#19 Learning to love myself began with my wardrobe
Hi again everyone, another week of lockdown, another guest blog from me! I hope you’re all feeling empowered to work well at home after reading last week’s tips. For those following with dedication, you’ll be pleased to know my desk upgrade is really working well for me – much less neck ache now I’ve got my big screen and plenty of space to work!
OK admittedly the screen is probably a little too big, but it was the only one we had spare…
This week I am honoured to be writing about a subject very close to my heart, and something I have wrestled with throughout my life: body image, positivity, sizing, fat shaming, society! I’m really struggling to find one word that encompasses the whole issue, as for me it’s a very multi-faceted topic.
Since an early age I have struggled with loving myself; especially my body. It’s a story I’m sure rings true with a lot of you – constant dieting, bullying at a young age, feeling like I wouldn’t fit in unless I was skinnier. There have been many days where looking at myself in the mirror has genuinely reduced me to tears.
It has taken a lot of hard work, therapy, and dedication to get me to a point where I am happy with the way I look 90% of the time. And I continue to work towards that 100% every day. I am so thankful that it is now an unusual day for me if I’m obsessing about details surrounding my body and appearance – for a large part of my life it was unusual if there was a day I didn’t think about and obsess over it!
The more tie dye in my life, the better
Expressing myself through clothing
For me, clothes have always felt like a way I express myself, my personality, it’s my first impression to the world and something I really enjoy.
This is something that was really confirmed for me, and encouraged, when seeing my therapist regularly last year for my anxiety and depression. I came in one session in some new (very colourful) Lucy and Yak dungarees and my therapist immediately noticed them and then congratulated me for the purchase. He could see the noticeable lift to my mood and comfort levels the new outfit had brought me.
It surprised me that something as simple as clothing was a point my therapist made time to talk through with me. I’d always brushed off my (for lack of a better term) ‘sad-shopping’ as frivolous; did this mean it was actually something positive for me?
Answer: As a baby the way you learn to define and explore yourself is through contact and touch. Being held by someone regularly helps our tiny brains go “oh OK, this is where my hands are, this is where my stomach starts and ends”. If for whatever reason this doesn’t fully process for us in our formative years we need to find other sources for this definition. The more I delved into myself through therapy I realised that actually for me clothes play a big part in subconsciously bringing myself that clarity.
What I thought was perhaps an unnecessary addition to an already full wardrobe was actually at that point in time really important to provide that comfort and stop my subconscious self being stuck in that pattern of searching for definition.
In short, I learnt that clothing is a big source of peace and joy for me – and that’s something to be encouraged and celebrated!
I can't remember what my friend Dec said that was so funny...
Struggles on the high street
With that understanding, as I look back I can now see where my struggles have come from. Growing up as I became more interested in fashion and my own style the high street failed to provide what I needed.
I didn’t feel right in what I was wearing. I wasn’t able to give myself that peace in comfortable, well-fitting clothing; there was always something that was too tight, too loose, not quite right. And I wrongly filled in that gap for many years as there being something wrong with me, rather than the clothes themselves. That thought process was all happening below the surface without me even knowing.
However, I was very aware of other struggles the high street was bringing to me. Inconsistent sizing and fashion that felt very much like it was designed with only one body type in mind. In one shop alone I could be anything from a size 10 to a size 18, and carrying all those different sizes to the changing room, trying them on and going ‘nope’, ‘nope’, ‘nope’ time and time again – it just broke my heart.
It hit a point where I stopped trying, for example for about five or six years I just stopped wearing trousers altogether. It was too painful trying to find a pair that fitted me. Leggings and baggy dresses became a go-to because at least I knew they’d fit.
That pain really stunted my relationship with clothing and my body for a long time. I didn’t get to feel that joy and expression I have so freely in my wardrobe and myself now. I ended up solely focused on becoming a certain size so I could wear what everyone else was. And I’ve battled those demons for years now; complexities around eating, exercise, body shape.
