There are a lot of reasons I think women don’t have a wardrobe they love, but this one takes the cake. It isn’t money, it isn’t time, it isn’t kids…
Specifically, when it comes to the belief that you have to love your body before you can love your wardrobe.
It’s so important to love your wardrobe, no matter what your weight is.
Let’s dive in and learn the important lessons on self-love and self acceptance and the excuses I hear on why women aren’t loving their wardrobes.
A few years ago, I spoke at an event and talked about the importance of not engaging in negative self-talk in front of your kids. After the event, I met with some ladies who shared that their girls, as young as 8 and 9 are already calling themselves fat and asking to go on diets. My heart broke.
Does what we say have an impact on our kids? Is social media really responsible for how our daughters feel about themselves? Where are these negative talk tracks coming from and how can we stop them?
A few months after the event I was helping a client with her wardrobe and it never fails, clients tell me the story of every piece of clothing they own. Like “I bought this on vacation” or “ I found that on clearance”. I actually enjoy that part so much.
This time, the stories were different and every single one had something to do with her weight or her body. “I weighed 130 pounds when I bought that dress” “Those pants make my thighs look big” “I like this top because it hides my belly rolls.” Literally, every single item came with a weight reference or a negative body reference.
During our session, I don’t think I saw her smile in the mirror at any point, which is really rare. In fact, almost every time she looked in the mirror, she gave a little frown or a sigh or pursed her lips. She practically oozed unhappiness with her body. It was palpable and filled the air around us.
While I was there, one of my favorite quotes came to mind, and here’s the philosophy segment for the week.
“A Mother who radiates self-love and self-acceptance actually vaccinates her daughter against low self-esteem.”
The quote is by Naomi Wolf-author of The Beauty Myth.
It occurred to me, at that moment, that it’s not enough NOT to say negative things about your body. It’s not enough NOT to criticize yourself in front of your kids. You’ve got to be proactively positive.
Although my client didn’t talk negatively about her body in front of her kids, the looks and body language were enough.
LESSON 1: RADIATE SELF-LOVE
Not calling yourself fat or complaining about your thighs is great, but it’s not enough. Those are passive things. You need to radiate self-love and self-acceptance. Meaning, you need to value yourself enough to care for yourself.
From a style perspective, self-love means wearing clothes that make you smile.
Self-love means having fun with your wardrobe and not frumping around in too big t-shirts because you don’t feel you deserve nice things until you have the body you want. It means taking time for yourself now and then to do some self-care.
Self-acceptance means you dress the body you have right now, in clothes that make you feel great right now, without waiting until you’re happy with the number on the scale. Self-acceptance means buying great jeans, even if they’re a size bigger than you’d like them to be. Self-acceptance is getting in the swimsuit even though your body looks different than it used to.
Are you radiating those things? If not, it’s time to start.
Are you radiating something else, like my client was? If so, it’s time to stop.
LESSON 2: VACCINATE AGAINST LOW SELF-ESTEEM
Self-love and self-acceptance vaccinate our daughters against low self-esteem. Think for a moment about what vaccines do. They allow you to go out in the world and be protected from harmful things. There are things in the world that will harm our daughter’s self-esteem.
Our daughters will see girls at school, girls on Snapchat or TikTok, girls in the media, who may be taller, prettier, smarter, more talented..whatever. It’s up to you mama, to give them the vaccine to go out among those people and not be damaged. It’s a big responsibility, but it’s an incredible gift to give your daughter–and one that I know a lot of my ladies wish they would have gotten from their own moms.
Finally, I want to share what radiating looks like in my house, where I have two young-ish daughters. My girls see me having fun with clothes. They hear me say things like, “Dang I look cute today” mostly joking, but also not. They see me splurge on things I love, and they see me try new things.
