I’ve long loved the album Marlo Thomas put out for children in 1972, Free to Be You and Me. The theme of it was acceptance, equality and empowerment. So here’s my brainstorm: What if there was an album for women over 50 (or any age, really!) that was about acceptance, equality, and empowerment? Hey, let’s make it more narrow. How about that album was being about women’s relationship to their bodies?
I’ve spent so many years working with women. I think if you saw as many women as I have in bras and panties in the dressing room, you’d realize too that every shape, size, and age is BEAUTIFUL! Women fight this fact. By not accepting the nature of their body shape, they lose empowerment. They don’t feel equal by comparison to others.
Has anyone in our community thought to themselves, I wish I had smaller breasts. I wish I had larger breasts. I wish I had narrow hips. I wish I had fuller hips?
Women spend more time breaking themselves down rather than lifting themselves up. Maybe it’s not said out loud, but if we listened to the voices in our head, we may quickly identify some not nice things we say about ourselves.
Transforming negative stories into positive ones
There’s this thing that often happens: I’ll be dressing a new client and I’ll discover that she has a whole story about how she doesn’t love her fill-in-the-blank and therefore she couldn’t possibly wear fill-in-the-blank. Want some examples? How about these?
My butt is too big, I can’t wear knits.
My legs are so short, I can’t wear cropped pants.
My neck is too short, I can’t wear necklaces.
Do you know what I do with statements like that? I make it my mission to show them in the next thirty minutes that the body part they’ve spent a lifetime fretting over can look beautiful.
Transforming “I can’t” into “I can’t wait to wear this”
It just happened days ago. A client of mine is going to be the center of attention at a party this week for 400 people. Erin and I put together an outfit at the beginning of the appointment that we all agreed would be great. But things shifted later in the appointment when my client pulled out a problem skirt. We’d been reviewing skirts and deciding if they fit, were flattering and if we wanted to update them in new outfits. She was wondering if it was time to let this skirt go. I had her try it on. It hit just below her knees. It was full of appliqued black flowers (not super easy to work with). I looked at the Wardrobe Chart for this skirt and saw what we’d done with it the last time we’d worked with it. There was no combo on that sheet that felt current so I said, “Let’s start over and give it a chance.”
I knew I wanted the flowers to be more of a detail, like a band of flowers rather than flowers all over the place that were a bit too “look at me.” I wanted to tone them down, make some of them go away. So I did something new. I teamed it with an A-line semi-sheer tunic. The tunic fabric isn’t fluid like a jersey knit. It’s more crisp. (Sorry I don’t have pictures!)
Layering is a new wave in dressing
Fashion evolves and I’m loving the look of tunics over skirts or tunics over dresses. It’s a creative way of layering pieces. I could have stopped right there and added a long pendant but I couldn’t get an idea out of my head. I wasn’t sure how to sell it to my client because it’s one of those things that seems counterintuitive.
“Just let me try something, okay?” I said. Then I looked in her closet where her belts used to hang. Nothing was there.
“Did you get rid of your belts or did you move them?” I asked.
“You’re not planning on putting a belt on me!” she said. (The response I expected.)
Like many of us who have abandoned belts once our menopausal middle took over our waistlines, she was having nothing to do with them.
She humored me nonetheless. We went to another closet and that’s where we discovered her belts. “Wow, I still have them!” she said. “But you’re not getting a belt around me.”
“I’m not going to put a belt around your waist, don’t worry. I want to put it somewhere else. I want to put it under your breasts near the top of your rib cage where your body circumference is the most narrow.” Now remember, the breasts had also had a growth spurt in menopause. I know she never expected to be bringing attention to them!
I grabbed a black patent leather belt about 1 inch wide and belted it over the tunic and under her breasts. It was fabulous! Erin and I couldn’t stop exclaiming. We were bringing attention to her full bustline. This was a breakthrough.
It was so exciting to be showing her breasts some love. I was reminded of that famous line in the movie and stage play, Dirty Dancing, where Patrick Swayze walks over to Jennifer Grey who is sitting in the corner with her parents during a dance and says, “No one puts Baby in the corner.” He pulls her from her chair and they dance to our eternal delight.
I felt that way about her breasts: No one puts these breasts in the corner!
I knew she loved it the outfit too when her first words were, “Should I wear this to the event?”
I had her walk and sit and stand up and walk some more to be sure she felt comfortable with the belt placement. She did. We had a new outfit plan for her big event!
What happens when we showcase something we’ve been hiding?
I know it takes guts and courage to go against everything your brain has been telling you for years like, “My breasts are too big, I have to hide them somehow!”
But when we buck that critical voice, there is freedom, there is mental and physical emancipation.
Can you imagine focusing on a part of your body that you’ve put in the corner? Could you dress that area in a celebratory way? Forget the should’s and the rules and free yourself from those critical voices that want to diminish you. Will you take the challenge? Share with us how you’re showing the love to a part of your body that you’ve shunned, okay?
RebeccaFebruary 7, 2017 at 7:20 am
I think this is a great lesson for women of any age! I will try this week to put it into practice.
BrendaFebruary 7, 2017 at 9:14 am
Good for you, Rebecca. It only takes practice!
WilleneFebruary 7, 2017 at 7:08 pm
I’ve been an interior designer for years and loved using things in a clients home that had been written off. it is always exciting to see the clients reaction when they see how the pieces can be used in a new way, a new room, etc. it never occurred to me how this same thing could be used in fashion. I just discovered your blog last year but have learned so much from you. The day your post comes in is really a good day and since it’s the best it is saved for last. Thank you so much for your wisdom & you’re kindness in sharing it.
BrendaFebruary 7, 2017 at 8:40 pm
Thank you so much, Willene! I bet that is totally exciting for clients and you’re right, the very same thing happens with fashion. Thanks so much for your kind words about the blog. And I’m so happy you found it! Thanks so much .