The perfect fit

Yesterday, as we were cooking dinner, my sister mentioned that sometime in the last few years she had changed the way that she looks for clothes. She no longer tries to find clothes that make her look thin; rather, she buys clothes that she likes.


What a difference this has made to her, she says. Instead of trying to base her decision purchases on which clothes make her look slimmer, she focuses on the clothes that she likes and that she thinks look good on her, regardless of what the fashion industry might have to say on the matter.

I'm sure that this wasn't an easy place for my sister to arrive at. After all, as a varsity lightweight rower in college, she had to think about body and weight to an extent that would be crazy-making for many of us (myself included). Yet she is wise enough now to know what her body needs, in terms of food and exercise, and to feel proud of the way that she looks in her clothes, whether or not they are "slimming."

And boy, does she look good! (In my very subjective opinion.) Yesterday she wore one of those soft, draping cotton dresses (see picture at right) that seem to be everywhere; I think that the fashion industry finally got the memo this year when they started to produce dresses with a little wiggle room, the kind that look great on women of just about every size. Do you know what I mean?

I've found some examples of these kinds of dresses on Etsy. Just click on the photos to find out who made them. (Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find a very representative range of body types or skin colors; even small designers tend to choose their thinnest, Whitest friends to model their clothes for the online marketplace. Hrumph.)

Am I making my point with these images? I'm not a fashionista, so I'm not really sure what to call these styles, or to what or whom we can attribute this breath of fresh air from the fashion industry. One thing I have noticed, however, is that this kind of dress -- long, flowy, soft -- really does look good on a much wider range of sizes than the usual fare.

I also wonder if we aren't experiencing something of a renaissance of the dress, in general? Despite my feminist pretensions, I think this might be a good thing. After all, the kind of women who look good in pants are generally those whose bodies resemble men's: narrow hips, long legs, square chest. Let's face it, there aren't that many women out there who fit that description. I think that dresses are much more flattering to women's bodies, of all sizes and shapes.

Another good thing about dresses? I don't want to promote rampant consumerism here, but it's a h3ll of a lot easier to find clothes that look good on your body, no matter what size you are (and yes, I know that the options are quite reduced for larger women -- but that's another gripe altogether), than to try to do the work by yourself and lose the weight that you think would make you look great in every outfit.

Let's face it, we don't need to look good in every outfit. Honestly, we don't even need to look good in any outfit -- quite a luxury -- but it sure is nice when we find something that fits our bodies and something that we can feel comfortable wearing, regardless of whether it is slimming or fashionable or exactly like our neighbor's.

I remember how revelatory it felt to finally start wearing clothes that look good on me, on my particular body; it just made other things much less important (i.e. weight). Once I accepted the fact that I am never going to have the chest or the legs that I would like to have, clothes shopping got a lot easier. It didn't hurt that I was helped in the process by my Argentine host mother, a sort of fairy godmother of fashion, who seemed to know intuitively what would look good on me and what would not. Would I have bought white pants with a pink floral print? Never. Did they look good on me with a solid pink t-shirt? Absolutely.

What is your opinion on the matter? Is the fashion industry so corrupted by the thin ideal that there's no hope for the rest of us? Or is it still possible to find clothes that you like, clothes you feel good in regardless of your size or how many fat-days you have? I'd like to hear what you think.

~Ai Lu

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