How I'm Beating My Fashion Fears

Whenever I'm asked about personal style, my first response has been to say, "I've never been interested in fashion, because the fashion industry has never been interested in me." Kind of a snotty reply to a softball question — though I wasn't wrong. Fashion designers don't seem too interested in bodies like mine. But that wasn't the real reason I'd pretty much opted out of fashion for most of my life. The real reason was a lot more obvious: fear. Or, rather, fears — I had plenty. Here's a random sampling of things I was afraid of:

1. Short tops that might accidentally show my belly.
2. Long tops that might make me look even less hourglass than I was.
3. Anything tight enough to reveal that little bulge on my back beneath my bra band.
4. Sexy clothes, lest anyone think I was trying to be sexy.
5. Professional clothes, because what am I, a grown-up?
6. Jeans.
7. Well, all pants, actually.
8. Oh, except yoga pants! Can I just wear yoga pants everywhere, forever?

Nobody ever told me no outright, but I'm guessing that's the answer. I am, somehow, a grown-up lady, and while that doesn't require me to maintain a closet full of high-end designer labels, I do think I should feel capable of dressing myself in something other than yoga pants sometimes. And right now is one of those times.

My first book, Big Girl, hit shelves earlier this month. How's that for grown-up? I'll be kicking off a few weeks of publicity, doing events and readings in New York and L.A., and generally trying to give the impression of being, well, a big girl. Among other things, that means putting on some real clothes — not just grown-up clothes, but clothes that I like and express how I want to be seen. That's what fashion is, I now realize, and that's why it's been so hard for me to embrace.

What all my fashion phobias really come down to is exposure. When you've spent your life hiding, it's a terrifying prospect to let yourself be seen. Even when it's all you've ever wanted, even when it comes at a moment of such enormous joy, there's a part of you (okay, me) that wants to run home and hide under the bed — in yoga pants. I can accept that fear, but I don't have to listen to it. It's time to open my arms to everything I'm scared of, whether it's book reviews or a pair of jeans.

It's time to listen to the part of me that found the guts to write my story down in a book and share it with the world. That's something worth celebrating. So I found myself a party dress.

The Anti-Diet Project
is an ongoing series about intuitive eating, sustainable fitness, and body-positivity. You can follow my journey on Twitter and Instagram at
@mskelseymiller or #antidietproject (hashtag your own Anti-Diet moments, too!). Curious about how it all got started? Check out the whole column, right here. Got your own story to tell? Send me a pitch at If you just want to say hi, that's cool, too.

Photographed by Lauren Perlstein; Hair & Makeup by Andi Yancey; Styled by Bethie Girmai.

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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Fear: Going Bright

Found one!

It took this dress to make me realize that I have exactly zero items of white clothing in my closet. Guess how many black items I have. Did you answer a bajillion? You're close.

Black is great for a lot of reasons: It goes with everything, it's allegedly chic. But let's be real — I was wearing it for the sole purpose of skinny-making. Though I do my damn best every day to practice what I preach about body-positivity, my brain is still chock-full of old beliefs and magical thinking about "slimming" clothes. Black never made me any thinner. It just made me less visible.

A white dress like this is all about standing out. And when I put it on, I wanted to show people. It's swingy and fitted and, I've gotta say, ridiculously comfortable. Who knew nice clothes could be comfortable?! I could have turned cartwheels in this dress. I didn't — I'm an adult, people. But give me a glass of champagne and we'll see.

Lafayette 148 Nouveau Crepe Dorian Dress, $698, available at Lafayette 148; Vince Faine Chunky-Heel Leather Sandal, $395, available at Neiman Marcus.
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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Fear: Dressing "Against" Your Body Type

I'm no hourglass. Most body-shape guides would call me an apple, but I actually prefer to think of myself as a human woman and not a piece of produce.

"Apples" like me are supposed to wear short skirts and structured tops (the idea is to show off our slimmer legs and fake a smaller waist). Now, I have no problem with a short skirt, but sometimes a girl wants to cross her legs, amiright? I've always steered clear of anything knee-length or lower, but this skirt looked like a bright, shiny party favor. Bright and shiny are scary concepts, too, so I knew I had to go for it.

