed into so early in our lives. All that to arrive at what? At the most, we decide to reject larger cultural standards for how one is supposed to look. We end up talking about loving our bodies as they are, we congratulate ourselves on how well a body part has served us etc.

    I suspect that people that have made an immense difference in our world spent less time thinking about their body beyond taking care of it, and spent more time on something far more valuable that could enrich someone's life very fundamentally.

  70. Sal

    Sharon: YAY! I'm so glad to hear that you're reading. And isn't that photo a hoot? We Pegs have all come a long way since those shenanigans.

    FirstTime: I don't think that humility and self-love are mutually exclusive. I don't think that learning to view oneself as beautiful is a waste of energy or a self-indulgent undertaking. I do think that, in order to create change in the world, we must first find serenity within ourselves – and that means intellectually, spiritually, psychologically, AND physically. We are not solely intellectual or spiritual beings. We have bodies, those bodies are connected to our essential identities, and I believe in cultivating reverence for all elements of self.

    You are certainly entitled to believe that self-love, positive body image, and praising oneself for physical beauty are misguided or useless concepts, but I'm a little puzzled as to why you'd read this blog if you do. Everything here is about the intersection of style and body image. It's my goal to show women that praising themselves to themselves can be rewarding, healing, and transformative. That style and self-love are natural partners. Because that has been my personal experience. I hated my body for nearly 30 years. Only when I learned to accept and love it, just as it is, did I feel any sense of wholeness or serenity.

    It's not a path that all people want to walk. But it's the one I'm headed down myself. And I'm drawing maps for anyone who cares to accompany me.

  71. Erin

    What an incredible transformation. You know what is most striking to me, though? In that very last photo, you look comfortable. Not pose-y or please-hide-me or I'm-not-really-sure-about-myself-ey.

    You are wearing beautiful clothes that are totally flattering and happy. But they are not wearing you. They're showcasing a beautiful woman who loves being herself.

  72. Sidewalk Chalk

    Sal, this was an amazing post. You've inspired me to look back on my past and see how I've evolved as well. Thanks so much for wearing this!

    That fuchsia dress toward the end is absolutely gorgeous on you!

  73. Joni

    I loved this post because it also caused me to reflect on my own fashion evolution. I had a similar high school and college wardrobe. I was rail thin in high school but wore XL clothes anyway. Puberty finally caught up with me in college and I filled out a bit but wore the same over-sized flannels and overalls and the occasional strange thrifted piece. I too had a train-engineer striped pair of overalls that I loved. We diverged in the late 90's early 00's when I was a little too influenced by Britney Spears and company and sported belly-shirts or backless shirts or tight and short things. I was really celebrating my body and was eager to show it off–it was really a coming out of my shell and realizing that I had a figure. Even though I cringe at those photos now I'm glad I had those jubilant body-baring years and also thankful that I have settled into a style that is more "clean-classic with a touch of whimsy." Thanks for the honesty!

  74. Anonymous

    I love your insight into yourself.

    I think I am at the stage of letting the clothes be interesting for me, rather than making them interesting myself. I never thought of the difference before, but you've given me a lot to think about. Thank you.

  75. Elissa

    Truly excellent post!! Loved this one! Now I can better understand why this blog and why you've taken on topics of flattery, style, and body acceptance as your "mission".

  76. Hannah

    Lovely post Sal, I absolutely adore the picture of you after you cut your hair! You look sassy and confident…and the dress is gorgeous.

  77. Herbwifemama

    Thank you for sharing! I have to say, that what stood out to me the most in ALL your pictures is your amazing smile. You are just beautiful, and your inner radiance really comes through when you smile. Thank you for making this blog, and talking about these issues. I’m a bit behind you on the journey, but making progress.

  78. SamiJ

    I can’t help but think, what if you could go back in time and tell everyone (yourself, your friends, your relatives).. “in the future I will be known for style/fashion/body positivity” . I love how this shows not only how your style changed over the years, but how you changed. And that you can’t predict what will happen or how our interests will change, or what parts of our personalities will move forward to lead us. We grow. we change, we move.

    • Sally

      Thank you, SamiJ! And so true. When we’re growing up we can plan all we like, but it’s almost impossible to know where we’ll end up!