Last week, in Episode 114, Linda was super recent, but for this one, I’m going way way way back into the archives. She was one of my very first clients.
When Linda came to me she was getting ready to go back to work after pregnancy, and nothing fit–you know this story by now, right?
Because nothing pre-pregnancy fit or was appropriate to go to work in, we didn’t bother with a closet edit. We were absolutely starting from scratch. We made an appointment to go shopping, and I gave myself a pat on the back for adding another client to my roster.
Linda came to me through an acquaintance, who I ran into one day, and she said, “I hear you’re working with Linda! Then she said “good luck”. I must have looked alarmed because she said “She’s really picky about her appearance”. Honestly, I wasn’t phased–I’d dealt with people who were picky about their clothes for years
Anyway, our shopping trip came, and in the first 30 minutes, I realized Linda’s friend was overstating the situation. Like, a lot. It wasn’t that Linda was picky, it was that she hated everything.
But it wasn’t that she hated everything, she just hated the way everything looked on her.
In the fitting room with Linda, when she tried something on, she would step away from the mirror with her whole body–trying to get farther from it. And then her hands went everywhere. Tummy first, then hips, then adjusting the arms of the garment. They didn’t stop. And the face was frown, grimace, head shake, grimace frown. She didn’t need to tell me what she thought, it was really clear.
When I asked, how do you feel in this, she’d say “I feel fat” “This makes me feel huge” “I look terrible in this”
Here’s the thing though–the clothes she was trying on objectively looked good on her. They fit her well, they flattered her curves, highlighted her waist, and her long neck.
However, Linda was getting super frustrated, and I was doing my best, and she said to me, “Working with you was supposed to help me love my body,” and in that moment I really realized that fallacy of my thinking. The idea that if you just find pants that love you back, you can lay down those body-hate burdens. That’s simply not true for some women, and it certainly wasn’t true for Linda.
I asked her what she wanted her clothes to do for her, and she said “I want to look like I used to”. We talked a little more and Linda told me she’d gained a lot of weight through a difficult pregnancy and gone up from a size 4 to a size 12. But even beyond that- at a 4 she struggled with her body, because when she got married she was a size 0. She told me she’s happiest when she’s very thin, and that she wouldn’t feel food in anything at this size.
I told her that her body challenges were what they were today, and they weren’t going to change today, but that she couldn’t go to work naked or in pajama pants. And since she had to buy clothes, why don’t we try to buy clothes she liked? Again, she told me she wouldn’t like the way she looked in anything right now, but I told her that wasn’t the point.
I asked her to stop focusing on liking her body, and start focusing on liking her wardrobe.
We left the fitting room and went back to the sales floor, and this time, we actually picked BOLDER things than what we had originally. We picked more patterns and more color, and some interesting textures, and headed back to the fitting rooms.
I’m not going to tell you that she fell in love with her body, because she didn’t but I will say she smiled a couple of times, and ended up with a few basics that she needed, but some really fun clothes. I’m going to put this one in the win column, for sure.
There are a few things I’d like you to take away from my time with this Linda.
CLOTHES CAN ONLY DO SO MUCH
Yes, putting seams in the right place, and color in the best spot, and choosing the perfect neckline will go a long way, but they can only do so much. I often have really petite women tell me they don’t want to try a style because it will make them “look short”. Linda, you’re five feet tall! With love and respect, you are short! It’s not like anyone thought you were 5’8” until you put flats on. You need to have realistic expectations of what your clothes can do for you.
CLOTHES CAN’T MAKE YOU LOVE YOUR BODY
What I realize now is that all those years, I thought my body was weird, and I didn’t understand how clothes worked for other people but not for me, but I didn’t actually hate my body. I was perplexed by it, and yes, that led to some negative feelings, but I didn’t hate it. Knowing your body shape, and what looks objectively good on you can make it easier to find clothes you feel good in, but it can’t make you love your body. Only you can do that.
I have always said, my job is more about what’s in the head than what’s in the closet. If you’re someone who is struggling with deep negative feelings about the way you look, and your body, you owe it to yourself to dig a little deeper, and maybe talk to someone, so that your feelings of worthiness aren’t tied to your external being. You don’t have to live that way.
WE NEED TO RESPECT THE RIGHT OF SKINNY WOMEN TO EXPERIENCE BODY DISSATISFACTION
I know that when I said Linda started as a 0 and came to me as a 12, there are people listening who thought “I’d love to be a size 12, what’s she complaining about”. I think so often smaller women feel invalidated or shamed when they share dissatisfaction, but that’s not right. I guarantee if you add 6 dress sizes to your current size, you’d have some feelings about that.
Can we stop this nonsense, please? Almost every woman I’ve worked with has some parts she likes less than others, and just because those parts are smaller than yours, doesn’t make her feelings any less real.
WHEN YOU CAN’T LOVE YOUR BODY, YOU BETTER LOVE THE HECK OUT OF YOUR WARDROBE
The bottom line is, you can’t be naked in a polite society. You have to get dressed. But punishing yourself for having a body you hate by having a wardrobe you hate doesn’t help the problem at all. It just makes it worse. Separate your feelings about your body from your feelings about your clothes. It can be done, I promise you. Episode 29 is a whole episode about the weight/wardrobe connection.
When you open your closet, you should smile. Linda was a whole lot more miserable in clothes she thought would cover her up, and hide everything. When we put her in clothes she liked, regardless of the size, she at least smiled and stopped trying to escape the mirror.
I know a lot of women are listening and thinking “Oh, I can’t do that. I can’t buy clothes I love at this size”. And I need you to ask yourself why.
Do they not make them in your size? I bet they do.
Do you feel like you don’t deserve them? I bet I’m getting closer.
Or Do you plan to reward yourself with looking better when you finally look better?
Ding ding ding.
Most people never achieve their ideal, perfect body. So what you’re saying is you’re just accepting that you’ll never love your wardrobe. That’s absolutely pointless. Besides, it’s like I always say–clothes are a much better catalyst for reaching your goals than they are a reward. Start wearing clothes that make you smile, and see what happens. I bet you’ll like the results.
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