We paired the skirt with a long, loose, tunic-y top and an even longer vest. While I'd always dreaded the "midi" length, I felt both casual and chic in this ensemble (not to mention on-trend, for perhaps the first time in my life). The long vest is the secret ingredient: The outfit is party on the bottom, couch-night on the top, but the vest pulls it all together.

I expected to look in the mirror and see all my apple-ness amplified — and I was prepared to embrace that, too. Instead I just saw myself, but not like I'd ever seen myself before. That old, scared part of my brain piped up, surprised: "Oh, I can wear long skirts and loose tops?" The other part answered, "Duh."

Universal Standard Cambria V-Top, $110, available at Universal Standard; PLY Sleeveless Tuxedo Long Vest, $260, available at Hey Gorgeous!; Lane Bryant Gold Pleated Midi Skirt, $69.95, available at Lane Bryant; Tibi Clark Sandals, $415, available at Tibi.
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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Fear: Grown-Up Pants

I don't know why pants are so scary. Maybe it's the fact that I'm hyper-focused on showing off my legs due to years of apple-body propaganda. Maybe it's the fact that they cinch at the middle — a part of my body I've always struggled with. But it just felt wrong to have reached the age of 31 without coming to terms with…pants.

These were a double whammy of fashion fears: not just pants, but showstopping, bright-red pants. Putting them on, I was totally convinced that I would look like a clown in them — the kind that makes you scared of clowns for life. Everyone would say, "Good Lord, you were right! You are a horrific, red monstrosity! Here, here, take the yoga pants back, and yeah, sure, get under the bed. That's where monsters belong!"

Turns out, I was being a little dramatic.

Apparently, all I needed to pull off pants was to put them on, one leg at a time. Heels were a huge help, too. I think everyone, no matter what size, gets a little confidence boost from that added height and length. Plus, they really do bring out the elegance in a black ensemble. (Now I just have to get better at heels, but one crisis at a time.)

I honestly do not know why I found that so impossible before. It was such an old, deep fear that I couldn't even find the source of it. Maybe I saw a really scary pair of pants at a birthday party as a small child. All I know is I now have a whole new world of clothing options. In fact, I always did.

Universal Standard
Marlett Oversized Coat, $390, available at Universal Standard; Lafayette 148 City Stretch Jersey Mock Neck Top, $198, available at Lafayette 148; Lane Bryant Lena Trouser, $44.99-$69.95, available at Lane Bryant; Stuart Weitzman The NearlyNude Sandal, $398, available at Stuart Weitzman.
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Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Fear: The Jumpsuit

If you had told me even a month ago that I'd ever put on a jumpsuit, I'd have slapped you across the face and promptly fled the country. A jumpsuit? Jumpsuits are for size 0s, toddlers, and J.Lo in the aughts. That's it.

But this was about embracing fear, and this was a clothing item so scary that it hadn't even occurred to me as an option. So I put on my metaphorical big-girl pants, then I put on the very real jumpsuit.

To say I was surprised would be a wild understatement. I was slack-jawed with shock over how much I enjoyed wearing this thing. I was can-you-take-a-picture-with-my-phone in love with it. I wanted to throw a party, immediately, just so I wouldn't have to take it off. (Note: I had some brief misgivings when I had to use the bathroom, but they were short-lived.)

How do I love thee, jumpsuit? Let me count the ways: I love how it's dressy but playful. I love the elegant ball-gown top, which was comfortable but structured enough that I didn't even need to wear a bra. I love the culotte-length pants that will never drag on the ground (the curse of all plus-size women who aren't 5'11"). I just liked how I looked while I wore it. It didn't hide anything or make anything look different than it was. My body looked like my body, and I was digging it.

More than anything, the jumpsuit reinforced the lesson that there is no style that I cannot or should not wear. It's all worth a try. Even if you don't like it, or even if you loathe it, it is so worth trying on the thing you're most afraid of. That's how you take the fear out of it and let it be just a piece of clothing — not a rule you mustn't break.

Maybe it sounds frivolous, but just like writing a memoir was scary and revealing, so was putting on this silly jumpsuit. Both things reminded me of how much better life is when you don't let fear boss you around. Even if you take the leap and fall flat on your jumpsuited ass, it'll have been worth it. You leapt.

On that note, I'm off to jump.

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Torrid Insider Culotte Jumpsuit, $55.98 $33.59, available at Torrid; Vince Bram Mixed Media Sneaker, $250, available at Vince.