Theme this month :
“Talk about how our teens/childhood influence our choices in clothes and things today”
I’m unofficially joining in with this Blog theme as it fits so well with what I have written.
This was a surprisingly difficult blog to write and it has brought up some really unpleasant memories. But I think they need addressing as they are part of the root cause of my shopping issue.
For years as a teen and twenty something, I didn’t have any nice clothes. I lived in ugly ill-fitting jeans, oversized men’s t-shirts and rugby shirts and fleeces. This wasn’t actually because I wanted to dress like this, but was more that I did not fit into clothes sold in standard shops. I was also terribly, horribly, awfully body conscious and thought that I didn’t deserve nice clothes. I thought that I couldn’t possibly be attractive if I did wear pretty things, and that people would laugh at me trying to dress up, because of course I’d been told all my life that it wasn’t possible to be fat and look nice.
The photos above show me at three different parties at ages 18, 19 and 20. The one on the right was taken at a Christmas dinner and all the other girls showed up in dresses. But I was too self conscious to wear anything that would even slightly show my figure and also, it was almost impossible to buy pretty clothes in my size. In the 1980s and 1990s, most clothing shops (suitable for a teenager!) went up to a 14. 16 if you were lucky. This was the time of Small, Medium and Large equating to sizes 8, 10 and 12. Dorothy Perkins only started carrying size 18 around 1994.
The photo above was taken when I was 14 or 15. The shirt I’m wearing is a Dorothy Perkins maternity shirt. I remember the excruciating shame of the fact I had to buy maternity clothing to fit me because I wasn’t able to get into tops that fitted loosely enough to hide my body.
These two photos are me being as properly smart as I ever got. On the left I was wearing this exceptionally ugly suit at a christening where I was a godmother. There are no words I can think of to express how awful I felt in it. I knew I looked terrible, but I wasn’t able to find anything more suitable to wear that fit. The photo on the right was taken when I ended up wearing one of my Mum’s Laura Ashley dresses to the sixth form dinner. I look more middle aged in this then than I do now. It’s so sad to think how much I hated myself, how much I absorbed the jibes and bullying about my appearance.
I was so unhappy with the way I looked. I felt frumpy and horrible. And to be honest, I looked frumpy and far older than I actually was. I was 32 in this picture, but I think I look older than I do now and that’s down to how I was dressed and how I comported myself.
It wasn’t really until I was in my late 30s that I even started to consider that I could wear nice clothes. I make a few forays into something different which included wearing tunics over jeans (I seemed to think that I couldn’t possibly not wear jeans or the world might end) and finding some interesting skirts.
I finally bought a couple of dresses which I didn’t wear often because I felt embarrassed despite the fact that I looked really good in them.
In 2006, I had started following Livejournal’s Fatshionista community which was so incredibly liberating to be a part of. It was radical fat acceptance at its very best, it was the start of a new online movement. As the Fatosphere developed with blogs like Kate Harding’s Shapely Prose (The Fantasy of Being Thin is possibly the best post on diet culture I’ve ever read, seriously worth a read) Lesley Kinzel’s Two whole Cakes and Marianne Kirby’s The Rotund I discovered more and more amazing women talking about body image in a way I had never imagined possible.
I was obviously absorbing some of the amazingness of these wonderful women. By 2010 I had started wearing skirts and dresses a lot more of the time, in fact I would wear them to go out and walk the dogs or go up to the allotment. I had a slow revelation that I was so much more comfortable in skirts and dresses and that I found trousers and jeans so restricting.
In 2010 I bought my first Beth Ditto dress which remains one of my favourites even now. I was on a roll, I actually liked how I looked in this!
I am so grateful to the fatshion, fat acceptance, health at every size blogs that I read over the past nine years. I realise how far I have come in accepting who I am and how incredibly important and empowering it has been to be part of a community of supportive women. I don’t love myself and sometimes I can’t even describe the feeling as “like”, but I no longer feel the crushing shame that I did all those years ago. I don’t feel ashamed of my body for looking the way it does; most of the time I’m neutral about it which is a good place to be in compared to how I thought of it in the past.
But….. I’m fairly certain that this acceptance of myself for how I look and my sudden blossoming interest in clothes which are now actually available in my size has led to my shopping issues which I will talk about in another post.
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