On Saturday, my sister came up from Providence to go with me to see the Hollywood Glamour exhibit at the MFA. Although it was just one small room, the exhibit was just what I love–gorgeous gowns and sparkly jewelry, all from the heyday of Hollywood, in the 1930s and 1940s. In many ways, that era has come to define what we think of when we think of glamour–slinky gowns, diamonds, painted-on eyebrows, and elegantly-curled hair–despite the fact that the country was struggling through the Great Depression, the exact opposite of all of this glamour.
As my sister and I made our way through the exhibit, one of the things we both noticed was how tiny the waistlines were–one thing about Hollywood that definitely hasn’t changed.
After exploring more of the museum and going to eat lunch, we decided to go shopping. I wasn’t planning on buying anything because, frankly, I’m still trying to pay off all the shopping I did in November and December. But a sales rack of jeans at Ann Taylor caught my eye–they had black skinny jeans on sale for $40, which is a great deal, so I tried them on.
I need new black skinny jeans because the ones I have no longer fit. This has become a disagreeable theme in my life.
The good news is that the Ann Taylor jeans fit, so I bought them. But when I came out of the fitting room to get my sister’s opinion, a saleswoman told me they looked good and she has them, too, and loves them. After raving about how comfortable they are, she then said I should buy a size down, if I could, because they tend to stretch. She then told me what size she’d bought.
I know she was doing her job and trying to be helpful, but the thing was, I couldn’t size down. And the size the woman told me she’d bought was smaller than the size I was wearing–multiple sizes smaller. This fact, while annoying, wouldn’t typically bother me, but, and I’m a little ashamed to admit this, when I’d first seen the saleswoman, I’d thought she was a little…big.
So I bought the jeans and continued shopping with my sister, but I couldn’t get that saleswoman out of my head. While we wandered around Kate Spade Saturday, I complained to my sister. She asked me why I was comparing myself to the saleswoman. I just shook my head. Fact is, I compare myself to others constantly–from the anonymous women on the train to fashion bloggers to my best friends. I think many women do. It’s difficult not to.
But I no longer know what exactly I’m comparing, because the image I have of myself and my body is different from reality. That, too, is something that plagues most women, but while in the past, I thought of myself as bigger, frumpier, uglier than other women in a more general way, now I don’t know what to think.
My body does not feel like my own. In the last year, I’ve gone from someone who was more or less the same size I’d been my whole life (minus that halcyon summer after college when I was small enough to get away with wearing a tiny, bright blue pleated mini-skirt) to needing to buy new pants because the ones in my closet, the ones I’ve been wearing for the last ten years, no longer fit.
Of course, this happens. It’s a natural progression–of aging, of lifestyle changes (too much beer and not enough gym time, in my case), of babies or sickness. But I wasn’t prepared–this tectonic shift in my body happened gradually, without my knowledge, until one day I noticed I never seemed to be comfortable. My jeans were too tight, my dresses didn’t fit the same way they normally did, all I wanted to wear was stretch pants.
For the past couple of months, I’ve been working to come to grips with this transformation. Rather than fighting it, telling myself that I just needed to diet and work out more and I could fit back into my favorite jeans, I’ve been working on thinking about ways to feel comfortable again. I’ve bought a few pairs of jeans on sale in larger sizes. I’ve bought several pairs of leggings. One quote from Women in Clothes stood out to me–“So many psychological problems fell away when I started tailoring my clothes to my body instead of the other way around.” (Karima Cammell)
I know my body may not go back to the way it was, even if I cut back on the beer and late-night ice cream and work out more often. This might be the way my body is now, and I’d love to be able to accept that and move forward, to worrying about the things in my life that are really important. Unfortunately, that means doing a full-scale closet purge and purchasing new clothing that fits me and makes me feel good about myself. I say unfortunately because if money were no object, this would be an amazingly fun project, but since money is most definitely an object (a scarce object), the prospect of needing an almost entirely new wardrobe is scary. And it’s not just scary for financial reasons–purging my closet means getting rid of many of the things I’ve been wearing for the last decade of my life, casting away dresses and sweaters and jeans that have formed a part of my identity.
But I will take it one step, one garment at a time. Building a new closet along with trying to build a new life–always a work in progress.
Have you had to rethink your closet because of changes in your body? How did you do it? Tips appreciated!