There is no feminine ideal. I keep looking for one to emulate, but have realized that person cannot be found.
I’ve worked with so many women over the years and realized this early on. Women are a drastically diverse bunch. We are young, old and in between. We are new mothers, urban professionals, and retired snowbirds. We are sedentary and nurturing, we are athletic and aggressive. And the way we choose to live has a lot to do with the way we look. But the one mistake we always make is to blame and to criticize our choices and ourselves when it comes to our bodies. And really for the most part, we like who we are and we enjoy what we do… but many of us still don’t like how we look because we think our bodies are the wrong shape or size.
I get so agitated when any woman is overly critical of herself. I definitely should take my own advice sometimes, but I’m learning to accept my body as I approach 40. Nothing ever really stays the same- things shift (most likely downward) and a change in lifestyle can have a dramatic effect on one’s figure. Unfortunately, it creeps up on us… I’ll be fine for a few months and then reach in my closet for a pair of jeans one day and say “what the hell!! When did THIS happen?” (Usually there’s more profanity and yelling involved.. and perhaps a tear or two).
Jeans are always my litmus test – the one piece of clothing that doesn’t let you lie. I used to let a pair of jeans shock me into starvation mode, or at least into quitting a vice or two. I’ve given up on that lately. And even though I miss that pair of Helmut Lang skinnies that hang in my closet and stare at me, I know that if they don’t look or feel right then they were never meant for me. I choose to think that my move to Boston has forced me to walk everywhere and thus my thighs and butt have grown in a good way. I now understand that enjoying a meal and a cocktail in a Charles Street establishment is a great trade-off for a super flat stomach. And really, does anyone notice the 5..errr…10 pounds that have crept on since January?
What I have learned to do is dress what I have. I’m not perfect every time, but when it counts, I make sure things fit. Not only do I look better, but I feel much better. When I go out to eat, I don’t want heartburn from my clothing. I like to walk a lot, and I can confirm that Beacon Hill is easier to navigate in high heels than overly tight pants.
Most of us have been at least 4 or 5 different sizes in our lives: teenagers, freshman fifteen, first diet that works, 5 diets that have the reverse effect, and then pregnancy and beyond. What most American women don’t understand is that looking good is not about being a size 4 or having a flat stomach, or thin thighs, or perfect perky boobs (ok, I must admit I do miss having those.. [sigh]).
What drives me CRAZY is when someone walks into my shop and says “Oh I need a good bra so badly, but I want to lose five pounds first.” What the hell does that mean? So you don’t deserve good fitting supportive undergarments because of your weight? Is great lingerie only meant for us to wear when we feel perfect? Perhaps it’s some form of self-torture… maybe you feel that you don’t deserve to look your best. Please explain this to me!!!! I don’t get it. So if you read this, don’t come into my shop and say that. I’ll throw something at you. I will.
Bras and foundations weren’t created so that we can aspire to wear them someday when we lose ten pounds or get new boobs. These garments were created to fit what we have RIGHT NOW! Note the number of sizes… over 65 sizes in fact. (and yes, I stock all sizes in my stores… )
Now look at women from around the world… somehow many of them seem to get it. When we vacationed in Tulum I was always in awe of the South American women who would walk the beach in their itty bitty bikinis. They just ooze confidence and sexiness. They don’t have tight tummies or gravity defying boobs, yet they are stunning and everyone notices. Not fair! How does that work? Well, they choose the itty bitty bikini that fits them. Maybe there isn’t a lot of fabric there, but the way its fits and sits on their bodies allows us to see the beauty in their shape. And because it fits there is no digging, tugging or slipping…. And the feeling of wearing something that fits, no matter how insignificant it may appear to be, gives these women the confidence that makes them so beautiful.
Before I wrote this post I sat and looked at pictures of some the world’s most beautiful women … Sophia Loren, Catherine Deneuve, 70’s icon Pam Grier and Christina Hendricks of Mad Men fame. I see their bodies and notice they are not much different than the women I see every day in my shop. These women knew (or perhaps were shown) how to dress their figures.
Think about your underwear. Is it comfortable? When the stuff you put on under your clothing fits your body, feels good, and does its job, you can’t help but have more confidence. You can’t help feeling better and you can’t help looking better.
Gravitate towards a personal style and embrace it. Know your body’s proportions and learn what works for you. As long as you have these things covered, you will bring out the best of yourself every day. Knowing your body and your taste and developing your own sense of style breeds the type confidence and beauty that diets and plastic surgery never provide.
So here is what I hope to communicate to my fellow girls out there: Stop waiting to change your body so that you can enjoy it! Stop saying “I’ll do/buy/wear this after I lose ten pounds” !!! You are worth it right now. You look great right now. You will feel a thousand times better about yourself when you have bras and underwear that fit you.
Now take my advice, go forth and be lovely.