They see me buy new, but still fabulous, clothes when my weight fluctuates and my good jeans aren’t fitting right–without complaining, or even commenting on it. They also see me leave the house in leggings and no makeup because I never want them to think that I need any of this to feel good about myself–but rather it’s fun and makes me happy.
I do this because I feel good about myself, not in order to feel good about myself. I think that’s just as important to communicate. Will this mean my girls never feel bad about themselves? Probably not, but I’m going to give them the biggest dose of this vaccine as I can.
By the way, if you’re a mom to boys, or you don’t have kids and you feel left out of this one, that isn’t my intent. However, the evidence shows that a person’s self-esteem and sense of self are most shaped by their same-sex parent. So, feeling good about yourself and radiating self-love and self-acceptance should be a goal for everyone, but if you’ve got a daughter, there’s an importance and urgency that can’t be understated.
Today I’m going to share my own story of weight and wardrobe, and then I’m going to share with you the most common things I hear about the weight wardrobe connection, and why they’re all absolute crap excuses. Let’s get started.
To make a very long story short, Oprah has nothing on my weight fluctuations. My challenges with my weight started around the 3rd grade, and I was put on my first diet at 10. Honest to God, there are “before” photos of me in an 8-week diet program. wearing my favorite teddy bear t-shirt. Just as a side note, if your kid is young enough to want to wear a teddy bear t-shirt, they’re too young for a diet program.
File that tidbit away, parents. Anyway, I continued to struggle with my weight all through junior high and high school. I can’t find the “after” picture from that program, but I know it didn’t work.
My weight really didn’t fluctuate through those years though–it just stayed high. When I started college, the extreme, yo-yo diets really started–I’ve started and stopped Weight Watchers more times than I can count, I’ve done Atkins, Keto, the grapefruit diet–You name it, I’ve tried it. I’ve been a size 8 and a size 18, I’ve bought smalls and double extra larges.
I share this with you because I want you to know I get it. I’m not some size 4 stylist who has never worried about her weight or even a size 14 stylist who has never worried about her weight–this has been a battle my entire life, so I hope you understand that I’m coming at this from a place of solidarity, not from an “it’s so easy, just do what I do” perspective.
But here’s the thing–I’ve always loved clothes. I’m not super into high-fashion, and I’m label obsessed at all–I just love clothes that are fun and reflect my personal style. I loved that Teddy Bear t-shirt even when I didn’t like the body inside it. I mourned both my bright citron size 8 shorts when they got too small and my floral size 16 shorts when they got too big.
It has never, not once, not for a minute, occurred to me that I couldn’t or shouldn’t buy things I love because my body wasn’t where I wanted it to be. Granted, I have a tough body shape to dress, and growing up even into my 20’s, I think not knowing HOW to dress my body contributed to the belief that my body was bad, or somehow wrong. When I started working at Chico’s and learned my body wasn’t deformed–it was just an apple that didn’t work with the clothes I was buying– the love affair was truly on.
A big reason I do what I do is to give women that freedom to love clothes NOW, and not wait until they’re the right shape or size, which may never happen. And the thought of a life spent waiting to love the way you look makes me really sad.
I’m not just talking about plus-sized women. Women of every size struggle with their body changes and I wish women would stop skinny shaming, or invalidating other women’s feelings just because they have a body we think of as desirable. How about we just stop talking about “good” bodies or “I wish I had your body” and just run our own races instead, acknowledging this is hard for most everyone.
So let’s talk about the themes that have come up over and over again when I’ve had conversations with women and the non-existent connection we create between weight and wardrobe.
Excuse 1: “I don’t want to invest in clothes at this weight”
One of the main concerns I’ve heard is, “I don’t want to invest in clothes at this weight”. Now, there is validity to not investing a lot in your wardrobe when your body is in flux. But you have to ask yourself–honestly–is your body in flux?
