Guest Post: Sarah’s Style and Body Image Journey

Sarah is an online style consult client of mine, and we’ve been corresponding on and off since we first started working together back in October of 2010. She is a truly amazing, giving, wise, loving, and strong woman and I am very fortunate to have connected with her. I asked her to write a guest post for me because I wanted to urge you to check out her own style and body image blog, Curves and Sass, where she shares her thoughts on fashion, fitness, and self-care. But I’ve also had some requests for background and client feedback on my consults, and since I’ve worked with Sarah not once but twice, I thought she’d provide you with an informed perspective.

Sarah made some big changes to her lifestyle after our first consult, and changed her body shape drastically – hence the second consult! As she points out below, she did this entirely independently, as an extension of her own desire to steward her body in new or rekindled ways. Sarah was thrilled with the looks we created in her first consult, and neither of us believes that one must be slim to be stylish. In her case, the consult itself sparked some new attitudes about her body and how she, personally, wanted to care for it.

Sarah chronicled her experience working with me and has generously agreed to let me post it here. Needless to say, her kind words brought me to tears! Read on to learn more about Sarah’s style and body image journey.

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When I first contacted Sally for a virtual style consult, I expected that she would tell me what I was ready to hear: That I was too fat for fashion and needed to shop the plus size department and stop complaining about it. I had been reading Already Pretty for years, and wrote to her, and I really didn’t expect an answer back. I certainly didn’t expect the work that we did together would lead to a total life overhaul, including (but in no way limited to) a 90 pound weight loss. Sally changes lives, you guys, and when she asked me to write a guest spot, I was grateful to get an opportunity to attempt to repay her for all the good she did me.

Sally has talked before about feeling disconnected from her body, running her life as a brain unplugged from a body. I have always loved fashion, but when I gained over 100 pounds in a few short years, I lost all sense of myself. I knew I needed to wear clothes for practical reasons, but I stopped caring at all about the trends and influences that had driven me when I was younger and thinner. I didn’t have a sense of my body, or a sense of myself, and it had gotten to a point where that didn’t even bother me anymore. I have a supportive, loving husband who has always thought I was beautiful, a huge number of friends who didn’t care at all what I weighed or how I looked, and a career as a school librarian that nurtured my creative spirit and my soul. I had a nagging feeling that my disconnected body sense was dangerous and unhealthy, but I couldn’t pinpoint it.

The biggest step of the wardrobe consult is photographic. Sally wants pictures of you from all angles, and she wants pictures of you in your favorite outfits. That was the hardest part for me—I hadn’t taken a picture of myself since college. In order to get a proper sense of proportion in the middle of a virtual consult, I shrugged into a tank top and a pair of yoga pants, took a deep breath, and asked my husband to snap pictures. I hadn’t seen a picture of myself in years, and I didn’t recognize what I saw. But it was so powerful to see myself, after all those years of skipping mirrors and ducking out of pictures. I hadn’t planned, at that point, to lose weight, but what I saw connected me squarely back to myself, and I remember thinking that I was so happy to be doing this work, because no matter what I weighed, I had to start loving myself enough to dress with intention and respect.

Two outfits that Sarah sent me as examples of her style before we began working together.

And really, that’s where stewardship starts—with the understanding that you are worth the effort. You deserve to dress yourself in fabrics that are pleasing to your skin and your soul. You are worth the extra time it takes to find a pair of jeans that really fit, and when Sally reminded me that being able to button a pair of pants did not necessarily make it the right pair of pants for me, I realized exactly the cavernous size of the disservice I was doing to myself. I could own every inch of my 250 pound frame with conviction and respect, and I needed to. It wasn’t an optional decision. It was a survival essential.

Sally found me a million amazing pieces of clothing, and beyond that, she helped me determine my priorities when it came to figure flattery. She helped me craft my adult style identity and taught me to shop for it. Everything I loved about fashion came flooding back and I felt invigorated and excited. Most significantly – and this was a regular experience in my life as someone seriously overweight – she never, ever told me that I needed to lose weight. Not to fit into clothes, or to be stylish or beautiful. When I asked her, as we wrapped up, if weight loss would change my silhouette, she was supportive and encouraging. When I wrote to her a year later, unfamiliar with my body after a 90-pound weight loss, she helped me reconfigure.

Sarah after consult number one (left) and after consult number two (right).

