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  • body image

    body image

  • A

    On Body Image And Self Worth

    05.29.2013 / ARCHIVES

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    When Caitlin Mociun, cult-hit fashion designer, left the world of dress forms and measuring tape to focus on an accessories line, she said something that made me pause: “I never really liked doing my clothing line, and when I switched to jewelry it was such a different response. It seemed to make people feel good about themselves as opposed to clothing, which often makes people feel bad.”

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    And it’s true, isn’t it? How many times have we set out to find the perfect outfit for an interview or wedding or social event – only to be met by poorly-lit dressing rooms and three-way mirrors of doom? We squeeze and tug and pull, attempting to morph our body into a fictional casing that was never intended for us.

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    Does a butterfly curse its cocoon for not properly accenting its thighs? Do snails label their shells, secretly hoping they’ll grow to fill out a 32C? And do carnations shrink their bloom to appear slimmer – more desirable – than their garden counterparts?

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    I asked Jacqueline, a fashion historian, why clothing takes such a toll on our body image. Why our skin is expected to fit perfectly into standard sizes and shapes and limitations. And her response was eye-opening:

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    “Historically, women did not expect clothing from a rack to fit them perfectly,” she writes, noting that the majority of clothing was taken directly to tailors for a custom fit. “As our society moves more and more toward convenience and emphasizes fast fashion, we’ve eliminated the expectation that our clothing would be altered at the tailors. After all, that’s time consuming and expensive. Instead, we want clothing faster and faster for cheaper and cheaper. The result is that our clothing is expected to fit straight off the rack, but rarely does.”

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    And the byproduct? We take our body to the tailors instead. We diet and cleanse and juice and fast, choosing to consume fashion over nutrition and style over substance. And suddenly, the clothes do begin to fit “straight off the rack”. But there will always be a smaller size to wrap ourselves in. There will always be a rack to conquer.

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    Perhaps the key is in the reminder that clothing is meant to fit us, not the other way around. It is meant to protect us from our elements – to romp and play or disguise and reveal. To blend in and stand out, to ebb and flow. Because much like the person beneath the garment, there is no universal standard. We are different beings in different skin, where desire fits most and one size fits none.

    Image Credits: Studio Fludd / Caitlin Mociun Quote via Sight Unseen

    p.s. Redefining beauty.

    • A long time ago, I read an article about super models…how they “have to” be skinny to be successful because designers want the consumer to see the CLOTHES and not the model. Models are basically walking hangers for the clothing. (Obviously, as people, they are more than that, but on the runway, that’s their job.) Meanwhile, we women and girls are trying so hard to compete with these unattainable (for most of us) bodies.

      This post hits home…as I’ve gotten chubbier, I’ve totally spent more on shoes and accessories than clothes. Instead, I should be shopping for a tailor!

      • Well put, Kimberly! And I agree – I found myself obsessed with flats shortly after giving birth. It’s such a funny mental game, isn’t it?

      • It’s also harder to design clothing for woman that are more shapely or larger than an industry runway model. So one also may question the skills of a designer — if they stubbornly cling to the extremely thin model, perhaps they aren’t that good of a designer.

    • Ah! This is seriously how the world should think – you’re a rockstar. (as is Caitlin). And to agree with Kimberly, above – we’re competeing with models whose job it is to have the clothes wear them?! The whole thing is ludicris. It makes me just want to sew my own clothes that fit me perfectly and that are made to fit me, not vie versa. :)

      • Thanks, Michelle! And I know a few women on Twitter just mentioned that they indeed sew their own clothes! I love the concept – just wish I had the skill set! Practice makes [nearly] perfect, I suppose! :)

    • erin, your writing just continues to impress and astound me. thank you for sharing your eloquent thoughts with us. xo

      • Oh, that means so much coming from you, sweet Vic! I do hope you’re well. :)

    • I love this! Thank you so much, Erin.

    • Wow. I think about body image all the time, and yet I really hadn’t thought about things in this way. I think that, ideally, clothes would also make us feel good about ourselves, the way that jewelry (and also scarves, for me) does.

      How completely life-changing to remember that clothes are made to serve us, not the other way around.

      • I agree – I had my own light bulb moment about this today! :)

    • Koseli Cummings

      I love Jacqueline’s academic insight. I never tailor my clothes, but think often that that might be the trick to making them fit right. This “nothing looks good” has definitely been on my mind lately and it’s hard to conquer! Today I just feel grateful for my working body. We are so blessed to have hands that feel and move, feet that can walk, eyes to see, etc.

      • I thought about this today, too, Koseli. Our bodies are made to function and move and give and love – and how wonderful that size doesn’t necessarily infringe on any of those capabilities. :)

    • beautifully written, as usual. Jacqueline’s thoughts on the topic are really interesting. Is it really more convenient to morph our bodies than visit a tailor?

    • Spot on my dear. Beautiful post.

    • I’d be lying if I didn’t say I didn’t constantly wish to have a flatter, stronger tummy (two kids, aging) or slimmer thighs. However, about 5 years ago I did realize the benefit of having well-fitting clothes. Now I take almost everything – even the occasional purchase from H&M – and have it fitted. For me that usually means taking in the waist of pants and skirts or shortening a hemline. It makes a *huge* difference in how clothes look and feel while I’m wearing them.

      • I love hearing that, Karin! I think I need to find a tailor. :)

    • Such a fantastic post! Your insights are right on, Erin.

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