Long ago, I used to ask my clients, “Are we shopping for a ‘right now’ body, or for a ‘forever’ body?”. At the time I was working with a lot of women who were postpartum, and whose bodies WERE actually changing. However, no woman ever said, “We’re shopping for a forever body”. It didn’t matter if their kids were babies or college students, they all had grand plans to be supermodels real soon and just wanted to buy cheap things to hold them over until that happened.
If you’ve been putting off investing in yourself for a very long time. 15 years, or even 5 years, is not a body in flux. That’s a forever body, and you should feel free to buy things you love for that body.
If you’re wondering about my definition of a body in flux, or a “right now” body, here it is. First, you have kids under preschool age. Give yourself a break mama. Not every woman is back in her pre-pregnancy jeans in 6 weeks, despite what Instagram and magazines say. However, when your youngest is in pre-school, that’s your weight, not baby weight.
The second thing I use to determine if I’m dressing a forever body or a right now body is, are you actively planning to have more children in the very near future– not “oh, another baby would be nice someday” but, “we’d like to get pregnant this year”. See the difference?
The last qualifier for a right-now body is, are you actively engaged right now in a lifestyle program geared toward changing your body? Thinking about doing something is not the same as doing it, so if you’ve been thinking you want to make changes for a year, or a decade, but you aren’t actually doing it, you go ahead and buy the good jeans.
We need to get real with ourselves about our bodies and realize that when we live like it’s going to be different next month or next season, we are cheating ourselves out of the joy of loving the way we look right now. And if you’re not careful, your plan to just “muddle through” for a season or two can easily turn into 15 years.
The other point I want to make about not “investing” in clothes you love before you’re at a size you don’t love is this: most women listening to this show right now are not buying true investment pieces that are going to last for many many years. Even if you had your dream body, the wardrobe you’d buy today from Old Navy, Loft, Target, Macy’s isn’t going to last you forever and would need to be replaced and updated.
We have to let go of the idea that these are the last clothes you’ll ever buy, so they better be in a size you’ll be happy with forever. It’s just not true.
I guess what I’m saying is that you’re not buying a forever wardrobe, so don’t worry so much about waiting for your forever body. Buy what works for you now. Regardless of body changes, you’ll have to rebuy at some point, and when that happens, if you’re buying in a different size, great, if you’re not, at least you’ll have had clothes you love.
Excuse 2: “I have clothes–I just need to get back into them”
The second thing about weight and wardrobe I hear is, “I have clothes–I just need to get back into them”. Friend, the hard truth is, clothes you can’t wear are useless.
In my episode on Editing Your Closet like a Pro, I talked about the concept of what a wardrobe is. It’s not all the clothes you own, it’s all the clothes you can wear right now. When you struggle to get dressed every day, life’s a little less fun. You’ll start the day in a bad mood, trying on outfit after outfit, struggling to find something that works. Staring at clothes you can’t wear is not an effective strategy for getting dressed or for feeling good about yourself.
If you’re not buying clothes because you own so many, but you just can’t wear them right now, try this: box up everything you can’t comfortably wear today. What’s left in your closet is your wardrobe. Will that get you dressed every day and make you feel good? If it doesn’t, you don’t have “so many clothes”, and there’s no reason to struggle to get dressed. Go buy things that you can wear right now, and make you feel good right now, and make it easy to get dressed right now. When and if you get back into those beautiful things, great, you’ll be prepared. Until then, you’ll be covered.
Excuse 3: “I just refuse to buy clothes in a bigger size”
I haven’t heard this one very often, but I think it’s the most brutally honest one out of the bunch, and probably what a lot of women saying these other things really mean–and it’s this “I just refuse to buy clothes in a bigger size”. That’s it, just “I don’t want to”, but the thing is, your body is the size it is, regardless of the number or letter on the tag.
A lot of women attach a personal judgment to a specific size. The women I’ve met who have been this honest with me are usually struggling in clothes that are uncomfortable or are past their prime, and don’t make them feel very good about themselves.
