Thursday, January 30, 2003
What to Wear
posted by Julie |
Sorry about that yesterday. That was bad JuJu. Today some good JuJu. Fun! Light!
Lame Disclaimer: I try with this site to be gender-neutral, diet-program-neutral, fitness-fetish-neutral. But really all I can do is share what I've learned and what works for me and my friends, hoping that something here may help you. The best I can do. So for my male readers today, I'm sorry, but I am a girl and am about to discuss getting dressed as a girl. There may be something you can take away from this post. But maybe not. I'll promise to gather together more guy-focused posts soon.
After the big weight loss, one of the strangest and most expensive transformations has taken place in my closet. Obviously, I had to replace all of my clothes as the weight came off. For the most part (not the part where I open my Visa bill) that has been fun.
It's been fun in part because I get to break what were hard and fast rules about dressing that I've had for 20 years.
I was very conflicted about my body when I was big. On the one hand, I worked hard to accept my size. Fat is beautiful! But in my heart, I never really could do it. I don't think big is bad, but I didn't like it on me. Health effects aside, I never could match my idea of myself to my reflection in the mirror.
So these rules I developed were pretty rigid and worked for someone who was unhappy with her body. It's probably better not to have any rules at all.
My rules encompassed visual tricks that drew attention away from my size. These tricks couldn't fool cameras, but could fool people. Today, when an old friend looks at "before" pictures, they tend to say they don't ever remember me looking like that. Even when they are in the photo.
And another caveat -- these rules are based largely on my personality, my work environment, my part of the world and what's available to me here, my taste. They were my rules for me.
Sneaky Getting-Dressed Rules:
* Wear black or other very dark colors below the waist. Black pants. Black socks. Black shoes.
* The black pants, and pretty much all fabrics should be matte, not shiny, to absorb, not reflect light. Reflected light draws attention to my shape. (I wore a lot of J.Crew men's black loose-cut chinos.)
* If I have to wear something shimmery, it must be a big flowy outer layer. Nothing close to my bod.
* No patterns. Big patterns made me look like a psychedelic bus. Small patterns made me look like a giant psychedelic bus. No plaid. Textures are great, though. Nubbly, waled, tweeded, even fluffy if it's above the waist. Shantung is your friend. Crepe is your friend. Stretch fabrics, ah!
* No ruffles.
* Using the palette provided to me by a very talented color analyst, I chose solid-colored shirts, tunics, t-shirts and blouses to wear above the waist. For me this means autumny jewel tones. Usually I would wear two layers of different colors above the waist. A gold sweater with a fiery red t-shirt peeking out of the top. A lot of shirt-jackets in warm greys and wines. I lived in the stretchy shirt-jackets that were all over the place a couple of years ago.
* No shoulder pads. This goes against common wisdom, but I had big fat shoulders, and shoulder pads just looked pathetic on me.
* One-color dressing. When I didn't wear black (July, August, Weddings), I fell back on the Lauren Becall rule of dressing from head to toe in one color. Very elongating. I loved tunic-suits. I love and adore and will be ever faithful to Eileen Fisher for her wonderful suits for real women of any stature. Expensive, yes, but her things wear like iron and do not become dated.
* Speaking of Eileen Fisher -- simplicity! Simple, clean lines. No fussiness. No fussy stitching, lacing, etc., unless it exists entirely around or near my face. Who styles plus-sized clothes? All this crazy baby-doll stitching that makes large women look infantile. Makes me crazy.
* You will notice that all rules seek to draw attention to the head and face and eyes.
* So a radical, spikey haircut helped.
* Funky glasses helped.
* Great makeup really helps. I usually fall down on this one.
* Really fun and interesting earrings. No brooches, long necklaces, wrist bangles.
* Long sleeves until I couldn't take the heat, and then elbow-length sleeves.
* Summer was very difficult, because I wouldn't expose my legs if I could possibly help it. At work I wore black crepe pants and crepe tops. And thanked the spheres for air conditioning.
* At home in the summer I wore the simplest, thinnest khakis I could find, and then adopted men's pin-point cotton white dress shirts from second-hand shops. The collars were big on me, and I would roll the sleeves. These kept me fairly cool. Shirt-tail hems are fabulously slimming. Actually I still wear these all the time. Good pin-point cotton is one of life's true luxuries.
* Size -- I always wore my clothes loose, not big. I didn't want them to hug my body, but flow over it. This will conflict with later advice.
* Lengths -- Skirts to my ankles. Tunics to the point where my thighs no longer brushed together (okay just a few inches above my knees). T-shirts to a length that cut across the broadest part of my belly. Covering the belly and butt draws attention to it. Uncovering it completely does the same. Whichever part you're trying to mask, use the length of garments to cut directly across it at its fullest part. That confuses the eye, and draws attention away from the girth of that part. Doesn't sound logical, but it really works. I wish I could remember the name of the woman I learned this from. She's got a book out there on dressing that sounds pretty interesting.
Those were my rules. I would occasionally break them a little, and wear pumpkin-colored hose with my black skirt, for instance. For fun. But for the most part this was it. I work among designers, otherwise called PIBs (People in Black). So I could get away with wearing black every single day without comment from anyone.
Many of these rules are too ingrained in me to break now. I still work among PIBs. But I have branched way out to embrace... Camel! Oooh. And I now own a pair or two of grey trousers. And one pair of brown tweed. Frankly, I'm not sure I'm thrilled with the complexity this introduces. But I'm trying to go with the flow. Also am rediscovering hose. But I'm not sure why.
Now for the extra rule about dressing as you slim down. The difficult advice I received from my counselors is to wear snug clothes. No elastic waist-bands. And as you lose, keep replacing with clothes that fit closely. And by replace, I mean, you get rid of the old clothes, taking them to second-hand shops, homeless shelters, etc. Bigger clothes should not be in your home. No fall-backs.
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How to Wear Black