Taking an honest and loving look at myself changed my life. If I had refused to take those initial photographs, I don’t know where I’d be today. If I hadn’t decided that I really was more than a brain stuck in a body I didn’t care about, I wouldn’t have been able to make the changes that have led me to a healthier life. I don’t believe that you need to be thin to be healthy, but I know that I needed to lose the weight that I did to manage the life I wanted: One with less health risks, with the hypothetical potential for healthy childbirth, and full of the athletic pursuits that have always driven me. It makes sense to me that my path to full stewardship started with fashion, since I love it so much. This was the best, hardest work I’ve ever done.

You can’t change your life without a cast of supporting loved ones and I feel so grateful that Sally came into my life when she did. Today, I keep a separate closet for dresses because I have so many. My poor husband is subjected to endless fashion shows that he has to photograph so I can put them on my Facebook account. I run a body image blog, where I write about fashion and image and exercise.

You deserve the life you want to live, and the work it takes to get there is worth all the pain, all the tears, and all the stress. They will pass, and there you’ll be, reborn with intention and love.

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If you’re interested in finding out more about my style consult services, you can read more testimonials and get more details right here. I will be in the Chicagoland area October 9 – 13 and am accepting clients for that time period.

Huge thanks to Sarah for sharing her story!

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27 Responses to “Guest Post: Sarah’s Style and Body Image Journey”

  1. Sarah G

    Wow, Sarah’s story is really inspiring! What amazing work you two did together. And Sally, I just think you’re awesome!

  2. Millie

    I bookmarked Sarah’s “How to: Love yourself hard” post from Curves and Sass and refer back to it often. Thank you for forging a path to true self love, and sharing with us how you did it and what that feels like. Bravo, Sarah! And thanks to Sally for sharing Sarah with us!

  3. elin

    How inspiring! It’s not the weight loss, although I know that took significant work. It’s the willingness to face the things that made Sarah unhappy – look at them directly – and make a change. We skirt those issues so often. Here’s to Sarah’s newfound happiness!

  4. Genevieve

    The number one difference between the before and after pictures: that beautiful smile!!!

    • T.

      I agree. Look how happy Sarah is in the first after-consult photo, before the weight loss! Amazing. What an inspiration.

  5. Emily

    This was so touching! And that last dress is so adorable. I mean. so. adorable.

  6. Nina

    This essay is both poignant and inspiring. Bravo to you, Sarah, for your courage and insight and generosity in sharing your story. All your hard work has really paid off in finding your style sweet spot (both times).

    And, if they don’t cost a fortune, I would love to know where you find all your pretty dresses!

    • Sarah Pevner

      Sorry, I promise not to post all over this, but I couldn’t resist: literally every dress in my closet comes from one of three places : Ross Dress for Less, Lord and Taylor’s clearance racks, or TJ Maxx. The first dress I found at Nordstorm Rack for $18, and the bottom dress was a gift from my mama, bought at a Macy’s sale.

      I am strongly of the quantity with relative quality school of buying one million dresses.

  7. sarah pevner

    Hi guys! Thank you so much for the kindness. That smile hardly ever leaves my face these days, and my mama tells me all the time how happy she is to see it again.


  8. Nomi

    “Being able to button a pair of pants did not necessarily make it the right pair of pants for me”…. yikes, that’s pretty much my criterion. I have always hated pictures of myself, even when I was young and slim and possibly good-looking. I’ve mostly believed this was because my mental image of myself is much prettier than the reality, and I didn’t see much point in slamming myself in the face with photos. So where does this leave me now — old, fat, and deluded? ^_^ Anyway, great work, Sarah. You have a lot more willpower than I can even imagine having.

    • Jen

      I have that same issue. I look completely different in the mirror than in photos. I have outfits that I feel great in until I see a photo of myself in them and then I’ll never wear them again. Even worse, when I’ve said out loud that I look prettier in my head than in real life, no one has corrected me.

  9. Kristin

    This was a really great post. Thanks for sharing.

    On another note, I’ve been dying to figure this out for about a year: what is the name of that fabric where it is creased, and the printed pattern is skipped in the creases of the fabric? You can see it on the last picture of Sarah (“…after consult number two (right).”)

    This has been bugging me and my best friend and we’d love it if anyone can tell us the name!

    • Sal

      Oh gosh, is there a name for that? I’ve seen the fabric a lot lately but don’t know its formal name. Anyone else?

