Photo: Courtesy of Liz Black.
Here’s me, every summer for most of my life: I’m wearing long pants and a short-sleeved top on the beach, and my swimsuit is hidden somewhere beneath. I'm gloriously sweaty, as I gaze out at the seemingly carefree people bounding through the waves. Maybe you've seen me. Or, maybe you've been me.
For the longest time, I allowed my body hang-ups to control my life. I was afraid of judgment from boys I liked, from girls I wished were my friends, and even from random people I didn't even know. Most of all, though, I was terrified of my own judgment. I hated what I saw in the mirror, and how it never changed, no matter how much I worked out or how little I ate. I was cruel to myself.
In the summer it was the worst. I’d swelter away, trying too hard to convince my friends (and myself) that I was just fine staying far from the water. I’d dip a toe in occasionally, partaking only in the kind of beach activities that allowed for remaining fully clothed. (Not many, as it turned out.)
But, somewhere between my fad diet attempts and marathon workout sessions, something clicked in my brain. I could spend my time hating my body, or I could accept what I had and focus on all the things I actually liked about myself. I removed the toxic, body-bashing individuals and surrounded myself with only positive people who didn't spend their time bemoaning their size. I studied myself in the mirror, telling myself that I was beautiful inside and out, trying hard to believe the outward part.
Click over to page two for the rest of the story.
Photo: Courtesy of Liz Black.
The negativity wasn’t all internal, though. As a style writer, I had been immersed in the industry for years, attending Fashion Week and having a calendar stocked with events at which a stream of size-0 models and tastemakers was a constant reminder that my fuller frame was not in vogue. At each fête, my physicality seemed to be a faux pas. My size literally made me stand out among the crowd — so I decided to use it to my advantage to help distinguish myself from the throngs of thin. The “fake it until you make it” practice actually started to alter my self perception.
With the encouragement of my public relations friends (who frequently and tactlessly told me they had never seen a fashionable plus-size woman before) and my newfound confidence, I started a personal style blog. I challenged myself to take sartorial risks, to go against the “fashion rules” — the ones dictated by society and the media, and by my own fear — to embrace instead of avoid.
The more I posted on my blog, the bolder I became, trying the trends I loved now, instead of waiting until I reached some fantasy future size. Bolstered by positive responses from readers and my own growing fearlessness, I wore crop tops without cringing, bodycons without blushing, and finally, willingly stripped down at the beach into a two-piece swimsuit. I even appeared on national television (twice!) in Gabi Gregg’s galaxy-print bikinis — a ballsy accomplishment no matter your size.
We make apologies for our bodies, for the fact that we have cellulite or fat or any feature we don’t think is perfect or popular. If anything, we should be apologizing to our bodies. We mistreat them. We hide them under too many layers. We’re ashamed of them; and no one deserves that. It’s much easier said than done, but we should cherish our vessels, and we should decorate them with whatever we damn well please.
So, I am issuing a challenge to you, fat or thin, short or tall, whatever your shape and size may be: Buck the rules, throw off the fashion shackles, and dress yourself in the styles you’re lusting after. Because, life is too short to live in fear, and there are just too many fabulous things to wear.