If this is you, I need you to hear this: You are exactly the same person, regardless of what the label in your shirt says. You are not a better person when the number is smaller, and you’re not a worse person if the letter goes up. It is time to separate personal success and personal failure from the size label on your clothes.
You know I love to offer practical strategies on dealing with wardrobe challenges, but I simply don’t have one for this. Every woman who feels this way knows she would look better and feel physically more comfortable in her correct size, but it isn’t about that at all. It is simply about attaching a value judgment to size, and until you can separate your size from your value or worthiness, there isn’t a shopping strategy that’s going to help you.
I wish I could offer you more than that, but this is one you’ve got to work through in your heart and mind before you can hear any shopping advice. Me telling you to just buy what fits you today is like screaming into the wind.
Excuse 4: “When I lose weight, I’m going to reward myself with great clothes”
Finally, my favorite, and when I say favorite, I mean the one that makes me the craziest, is some variation of “When I lose weight, I’m going to reward myself with great clothes”. What this one is saying is “I don’t deserve to love my clothes until I love my body”. This is just an excuse to put off loving yourself the way you are. You don’t have to do the hard work of self-acceptance, you don’t have to put the effort into making yourself a priority now–you can just put it off until you reach some magical number you’ve set for yourself.
One thing I know from my trips up and down the scale is that there isn’t a day where you think, “That’s it, I’ve achieved my goal, let the feeling of self-love and self-acceptance rain down on me starting…..now!”.
The truth is, the way you honestly feel about yourself stays pretty constant, and if you don’t feel you deserve nice things right now, you probably won’t feel you deserve nice things when you reach your goal, either.
On the other side of “I’ll reward myself” is women thinking that the promise of a great wardrobe will be a great motivator to lose weight or go to the gym, and I have to say, I think this is the least effective diet plan of all time. We aren’t motivated on a daily basis by all the beautiful things we don’t have. You don’t pass on dessert because someday you want to buy premium jeans, and you don’t hit the gym extra hard because you’d someday like to buy a nice sweater. It just doesn’t work like that.
Here’s another way to approach this: Let your wardrobe be the catalyst for reaching your goals, instead of the reward. And no, I’m not talking about buying clothes that are too small as motivation. That’s insane and ineffective.
What I mean is when we feel good, when we like the way we look, the likelihood of treating ourselves better in all areas goes way up. Have you ever noticed that when you put yourself together a little extra–maybe booties and a dress instead of jeans and flats, you carry yourself differently.
Now, compare that to when you’re shuffling around in Uggs and PJ pants at the grocery store. No judgment, I’ve done it too! Which version of you is more likely to buy good, nourishing healthy food–the dress and booties or the slippers and PJs? Which one of you is more likely to buy nothing but mac and cheese and ice cream?
While I’m not saying the answer to all your weight struggles is a better wardrobe–let’s face it, if it was, I’d never struggle, but I do know that a frumpy wardrobe that makes you feel bad is never the answer. Your wardrobe is a much better catalyst than it is a reward.
The last thing I want to say about the connection between your weight and your wardrobe is this. You have a choice. There is no actual, true, real connection between having to have a body you love before you can have a wardrobe you love. You decided that connection exists, and you can just as easily decide that the connection can go away.
If you’ve been consciously or unconsciously putting off loving the way you look, until you love the way you look, I want to think about which of these excuses you’ve been telling yourself. Then, I want you to think about if those excuses are really serving you. If not, decide what you’re going to do about it. Maybe it’s boxing up the clothes that don’t fit right now, so you can see what you actually have. Maybe it’s making the choice to buy a great pair of jeans. Maybe it’s doing some online shopping to discover some fabulous plus size sites you didn’t know about.
I don’t care what it is, but I want you to do ONE thing that will help you break the connection you created between your weight and your wardrobe. You deserve to love the way you look, whether you’ve reached your body goals or not.
Listen to the full episode to hear more thoughts about the connection between weight and wardrobe.
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