      • Millie

        It’s sublimation or sublimated. Was a prominent trend here in the south about two years ago!

        • Kristin

          Oh, thanks, Millie! This has been bugging me for a while. The trend is starting to fade in my part of Oregon, but I do still see it quite a bit.

  10. Mel@TheVa-Va-Voom Shoppe

    Wow, what a touching post! I can really relate to Sarah. I, too, am camera-shy and have a hard time really viewing my body in a positive light. I’ve lost 21 pounds so far this year, but I find still find myself reaching for the baggiest clothes in my closet, because I’m uncomfortable in anything form-fitting. I didn’t feel particularly unhealthy at my previous weight (155), but I find I have more energy at 134!

    Sarah looks gorgeous! Women of all sizes and shapes deserve pretty clothes and to feel great about themselves (just wish I could take my own advice!) 🙂

  11. Anna

    Sally and Sarah: Profound thanks to you both for this inspiring post. Such an articulate and creative combination of loving yourself while changing yourself! And it’s a joy to find another blogger whose writing, whatever the subject, is a pleasure to read.

  12. Megan Mae

    What a wonderful story and adventure. I’m really impressed at her dedication to herself. You can see the change in Sarah’s posture and her beautiful smile in the post-consult photos.

  13. Mrs. Greenberg

    Sarah, you are my hero today. What a beautiful woman you were 90 pounds ago and what a beautiful woman you are right now! You remind me of one of my students; I am a high school teacher, and last week I remarked to one of my (largest) students how well she dressed and carried herself, and that I loved her style and sense of self. Both of you are prime examples of beautiful, powerful women.

    Sally, thank you for introducing us to Sarah. I definitely want to be more like her, or at least be her friend. 😎

  14. Anne

    I have a big smile on my face, having read Sarah’s post! Good for you, Sarah. I, too, have grown to love my body through Sally’s blog.

    At first, I was all into the fashion part. But gradually, as I learned to dress better, I have grown to love me. I hadn’t even connected this to Already Pretty until I read this post, but I have lost 9 pounds since I started reading this blog a year and a half ago! And I never even tried. I just learned to wear a good bra and jackets that nip the waist. I just bared my lily white legs proudly and donned short skirts. I quit fighting my hair and learned to love it. I wore bright colors and more jewelry. I walked more proudly and felt more confident and now I feel better about myself than I have in my almost 60 years.

    So, enjoy this awesome blog, try some of Sally’s ideas, step out of your old clothes and into a new you. You will love yourself for it!

  15. Practical Paralegalism

    Sarah, I will definitely check out your blog. I love your honesty and insight. You look happy after both initial consults, and that’s what the best clothes do for us, make us feel good. I always think of it as “the glow” – that kind of special feeling you get when an article of clothing, whether it’s the color, the fabric, the silhouette, just kind of lights you up. Your experience with Sally was amazing. I know someone’s likely said this a gerzillion times, but what she did is show you that you were already pretty, a lovely person, with lots of beauty to highlight.

  16. Apple A Day

    What an awesome post. A couple of years ago I gained a lot of weight and like you, I lost my sense of self. I always thought of myself as a fit, stylish person but all of the sudden my body image was changing and I didn’t know how to take pride in myself.
    Oddly, this was one of the best things that ever happened to me in terms of body image. For the first time in my life I stopped basing my sense of physical self on being a certain size or wearing a certain type of dress. Blogs like Already Pretty really helped me transition. Instead of angsting about what I “couldn’t” wear, I dressed my “new” body in comfortable, flattering clothing (a lotta empire wait!) had fun accessorizing and went on with my life. In spite of being heavier than I had ever been, I still had a positive self image.
    Since then I’ve slowly lost weight and gotten back to my “regular” size, but I have retained my sense of style and body acceptance. It feels good to finally know that no matter what shape or size I am, they can’t take away my sense of style!

  17. alice

    Loved this post. In the after-consult pictures, it took me a little while to even tell there was a difference in weight between the two pictures because I was so focused on the smile on Sarah’s face, which was the same in both photos. When you’re happy, it definitely shows and size doesn’t matter. I’m so glad Sally was able to help you get that smile back.

  18. f.

    This is so great! I’m glad you were able to reconnect with your body that way, Sarah.

  19. Cynthia

    It doesn’t matter how busy I am, when I take the time to stop and read this blog, I’m always so grateful that I did. On my way over to Sarah’s blog now. Thanks, Sal 🙂