The April 2014 issue of People Style Watch (on newsstands now) has a quote that I’ve been chewing on for days. Susan Moses, a plus-size stylist (responsible for some of Queen Latifah’s best looks) gives a few fashion tips. One of them is Don’t Make “Thin” Your Focus. She says, “Obsessing about being a certain size often leads to too-small clothing and that sausage-casing effect. Instead, work to find silhouettes that play up your assets.”
From client experiences I’ve had, thin is one, two, or three sizes down from where the client currently is. “Thin” is unattainable this week, this month, maybe ever.
Wanting to be in a size smaller is an obsession with an insatiable appetite. It feeds off of unkind, self-inflicted, badgering type thoughts, like:
“If only you would…”
“When are you ever going to…”
“When you’re a size smaller, you’ll finally…”
I know about obsessive thoughts. I bet you do, too. Once you’re hooked into that loop, it’s really hard to get out.
My way around that for my clients is to get them to focus on their personal style, first and foremost. I want to know:
What do you want to express about yourself?
What would you like the world to see in you if they could?
There are so many qualities to a single human being and many of those qualities can be expressed beautifully in clothes!
My first appointment with a new client is the style appointment. The client does a little bit of “homework” that starts her thinking about clothes in a new way. Then when we meet, I interview her, learning more and more. We go over her homework and by the end of the session we have her style recipe. Everything we do in a closet audit or in a shopping trip will focus on expressing the words in her style recipe.
What does size have to do with style? NOTHING!
So when I’m dressing someone using their style recipe, I’m focused on qualities that might include Confident, Edgy, Modern, Adorable, Uplifting, Pretty. Then I’m only interested in bringing those qualities into her outfits—all her outfits. For every part of her lifestyle, I want her to be expressing her style recipe 24-7. When she does, she falls in love with herself and that obsession has nothing to feed on.
Ann came to me battling body issues. Nearly fifty-years-old, her body had changed. She was sure all would be right with the world if she could only get back to the size she used to be. Until then, she’d never look good in her eyes.
Her style recipe words were grace, loveliness, and attraction. We were in a store and I wanted to show her quickly just what those words would look like in an outfit. I found her a dress that had a great swing to the skirt, which would surely attract attention as she moved in it. It had grace in the fabric, which was a soft silk. It was a printed fabric on a white background. The colors in the print weren’t bright and bold but softer and more romantic in shades of blue, rose, and pink. They were lovely.
She was sure she knew which size she’d be in and grabbed it off the rack, excited to try it on. When she walked out from the dressing room, she wasn’t wearing a smile. The dress was grabbing her in all the wrong places. There was no grace to it at all. She looked uncomfortable. I didn’t let her look at it in the three-way mirror. Instead I pulled the next size up and handed it to her. “Here, try this one on,” I said.
She came out of the dressing room a minute later and she was an entirely different woman. She was beaming! The dress was swishing as she glided toward me. All I could see was a radiant woman, confident in her femininity, so attractive and utterly graceful. I invited her to look at herself in the three-way mirror and she saw the same thing.
I then accessorized the outfit with some sparkly earrings and necklace and found her some nude pumps. We found a wrap and a handbag. She was dressed in her personal style from head-to-toe. She looked graceful, lovely and attractive. “How soon can you wear this?” I asked. She said, “I’ll wear it this weekend to a birthday party.” If there was a modern day version of Cinderella going off to the ball, this was it! I knew she’d have a great time.
Here’s the beauty of it: when I dressed her to match her style words, she got it. All the chatter about getting back into a size she used to wear disappeared.
I agree 100% with Susan Moses. “Thin” is not the right focus. I say expressing style is where you win. It’s the cure for getting out of that dark, obsessive pattern of focusing on size. When you see your style, you see the light!