Feb. 3, 2018, 8:04 p.m.
A big part of finding myself during my recovery was developing a personal style. I had always liked clothing, but had never really identified what I liked to wear. I knew I loved colour but I never knew where to shop for it and, more often than not, I was too scared to wear the things I liked because I feared the judgement I would or would not receive. Oh how times have changed. Now I dress for me and only me and I love every single item I own.
That being said, my wardrobe isn't very large. I don't have a lot of shoes and I only keep jewellery that holds sentimental value. I tend to wear the same special pieces regularly. I care about quality and not in the slightest about quantity, however I did, in the past, care an awful lot about 'size'. Building my wardrobe to what it is today was an incredible hurdle I had to face in my recovery – a hurdle that warriors must all face in recovery.
Every recovery warrior who has gone through (or is going through) weight restoration knows that letting go of 'ill' clothes is an extremely difficult and emotional task. 'Ill' clothes represent a huge part of our disease, and getting rid of them means coming to terms with the fact that our bodies are not meant to be so thin and unhealthy. All of this makes for a tough pill to swallow but I have some steps, tips and advice that may make this transition more pleasant.
Your wardrobe, your rules.
There is no right or wrong way to dress – both your style and your clothing are unique to you. Perhaps there are some rules. I mean, you wouldn’t wear a bikini in minus temperatures and you definitely wouldn’t wear a prom dress to the gym. But what's not a given is finding the style sets you apart and most importantly the style you like wearing. In order to wave goodbye to your 'ill clothes', you must first begin walking in the direction of your 'you clothes'.
The colours, the shape, the edginess, softness or brightness of your wardrobe. The time period you are inspired by and the fashion of that time genre. The current season and weather will play a vital role in your outfits too. Not to forget your job and your passions are both very major underlying factors of your wardrobe. Plus obviously where you live and the places you like to shop.
Take my wardrobe: I'm a dancer so you'll find that a large bulk of my wardrobe is leotards, tights, sports bras, hot pants, warm ups, joggers and dance 'branded' jumpers plus the obvious ballet, pointe, jazz and tap shoes. This part of my wardrobe has been created from my thriving passion for dancing and performing. I'm also a lover of art, patterns, embroidery, detailed designs and colour. I also am a sucker for vintage clothing and Chinese patterns. I guess this part of my wardrobe is what sets me apart.
As for an 'era' or time period I like to dress from, I don't think I have one. I do have, however, have several hidden gems – my vintage treasures.
My point here, is that there is no right or wrong way to be yourself and express that part of you. There is, however, a way to distance yourself from the clothes that defined you and your disease for so long. Find you. Dress that person. It’s your body after all!
Cut but don't necessarily chuck.
When I was ill and underweight, my favourite piece of clothing was a stunning Indian pattered dress, but it was tiny and I knew it would only fit me in my current skeletal frame at the time. As much as it annoyed me and hurt me, I knew that if I restored my weight it would no longer fit. When I wore that dress, I felt sexy, confident, and cool – I felt pretty. Reflecting on that very feeling, is strange. The dress gave me a “good enough” feeling – it was my reason to stay ill and stay skinny for. Crazy right?
My advice: don’t get rid of your ill clothes….completely. Repurpose it! I loved that dress because of its beautiful embroidered Indian patterns. So, my Mum made it into something else….
I know, I know, my Mum is a genius. She understood completely that in order for me to gain weight I needed to abolish all the clothes that would become too small for me, so that I would have no clothes to pull me back. She also understood how much I loved that dress and how genuinely happy the pattern made me feel. So we cut it and kept it, but not to wear. Instead, I used it to decorate my room. The same dress that once held me back from gaining weight now covers a cushion on my bedroom desk-chair on which I now place my very healthy weight restored bottom wearing my new weight restored clothes.
Let the clothes express you but not hide you.
Learn to dress to express and not to hide, cover or coat yourself. Dress for the day you want... make it joyful, make it colourful and make it teamed with accessories and quirky things that put your happiness and recovery in the limelight. You can wear what you like but always make sure that you are wearing what you like for the right reasons. If you love wearing your boyfriends’ jumper or baggy t-shirts, make sure you like wearing them because you generally like them, and not because they cover your thighs or bloated waist. Don't be scared to wear what you like. Don't feel the need to hide.
This also applies to your corsets and tight fitting clothing. Make sure you wear them because you damn well love them and not because you are trying to hide behind a mask, false identity or 'society ideal'. Wear it and wear it proud but only because you damn well like it.
You are not your size so don't stand there 'wearing your size'. Instead, stand there proud wearing nothing but your confidence. Buy clothes that are made for your body and don't worry about the size. No one is going to look at you and think 'I wonder what size that dress is'. No one thinks like that except your eating disorder mind – in reality, no one cares! And you shouldn’t either.
Just a little tester. What advertisement is more appealing to you?
A) "Frill Seeker Wanted: confident woman rocking clothes full of frills.”
B) "Frill seeker! Wanted: woman size 'X' wearing frilled clothes."
If you were to create an advertisement, which one would you send out? Which woman would you search for? If you ask me, I’d choose A). Why? Because confidence is key and size is meaningless.
Like I said, no one cares what size tag is on your top or trousers. So don't be afraid of letting go of the tag itself. Go on, you've earned it!
No clothes, no problem.
While this blog has been all about clothes and feeling confident and in love with your wardrobe, real confidence comes from appreciating and loving what’s underneath your clothing. If you can manage to love your true skin and the body that is you, you’ve done it. It’s a process no doubt, but it’s the best thing you can learn to do for yourself.
I say, practice strutting your stuff…naked. From your bathroom to your bedroom, bedroom to kitchen…what have you! Now as bonkers as this sounds and while you may only fit in 4 or 5 steps between rooms, it’s the most liberating feeling! This, for me, was what allowed me to embrace all that I am.
Which ending do you want to finish with? Woman meets dress... and inevitably falls head over heels for it? Or, woman meets self... and inevitably falls heart over head for herself?
Author: Margherita Barbieri.