Thursday, April 2, 2009

Why am I here?

A recent post over at the thought provoking blog, “the blue kimono”, really struck me. The delightful Sallymandy posed the seemingly simple question, “Why do people post photos of their clothing?” What struck me in particular was that I didn’t really have a clear answer at first, yet I’ve been doing just that for almost 5 months now.

I guess my own answer to Sallymandy’s question all started with, believe it or not, watching an episode of “What Not To Wear”. I’d been aware of the show’s existence prior, but never actually seen it. I had made assumptions about it, though…it was sexist, mean, touted unrealistic ideals of beauty, focused too much on women’s appearances and there was quite enough of that already, etc. I've blogged about how I lost alot of weight a few times before. Yet I still didn’t always feel so hot about how I looked. Suffice is to say my body image was severely out of whack and the last thing I needed was some stupid show to make me feel worse!

However, when I happened to watch the program I found something unexpected. Bottom line -- they didn’t really criticize the person’s body, just how they’d been dressing it, how they presented it. And it wasn’t about trends or keeping up with fads, it wasn’t about being some slave to fashion. It was actually the opposite, it was about making a woman’s own particular body look good, celebrating her positive features and making her feel better about her appearance, which inevitably made her feel better about herself.

It may sound grandiose, but it seemed to me that dressing well could be an act of empowerment, and it belonged to every woman, no matter her size, age or wallet capacity.

That was HUGE for me.

Size didn’t matter, fit did. My body is what it is, and it was bound to change throughout my life anyway…all of our bodies change, our appearance is never static. I just needed to find the most flattering clothes for my individual shape and I could take some control over what I saw in the mirror. Whether we like it or not we each make a statement about ourselves based on how we appear, without even saying a word. Unless we live in a cave, that matters. It's not about being perfect or matching some arbitrary ideal. It's about attitude and reflections. How we present ourselves speaks volumes about how we feel and what kind of person we are. The good news is the impression we make is actually up to us.

So, the journey began. During the course of this process I discovered blogs, blogs by real women with real (and beautiful) bodies, wearing real clothes. They inspired me more than words can express. They continue to do so, every day – and I know for every one of them there are dozens more inspirational women out there finding strength in expressing themselves via their clothing choices in a world that can, sadly, twist that act into something negative…yet they, each in their own way, keep it real and beautiful.

I realized that if I could gain all of that from some TV show and a handful of blogs that maybe others could benefit from seeing me go through my particular journey, knowing that I am just like them, a regular woman with “flaws” and body issues, just trying to dress myself to my best advantage as an act of self-love and empowerment.

And so here I am.

I want to deeply thank the wonderful Sallymandy for making me really think about all this and find some clarity for myself. What a great, poignant question she posed...there are no doubt many possible answers…each as diverse as the lovely mosaic of women’s individual styles.


Trace said...

So beautifully written Kayleigh!

For me, looking my best and being comfortable helps me to feel confident and ready to tackle the world. That's just the way it is. Reading blogs (especially yours!) has really enriched my life - getting to know amazing women from all over the world, finding tips on saving money, learning new techniques to help grow my personal style. Yes, fashion and beauty can be superficial and materialistic - but only if we let it.

Thanks for an amazing post! Really, you are such a talented writer and have captured so many things well in these paragraphs.

sallymandy said...

Hi Kayleigh, thank you so much for the mention, but especially for taking to heart the question I raised the other day. I really did ask it for my own education, and I've learned a LOT.

I've been thinking off and on today about some of the things you wrote so beautifully here--namely dressing well being an act of empowerment. You really put into words some vague feelings and impressions I share with you.

The women I see most often do not seem to espouse this; or maybe it's just the friends I've chosen--as you said, we have choices. I've chosen a social climate where spending much time thinking about clothing is somehow not seen as serious. So my process is learning to give myself permission to do otherwise.

You're a wonderful writer, and I hope your 1000 words a day are coming along well.



Mervat said...

Kayleigh that was so well worded and certainly typical of me. In responding on Sallymandy's blog I have initiated my own post about this.


Unknown said...

This is such a great post! I think it's right on. I think style blogs by real women are much more inspiring and fascinating than anything found in a fashion mag. I mean, I like looking at pictures and ideas in magazines, but I prefer to look at blogs like yours where real women with real, everyday lives and resources put together outfits and talk about their day-to-day lives too. I think blogs such as yours showcase creativity and flair as well as anything done by some famous stylist!

And I'm a huge fan of What Not to Wear! I think that show taught me how to dress and choose what's flattering instead of just anything that fits.

It's so cool to read thoughtful posts like yours! Made my day. :o)

The WalMart Vegan said...

Wonderful post. I think you sum up the reality of -- well reality. Beauty isn't in perfection and the unusual; it is in the everyday and ordinary...and that is really where a woman's real style lies.

Kayleigh said...

Thank you so much everyone!

Trace, you made such wonderful points -- comfort IS so important, and it really does influence our confidence level, how true! Equally well said about how fashion becomes superficial only if we let it. I am flattered by your compliment re: my writing, I think your writing is so refreshing and inviting that I take it as high praise :)

Sallymandy, I'm so glad you liked this post! Your sincere and eloquent question was really important for me to figure out, so I can't thank you enough for posing it. I know many women who think one can't be serious minded and care about their style, and I also know women who think way too much about their style and nothing else of any serious import. I probably have spent time in both camps during my 45 years, as a very young woman my looks were the be all and end all of how I felt about myself. Conversely, there was a long stretch where I thought to give one thought to what I wore was like committing treason to feminism, lol. Clearly I've found a middle ground ;) I think both extremes can be detrimental, and I totally identified with the phrase you used about, giving yourself permission -- well said!

Anchibride, thanks -- and I hear ya on WNTW! I really did learn alot from that show, it does go deeper than one might imagine. And you know, you make a VERY great point about fashion mags...I too would much rather read blogs by real women, it's more relatable to my life and I feel a comraderie with my sister bloggers; unlike some fashion mags that can end up making you focus on what's "wrong" with your body.

Modest Mom, thank you, and how poetically stated your comment was, really, just beautiful :) I couldn't agree with you more, I'm so glad you said it the way you did.

Thanks again all, what great, thoughtful responses -- you all made my day!!!

Anonymous said...

Well put into words why I like daily wear blogs.Moz

Kayleigh said...

Thanks Moz! It was good for me to sort it all out and write it down, sort of clarify my ideas...glad it resonated with you :)

Sheila said...

Awesome post, Kayleigh! There really is so much empowerment that you can get from without, through your clothes and finding things that make you feel good.

So glad you had that "aha" moment. :)

Anonymous said...

Good job, Kayleigh. It's exactly what I think. Sometimes I feel stupid posting me in clothing; but I wanted to show women that there's a lot of satisfaction from getting dressed to our best ability.

This is why I have decided to become a wardrobe consultant!

Kayleigh said...

Thanks Sheila -- and that's exactly what it was, an "aha" moment. I couldn't agree with you more...and I think the part you said about finding things that make you feel good, as in activities or other pursuits, I think that is equally as important -- love how you put that :)

Karen, thank you so much! And I know what you mean, it seems awkward for me sometimes too...but what you do, helping women find ways to look better and therefore feel better is so important. I deeply admire your talent and how you approach your vocation :)