If you compare my style posts between this summer and last, there’s a difference. The cheesy poses and never-ending love for late-90s pop music are still there, but the clothes I wear while listening to my awesome BSB/Take That/Robyn mix CDs have changed.
For as long as I’ve been the driving force behind dressing myself, I’ve had rules. Things that, because of how I viewed my body and anticipated society reacting to it, I wouldn’t wear:
- No tank tops without a shirt/cardigan over top to hide my arm jiggle/cover my keratosis pilaris/keep my bra straps from being visible
- No form fitting shirts without a tank top underneath to slim the lines of my stomach
- No short shorts or skirts that show where my thighs touch
The point of the rules was to camouflage those parts of myself that I felt didn’t live up to universally determined social standards of beauty. For me to be beautiful, I had to cover up what was not.
It’s worth noting that these aren’t rules I arbitrarily made up – they’re in ever fashion magazine and every makeover show. And even as a feminist and body-positive advocate who sees the falsehood inherent in the “one beauty fits all” model, I still allowed myself to subscribe to that message and dress in a fashion that fit it.
This pattern continued until…well…last month, when something significant happened: IT GOT FREAKIN’ HOT. I know most of North America has been suffocating under an electric blanket this summer, but my northern European sensibilities have a limit and that limit is 90+ degrees every day.
It was so hot for so long (and still is) that suddenly my wardrobe no longer worked. Cardigans and layering shirts were ridiculous, knee-length skirts were suffocating, and all I wanted to do was lounge around in a tank top and shorts. But I had to leave the house eventually, and what was I to wear? A tank top and shorts? But I couldn’t just wear that, could I?
I could. And it was then that I decided to stop caring. I don’t care if you see the red bumps on the backs of my arms. I don’t care if my stomach isn’t flat under my tank top. I don’t care that the tops of my thighs wiggle when I walk. It’s too damn hot and I just don’t care. I’m still clean and well put together, I still look nice and am subscribing to my own parameters of modesty, but it stops there. No more additional camouflage dressing.
It’s funny. I always assumed that my moment of sartorial empowerment would come after months, nay, years, of intense reflection and self-love. I thought my new attitude would be militant and charge out into the world, defiant and unstoppable, but it’s been much quieter. Truthfully, there’s nothing really to be defiant towards, except that judge-y voice in my head that’s grown too weak with heat exhaustion to put up much of a fight.
I will not be so naive as to assume that this change in attitude and dressing was spontaneously conceived. I know that my engagement and belief in body-positive discourses (including this blog and many of yours) played a pivotal role in bringing me to this point. I just didn’t think the month of July would be its catalyst. Or, perhaps it was simply time for this change to occur and my continuing temperature torture is merely correlation and not causation.
Whatever the cause(s), there’s a quiet revolution occurring in my closet – a revolution fueled in equal parts by confidence and apathy. I don’t pretend to believe my image issues are all completely gone, and who knows what my dressing instincts will be once the weather stops all its crazy. But I’m happy with this new-found freedom and how I’m dressing my body to fit within it.
Have you had a similar moment of choice? Was yours fueled by the weather or are you all made of tougher stuff than I?
For a similar train of thought, be sure to read A Dress a Day‘s “You Don’t Have to be Pretty.”