Turning the negative on its head

I love this dress. I picked it up in a charity shop about 5 years ago for under £5, and let it languish in my wardrobe. It is a cut that was well outside of my comfort zone – I was firmly entrenched in the “pear shaped = always wear A-line” school of thought and this was a little too straight-cut for my hips and bottom. But eventually I plucked up the courage to wear it, and it got a decent response…

It’s now one of my very favourite easy-wear dresses. It’s tailored but not tight, making it perfect for the office. At the same time, it’s not tailored enough to be too smart, making it perfect for MY office. (Publishing worker bees are seldom the most formally attired of employees!) It’s not revealingly short or low cut. It skims over my curves, any unwanted lumps and bumps conveniently smoothed out by the silky lining – and as I walk it caresses me, adding something of a strut to my step. It’s one of those dresses that puts the wiggle in your walk, without being overtly sexy.

Wearing this dress always draws my attention to just how my own style has evolved over the years, how, in the last year in particular, I have become much braver when it comes to showing off my shape rather than hiding it. I used to be all about minimising and hiding imperfections – taking away from my hips and bottom, ensuring nothing soft or fleshy was on show, trying to make myself look generally smaller all over. Now I’m more interested in emphasising my shape – showing off my curves, highlighting my waist, drawing attention to my legs. It has become more important to balance my proportions than to minimise them (thank you, Gok). And linking in to yesterday’s post about the importance of metaphors in eliciting a reaction, I think it has been the change in my vocabulary, rather than my actual processes, that has changed my attitude.

When we choose clothing with a focus on changing the way we look for the better – whether minimising or maximising, hiding or drawing attention from – we are automatically sending the message that something is in need of alteration. We are telling ourselves and everyone around us that we need to make this bit smaller, that bit bigger, keep this bit out of sight and create a diversion from that bit there… We are telling ourselves every single day that we’re not right as we are, not good enough as we stand. With such a subconscious mantra thundering through our heads on a daily basis, it’s no wonder we struggle to see our own beauty.

But by learning to search out clothes that emphasise our shape, highlight our best bits, and show off our form, we can completely change our relationship with our bodies. I am not suggesting an image overhaul here – I’m not even suggesting a change in your daily attire. Because the beauty of this is that it’s not our clothes that need changing, only our vocabulary.

So let’s do an experiment. Let’s all start to apply positive thought, not just to the way we think about our own clothes, but the way we compliment others too. Instead of saying “That dress makes your waist look really small,” let’s say “That dress really empahsises how small your waist really is!” Instead of “That top is really flattering on your bust,” try “Wow, that top shows off your amazing cleavage!” Apply the positive to the body beneath the clothes, and make the compliment about what it shows rather than what it hides.

And maybe, as we get used to using positive language to others, we’ll start to apply it to ourselves too!

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One thought on “Turning the negative on its head

  1. Love this post 🙂 I’ve undergone a similar revolution in thought and style over the past year or so, so can completely relate to what you say about focusing on the positives. Our minds are powerful things, and it’s such a shame that so many of us find ourselves in the habit of putting ourselves down because of what we’re not rather than celebrating who and what we are.

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