Thankful for the blossom in the garden during these times!
(Spot those signature Aesthetic Laundry tassels)
The industry needed to change, not me!
If I could go back and tell my younger self what I know now, I could have avoided a lot of blame and pain. I am so grateful for the positive voices appearing in the industry, I know society has a long way to go until the pressure surrounding appearance lifts altogether, but I choose to focus on the people saying the right things! And I work hard to be a voice sending the right message too – we have to keep the conversation going.
This is where I am eternally grateful to the independent fashion labels coming up who are working to make fun, comfortable clothing with all body types in mind. The hard work that is put in behind the scenes to design flattering pieces with consistent sizing really helps remove the stress I used to have when buying clothes.
I still find myself surprised (in a good way!) sometimes. For instance I have just bought some culottes and shorts from Aesthetic Laundry’s new colourful Spring/Summer range. I messaged them before buying on Instagram to check the sizing, would it be the same fit as my harems I have from them? A lovely, prompt response letting me know all their waistbands are the same size confirmed I should get a size L again. It should be that simple, but this just isn’t something I’m used to yet!
For me there’s no compromise now. I can easily buy colourful clothing that reflects my personality and leaves me feeling good about myself, knowing it will fit, and without worrying about my size. The focus has completely shifted, I just feel good about myself and enjoy shopping, it’s fun getting dressed every day again now!
From left: Aesthetic Laundry founder, Heidi May with body positivity advocate Phoebe Jameson
It makes a world of difference
It really hit the nail on the head for me when I watched an interview Heidi conducted with Phoebe Jameson back in early March. Watching the passion they spoke with around their own struggles and how dedicated they both are to making a difference and being a voice for change really encouraged me, made me feel less alone, and cemented the line of thinking you’ve read in this blog.
Fashion is for everyone, it’s for you, it’s for me, regardless of what we look like and what size we are. Clothes should make us feel good!
And this is where as a customer, my fierce dedication to brands encouraging this message comes from. I made a decision in the last year or so to adopt slow fashion, buying second hand or from ethical, responsible brands wherever possible. Aesthetic Laundry was one such brand I came to through that lens. Then as I was working to piece together my struggles with my size and the fashion industry it just made me all the more loyal to brands such as them!
As a consumer, do think about who you’re supporting with your purchases. I’d urge you – where possible – to choose to support brands working to tackle the stigma around sizing in the fashion industry. (And brands working to be sustainable too, but I’ll touch on that another week)
It’s so vital we see change; we need to get to a point where young people are encouraged to feel comfortable in themselves. The more of us who speak up, the bigger a difference we can make, I truly believe that.
So let’s keep the conversation going!
Remember, help is always there if you need it
I really hope you’ve enjoyed this blog, and it’s left you feeling encouraged. But I want to make sure that if anyone out there is struggling, you know that there’s always people there to listen and help if you need it. As I mentioned earlier, I personally have relied heavily on a therapist to fully address these issues. Here’s two great resources you can turn to over the phone:
Freephone: 116 123 – the Samaritans phone line is available 24/7, and they are at hand to offer free, confidential advice for whatever issues you’re having.
Freephone: 0300 123 3393 – open 9am-6pm Monday-Friday – Mind offer mental health advice and information. From more information on different types of mental illness, to advice on different options for help.
You can also find more information on lots of different services online:
Thank you so much again for reading – until next week,
To find out more about working with Rachel click here.
Rachel is a Marketing Consultant and Producer of Theatre and Film based in the West Midlands. She is currently working alongside Joss at Aesthetic Laundry to provide support, where she can, in a voluntary capacity. When she isn't working, she enjoys eating any gluten free cake, drinking good gin or wine and lifting weights at the gym. Rachel is really passionate about supporting small, independent businesses - especially female led creatives. Drop her a follow @racheltimeblog for a daily dose of colour, silliness, and to see her two adorable pet rabbits Eevee and Parnsnip!