1. In general, to look nicer, you will have to get more dressed up than you want to. I used to get so frustrated by that “What Not To Wear” show, because they just make everyone get really dressed up, so of course people look better. But then it finally dawned on me – they make everyone get really dressed up and then those people look better. HELLO ELIZABETH: GET MORE DRESSED UP.
My chosen aesthetic, if we’re being honest, is something along the lines of preppy surf bum. If I had my druthers I’d like to look like the cast of Gossip Girl mixed with the cast of Blue Crush, basically. But I think when you’re not 14 and you don’t weigh 12 pounds, unfortunately, cut off jeans and ratty t shirts just look sloppy. It took me a LONG time to figure out that I am not only past the pajamas out of the house stage of my life, but I am also past the cut off jeans shorts with Converse stage of my life. (And YOU might not be, which is fine, but I am, if I want to look nice in public.)
2. No one will care about the fact that you are more dressed up than you used to be, or ask you why you look so fancy. If they do, you can just tell them you have an important meeting to go to. At first I didn’t want to dress up because I was worried people would be able to tell that I was trying to look nice. I know. It makes no sense at all to me now, but at the time it seemed perfectly reasonable. Now people tell me “You always look cute” and man, I would way rather have people think I always look cute, rather than “she never tries very hard.”
3. If you can’t tuck any of your shirts into any of your skirts, it’s because your skirts are too small. When I first started this project, people would always suggest that I tuck my shirts into my skirts or pants, but if I did that, my lower half looked awful. This is not because I was SO FAT, which I was not and which also is irrelevant. It’s that my skirts were too small. If you can’t tuck your shirt into your skirts, your skirts are too small, and pulling everything down tightly over the top of your skirts, which is what I was doing, is not disguising this fact and also it’s super unflattering. Along this same line, if your jeans give you terrible muffin top, you need to buy jeans in a bigger size, or more importantly, a higher rise. This is why I like my jeans to hit me at my real waist, because if they hit me across my stomach, I get TERRIBLE muffin top, and this will happen if you’re a size 6 or a size 20. It’s not your size, it’s how your clothes fit.
4. But also, don’t buy something just because it fits. Most of the clothing mistakes I have in my closet now are things I bought because I was looking for a certain piece and I found something that fit, and I settled for “this fits” in the Target dressing room instead of “this looks great” because I was afraid that “this looks great” wasn’t possible. But I am here to tell you that “this looks great” is always possible, and it will happen! You just need to keep looking, and raise your standards. Although I do think “at least this fits” is somewhat more acceptable when you are first starting to shop for yourself and you are desperate, but still, those will probably be the things you get rid of first in the long run.
5. Always try your clothes on with shoes. I see so many people these days trying on clothes without their shoes on! I know you can’t always rig it so you’re wearing the right shoes in the dressing room, but once you get home, try on your clothes with the shoes you will wear with them. I have so many dresses that look terrible until I put them on with the right shoes. Seriously.
6. It’s the extra stuff that makes all the difference. This was the other thing that I used to be very self conscious about. Oh my god, if I wear this scarf, people will think I am trying to be fancy! If I wear this necklace, everyone will know I am wearing a necklace! Um, yes, and get over it. If people think you are wearing a necklace to be fancy, it matters NOT ONE BIT. I am not telling anyone to wear 40 bracelets or whatever. It’s perfectly acceptable to like what you like, to not like scarves or statement necklaces, but adding a few extra accessories to something is what makes it an outfit. I like to think of my fashion philosophy as sort of like buying a beige couch. I know there are people who can pull off a red couch, and make it work in any room and good for them. I do better with a beige couch that I can add crazy pillows too. Then when I get tired of those pillows, I can buy new ones. So although my regular clothing is a tad on the bland side, I try to make sure that the “extras” are where the fun is.
7. Realistic expectations are helpful when you’re shopping. It took me the longest time to realize that although some things are more flattering than others, clothing is not going to make you into something you are not. I would order something online and picture myself wearing it, skinny. But I was not skinny. And no Old Navy t shirt was going to make me skinny. This does not mean that clothing can’t make you look nice, even if you don’t look skinny, and it does not mean that some things aren’t more flattering on my body type than others, but it does mean that I shouldn’t order something with a fantasy in my head of what it’s going to make me look like.
8. The number on your pants so does not matter at all. I feel like people are obsessed with this! The reality is that this number is so subjective that it’s totally unimportant. I have clothes that fit me that are a size 10. I have clothes I can barely squeeze into that are a size 16. In general, I wear a size 12, but at various points in my life I have worn anywhere from a size 16 to a size 4. And at no point did those numbers make me a good or bad person. They’re just numbers, and I seriously could not care less about them. I don’t care about what size you or I or Lena Dunham or Marilyn Monroe wears. I just seriously don’t. Lots of things you do impress me, but the fact that you wear a size Small is not one of those things.
9. Nothing makes you feel better than clothes that fit you and look good on. Seriously. I tell this to everyone, and no one believes me, but I am going to say it again. Before I had Eli, I weighed 125 pounds. When I was a Junior in high school, at one point, I weighed NINETY FIVE POUNDS. I weigh…more than that now, and yet, I have never ever ever ever ever felt better about myself. And I know that this goes against everything in the world that everyone wants to tell you, and I know that you think that you don’t want to spend money on clothes until you get to the correct size and I know that you don’t understand it and I know that you really really really believe that 135 pounds holds something magical and perfect in its grasp, but I am telling you, I have found the secret to self esteem, and it is not something that I ever got from the scale. I cannot emphasize this enough, that finding clothes that look good on me and that fit me is the best thing I have ever ever ever done for my self esteem. I have NEVER been happier with myself.
10. Which brings me to my final point: Even if you don’t have a job and you are “just a mom”and you don’t “need” fancy clothes, you still deserve to feel good about yourself. The first thing I did when I became a stay at home mom was to stop buying clothes for myself. I didn’t “need” anything to chase kids around the house and we didn’t have a lot of disposable income and I felt like this was an area where we could easily save money. Once a year I would buy some shorts on Ebay, throw a few random Old Navy tshirts in my cart, and cross my fingers that everything fit. I looked fairly terrible at all times, but I was clothed. Miserable in my own skin, but clothed.
And I am telling you that I know that this is so easy to do, but I don’t agree with it. I know why people do it, but I wish I had not done it. I think your self esteem is worth a budget line. I think your kids could have less new dresses and you could have one. I think you can make it work. I think you are worth it. I think it’s important. And I think you and I and we, we all deserve to love ourselves, inside and out.
Filed under: What I Wore